Although there is no doubt that the cultivation of Mindfulness has generally brought a deeper and more consistent ease and clarity to my life, the past couple of weeks have brought forth a bevy of vivid and disturbing dreams. On two successive days, the intensity of the emotions that emerged didn't vanish as I awoke to face the day.
Although I did notice a shadow of resistance to the notion of intentionally sitting down to be with the undefined, but obvious anger one morning, and again (what are you CRAZY?) to sit with the deep, deep sadness the next, the momentum of Practice prevailed. Within moments, as is my habit, I had bowed to the zafu and begun Morning Practice. I am extremely grateful that both days I was able to embrace the torrent of feelings and thoughts for an hour within the gentle arms of Simply Sitting Still and Tonglen Practice. Both days, I rose from the zafu energized, calm, clear, and ready to engage Life.
So, what's the deal?
In the past few weeks, I've begun to reConnect directly with the movement to address racism and the continuing oppression of people of color in the United States. I am extremely grateful to the young activists of Black Lives Matter and the others who helped kick my butt into gear.
Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the central figure in the development of my own thinking about Spirituality and Politics as a young man, and I have been quite involved at various times in my life with groups dealing directly with racism, it had been a long, long time since I sat down -- and stood with -- people of color to directly confront racism, the force that meditation teacher Jack Kornfield recently called "the core wound of our culture." (View the Wisdom 2.0 Conference video "Lessons from Ferguson").
As it is, I'm sure that the workshops I attended at the New England Peace Pagoda organized by the local Black Lives Matter (Blm413) and Western Massachusetts SURJ (Show Up for Racial Justice), and the time I spent with the Coalition for Racial Justice (CoRaJus), has stirred up the pot of subconscious feelings that have made my dreams, and Practice, so very meaningful this past week. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I spent hours and hours meeting face to face with others to explore the deeply troubling aspects of our shared history, and to examine our individual and collective participation in a society that continues to breed the violence and degradation of the human spirit that racism entails for everyone involved. It's clear that for each of us our essential humanness has been systemically compromised by the greed, hatred and delusion of a culture imbued with racism, patriarchy, and capitalism. It is no wonder that my dreams were troubled.
Although, as best I remember it, the human content of my dreams was "lily-white", as has been much of my life in a society that still exhibits widespread de facto segregation, the underlying themes of deep grief, terror, anger, violence -- and utter helplessness-- were, I think, a resonance with the shared pool of emotional energies emerging from the historical and current horror of racism and human oppression.
For me these days, what Carl Jung characterized as the Collective Unconscious, or Eckhart Tolle calls the Collective Ego, isn't so much just a theory. At times, these patterns of energy are quite perceptible. As Tonglen Practice has deepened to the level of aspiring to "feel it all, for everybody", I seem to swim around in a deeper, sometimes troubling, shared pool of energies on (and off) the zafu at times. From that perspective, it becomes quiet clear to me that my own liberation is inextricably linked to the liberation of all.
I am so grateful to know that as my heart opens in compassion to the array of "disturbing" emotions, as I come to feel them as energies, without thought form, narrative or agenda, a transmutation occurs. Rather than be debilitating, opening to the more difficult energies of our shared human condition actually appears to open me to a vaster pool of energy, the One Love that embraces us all. Releasing into that, seems to give me the energy to get off my butt and do what I can.
Tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right?