Am I Creating Chaos or Community?

by Denise Bike 0 Comments

Back in spring, 2009, I did my first weekend retreat. It was with Gina Sharpe, a wonderful teacher whose home sangha is in New York City. One of the ideas she left me with was the practice of examining an action according to whether it would create chaos or community. Before I speak, will what I say, when I say it, how I say it bring us closer to together or split us further apart? Before I act, will what I do, how I do it, when I do it connect or divide? Am I choosing to operate from my ego or from my essence? Because I do have a choice. Always. It’s a powerful practice in its simplicity—it not only illuminates our space to choose based on projected outcome, but it offers the opportunity to examine the intentions we habitually base our choices on.

Gina’s teaching was six years ago. It popped into my mind last night while watching the debate. Does this statement create community or chaos? I grew increasingly disheartened as I digested the extent to which divisiveness was chosen. It may be argued that the speakers were using it to build their group of “good guys.” I began to question the meaning of community. Does community leave anyone out? Can a true community exclude (at best) and target (at worst) people deemed to not merit membership? Isn’t that chaos masquerading as community? Barry Levin reported on Rachel Maddow last night that the FBI average reported hate crimes were 13 per month for the past five years. This number is up to 33 in recent months. Examining the outcome—a recent increase in violent and terrorizing acts aimed at those who don’t belong—appears to evidence the chaos of cultivating such a ‘community.’

If we wish to choose community over chaos, Gina Sharpe’s elegant model shows us how to examine our choices before making them. By anticipating the outcome, we can choose a different action. By making conscious our unexamined motivations, we free ourselves from them in the future.

Perhaps most poignantly, as I continue this practice, I can recognize more and more what is behind my egoic, chaos-creating intentions and discover all the ways that I am just like those fellow humans on stage last night. Further expanding my view of community.

Wk4, Day3: Mudita for Republicans

by Denise Bike 2 Comments

I am a bleeding heart liberal. One could say that I am particularly attached to the values espoused and proposals made by Bernie Sanders. I watched the Republican debate last night.

As it began, they lined up taking pictures. Immediately I noted the sourness of my thoughts, the defendedness in response to my assumptions of what was about to be said. The ill will I felt toward the front runner. I noticed the pull to remain in this space, to deepen these attitudes as I shifted my awareness to the fact that these thoughts were just choices the mind was making in support of my attachment to the values I prefer.

I invited myself to shift my relationship to these fellow humans. Just for these few hours. What would happen if I welcomed an attitude of mudita, for example, as I watched the Republican debate?

Mudita was quite a stretch at first. And it made me laugh—the effort I was expending to welcome in a sense of “sympathetic joy” for a group of people I had pre-emptively decided were the other, them, the enemy even. I chose to focus on one person at a time as a way of shifting from imaginary conflict to a sense of alignment with these fellow people.

Beginning with Carly Fiorina, I imagined how proud and happy she might be feeling to have done so well at the previous debate that she earned a place on the main stage. It softened me immediately. My sense of connection with her deepened further in recognition of what it can be like for a woman to shine in a group of men. Mudita, sympathetic joy, was on the horizon and it shifting this experience palpably.

Then, because Donald Trump was receiving a lot of the initial attention, I turned my focus to him. I quickly noticed how negative my thoughts became as I relished in the obvious vagueness of his responses in contrast to his peers’. Then I remembered that I was practicing mudita.

Donald Trump appears to enjoy receiving attention, so I brought to mind the joy he might be feeling standing in the center of the dais, having so many of the questions relate back to him. A sense of joy arose in me in response, as I realized that he was getting something that he seems to very much like receiving.

I continued this process for around two hours. It was remarkable to spend this time in imaginary alignment with a group of fellow humans that I normally cultivate disgruntlement and tension toward. The difference in the experience was striking. I gained the opportunity to begin considering that, like me, these fellow humans hold their beliefs strongly and wish to act on them in service to the world. In that broad sense, we are not so different after all.