Politics Seems to be Getting Personal, and Maybe Even Spiritual

Jubair1985 CC BY-SA 4.0

In the wake of the latest national election, more than a few folks have suggested that I should run for political office again (I ran for Mayor of Los Angeles in 2001). Others have sought my involvement in their endeavors based on healing — individual healing of mind or body or spirit. Still others would like to enlist me to help bring artistic visions to life.

I’m attracted at once to all and none of these entreaties. I find myself often these days wondering how best I can serve — serve society, serve the divine, serve my dharma. While all these offers seem attractive and potentially worthwhile, I feel my doubts about their effectiveness, given the weighty times in which we find ourselves.

Yes, I know that in the long arc of the universe, everything we humans do is little more than a blip. And yet, with my own personal little time blip, I have a longing to be of use, to have improved the lives of some number, to leave a positive impact on society and the planet, and of course to live in as much joy as possible along the way.

I am unsure of what path to take, perhaps more unsure than I have been in some time. Politics is appealing as I am well versed in it, yet our system is so horribly corrupt that I have little hope for systemic change. Spirituality may save those who partake, but does it serve the greater good, or divide us further? And art, well, I love it, but does it make the sort of lasting change I feel myself desiring?

These are the topics that are front of mind for me. And in this moment of great upheaval, when abnormal is the new normal, it feels like a great time to explore these various paths in words. I will endeavor to write my way through the multiple options, and hopefully dialogue with some of you, in an effort to take some meaningful steps that truly serve. Along the way, I’ll toss in some interviews with folks doing truly groundbreaking service, and some nuggets and exercised I’ve found along the way that make a difference in daily living.

Which Way Forward? — a series exploring my options of service to the greater good.

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Vol. 1 — Politics seems ready to get Spiritual

Back in 2002, I worked for a time as Field Director for the Presidential campaign of Dennis Kucinich, congressman from Ohio. Among other traits he possessed that seemed well out of the mainstream were his vegetarian diet, his belief in creating a department of peace, and his mindfulness practice. He would take time to meditate before every public speaking engagement. As recently as 15 years ago, that was still seen as “out there.”

Cut to today and mindfulness and meditation are all over the news, in boardrooms, in prisons, in Silicon Valley, and everywhere in between. People are using mindfulness for all sorts of reasons — higher productivity, stress relief, great focus — and I hope that many of them, whatever their reason for beginning a practice, also find the ability to simply be present to their lives as they unfold.

Perhaps, now that mindfulness is becoming ubiquitous in the United Stares, it is time for its deep infusion into our political world as well. Imagine if the meditator, like Dennis Kucinich, was no longer the outlier, but rather the norm. Imagine if our lawmakers simply connected with their breath before making decisions with life or death impact. Imagine if Congress had a deeper connection with the beings on this planet before they legislated, and a practice of listening that was more developed than their practice of talking.

The time is now. I have been bifurcated in my life for a long time — it has been difficult to reconcile my own need for spiritual fulfillment with my longing for deep societal change, which seems most readily available through political engagement. Yet that very political process is corrupt to the point of despair.

Could this be the political moment to insert a massive dose of mindfulness and spirituality into our body politic?

Why not? The fundamentalist right wing did it. We know their views to be extreme, far outside the mainstream thought of the U.S. Yet they get their people to vote, through reinforcing separation, fear, and pushing hot-button issues that get their radical followers out to vote.

Time for spirituality that heals the planet, don’t you think? It’s time for a wave of mindfulness to sweep into our political spaces, as it has swept into boardrooms and workplaces. It is not religion blending with politics. It is simply an acknowledgement that we are all in this together, no one gets out alive, and living with a shared acknowledgement that living in harmony with each other — other people, others ethnicities, other cultures, other countries — begins with finding harmony within oneself.

I’ll be writing for a while on how we might bring breath and joy into our political sphere, and hence begin to heal our body politic.

What do you think? Have the people of the US finally had enough? Are we ready to accept our role in the larger scheme of life? Are we ready to work with the planet to heal her and each other? Will we infuse some mindfulness into our democracy? And if so, what impact might it have?

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