Saturday, March 21, 2015

In the Midst of Life's Storms I Stand Serene

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, its indifference.

Elie Wiesel
When meditation is mastered, 
the mind is unwavering 
like the flame of a lamp in a windless place.

That one is dear to me who runs 
not after the pleasant or 
away from the painful, 
grieves not, lusts not, 
but lets things 
come and go as they happen.
Two quotes by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita 

This is a blog entry containing more questions than answers. 
This is a blog entry about dharma, a word from Sanskrit that means something like: to uphold or sustain positive order in one's life. 
This is a blog entry about reacting to our society's seeming addiction to violence and aggression.

Last night I tossed around in worry about the aggressiveness and violence that pervades our world right now. I found myself increasingly angry about how ideas of retribution and vengeance and "righteous" war infiltrate everywhere in our country. I found myself spinning around solutions of stopping the disease of violence from entering our own home. 

I woke at 7 AM to the sound of rapid gun fire in the forest hollow next to us. Jolted for moments. I began to breathe in in and out and centering myself. I started thinking about Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. He was a leader who was forced into a war with his friends and relations. Arjuna was beset with sadness about the way things were going and how he would play a decisive role in slaying many people. It's an amazing story: In the midst of a great bloody battle all time was stopped and the warriors were frozen in mid action. The god Krishna came and spoke with Arjuna in a place beyond time's arrow, right in the middle of the battle field. Like Arjuna, I have been beset with wanting things to be different in our country and world. 

I know many others like me have had similar worries and cravings for the world to be different than it is. I am curious about the paths that the spiritually inclined take regarding the bane of aggressiveness and violence in our media and our politics.  Many simply turn off the news. Many simply associate with like-minded, peace seeking, kind people while shying away from all associations with the others. And many are like me, responding in reactive manner and thinking obsessively. What are the solutions to the hate that even infiltrates my family and neighborhood?

So, I step out of time for moments and meditate. I am akin to Arjuna for moments. The god relays questions to me that the combatants are too distracted to hear. Questions and affirmations of my need to be true and real to my own dharma fall into my mind. How can all this turmoil be different? How can peace possibly prevail on Earth, before it is too late? 

I am craving for it all to be different... like Arjuna!

Then I hear the gun shots ring out again, jolting me. And I say out loud "It is what it is."

A realization comes to me, then. I can lay down one of my weapons in my war with reality: the craving for it to be different. Then I can strengthen my will to accomplish my dharma. The ideas of either hiding from world's realities or railing against the injustices have distracted me from being fully alive here in this world, the way the Great mystery has made it. I need to change something inside of me. But what is that?

Do I stop pushing back against hate? No.
Do I retreat into the temple of denial? No.
Do I hate the hateful? No
Do I become another person in a particular tribe rejecting all the others? No.
Do I distract myself with analyzing and protecting my world? No.

So what is left to do?

A yoga affirmation connected with the eagle pose comes to me: 
"In the midst of life's storms I stand serene." 

If I stand in the middle of life I can no longer cut myself with my sworded need to change someone else's role in this life. I don't give up or hide or pursue righteousness or even grasp at the ideals of being better. Part of my dharma path is to live peace-fully. Perhaps this resonates with you too? Yet how can we live this way when beset with anger and judgement over the violent paths of others? By obsessing or denying violence I am filled with violence toward my own dharma.

What is the solution to not being ruled or numbed by another's need to destroy?  Being saddened and angry is only human after all. But the craving, the lust for the world to be different must change, or I will be eaten up inside. Yet, hiding my face from the real news heralded by the gun shots of my neighbor would just make me another indifferent bystander. 

This leaves many questions. All I know is that I have the will to stop in the middle of life's storms. I can meditate. I can seek refuges in my dharma of community and art. I can be of service just by being kind. And I consider Arjuna's quandary again. He did not change the actual outcome of the war with his cousins and brothers. But through Krishna's instruction he changed something inside himself. He did not resist or become a victim of his fate. He threaded through a middle path that comes through pausing the war.

Perhaps we can transmute this craving for the world to be different, not by pushing against or turning away but by stopping the battle within ourselves. The Gita suggests that we do this starting with discipline and meditation. And then allowing a solid center, not based on craving, to propel us to real action in the world. Being Real, not Reactive.

That's my musing for the day. The gun shots have ceased, along with my circular need to fix... at least for now. I need to understand more. I think that my craving for the world, my family and our country to be different needs to be translated into loving presence. Craving can be turned into simple longing, so I actually can stand more serene in the midst of battle. Sharing this time with you is a calm center for me. I hope it has been the same for you. Thank you for coming along with me and sharing this space between. 

I end with the full text of AA's serenity prayer and a link to an article in the Huffington Post re. surrender and right action based on this prayer. 

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.




(c) Copyright Words and Image, Richard Sievers, March 2015