turning away, turning toward…11-6-23

Beyond the boundaries of our own skin, the news ticker from the mundane to the cataclysmic is loud and continual. Each to our own, we titrate the current events that shape our world.  Some of us have only the capacity to be porous to the immediacy of our home base. Maybe absorb happenings in the local community or near geography. Attend to places tangible, breathable, adjacent.  Know thyself.  Shields are a necessary strategy at any point in our lives.

Some of us are able to vulnerably extend, open to the terribly painful affairs of the larger world.  Allow the landslide of state and national and global events to permeate our consciousness.  My wish is that, each to our own, this choice be made consciously.  It is too consequential a decision to be made by default.   If we choose to be porous to the story of our planet, it is my hope that we attend to two things.

First, that we carefully examine our news sources.   It is a virtual buffet out there, myriad ways to gather information.  Instead of informing us, some media biases toward sensationalism, relaying information to induce hyper-arousal or downright numbness.  The source itself has incredible bearing on our perception.  The truth is elusive at best.  Perhaps it is non-existent.  Related to this?  The real problem of addiction and overdose.  Careful tracking and decision-making of how much daily time we spend on exposure is imperative to our health.  To each his conscious own.

My second hope is that, if our intention is to take in the doings of the planet, we actively participate in this wider story.  There are many ways to lend a hand.  Maybe you’re a feet-on-the-ground activist.  In younger days, I door-to-door turned out the vote, marched and sat in protest.  Now, for me, it’s informed voting, sending dollars in donation and engaging in what I might call spiritual activism.

Fact: we have all suffered in our lifetime.  There is considerable awareness and support for the personal healing needed to resolve individual trauma.  Another fact: we were all, each and every one of us, born into a pre-traumatized world.  Spiritual activism is an opportunity to tend to the collective trauma.  If we’re capable of turning the spotlight off ourselves for a bit, if we’re able to turn our attention outward, allow the world to move over our doorstep, spiritual activism can thrive.  There are well known templates such as the ancient Buddhist practice of tong-len or, the more current, global social witnessing developed by Thomas Hubl.

And if we long to move in the world this way, perhaps we need to open to possibility, explore and develop a method that feels personally authentic.  Maybe it begins with recognizing that a mental response to dire news is very different than an embodied heart opening response. Maybe it’s an acknowledgement that culture or society or peace is a work in progress developing on a cellular level directly through us.  Maybe it’s the notion that when something is seen and felt it affects the event.  Maybe it’s believing that as a citizen of the world, we are a fundamental part of the global process.

Me?  This is my way of turning toward.  Forever a work in progress.  I meditate on first rising and then brew my trusty support cup of coffee. I lay out the Sacramento Bee next to a devotional reading.  This morning Tara Brach held my hand, reminding me that wisdom is clear understanding of the nature of reality and love is the capacity to respond with a tender, caring, appreciative heart.  Holding these two wings, I turn toward the incredible new speaker of the House, the bombing of Gaza refugee camps, a Ukraine missile strike in Crimea, the tense negotiations about climate-related loss at the Abu Dhabi conference.  How earth’s freshwater is getting saltier and scientists are growing mice embryos 400 miles above earth.  Then I read the comics and close the paper.  No internet news for me.  On Monday, the Rachel Maddow show.  No other TV news.  The Sunday New York Times parceled out in patches through the week.

This is how I turn toward and stand as abiding witness.  Taking an average 30-40 minutes daily to feel ancient and current events weaving, shaping me, family, community.  Consciously opening my cells, eyes, ears and heart to the stark nature of reality.  Cultivating a response (not always possible) that invites hope and compassion and fervent prayers for peace to sit side-by-side with horror and indignation and despair.

For sure, I’m not advocating active participation in the mega-story.  Each of us knows our own window of tolerance.  In this day, turning away has become just as difficult as turning toward.  My doubt is huge on some days.  Doubts tempt me to turn away.  I’m totally lifted when I hear from you though. I welcome your feelings and strategies around this.  To each his own can only take us so far.  Clearly we are stronger together.