“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
-Jalal al-Din Rumi
In recent weeks, news events and personal matters have been bumping up against my spiritual aspirations and inviting me to live them more fully. When I’ve noticed myself getting reactive or judgmental, I’ve been practicing the “sacred pause” to look more deeply and keep my beliefs and emotions in check. I believe it’s good practice in this age of social media, artificial intelligence, outrage culture, and deep divides to do so.
As the saying goes: The mind is a wonderful servant and a terrible master. Bringing awareness to when the mind has been seduced by thought or, in Eckhart Tolle’s words, “infected by a thought virus” is the first step in freeing ourselves from it. Some red flags are when we find ourselves overly identified with a certain view or person and/or emphasizing the otherness of others.
Living from the aspirations to see clearly and to not throw anyone out of my heart has generated a lot of questions around the overarching themes of:
- Is what I’m believing true?
- Can I know for certain that it’s true?
- How might it look from other perspectives?
- How am I being called to widen my circle of compassion?
One inquiry led to another. The questions felt important, so I gathered them, below. (The spaces between lines are invitations to take a deep breath in and a long breath out.)
May the impact of these words match the heartfelt intentions with which they were written.
Can you hold in your heart anguish for the young murder victims
And at the same time appreciate the abundance of beauty in the world?
Can you care deeply for those in mourning
And not throw out of your heart the defense lawyers
And even the men who pulled the triggers?
Can you have compassion for yourself
If you’re not able to open your heart so wide
Or don’t even want to?
Can you trust your heart if you do?
Can you have faith that boundless empathy
Need not impede firm, ethical action?
Do you dismiss possible positive qualities of those you dislike
And possible negative qualities of those you adore?
Can you be receptive to information that doesn’t align with your opinion
Of someone you either idealize or demonize?
If not, are you aware of your automatic shut-off response,
And are you okay with it?
Can you feel the sensations of cognitive dissonance—
The mind trying frantically to make sense of the world
With stories of victims and villains, Us and Them?
Do you want to be right or to embrace greater truth?
Can you realize when you are relating to an idea of a person
Instead of the actual person?
Can you allow someone to dislike you
Without disliking them in return or needing to change their mind?
Can you see how lashing out at someone else
Allows you to discharge the anger and powerlessness you carry within?
Do you have the courage to face and transform
Your inner material instead of projectile-vomiting it onto others?
Can you resist taking the bait
And instead of attacking someone who has a different perspective
Consider what kind of suffering or deep caring compels their opposition?
Can you become curious about how they came to hold their beliefs
And allow the possibility of learning from collective wisdom?
Do you think you know better
Or that there is so much more to understand?
Can you attune to your body’s guidance system
And discern what is true for you
Without needing validation from others?
Can you have compassion for yourself without coddling yourself
To remain in your comfort zone?
Can you acknowledge that the same event viewed through different lenses
Might appear wildly disparate due to different histories and conditioning?
Are you aware of the contrast that can exist
Between someone’s good intentions
And the impact their words and actions have on others?
Are you quick to react with outrage
Instead of seeking truth?
Do you realize there are sophisticated algorithms
Attempting to lure you into thinking and believing certain things?
Can you shift out of thought-habits and into the present moment
And breathe yourself free?
© 2023 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.