by Carole Maurer
Times of chaos, challenge, and change can be the most powerful in our lives. In fact, these are the times we practice for; why mindfulness and meditation are so important. When things get chaotic, we can feel overwhelmed, threatened, sad, angry, frustrated, etc., and the only thing that feels certain is the uncertainty that brings up all these negative feelings and emotions.
The election is now over and we’ve been hearing of some atrocious verbal and sometimes physical attacks on people of color, immigrants, and women. We fear the possible degradation of our fundamental rights as citizens and to decades-old environmental legislation. We're concerned about possible cuts in health care and education, and the disintegration of civility and integrity in our civil discourse. Long-time friendships are ending and the country seems to be more polarized than ever. Regardless of how the election was going to turn out, there was bound to be a period of the backlash that brings up negativity, anger, rage, and violence that hijack the mind.
But I keep reminding myself that our practices of mindfulness and meditation and attention to the precepts are exactly what we need to help us work through the difficult times that we encounter now and during the rest of our life: affronts to our values, grief, illness, loss, life changes, death itself. Through our past and ongoing mindfulness and meditation practice, we’ve been working with things that aren’t going exactly our way all the time - from day to day, minute to minute - making us more ready to meet the unexpected (or sometimes expected) uh-ohs in our lives. This is the help we need to see us through the BIG ONES, the times of chaos and uncertainty that help us WAKE UP.
When we conduct our lives out of anger and fear, we’re actually living outside of ourselves and what we really want to be. Our lives are being compromised and little good will come of our actions. The only way we can win is to be the best person we can be. We need to engage the love inside and then extend this love outward, as though we were a lighthouse with a really small wattage light inside beaming miles across the emotional divide.
So, this is really the time to remind ourselves how to be OK inside, independent of the current wave of chaos and anger and hate. We can turn our attention to what we want to be -- loving, peaceful, and joyful. We aren’t trying to quit the voices of worry, frustration, and anger in our heads -- we can’t do that! We are trying, instead, to turn these negative emotions inside out so that we can become actively involved in what’s really important and with what we truly value in our lives. That’s where White Heron Sangha plays an important role in our lives, through our practicing together and our inspiring programs.
As part of the exploration of what we value, Susan Quiñones has begun a dialog in the Sangha around Buddhist attitudes towards racism, and our responses to evidences of it in our lives. Please see her article on this subject.
And, what better way to further our meditation practice do we have than to attend one of our many White Heron Sangha sponsored retreats right here in our own backyard? The next one, with Shaila Catherine, is in a couple of days, and more are planned for 2017. See the article “Retreat News” by Kristie Wells, our Retreat Committee chairperson.
In spite of the troubling times we find ourselves in, our Sangha has a lot to be thankful for and to look forward to. Attendance at our Sunday meetings and mid-week sittings in all locations has been increasing. Our programs have been stimulating and more interactive. At the request of several members, we’re including more small group discussions in our programs, which encourage us to get to know each other better.
In order to expand our programs, offer more classes and opportunities for meditating together, and extend our reach to a broader community, we are continuing to search for a place to lease in San Luis Obispo that can be a real home for White Heron Sangha. One possibility has come up that we’re pursuing and we’ll keep you posted on our progress.
Of course, getting our own place would be a huge change for White Heron Sangha, as we’ve been renting space from various facilities for the past 20+ years. Along with the joy of thinking about and planning what we could do with a place of our own comes a lot of anxiety and fear about how we can finance and sustain such a venture.
We can only achieve this undertaking through the generosity and kindness of sangha members. As the year comes to an end, I invite you to include White Heron Sangha in your annual gift-giving. It’s easy to do online or you can send a check to White Heron Sangha. See our donation page for more information.
Practicing together helps reinforce our ability to pay attention to each moment and can help us learn to treat each experience equally. With that awareness we can meet whatever life brings us in 2017 with love, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
I wish you and your loved ones a happy, peaceful, and joyous holiday season.