Like many of you, I have struggled with the question of what is the right thing to do in this new political climate. I have read news articles and Facebook posts from those who are alarmed about the possibility of losing long fought for liberties. I have listened to news reports of the those who look at this change as "one for the better." The questions I have had for myself are: How am I to be in relationship to the political turmoil? What actions can I take that will make a real difference without inflaming passions on either side of the aisle?
Those who are Christians might ask: What would Jesus do? Muslims might ask what would the Prophet Mohammed - Peace be Upon Him - advise? Many followers of Judaism know all to well from the history of the Shoah, that one cannot keep quiet when confronted with division of people into separate groups and dehumanizing rhetoric. These are among the early steps on a harrowing path that again can have tragic consequences of historic proportions. We have seen it play out in the genocide in Rwanda. Social activists might turn to the examples of individuals throughout history who have refused to stand idly by in the face of injustice. Martin Luther King, Jr., is one such individual.
As a person who meditates, I know that there is a relationship between the inner and outer worlds; that one reflects the other. So I ask, "What is it in the human psyche that produces actions that are so harmful?" The resounding answer is - The Illusion of Separation.
When I consider the thinly veiled racism and classism that are so apparent today, I realize that all of the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and civil rights activists has only effected changes around the margins. While these changes lifted - from some, for awhile - the heavy burden of discrimination, they did not change the plight of many people of color who live below the poverty line or those who experience racial profiling daily and mass incarceration first hand. The historical exclusion and criminalization of people of color has been devastating.
The insight I received recently while contemplating in India is that these efforts to confront injustice are important. In the outer world one must take action to bring about change. However, the inner world has to be the starting place. We each have to be willing to look within to see where we stand on the question of "the other." Where do we have unresolved conflicts, unsatisfactory and unhealed relationships? What do we really feel about the imbalance afforded by privilege? Do we think about the people sleeping under highway overpasses or in encampments on the outskirts of neighborhoods in transition? What about the people in our cities and around the world who go to sleep hungry every night? Where do we hold fear of those that appear different?
I am inspired by Rumi, the 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic:
“Why struggle to open a door between us when the whole wall is an illusion?”
When we recognize that we are all connected with each other and nature, we cannot be content with "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" or "it's not my problem" or "it's their karma." It definitely is! The problem belongs to all of us. Everything not working to enhance the wellbeing of the whole of humanity is our problem. Everything that divides us is our problem. Although our personal circumstances may be different, we share planetary karma.
So let's all be vigilant and work for change. But recognize that true lasting change will only come when we awaken to our connectedness and implode the matrix of separation. After all, it is an illusion.