Time for Truth and Reconciliation by Jack Kornfield

I imagine that one of the reasons that people cling to their hate and prejudice so stubbornly is because they sense that once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with their own pain.—James Baldwin

Like many, I am heartbroken with sadness over the events in Charlottesville, Va., and the rising wave of hate and violence in our culture. While this is part of a long painful history, I want to understand the current tide of white nationalism and racism so the fear and anger it promotes does not take over my own heart. For with understanding I can respond with courage, wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all.

In the breakup of Yugoslavia, after the fall of the communist government, hate mongers took over many radio stations and local media. In this insecure time, fearing uncertainty, loss of power or privilege, politicians and others promoted stories about “them”—the dangerous others. Fearful stories were spread about the past and how the “other”—the Serbs, the Bosnians, the Croats, the Muslims, or the Christians—were dangerous. They will take your job, your houses, your women and children, your lives. And thus a civil war between these groups and their new states was ignited that killed and destroyed hundreds of thousands.

It is not hard to stoke fears in a time of change. Our brains are wired to first scan for danger, and it is easy to trigger the amygdala and the primitive response of fear. It is always pointed to the dangerous “other”—the communists, the blacks, the Asians, the gays, the Muslims, the Jews, the Mexicans, the immigrants.

Fortunately, we human beings possess other capacities beyond our reptilian brains—capacities of wisdom, love, connection and understanding that can override our primitive and easily provoked fears. This is one the great gifts of our meditations and dharma practice. It gives us straightforward and powerful trainings to balance our mind and open our hearts amidst all difficulties, using mindfulness, loving-kindness, equanimity and compassion.

The dharma also points to timeless truths and reminds us of the best of human possibilities. I remember my friend and teacher Maha Ghosananda, the Gandhi of Cambodia, chanting this Buddhist verse to thousands of traumatized refugees in UN camps, fleeing the terrors of genocide:

Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and eternal law.

In his chant and his years of work leading refugees home with this same chant of love across the jungles and killing fields, he showed the Cambodians another way to live.

We need these now.

In many ways we Americans are still fighting the Civil War. It was not so long ago. My great-grandparents, several of whom I knew well, fled the pogroms of Russia to come to the United States in the 1880s and 1890s. This was only 20 years after the end of the Civil War!

2019 will mark 400 years since the first of millions of African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Va., in 1619. On June 19, 1865, General Grainger freed the last slaves in the United States across the state of Texas. At that time there were 250,000 slaves in Texas alone—more than a third of the population was enslaved! And since that time, the years have been marked by lynchings, apartheid/segregation, racism, economic and social oppression and a modern prison system that perpetuates another form of enslavement in spite of Lincoln’s great victory.

This story is a huge and agonizing part of our national history, in which we are still mostly in denial. In this same way we are in denial about the deliberate genocide of Native Americans across this continent. Native Americans were also enslaved at times, but mostly slaughtered by the millions. Native lands and children were stolen and Native cultures systematically destroyed—all in the name of white expansion and white superiority, white economics.

Unfortunately as a nation, we have not genuinely come to terms with our past. And it haunts us. It haunts us through our fears and our guilt and our insecurity. It haunts us whenever there are times of national challenges and uncertainty. Our fears are activated and the most primitive forces among us are empowered and unleashed. Our denial of the pain and exploitation in our history feeds the distorted and toxic myths of exceptionalism and white supremacy.

There is another way. It is based on the movement of Restorative Justice. South Africa provides a model. With the inspiration of elders like Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission panels were set up across the country for the nation to watch. The mandate of the commission was to bear witness to, record, and, in some cases, grant amnesty to the perpetrators of crimes and human rights violations, as well as foster reparation and rehabilitation. The panels confirmed what had happened during the apartheid regime, bringing out the painful truth. And in doing so they began to lead the nation from trauma and polarization to a greater collective understanding of the suffering they had passed through. While there is still much healing needed in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Councils promoted a national soul-searching honesty, and started the basis for genuine reconciliation.

Truth and reconciliation first begin in ourselves. In these polarized and deeply troubled times, we are called upon to deepen our own practice of steadiness, courage, mindfulness and love. It is at just these times that we must become the steady hearts the society needs, the ones who remember who are, who are unafraid to tell the truth and who do so embodying the human possibility of compassion, understanding and reconciliation.

Quieting your mind, opening your heart with loving awareness, these are the critical steps to begin. For without doing so, you will only add to the chaos and fear. You must bear witness to your own measure of fears and pain, and honorably see and feel your place in our shared, troubled history. With a wise and caring heart you can understand the systems of privilege and oppression and your own place in them.

And then, like the bodhisattva who hears the cries of the world, you can rise up from your seat of mindfulness and compassion and extend your good hands to touch and mend the sorrows around you. Trust your good hearts. You know how to do this. You have been training for times like this over many years.

