On any given day, life can feel like a chore and challenge, filled with chaos or confusion, or it may come to us bearing bountiful blessings, or as I like to say, ‘blissings’. We have no control over the circumstances but are all always given the choice of the means to face them. In this swirling maelstrom of the current socio-political climate, it may seem hard to keep our footing. It most definitely is for me. I find myself (or lose myself) at times, swamped by fear, anxiety, judgment of self and others and a sense of helplessness. Never, in the 59 years of this incarnation, have I witnessed such horrific happenings as well as the complacent acceptance that some put forth of what I consider unacceptable.
The ideal antidote to that was a visit with my friend Ramananda John Welshons who is a spiritual teacher that I think of as a grounded mystic. Nothing cosmic foo-foo about his work. He spoke at Pebble Hill Church, which is an interfaith community of which I have been a part since 1984. His straight from the heart style was a balm for my sometimes confused sensibilities. He spoke on the topic of Love and Compassion in Challenging Times. That they are. When violence is raging out of control, climate change induced storms take lives and livelihoods, hateful rhetoric and fake news become the norm, we need the message that in spite of the pain, there is an element of perfection. A hard pill to swallow at times. John shared the importance of activating the ‘just don’t know’ mind that Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron refers to as ‘living with uncertainty’. That is one of the hardest things for this gotta know the answers woman to accept. I sometimes read the last page of a book to see how the story ends. I have no clue how the last page of my own life-book will read, any more than I am sure of the steps and choices I will take leading up to it.
One thing I do know is that we all feed the collective soup pot with our feelings, thoughts, and actions. With a full range of human emotions to choose from, we may move from anger to joy in the snap of a finger and back again in a heartbeat. I prefer to keep my emotions steady, but sometimes even the Bliss Mistress gets the blues and this conflict avoidant person lets fly a few choice words that are not in my spiritual vocabulary. Sometimes I need to clamp my hand over my mouth in case the filters are faulty.
John shared a story about meeting with a woman who wanted to bring him on board at her center as a meditation teacher. She invited him to go to Starbucks with her. As he was parking, another driver backed out of her spot and misjudged the distance and he anticipated a crunch. He jumped out of his vehicle and yelled for her to stop. She did so, but not before she could do minimal damage. His passenger looked at him incredulously once he got back in the car and said she was astonished that he could get angry since he was a meditation teacher. He informed her that had he not done it, both cars could have sustained greater damage. There are times when anger is called for. My take is that it is cool, if not used as a weapon, but a tool. He then went on to speak about His Holiness the Dalai Lama who is a model of compassion and calm but is fully human. When I met and interviewed him, he did admit to sometimes feeling angry. He has learned to modulate it. I don’t think John told us whether he was ever hired to teach meditation at this particular center.
I also consider the judgments I hold around the values people embrace that are different from my own. We all have shadow and light within us. When I demonize someone, no matter how abhorrent their beliefs are, I become them. I can show up, stand up and speak out when I see injustice done without feeding the situation with toxicity. I know that I am no Mother Teresa which is okay by me because I am certain that there were days when Mother Teresa was no Mother Teresa.
Regardless of circumstance, we do indeed have a choice about dancing with uncertainty as if it was a partner with whom we elect to move through life as gracefully as possible.