Open Letter: Spiritual Practice and Radical Resistance
Dear meditators, dear karma, bhakti and jnana yogis and yoginis, dear Buddhists, dear TMers and siddhas and MBSR-ers, dear tantrists, dear breathwork practitioners and somatic therapists, dear Pagans and Witches, dear reiki masters, dear indigo, crystal, and rainbow children, dear Burners, dear agnostics and mystics, dear seers and spiritual seekers, dear gurus, dear sangha,
However we practice, whatever our path, all of us trying to live lives of awareness, compassion, clarity, and connection are faced with a moment of reckoning: a time in which the value and meaning of our manifold practices is put to an existential test, primed to become either escape route or (r)evolutionary movement.
I don’t claim comprehensive mastery of any one tradition, practice, or process of building a life grounded in the pursuit of wisdom, meaning, purpose, enlightenment. As a practitioner, teacher and constant student though, I understand the central and unifying elements of this work to be:
-the expansion of awareness
-the cultivation of increasingly broader perspective
-the recognition of the inter-connectedness of all things
-the ability to discern and practice right action at the right time.
At this moment, in this country, we face an increasingly aggressive assault on truth, morality and the actual lives, safety and freedom of millions. Every day there are further encroachments on norms and freedoms many of us, raised amidst so much privilege, with access to so much material and spiritual wealth, have struggled to comprehend.
In this struggle, its noise and chaos, some of us have shut down, some disconnected from news cycles and relentless streams of information; some of us have felt anger that seethes and almost consumes us, exhausts and isolates us with its relentless fury. Many of us have marched and written letters and tried to be mindful in what we amplify and how we engage on social media, and in real life interactions. Others of us have have retreated into the realm of philosophy, seeking distance and with it comfort in the erudite and esoteric. Perhaps we have spoken of focusing on the light, not giving attention to what we may find to be “low energy” or “dark.” Perhaps we are so overwhelmed with the real work of surviving, putting one foot in front of the other, not allowing whatever equanimity we’ve cultivated to be snatched away by the relentless churning of a news cycle in chaos mode, set simply on not giving into despair.
Perhaps too we are haunted by the feeling of futility, hopelessness, lack of power, loss of direction. Perhaps we are so tired. Perhaps we believe someone else will know more, be able to do more, lead us with clearer direction than we’ve been able to summon thus far. Perhaps we are afraid.
Whatever we are feeling — have felt — we must remember our work is oriented toward allowing those feelings, observing them, using them as sources of information and directives for action, grounded in the need of the time, in each new moment.
In this era of dramatic and aggressive injustice it is undeniably time to learn to use our expanded awareness, the discernment we’ve cultivated, the equanimity of mind to observe and confront the facts of our collective, societal reality:
-Children are being taken from their families. They are being held hostage to try to force even crueler legislation all to defend an imaginary line on the sand, a created border which serves only to create false hierarchy and separation of a continuous landmass, of humans from fellow humans.
- The administration relies upon racist, white supremacist language and nationalist fear mongering which clearly echoes the worst authoritarian regimes of the past.
- The government’s systems of checks and balances are failing, undermined by years of general complacency, intentional erosion of historic power balances, and the consolidation of money and power at the expense of a common moral center.
- These tactics and trends are not isolated, but intertwined, grounded in the long history of this country’s violent legacy of slavery and violence against Blacks, Native Americans, immigrants, women and LGBTQ. Unchecked, they will continue to assault and oppress and seek to expand your oppression. The dehumanization and criminalization of immigration is a first brutal step and a clear indicator of the intended direction and methods of control sought by those in power.
From this clear-eyed recognition we must acknowledge the sick feeling in our stomachs, feel the fear that we have been complacent, not done enough, and move from this place to the commitment to fighting back, learning to actively, radically, and unwaveringly pursue non-violent, but disruptive direct action.
It’s time for all of us to recognize the inseparability of our individual freedom, stability, and happiness from that of any and every other human- regardless of whom they love, what they look like, how much money they have, or whether they were born in this country or elsewhere. From recognition, we must begin to take action, together, to more directly confront and resist any and all actions and legislation that perpetuate oppression and the false narrative of separation and hierarchy amongst our brother and sister humans. We need now to join with faith communities and antifa, community activist organizations established and new, student groups, and battle-worn activists in a movement of radical compassion and direct action.
This work is urgent and will be ongoing. This moment is one of crisis and requires clarity, strength, and commitment to fearlessness. The integrity of our words, intentions and actions is founded in the spaciousness and quiet of our practice, the ability to recognize the deep, transcendent, abiding unity of individual self with all that is must be both anchor and impetus.
We have models for action in the abolition movement, women’s suffrage, Satyagraha, the Civil Rights movement, in Solidarity and the Arab Spring. The tools and lessons of the great teachers and agitators are available to us and require our commitment as well as our new perspectives, adaptations, and innovations.
We need our intellects, our ability to recognize patterns — internal and external — in order to take back control of the story being collectively created- to draw from the lessons of the past in order to not re-create them.
We need our eyes and hearts wide-open- to the horrors and pain of separated families, to the greed and corruption of those in power, and to the sparks of hope and life in the existing movements and organizations already actively working for justice.
We need to feel it all and let those feelings fuel our greater connectedness to each other, and our obligation to use what we know to relieve suffering and expand the possibility for true liberation through unattached and unrelenting action.
The root of suffering is the mistaken belief that we are separate from all that is. Those who seek power and material advantage at the expense of others gain it by perpetuating the myth of separation and hierarchy. Our spiritual quest for liberation and relief of suffering begins with the dismantling of internal barriers. Our societal need requiresthe recognition of the historic and systemic barriers, the structures which separate some from others. In this moment it is time to recognize the need to take the inward work and perspective out into our broader lives, our local communities, our country and our role in the world at large, to start the real work of tearing down the barriers, metaphorical and literal, that separate us from each other in our waking life- to see all this work as a continuum of social justice and spiritual liberation, each one feeding the other.
Whether we are teachers or practitioners I hope we will feel the critical need of this time to use whatever awareness or wisdom we have to move from individual self-help and comfort. I hope we can fearlessly build connections across communities, open communication and inspire commitment to widespread, massive,continuous collective action. I hope we can remember why we want to be awake, and what the responsibility of the wakefulness is. I know there is a transformational wisdom, fierce strength, and un-ignorable power in our collective consciousness and conscience and I ask anyone reading this to own that knowledge as well, and to use it, all of us together, now and every day.