For some your response may be reaching out to connect with those threatened, across lines of religion, race, class, sexual orientation. For some it may mean reaching out to the individuals and groups who are promoting hate and prejudice. For some it may mean educating others. For some it may mean political organizing, or activism, or standing up in peaceful ways in the midst of heated demonstrations. And for some among us it may mean working to support a Truth and Reconciliation process in our communities and across the country.

This has been explored in over 30 countries, and in small ways has already begun in the United States. There is a Truth and Reconciliation process in Greensborough, N.C. And this article by Fania Davis is a call written last year for such a commission in Ferguson, Mo.

Since ancient times, Buddhist councils of elders have incorporated elements of a Truth and Reconciliation process in their communities. We can do this in many places.

Now is the time for us to do so in our own troubled land. Perhaps this article will spark your imagination. Or inspire you to start a Truth and Reconciliation group in your community. Or simply remind you that we humans have lived through troubled times before, and that there are ways to steady our hearts and move courageously and compassionately through them.

In spite of the surfacing of so much conflict and pain, I am still hopeful.

There is a magnificence to the human spirit as well as a dangerous and destructive side. Difficult times can ennoble us, and call forth new levels of dedication and care for our lives, our families, our communities, and this precious globe.

May it be so.

And for those creating suffering at every level….

I send metta which includes you as well….

May you be free from hate.
May you be free from fear.
May you be free from ignorance.

May all beings be safe and protected.

With blessings,

Jack Kornfield
Spirit Rock Center
August 2017

 

The Fine Art of Not Being Offended by Shemsi Prinzivalli

By Shemsi Prinzivalli / shemsi-prinzivalli.blogspot.gr Aug 1, 2017

There is an ancient and well-kept secret to happiness which the Great Ones have known for centuries. They rarely talk about it, but they use it all the time, and it is fundamental to good mental health. This secret is called The Fine Art of Not Being Offended.

In order to truly be a master of this art, one must be able to see that every statement, action and reaction of another human being is the sum result of their total life experience to date. In other words, the majority of people in our world say and do what they do from their own set of fears, conclusions, defenses and attempts to survive. Most of it, even when aimed directly at us, has nothing to do with us. Usually, it has more to do with all the other times, and in particular the first few times, that this person experienced a similar situation, usually when they were young.

Yes, this is psychodynamic. But let’s face it, we live in a world where psychodynamics are what make the world go around. An individual who wishes to live successfully in the world as a spiritual person really needs to understand that psychology is as spiritual as prayer. In fact, the word psychology literally means the study of the soul.

All of that said, almost nothing is personal. Even with our closest loved ones, our beloved partners, our children and our friends. We are all swimming in the projections and filters of each other’s life experiences and often we are just the stand-ins, the chess pieces of life to which our loved ones have their own built-in reactions. This is not to dehumanize life or take away the intimacy from our relationships, but mainly for us to know that almost every time we get offended, we are actually just in a misunderstanding. A true embodiment of this idea actually allows for more intimacy and less suffering throughout all of our relationships. When we know that we are just the one who happens to be standing in the right place at the right psychodynamic time for someone to say or do what they are doing—we don’t have to take life personally. If it weren’t us, it would likely be someone else.

This frees us to be a little more detached from the reactions of people around us. How often do we react to a statement of another by being offended rather than seeing that the other might actually be hurting? In fact, every time we get offended, it is actually an opportunity to extend kindness to one who may be suffering—even if they themselves do not appear that way on the surface. All anger, all acting out, all harshness, all criticism, is in truth a form of suffering. When we provide no Velcro for it to stick, something changes in the world. We do not even have to say a thing. In fact, it is usually better not to say a thing. People who are suffering on the inside, but not showing it on the outside, are usually not keen on someone pointing out to them that they are suffering. We do not have to be our loved one’s therapist. We need only understand the situation and move on. In the least, we ourselves experience less suffering and at best, we have a chance to make the world a better place.

This is also not to be confused with allowing ourselves to be hurt, neglected or taken advantage of. True compassion does not allow harm to ourselves either. But when we know that nothing is personal, a magical thing happens. Many of the seeming abusers of the world start to leave our lives. Once we are conscious, so-called abuse can only happen if we believe what the other is saying. When we know nothing is personal, we also do not end up feeling abused. We can say, “Thank you for sharing,” and move on. We are not hooked by what another does or says, since we know it is not about us. When we know that our inherent worth is not determined by what another says, does or believes, we can take the world a little less seriously. And if necessary, we can just walk away without creating more misery for ourselves or having to convince the other person that we are good and worthy people.

The great challenge of our world is to live a life of contentment, regardless of what other people do, say, think or believe. The fine art of not being offended is one of the many skills for being a practical mystic. Though it may take a lifetime of practice, it is truly one of the best kept secrets for living a happy life.

