As the collective spirals deeper into chaos and suffering I’ve been reflecting on my own reactions and feelings toward current events over the last few days. The spiritual path asks us to balance the bleeding heart of Christ with the clear detached Buddha mind that sees the perfection of the present moment. Each of us has a bias in one direction or the other and is seeking balance.
The clear detached Buddha mind has always come very easily to me. Perhaps too easily. I encounter the world from a state of witnessing awareness. Reactivity is almost a foreign concept. For most of my life I have felt like Dr. Manhattan. Removed from the human condition. Removed from the messiness, struggle and pain of others.
My life has not been without struggle. I grew up poor in a disadvantaged area. I was tormented by several abusive stepmothers. I was frequently lonely, depressed and even suicidal for many years up until my mid 20s.
But I have also been showered with grace. The color of my skin has never been held against me. Though I grew up poor in the white ghetto of the Appalachian mountains it didn’t take much effort to pass myself off as a middle class kid from someplace better. People have always assumed I am more than I am. I have spent my life living up to other people’s expectations.
Before my spiritual awakening at 25 I had never really experienced love. It was a foreign concept to me. I thought it was something people made up as an excuse for their weakness. I saw the world in clear logical propositions. Emotions had no place in my worldview. This compounded my feelings of alienation and loneliness.
Then at 25 my heart opened all at once, and I went from having never experienced love to feeling overwhelming love for all beings. This changed my perspective overnight. Since then my path has been one of balancing power and love, and the clear Buddha mind with Christ’s bleeding heart.
I have not mastered that balance. I still encounter the world primarily from a place of detached witnessing awareness. I must consciously choose to view the world through the perspective of the heart, and sometimes I forget. Sometimes I see the lawfulness, the karma, and the perfection of the present moment, but not the humanity.
So I’m choosing to mourn today. I’m choosing to see the world through Christ’s bleeding heart. I’m choosing to be righteously angry. I’m choosing to feel grief. I’m choosing to look beyond my privileged and comfortable perspective and identify with the struggle, anger and heartache of others.
I am allowing myself to inhabit the perspective of the oppressed, the exploited, and abused. What does it feel like to be black in America? What does it feel like to live in fear? What does it feel like? I cannot know entirely as long as I inhabit this skin. But I can try to imagine. I can try to empathize.
I am also allowing myself to inhabit the perspective of the oppressors, who are also exploited and abused. What does it feel like to be a police officer in America? What does it feel like to live in fear? What does it feel like? I cannot know entirely as long as I inhabit this skin. But I can try to imagine. I can try to empathize.
I’m choosing to feel heartache today. I’m choosing to feel grief. I’m choosing to allow them inside of me and inside of my perspective. Recognizing that having a choice is itself a privilege. Some of you have been heartbroken for a long time. Some of you have been drowning in grief and anger for as long as you can remember or know someone who has been.
When you inhabit this perspective fully and are identified entirely with grief and anger, it is hard to see anything else. How is any of this just? How is this perfect? Why is this allowed? Metaphysical explanations are of little comfort to those consumed by anger and grief.
So I will offer none. But I invite you to take a break from your perspective at least once a day. When your heart is overwhelmed and you are consumed with anger, grief or fear I invite you to close your eyes and move your awareness within. Focus on your aching heart and breathe into it. Let the breath expand your heart to make a little more room for your grief.
Then move your awareness to your third eye and crown and rest there for a while. Allow yourself to experience silence. Maybe repeat a mantra or holy word whenever a thought arises. But sit for a while, for 20 to 30 minutes, and allow yourself to inhabit no perspective at all.
If you are too comfortable, too aloof, too indifferent to the suffering of others, bring your awareness to your heart and allow it to ache and grieve. Allow yourself to inhabit the perspective of those who suffer and are in pain. Allow yourself to inhabit the perspective of the oppressor and the oppressed.
We cannot spiritually bypass our humanity nor our heart. We must not be overwhelmed by anger, fear and grief. But we also must not become indifferent and unemphatic toward those who suffer. We must find balance between the clear detached Buddha mind and the bleeding heart of Christ.
Whether your bias is toward detachment or the bleeding heart, dedicate some of your time and energy toward serving those around you. Those who are in our physical proximity are those we are meant to serve. That is the place where we can have the biggest positive impact. Don’t let yourself become indifferent to the suffering around you or so overwhelmed by the suffering of the collective that you are unable to alleviate the suffering of those around you that you can do something about.