Steady at the Face of the Inferno
Donald Trump will soon hold significant power in the US and indeed around the world and for many of us, that is truly ominous. But his is only a certain kind of power and, from the perspective of the Dharma, not the most important.
It isn’t for easy, carefree moments that we practice. We practice to transform suffering, transform it into insight, compassion, and a clear heart that would end suffering for all beings. In the article below originally published on her website, Dharma author, leader, and activist Thanissara gives a raw, inner accounting of transforming the US election’s “November Surprise.”
11/9: The Day America Fell is the Day We Rise Up
It’s been a very long night-day-evening-night (is it day or night?) … I can’t remember how long since the sinking and rising horror evoked by the disappearing blue and bleeping red states. As we grasped the straws of “urban votes still to come in,” it was the text from my friend that broke the spell, This is terrifying Thanissara! What is going on?! This, our most terrible nightmare, is going on.
This weekend isn’t the moment for strategies, (though Michael Moore’s Morning-After-To-Do-List is good.) First, we need a breather to feel what we need to feel – all of it. To let the full impact sink in. It is incredibly, incredibly painful. Words from my Facebook feed: scary, torn down, devastated, dark night, despair, rage, implode, collapse, praying, danger, damage, heart-break, robbed, coup d’etat, cracking, catastrophique et funeste, shocked, leaving U.S.A., I cannot believe, disconnect, armageddon, horrifying, toxic, etc, etc.
We have to allow the full cellular body blow of anxious, grief-rage waves of feeling so we really get the heart of this shadow energy that we emotionally feel, instinctively know, and intellectually appraise as a profound threat to all we hold dear. A friend just wrote the phrase “the age of the dangerous psychopathic masculine is breathing its last through many leaders, male and female, around the world.” This election result friends, is the deep cry of resistance at the heart of white supremacist patriarchy that knows it’s on history’s losing side. Yes, it is also from those who feel utterly run over in the march of Reagan-Thatcher neoliberal capitalism that has unhooked itself from ethical constraints, social responsibility, environmental care, and increasingly, from sanity and reality.
This shadow energy, that at its heart pulses with anger and disdain, is rippling around the world and finding its foothold through legitimisation by those politicians who crave power and greed. This, as succinctly termed by Van Jones, is the whitelash of our times, the attempt to “take back” what was put in place by colonialism, racial supremacy, and class division. This is an anger and sense of entitlement that justifies utter disregard for the vulnerable and marginalised. Except now, the vulnerable and marginalised is going to be pretty much everyone, even those who voted to try and hold onto the illusion of control.
The greatest loser from this election though, the most gut wrenching blow, the true victim of the ultimate witches hammer of inquisitional sadism, is our beautiful, and now deeply vulnerable Mother Earth and her innocent species. As new cabinet members are being lined up, we are bearing witness to the psycho-fest and ghoulish nightmare of the twisted and deformed soul at the heart of this shadow patriarchy. This shadow patriarchal mind set, now emboldened, is aiming to plunder her completely, to take it all. Friends, feel it, feel the utter grief and shock of what we have done.
This, friends, is what mindfulness is ultimately for. To hold steady at the face of the inferno.
We have to feel this full impact, this terrible dark night of the soul and planet, to know this shadow energy that is fast focalising in America’s halls of power, because we have to face down its tentacles within our own psyches. We have to feel the blow to be woken from our deepest recesses of denial and our lingering allegiance to our comfort zones that are literally costing the earth, and are throwing disenfranchised communities, people of color, immigrants, the poor, and future generations under the bus.
We have to wise up to how this shadow energy operates at systemic, psychological, political, legalistic, and emotional levels. How it psychopathy manipulates, divides, intimidates, and distorts our natural heart energy. How it seeks to control and destroy the soul for its own fetid gain. Friends, we have to know that the power elites, the corporate fossil fuel oligarchs now emboldened, the war machine marching to tunes of the debauched masculine and crazed feminine will not give up until there is nothing left; no beauty, no wild places, no humane, sensitive and dignified modalities of relationship, no sacredness.
We have to know that we have reached the bottom.
Only then can we be stripped down to our blazing true heart, our invincible courage, and to the absolute certainty of what actually counts; our love of each other, our willingness to sacrifice for each other, and the bedrock of our humanity, which is the ethical commitment to protect what needs to be protected — the environment, nature, all other species, each other.
So, this election has had the result of fast forwarding us into an urgent curriculum. These are some of its central themes:
- Keep the heart strong
- Gather together in sacred community
- Overcome the machine (sorry, I am friends, from the wave of the 1960’s!)
This is what we practice for. When times of crisis and extreme challenge is upon us. This, friends, is what mindfulness is ultimately for. To hold steady at the face of the inferno.
We are in uncharted territories… but the walk has been walked by heroes before. We have their blessing. Our ancestors are here, the legions of earth defenders, seen and unseen, are here. We will hear the guidance as we listen.. listen in, listen out, listen…
Listen, because we are exactly where we need to be. We are the immune system that has just been given shock therapy so it can rise up.
One more word from the twitter storm and facebook scroll of that dark night: A word my nephew in Dublin signed off on at the close of our WhatsApp, what the feck’s going on, chat.
My friends Andrew Harvey says, “Let’s get real.” Friends, let’s get real. As real as we can. Our real hearts together will lead the way.
Before I wrote this, I didn’t know what would be written. As I sign off, I now know that for the first time I feel something as really true. It’s banded around as something we should feel, but frankly, while giving lip service, I wavered all over the place around this. But signing off, I realise there is a true bedrock that I now do authentically feel. It is encapsulated in this one word.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever we’ve done — I love you, I love me, I love us all, and in this moment, I love the frightened heart of the “craving to be seen” vulnerable masculine, and the confused contraction of the disempowered feminine, within and without. So, yes, one last word for our revolution.
Take courage friends, show up, rise up, and with your blazing heart in full operational mode, together, let’s meet the challenge of our times.
Let’s do this thing!
Thanissara is Anglo/Irish and originally from London. She was a Buddhist nun for 12 years in the Forest School of Ajahn Chah and has taught meditation internationally the last 25 years. She is co-founder of Dharmagiri, a small meditation center in the Southern Drakensberg in South Africa which also initiates and supports local community engagement projects. Thanissara is author of The Heart of the Bitter Almond Hedge Sutra, and co-author, with Kittisaro, of Listening to the Heart: A Contemplative Journey to Engaged Buddhism. Her most recent book Time To Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth, was released in August 2015 as part of the North Atlantic Books Sacred Activism Series.