“I stand up for you.
You stand up for me.
We stand up together.
And this is how we do it.
I care for you.
You care for me.
We care together.
This is how we do it.” ~Larry Ward, Senior Dharmacharya
“We all have to suffer less in order to restore some kind of balance within ourselves. Only then can we engage in meaningful and collective efforts to build peace in the world.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Calming the Fearful Mind: A Zen Response to Terrorism
“I am part of this universe. The air is part of this universe. With each breath, the universe changes. With each inhale, the universe changes. With each exhale, the universe changes.” ~Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, In Love With the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardo’s of Living and Dying.
These are exciting and unprecedented times. In the recent weeks we have witnessed a world-wide awakening to responsibility and accountability. As we are called to witness Rayshard Brooks’ killing by police, we are also seeing White bodies standing with Black bodies calling for justice and change. This is a big shift and it is time. My purpose in writing this is to call us all in to witness change happening and to see that sometimes things appear to happen slowly and sometimes they appear to happen very quickly. I also want to acknowledge that unrest, fear, instability, and continuing conflict can take a very real toll on our physical and mental wellbeing. Black and Brown bodies who have lived with the understanding that they are not safe have an inherited heightened level of stress and vigilance. I have heard both outrage and a bittersweet relief that when the whole world saw the lynching of a Black man, the whole world responded with swift condemnation and mourning. This response is overdue and seeing what happened on the streets of Minneapolis and Atlanta made it very clear that living in a Black body—we are less safe in this world than if we are in a White body.
For White people right now, I have heard shock and heartbreak and there is broken trust in the system they believed supported justice. For People of Color there is the heartbreak of once again seeing oppression and murder. For all of us in this world, living with the Corona virus, job insecurity, the increasing polarization of political and social differences, all bodies are feeling this vigilance and exhaustion. We are longing for a safe home, for comfort, and predictability and finding more instability each time we turn on the news. We know that for systems to change, sometimes things need to fall apart. No political regimen, no system, no country, no being is exempt from impermanence. Change is hard on us and we are in a time of profound and rapid change. We may wonder where can we find a calm center of rest, where is home now?
Thich Nhat Hanh (2010) writes, “I don’t suffer because I’ve found my true home (p. 8).” This home is not limited to a specific location, even confined to a country. “Thanks to mindfulness, I was able to find my true home in the here and now (p. 12) …Our true home is the place without discrimination, without hatred (p. 13).” Thay tells us, when we can touch into this moment, we can rest free from worries about the past and fears about the future. The peace and stability we are able to produce in this present moment creates the next moment. Coming home to ourselves is a way to stop, rest, and heal…which we need to do in order to engage in the heavy lifting that is required of us.
As one teacher described the Buddha’s teaching on the three universal marks of existence, “Everything keeps changing; it will shake you up and it’s not personal.” Right now, we are shook. We are tired and there is more to be done. I am calling us all in to find rest in the midst of unrest, in this moment that is filled with the potential of change and with real hope. Our ability to care for ourselves and to recognize that we are already co-creating the future with each breath we take—the universe is different. Each thought we produce changes our minds and hearts. The way we think, speak, and act creates a mark on the world and on our consciousness. Our freedom is paired with responsibility which includes responsibility for caring for ourselves, for finding our own ability to come home to ourselves, to have faith that enlightenment is inevitable.
May we all trust our light,
Nhat Hanh, T. (2010). Together we are one: Honoring diversity celebrating our connection. Parallax: Berkeley, CA.
Here are some opportunities to practice:
A link to Resmaa Menaken’s free 5 day workshop to heal racialized trauma https://www.resmaa.com/
link to an article Dharma teacher Cheri Maples wrote about being a Buddhist Cop, https://www.lionsroar.com/a-buddhist-cops-approach-to-justice/
Please click to see a sutra study offering from Dharma teacher Larry Ward:July 15th, 7 pm, online. Join Larry as he offers study and practice with the Lokavipatti Sutta: The sutra on the Failings of the World. https://www.thelotusinstitute.org/calendar/sutra-study