Praying for the Collective by Sandra Ingerman

I find myself praying more for the collective field of energy and doing more work to transmute the collective toxic energies being shared and sent. We are not going to see any changes on how humans are treating each other, all of life, and the environment if we keep feeding the collective field of energy with anger and divisive energies. There is no way for healing to occur until we learn how to feed the collective with unconditional love and light filled energies.”

Sandra Ingerman

Breaking the Cycle of Repetitive Thoughts by Jack Kornfield

There are a few basic principles for learning how to open our stuck places and release the contradictions of the body of fear. The first of these principles is called Expanding the Field of Attention. A repeated difficulty will be predominantly felt in one of the four basic areas of mindfulness. It will come either in the realm of the body, in the realm of feelings, in the realm of mind (thoughts and images), or in the realm of our basic attitudes (grasping, fear, aversion, etc.). Expanding the field of attention requires that we become aware of another dimension of the insistent visitor and not just notice its predominant face. This is because invariably we are stuck on a different level from the obvious one we have been noticing and naming. Release will only take place when we can shift from that which is obvious to one of the other levels of awareness.

On retreats, we call these insistent visitors or difficult repetitive thought patterns the Top Ten Tunes. Normally when thinking arises, we can simply name it “thinking, thinking,” and in the light of awareness it will vanish like a cloud. However, the Top Ten Tunes, whether as words, images, or stories, will persist and return no matter how often they are noticed. They play like records, repeating a theme over and over. At first, to gain perspective, we can number them one through ten. “Oh, that is three on the hit parade this week.” In that way, when we notice them, we don’t have to play the record all the way through each time and we can more easily let them go. Or we can use a variation of this technique and give them a humorous name or title. I have given names to many now familiar aspects of myself, such as “The Hungry Survivor,” “Mr. Achiever,” “Attila the Hun,” “Baby Jacky,” “Fear of the Dark,” “The Impatient Lover.” In this way, the repeated patterns of fear, sorrow, impatience, or loneliness become more familiar, and I listen to their stories in a friendlier and openhearted way. “Hello, nice to see you again! What do you have to tell me today?”

However, this is not enough. Suppose we encounter a repeated story about the divorce of our parents. It talks over and over about which children got to keep which possessions, and who said what to whom. Such a story can play many times. As it does, we must expand our field of attention: How does this thought feel in our body? Oh, there is a tightness in the diaphragm and the chest. We can name this, “tightness, tightness,” and stay meticulously attentive for some time. As we do, it may open to other sensations, and many new images and feelings will be released. In this way, we can first begin to release the physical contractions and bodily fear that we have held. Then we can expand the attention further to new feelings. What feelings arise along with this thought pattern and this tightness? At first they may be half hidden or unconscious, but if we sense carefully, the feelings will begin to show themselves. The tightness in the chest will become sadness, and the sadness may become grief. As we finally begin to grieve, the pattern will release.

In a similar way, when we encounter a repeated physical pain or difficult mood we can expand awareness to the level of thoughts, the story or belief that comes along with it. With careful attention, we may find a subtle belief about ourselves that perpetuates the pain or mood, perhaps a story about our unworthiness, such as “I’ll always be this way.” When we become aware of the story or belief, and see it as just that, often the pattern is released.

Repeated thoughts and stories are almost always fueled by an unacknowledged emotion or feeling underneath. These unsensed feelings are part of what brings the thought back time and again. Future planning is usually fueled by anxiety. Remembering of the past is often fueled by regret, or guilt, or grief. Many fantasies arise as a response to pain or emptiness. The task in meditation is to drop below the level of the repeated recorded message, to sense and feel the energy that brings it up. When we can do this, and truly come to terms with the feeling, the thought will no longer need to arise, and the pattern will naturally fade away.

 

This excerpt is taken from the book, “A Path With Heart”

Awakening by Matt Licata

“Awakening can break our hearts and shatter old dreams. It is oriented in birth and death, creativity and destruction, and must by its nature dance in the full spectrum. Not only does it introduce us to transfiguration, but to the chaotic glory of the crucifixion and resurrection as well. Yes, the Kingdom is here, now, but requires your full participation for its qualities to emerge here.

While it is natural to have a bias for resurrection, inside the crucible dark and light are one. Here, crucifixion is holy and disappointment is sacred, for they are forerunners of wholeness. Death and life are not two. Confusion and clarity are not two. Vulnerability and aliveness are not two.

It requires a nonconventional, courageous commitment to participate in these pathways, and you may always find some resistance inside you and within the collective. It requires erupting momentum to reorganize what has until now been the status quo. “Getting what I want” is no longer the reference point from which you will be asked to organize your experience. Love is the new organizer and may have a different idea.”

