Compassionately Fierce in Uncertain Times

I have seen a few people commenting recently on the “liberal” and “spiritual” people, calling them on “negativity” and “hatred.” While I can only speak for myself, I imagine that there is probably some crossover between those within these like-minded circles. For those of you who are following this post, I invite you to fill in the holes with your own perspective on it, so that we can more thoroughly explore our collective understanding.

First, I name my position. I am indeed a liberal ~ while I can’t comment with my take on each decision made by liberal politicians over the years of my lifetime, as they are too numerous, I can say that by and large, I stand by the general positions of liberal ideology. One good overview of this:
“Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need” (studentnewsdaily.com). I also consider myself a “spiritual” woman, and claim no affiliation or interest in identifying with any of the major religious traditions in the world. So that we have a common definition of “spiritual,” the Oxford Dictionary online states: “Relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”

I have been strongly vocal, writing almost daily as an act of informed resistance to the political climate that has stepped into place in my country. And I am the first to admit, too, that while most of my posts are intellectual, supported by relevant information, and well thought out in nature, I have occasionally fallen into frustration and labelled the man at the helm with my most creative adjectives of disdain. I, and many like me, do indeed indulge in this, as we are at our wits’ end watching the very integrity of our country be dismantled by a man who is at best ill-informed and self-righteous, and at worst, the mentally ill head of what could become a fascist state. While the usual disagreements between liberals and conservatives have been going on for a LONG time, and are likely to continue, up until now those in government have respected the legal inner workings of our time-honored institutions, attempting to achieve their agendas through mostly acceptable measures. None have publicly and boldly made it clear that they believe they are above the law, some kind of king or dictator who can control things according to personal preference on a whim. And this, no matter what side of the issues you are embracing, is very dicey ground. For sure, this is not reality TV, this is not a business deal done by head-honchos at multinational corporations. This is the real life threat to what has been a flawed but stable democracy.

As a liberal, I believe that the government should go to GREAT lengths to protect the individual liberties and wellbeing of all people. I believe that no religion should have the right to promote legalized discrimination of people, no matter what their nationality, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender, economic status, or any other thing. I believe that it’s necessary to provide certain shared benefits to all people, as it makes us a stronger nation. This includes not only infrastructure – including our shared roads, bridges, and waterways, but our land, air, and water, as well as physical and mental health. These things, to me, are simply required elements for a country to be fully civilized. And along with that, I fully and wholeheartedly support the government stepping in to prohibit any institutionalized systems that potentially cause harm, keep people from thriving, and limit the freedom of anyone to live as they see fit. What I find so curious is that while conservative ideology tends to promote strict individual liberties, those in government are making such great efforts to prohibit the very same – they have clearly sought to limit individual freedom in regard to women’s health, sexuality and gender expression, religious freedom beyond christianity, and so much more. Alas, I digress…

As a woman whose life is oriented around spirituality, I have long found divergent ideas about what that actually means. There are so many ways that “spiritual” communities of people show up, all so very different. One of the most prevalent that I’ve seen and avoided is perhaps the model of “spiritual” in the public eye: the “love and light” people who want little involvement in worldly affairs, do everything in their power to avoid basic things like becoming financially responsible, avoid dealing with anything on a personal or societal level that involves facing shadow thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and believe that visualization and prayer alone are enough to fix any problems. These approaches are idealistic, and I wish too that we could live in that way, but the reality of this realm is that we must be *both* grounded and transcendent in order to bring the gifts of spiritual practice into this world. The term for this is spiritual bypass: “… a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” It’s become so common that more and more people associate this behavior with the very tenets of those who claim to be spiritual, and hence, believe that it’s somehow wrong for spiritual people to experience anger, frustration, sadness, and other so-called “negative” emotions, judging that as a failure. An added element is that people on *all* sides of the bigger conversation believe that those in each category (ie, Christian, spiritual, Buddhist, athiest, etc), by claiming the label, should have come to mastery of the inherent values of the path. And let’s face it: none of us are there. We are all doing the best we can with the resources and life circumstances we have. Some days we succeed in being the poster child, and some days we fail. We are all imperfect beings. But the path says that we must begin again each day. Right?

So, how do we decide when it’s appropriate to be compassionately accepting of things that we see as a failure, or fiercely calling them out? When they are out of alignment with our own views? When we see people falling short of living up to all they claim to be? While it is totally acceptable to be mirrors to what we observe, we must also remember that simple disagreement is natural, and the rubbing against each other is actually useful: it allows us to clarify what is truly desired, and to work through issues that arise in the manifestation of that. But there is also a time when things step beyond that arena – a time when things are threatening to tip over the edge into unspeakable situations that cause grave harm to individuals, and society as a whole. And while we spiritual people must continue to practice compassion and understanding in our own lives, we also must ground ourselves in this world. We must become better informed, and speak and act in strong ways to name the issues that are so damaging ~ bringing together our hearts and minds in the name of the greater good. We must also be willing to look fully into the darkness as it emerges, both personally and collectively, and face the shadows of the human psyche with openness and curiosity, entering into conversation and action in courageous, strong, and effective ways. There will certainly be criticism, as spiritual activism seems to diverge from the passive “peace and love” persona that the spiritual community has embraced. But in reality, peace and love are very the foundation beneath a strong and wise criticism of the serious issues arising in the US right now, and it is possible to stand in compassion while also calling out the unjust and destructive forces at play, refusing to let them advance on our watch.

The divide between liberal and conservative ideals will likely continue, and little shifts in either direction will also continue until humans have evolved sufficiently to create new ideals. But the criticism of “spiritual” people as revolutionaries and activists is another story altogether. Indeed, there will continue to be spiritual people who just don’t want to hear it, who want to live in their happy bubble of kittens and rainbows, and that’s just fine! That bubble is a beautiful place, but it won’t stand up and preserve the things that we hold as true and just in this world. And what a gift! When we are free to believe and express that for ourselves, there is no conflict! The conflict only arises when one believes that there is a singular true, right way that everyone must follow, period. This is a profound error, we spiritual warriors will work to transform in every possible way. Is there “negativity” in that? If you think we’re wrong, you could believe that to be true. And if you think that any dissenting conversation, or any look into the shadows, is negative, you might also believe that to be true. As a spiritual warrior, I believe it is fully necessary to be in relationship with both the light and the darkness in order to come into fuller understanding of the way forward. Is there “hatred” involved when calling out the powers that be for what we perceive as truly horrific? Ultimately, that is up to each one of us to know about ourselves. I, personally, don’t hate he-who-shall-not-be-named, I see him as a sick and twisted human who has been given far more power than he can intelligently manage, and who is wielding it with little wisdom or care, and that must be stopped. But then again, you might perceive that as hatred. That’s not on me, that’s on you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the current situation and the endless array of commentary, articles, videos, and dissenting opinions, trust me, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you. But right now, the time is not appropriate for escapism, sticking our heads in the sand and waiting for things to improve or change. What is true, to me, is that our collective apathy has allowed this madness to grow for far too long, while those on the conservative end of the spectrum have come together in solidarity. My liberal friends, and my spiritual friends, this is a time when we must step out of our comfort zone. We must stand in integrity, with courage and great heart. For when we do nothing, when we stand aside and watch the unfolding of things, we are indeed complicit in what comes to pass. It may be far more appealing to sit in meditation with incense and crystals – and by all means, keep doing that! It may be equally appealing to be open, fair minded, and not willing to see things in clearly delineated difference – and indeed, our openness is key. Ultimately, we must know who we are, stand firm in that, and become a force to be reckoned with in the name of what is truly fair and just, feet on the ground, head in the clouds, and eyes on the horizon.

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