Dear All, just wanted to say this conversation is heart-warming to me and brings peace, precisely because it speaks of that willingness to “take in a distressing experience” (Jess, you gave voice to it and placed it in the crucible of collective awareness) and allow the process that Suravira so beautifully describes.
All your individual voices and experiences seem to me so essential for a genuine samatha. Which does not mean “solving the issue” by taking a certain attitude towards politics or decide what to do “as Buddhists” (as if one were a special kind of human or citizen).
The mess will be a mess, the feelings will be feelings, the challenge to act, to engage or disengage, will be there for each of us every day; but the understanding, the faith, the mindfulness, the energy, the stillness, the love can come out a little bit stronger thanks to the practice. Certainly thanks to meditation, but also thanks to good conversations, profitable readings, private action, political action, skilful disconnection, listening reflectively, cultivating joy, wise contemplation, having fun … anything that is part of a life well lived.
I think monastics have the Vinaya that helps negotiating and defining one’s social role (to some extent, at least); while for us as lay practitioners the boundaries are not so defined, we are bound to be part of several groups, contexts and identities (not just part of the Sangha) so that may lead to feeling more vulnerable, exposed, doubtful … for me this means I need to engage more proactively with society and politics bringing my values to bear (though at 57 I do it in softer, perhaps less obvious ways than I could conceive at 18 when I met the Dhamma, and feelings of revulsion are equally milder).
Otherwise, we risk to being just passively affected by what’s going on “out there” and turn to the practice or teachings mainly as a means to cope with the stress of living in this world.
A tree stands firm but acts, breathing in and out into its own environment, transforming things, processing things, giving shade, fruits, decaying. Through right effort and deliberation I choose kindness over anger, but I also need to think more like a tree, relax the fear and the judgement and the need to be good and feel good, letting experience pass through and respond as causes and conditions allow. Being a good tree, not a rotten one, it will do its job. Will this be political? Will this help? Am afraid I have no answer. Sometimes I just need to trust that.
I am learning through much suffering and confusion that being moved is at times the right way to peace, not a sign of weakness; that be unmoved and aloof from prevalent social feelings may be the only way to compassion. Any rigidity in self-perception, any banned or barred emotion, any inadequacy in the way the teachings are held, any insistence on how life or the world should be, will inevitably be felt, prompting to adjust, let go, grow, open up a bit more.
So the peace that’s found through living in society with a love of Dhamma, feeling the pain of that ill-adjustment to reality (I suppose this is avijja?) and not letting it turn to despondency. That’s my effort. From this comes a soft joy that does not feel fake and is not ashamed to face turmoil or tragedy. Beacuse it does not feel selfish, and allows to help in whatever little ways are possible.
Thank you again for pointing me to that ‘place’.