I Had to Watch

The New York Times recently posted this three-minute video which contains  a compilation of recordings from Trump rallies. (Reader be warned: this is not easy to watch.)

Unfiltered Voices from Donald Trump Crowds

I made myself watch it.  The Trump phenomenon is disturbing to me.   I have a hard time viewing videos of the candidate, let alone his unrestrained jeering crowds.   As a citizen I've never seen anything like the spectacle of Trump's triumphant and unlikely march to presidential nominee.

And as person who is committed to a decades-long avocation of spiritual growth, I needed to know if my personal beliefs could hold up to the vitriol I witness in the campaign, expressed both by the candidate and his supporters. My baseline belief is that, on the ultimate, mysterious level beyond the knowing of both scientists and theologians, we are all one.  If I am "one with everything," can I be one with Trump supporters, too?

As I watched the video again, three things struck me:

1/ The strong language used by the Trump supporters, such as:

F**k Islam - on a man whose t-shirt caused him to be ejected from a rally

F**k that "n word' - about Obama

As upsetting as these are, the worst are three chants about Hillary:

Unsettling: "Hillary is a whore:

Disturbing: "Hang the bitch"

Chilling: "Kill her"

Can I relate to any to these?  I have known anger, even rage.  I've said the words, "I could kill her," but it's been a long time since I've uttered that phrase.  The only time my father slapped me was when at age nine  I shouted at my mother "I hate you."  I learned an early lesson on the power of those words.

2/ The cathartic glee in the expression the young man repeating "F**k political correctness"  outside a rally.  He looked so happy to finally be able to say, shout actually, what he had been thinking, out in public, in the sunshine of acceptance.

As a writer and musician, I understand the delight in being able to express myself freely. It is exhilarating to speak my authentic truth, and to be heard.  I know how that feels. Can I find a commonality in this man's happiness?

3/ The older gentleman at the end (2:51), who says:

"He's the last candidate to preserve law and order and to preserve the culture I grew up in."

This was the poignant moment, the one that gave me a glimpse of what may be driving support for the unfathomable choice of Trump. Perhaps supporters are yearning for a past that cannot exist again, or didn't  exist at all.  Perhaps the inevitability of change is just too hard to come to terms with.  I've heard many spiritual teachers say: Change is hard, especially when resisted.

Can I gaze with neutrality upon these people, their reactions, their anger, their frustration, their willingness to follow, in what seems a blind fashion, someone who I consider not only mentally unstable (see these two links below for more on that) but downright dangerous to our country?

The Mind of Donald Trump (The Atlantic)

Could Donald Trump Pass a Sanity Test? (Vanity Fair)

What I'm trying to reconcile is this:  if we are all one, then what I am seeing in this video is also in me, and I am looking at my shadow.  I am capable of these feelings, too.  If all I do is push it away and refuse to look at it, or allow it to widen the gap between  Trump supporters and myself, then aren't I perpetuating the divisiveness that Trump is touting? Isn't that the same attitude that has led the human race to a history of war, rape, and violence against "the other"?

If I believe in a different future for this world, if I still carry hope for the evolution of our species to a more peaceful, harmonious coexistence, then I cannot avert my eyes.

Being Sick, Like Buddha

 

Buddha Boy

Recently the stomach flu that’s been making the rounds hit me. Being ill for three days gave me an opportunity to practice dying, (yes, you read that right), and to cultivate a more Buddha-like temperament.

Surrender

On the first day, I am pinned to the bed, unable to lift my head. I have to surrender to what my body demands: total rest. Since I’m a healthy, productive woman living in the go-go-go, connect-connect-connect twenty-first century, it’s a complete change to be barely able to make the necessary phone calls and emails to cancel my day’s work schedule. But I’ve learned that the quickest path to feeling well again is to allow my body to do its natural - and miraculous - healing.

I usually take my body for granted, although I do occasionally have moments of appreciation. The pulse of its natural, unerring urge to life was demonstrated when my mother was dying of lymphoma. During her last few days, I watched her twitch and toss, under the influence of morphine, as her body slowly gave up its grip on life. The only thing she was able to say when conscious was “I know, I know”, which we took to mean she knew she was dying and she was alright with it. But her mind accepted before her body was willing. The need for surrender does not come easily to our physical vehicles, which cling to life with ferocity.

I think about my attachment to not just my physical existence, but all the things in my world which form my identity and which I rely on to bring me comfort and beauty. I consider what it’s like to say goodbye to my home, to the people I love. I wonder about the moment of death, will I be aware and step willingly into the mystery of it? These are thoughts I usually don’t ponder, and I touch the freedom - and fear - of letting go. Maybe death is like taking off a tight shoe, the soul sighing with relief.

Being Mindful

Gate Garden Untethered from my daily routine, I become more present. I take in the view out the window,  which I’ve seen a thousand times, with new eyes, eyes that don’t breeze over details. I notice the shape of the trees, the branch that was torn off in the last storm, the way the tops of the pines are loaded with tiny pine cones. And I tap into a well of gratitude for the world I inhabit. On the second day, I wake up with a little more strength. I stare at the blue walls of our bedroom. The blue paint - Windmill, it’s called, although I wonder if the windmills in the Netherlands are painted blue - appear alive to me, so alive I consume it through my eyes. It travels into my body like ephemeral nourishment. I experience the energy of color in a new way and I promise myself I won’t forget.

Later that day I feel able to step outside on the porch and sit in the sun, or rather lie in the sun on the long porch step, while I lazily toss a tennis ball for the grateful dog. I cover my eyes with my arm and allow the sun to warm me. It feels like a gift. The dog is happy, and I’m content with this simple moment. I’m not thinking about what I need to do next.

Charlie

When I return to bed, which has become a cozy nest, with pillows surrounding me and the afghan my mother knit me while I was in college covering me, I am thankful. I finger my mother’s handiwork and wonder how many times she ripped out rows to achieve the perfect result which, four decades later, still warms me. Some of the fringe was braided by one of my college roommates, and here is her hand, too, which I now have time to remember. I recall something endearing about her, how she didn’t know how to finish her laugh. One evening we taught her how, practicing the tapering end of a good laugh. I wonder what her laugh sounds like now.

Gratitude

On the third day I venture into the yard. In the garden, last night’s rain is puddled in the umbrella-like leaves of the Lady’s Mantle, the rain drops nestled symmetrically in the leaves’ folds. I see the world anew, stop to examine the buds on the dwarf cherry tree, listen to the hum of the bumblebees, notice their number - hundreds - turning that tree into a hovering hub of activity. I experience the world with the sense of wonder and innocence of a three-year old and although I know it won’t last, that within a day or two the spell will wear off, I appreciate it and want to retain it. Lady's Mantle Decades ago my first meditation teacher counseled his students to let death be our counselor. He introduced us to the the idea that in welcoming as companions the impermanence of life and the unpredictable nature of death, we could become more awake, aware, and alive. Being temporarily sick can be an opportunity to step closer to death, and to life.