~Matt Licata

Acknowledge Suffering by Ram Dass

Posted November 18, 2011

One of the things that makes relationships so difficult is the way in which we protect ourselves from suffering — from our own and from each other’s. Because when you love someone you don’t want to lay your suffering on them and your fears. Also you are afraid if you open your heart too far their suffering will overwhelm you. Because when you look at the world, you just see suffering everywhere.

If you scratched the surface of every person in this room, you will find that there is some suffering. Some people who are walking around here smiling at each other and sitting down and having wonderful, gentle conversations, inside have very deep pain and deep fear. But they have learned so well how to mask it from each other. The culture reinforces that saying, don’t bring your pain to me. I only want your happiness. I’ll put up with a little of it but not much of it because you will scare me.

Now just as I said before, if you are going to be able to deal with seeing someone else’s beauty, you have to be able to acknowledge your own beauty. In a similar way if you are going to able to be available for someone else’s suffering you have to be able to acknowledge your own suffering and be able to understand the nature of suffering in such a way that you have converted the quality of suffering in yourself.

Gurdjieff, the Russian philosopher, said there is nothing that can be attained spiritually without suffering in life. But at the same time, if you are going to proceed on the journey you must sacrifice suffering. You hear the dual nature of it. You have to have suffered because the suffering is what burns through you and deepens the compassion and opens the door. Suffering brings you closer to the mystery. At the same moment if you hold on to the suffering and grab at it and sort of wallow in it or cling to it, it stops the journey.

There is an understanding of suffering such that you don’t invite suffering into your life but when it comes you work with it and transform it. The extreme of it is the Christian monk who is saying, “God, God give me more pain. Give me more suffering because I want to get closer to you.”  And Maharaj ji saying, “Do you like suffering or joy,” and saying, “I love suffering – it brings me so close to God.”

 

Befriending the Trouble by Jack Kornfield

Befriending the Trouble

The good news about these powerful inner forces is that you can use awareness to understand and tame them. When you mindfully recognize your fear, anger, desire, or loneliness, you come to know it, and then it begins to be workable. If you are lonely, for example, study it. The Sufi poet Hafiz warns, “Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly. Let it cut more deeply. Let it season you as few ingredients can.” If you cannot bear your loneliness, your boredom, your anxiety, you will always run away. The moment you feel lonely or bored, you may open the fridge, or go online, or do anything to avoid being with yourself. But with loving awareness you can endure, honor, and value loneliness and aloneness. And they can be informative. They can teach you about yourself, your longings, what you have neglected for too long. They can help you find a deeper freedom.

Grief is the same. The Lakota Sioux value grief highly; they say it brings a person close to the Great Spirit. When they want to send a message to the other side, they ask a member of a grieving family to deliver it. Whether you feel grief or anxiety, jealousy, addiction, or anger your freedom grows by turning awareness toward it. Zen teacher Myogen Steve Stücky told his friends and students, when he was in great pain, dying of cancer, “I’ve found relief from suffering not by turning away but by turning toward what is most difficult.”

In my own life, I’ve had to learn this with anger. My father was violent and abusive, a wife batterer who dominated all of our family with unpredictable outbursts of rage and paranoia. When he was most abusive, I would run away, and my mother hid bottles behind curtains in every room so she could reach for one to defend herself against his blows.

I determined never to be like him. I became the family peacemaker, mediating arguments when I could. So, when I went to live as a young monk in a Thai forest monastery, I thought it would be easy and peaceful. I was unprepared for the intensity of my own restless mind, the uprising of grief, desire, and loneliness I felt. Most surprising was my anger. In not wanting to be like my violent father, I had suppressed all my anger – it had become dangerous to even feel. But in the awareness of meditation and solitude, all the things I was angry about came up. It was more than anger; it was fury. First at my father for being so hurtful to our family. Then, because it frightened me and I had denied it, I was angry at myself for all the times I had suppressed my anger.

Ajahn Chah told me to sit in the middle of it, to wrap myself in robes even on a hot day, and learn to tolerate it. Later my Reichian therapist had me breathe hard, make sounds, shout, grimace, rage, and flail, until I expressed fury’s pain and wept. In these years of meditation and therapy I learned to work with the anger and discovered that it’s an energy that can be known and tolerated, not feared. I had to acknowledge when it was present and realize that I could feel it fully without becoming vengeful or violent like my father.

I also realized that when understood, anger has value. It is a protest when we feel hurt or afraid or when our needs aren’t met. At times, it even brings clarity. The ancient Greeks called anger a “noble” emotion, because it gives the strength to stand up for what you care about most. As I began to understand anger, I could see more clearly the frustration, hurt, and fear that were behind it. My sense of freedom grew as I became more intelligent about it, and slowly its energy was transformed into compassion for myself and others. Now I help others with their emotions as a part of my profession.

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