I have a Red Hat, Too
"I'm not afraid Linda and I wear a mask. Wanna try me!" shot out of me like an arrow made of angry words hitting the bullseye on the target made of her Facebook post.
Linda may be the sweetest and kindest woman I know. I'm pretty sure is. She helped my daughter and many daughters and sons through some of the most vulnerable times. She always gave extra to help me in my job when she could. We have shared some beautiful intimate moments remembering her late husband together and bearing witness to the first days of school and other major events. Linda really loved her husband. She really loves her community.
And there it is. My practice. Not the being a total asshole part. The part later on when the regret crushed me. When I was willing to look at it. Even welcome it. I couldn't believe I was so vicious to Linda.
Linda!?! I aimed my arrow right at her heart?
But, I have a red hat too. The justifications began in my head. I strongly grip onto my beliefs that other side are monsters. I imagine "them" as trying to seperate and tortue all the immigrant mothers and children because they are brown and speak spanish for instance. Or maybe the other side imagines "them" all wanting to force women to have abortions and kill millions and millions of babies. We all know these things aren't true. For some reason it makes us feel better to continue these beliefs. Like we are more ethical and compassionate human beings than them. We forget we are them.
I'm even pretty sure Linda's politics lines-up with mine.
I still found justifications to support my comment. Even being mean about it found a reason in my head. Even after I realized what I said and how it must have felt to Linda who I know also remembers our sweet and even loving times together, I still justified it. I know she felt hurt. I've never apologized I don't think. I'm not sure I can.
Of course many of us are lashing out on social media. We all feel vulnerable from the Covid pandemic and spiraling economy. Our political language is now pretty much hyperbole from everyone. As George W. Bush told the world "you're either with us or against us."
Practice is middle ground. Rejecting and grasping is the opposite.
Our politics makes us feel like if we give any kind of concession or any space to the opposition we have lost everything. It's the end somehow. It has become our American practice to really overblow all the misstatements and all the spin to make the other side look like ugly monsters. It has become our practice to internalize this and continue the delusions in our own hearts in our everyday lives. We do it to our loved one even. It's our practice to close off to the true reality in order to win. As we all know, we get good at what we practice.
We've forgotten to listen and to look. Practice is remembering. It's opening opening and opening more to everything.
In my practice at times I can cling to my beliefs about no-self or cling to my concepts of Buddha Nature or what the dharma is or what sangha is. I can reject ideas that don't fit my concepts. I can even reject whole people if I hear of their immoral behavior. When things are conceptualized they are no longer free to be themselves. Life is alive and concepts are dead. Zazen is the practice of sitting in the unknown, sitting in life. Life is unknowable.
Practice is creating space for all this. All my delusions, my fears, my ignorance also has space to exists and be free. This makes space for everyone's ignorance and fear. When I make such a grave mistake like trying to shoot my arrow at the most sweet woman I know, there's space. I don't just reject Jamie forever. We're all human beings. "It's okay Jamie" maybe will help me have courage to face my mistake and apologize.
This kind of compassion is a little scary. It's not about just accepting lies and attacks and letting people walk on you nor is it letting ourselves be mean jerks. It's about putting it into context, into the universe that is so flawlessly vast. It's miraculous if we really think about it. In this space, without opposites, right speech, right action, right livelihood etc. naturally arise.
A practice I've come to do is to accept in my heart when an opposing figure does something good.
The Trump administration started a commission on the huge problem of missing Native American women from Indian Reservations. So many full bows to Donald for that! Thank you!
I try to really pay attention to this stuff. It's my particular thing this political stuff. I'm sure many have seen just how mean and nasty I can get. I'm glad to say the practice has helped a lot but I keep falling into it. "It's okay Jamie."
It takes a lot of work to be free of attachments and beliefs. This concrete vault of some kind attached to my house was rotting the wood. It took about four days to jackhammer it away.