It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
There have been a few times in which I experienced a deep spiritual crisis, doubting my association with Buddhism and yearning for a more traditional (to my background) outlook and way of life. The most recent episode of such inner turmoil was right after the US election.
I am a part of a local Zen group and for the most part that association has given me more grounding and sense of belonging than I had experienced in a long time. Yet after the election a few prominent members of my group went into a sort of a freak out mode that lasted for something like 3 months. Since I rely on my sangha a lot for socialization, that collective freakout dragged me down with it in a dark and severe way.
I sure did not vote for Trump and am praying for his departure from the White House every day. But my reasoning is just that he is an ignorant, angry and deeply corrupt individual. A very bad boss, caring only for himself and suckering his underlings to do his bidding. I really do not see much more to this. I do not see him as some kind of unique evil that will end life as we know it.
The take on the matter from some in my sangha was different. I heard people seriously comparing Trump and the Republican Party to Hitler and the Nazis-- a delusional comparison to someone who, like me, actually had relatives fighting on the Allied side in WWII. I heard talk about a second American Civil War breaking out. I heard about immigrants being hunted down (I am one myself and so is my wife and find that beyond ridiculous) and transsexuals having to be afraid. People were going to sign up as Muslims on Trump's mythical "Muslim Registry". White Supremacists were supposedly out on a rampage..yeah, that was close to being a full blown hysteria.
Since then we returned to normality but those traumatic months reminded me just how many in the American Sangha have their thinking deeply rooted in the extreme Leftism of 1960's and 1970's. Having had some deeper conversations on these subjects, I have come to believe that the hard Left is its own religion with irrational dogma and nastiness to those who question it. I am not at all sure that it is any better than the Hard Right. And I share neither dogma, aspiring to the Center (Middle Way?) when it comes to our cultural wars.
So how in the world Buddhism, with its emphasis on personal responsibility for one's happiness or lack thereof, has become so intertwined with the Far Left? I do not see anything in the original teachings that would align with zealous Progressevism that quite a few of their followers seem to espouse.
I apologize if this is too divisive or harsh but this is giving me a real headache. I just really need normality, reasonable-ness and calm. Can anyone relate? Share any experiences? I greatly enjoy the take that Sam Harris has on things, any more recommendations of more middle of the road reading?
While this will sound like magic, I really believe it, based on personal experience:
At times there is someone in my life that I perceive as being negative to me in some way. At first my reaction is: they are over there, I am over here and they are doing this bad thing to me. The instinctive reaction then is to do some other thing to them so that my discomfort from dealing with them eases. Well, that always makes the situation more confusing and the headache stronger.
Instead, when I make an effort to bring meditation stance to the interaction, the quality of the interaction changes and it is no longer a problem. By "meditative stance" I mean a combination of the following: breathing slowly and diaphragmatically (Zazen style), keeping a questioning/open mind (asking internally "what is this?" without trying to concoct an intellectual answer) and, finally, visualizing that other person, myself and all other living creatures as one ocean with many waves that thrash about without much purpose. That last one often brings about a kind of light softness in the chest, which I think is related to compassion.
Usually, the situation just falls away or appears as a part of some bigger, and less objectionable, process. In the end I end up feeling a sort of a gratitude for the encounter for opening me up. At times, I form a positive relationship with the person that feels very genuine. At times I aquire the courage to just walk away or stand up for myself un-apologetically.
I think the issue that many of us Buddhists have is that we've heard over and over again that reactive emotions are bad and we instinctively try to suppress them, which brings the feeling of fakeness and disconnectedness. Instead, I believe, we need to feel those emotions much more fully than we naturally do, really dive into them, let their energy flow. Without acting on them but being very mindful of them in our bodies and curious about them in our hearts.
I used to go insane over American politics. Paralyzed, unable to go through life.
Then I realized that there is a medicine against Trump anxiety-- and that medicine is doing something personally to stir my country in a better direction. So I have made it a habit to weekly donate money to organizations/people who are working on that.
In my case, I feel, the cause of the anguish was not Trump but rather my confusion with regards to the role I have to play. Once that role becomes clearer, Trump is percieved more like crappy weather rather than this terrible demon from which there is no hiding.
Don't worry, do something instead!
I have mixed feelings about this. Even though I did vote for Clinton, I did so mostly based on Trump's character, not because I thought she had a great vision. He does act like a bully and seems to appeal to our lower passions, while Clinton would just be more politics as usual. Just like many Americans I got emotionally involved in this election and it took me a few days to find inner balance again. Now that the dust settled, I see things a bit differently than I did in the heat of the election.
While Trump's person is still rather imperfect, to put it mildly, I find myself agreeing with many of his stated policies. I do think that open borders, both when it comes to illegal immigration and trade, are hurting our country. I am actually quite satisfied that this campaign brought forth concerns about globalization that so many of us have to the forefront.
As a legal first generation immigrant who is very familiar with our immigration sysyem I do not find Trump "anti-immigrant" as the Media has portayed him; wanting to control the flow of undocumented economic migrants does seem like a sensible and indeed the only correct position to me. Also, living in an urban area plagued by homelessness, I do not see why we would bring in hundreds of thousands refugees from the Middle East when there are so many Americans who lack decent shelter and food. Finally, is it not common sense that if a corporation wants to sell to Americans it should give back to them in some way, such as by employing them?
On the cultural front, I actually have been quite bothered by Political Correctness, another phenomenon that Trump has criticized. There are some taboo subjects in our society and expression seems to be quite stifled when it comes to those subjects. Race is an obvious one but also Islam, which emerged as a hot topic during this election season. As someone who studied Islam in some depth in college, I believe that in its present form it poses an existential threat to all other cultures. In practice, it often takes the form of an intolerant political ideology that has no issue with violence against any kind of dissenters and non-conformists. "The Left" clearly does not get that and was I a public figure who said what I just said, I would be crucified as if I were of Ku Klux Klan. I am quite happy that now there is an opening for honest discussion.
Finally, it is very clear to me that Main Stream Media, which whipped up so much hysteria about Trump (which at times I too got caught up in), is far from objective and is not exactly committed to facts. When I read such websites as Washington Post or CNN with a cool mind, I see a lot endless speculation about and endless regurgitation of what some public figure said, often taken out of context. At times, our media feels like a giant fear mongering machine rather than a simple source of information. I'll be honest, it gives me some satisfaction knowing that the machine failed to deliver, even with hundreds of million of dollars poured into it by corporations. The real eye opening moment for me, which showed whose voice the Media really is, was when it turned on Bernie near the end of the primaries. When there was some doubt that Clinton would be the nominee, Bernie suddenly started being portrayed as the bad guy, in a similar light as Trump himself!
...Don't get me wrong, I still would feel more at ease had the election turned out differently. I realize that Trump is somewhat of a loose cannon. All I am saying is the election was not some epic fight between Light and Darkness in which Light got defeated. That "Light" is actually quite out of touch and corrupt and for its own good probably needed that punch. I am hopeful that it will learn from its epic failure, reform itself, shed unnecessary baggage, and in the long run help contribute to a better society for us all.
I periodically struggle with getting stuck in political anxieties of the day as well. It is such an attractive pit to fall into with such easy availability of online news and discussions.The most important tool to deal with this I think is finding one's center, one's root within, one's connection to the Source or Truth (or whatever you want to call it). Then the drama becomes something I observe rather than something I am enacting. Meditative practice does help and strengthen that ability.
Of course, the old Prayer is a great formula to keep in mind: "Lord, grant me the patience to accept what I cannot change, the strength to change what I can and the wisdom to know the difference" (my paraphrasing).