Musings of the InsightLA teachers
Earlier this year, a man who played professional football with the NFL for a few years came to sit with us at InsightLA. As we talked, he described how he gave his all to the game. Like some other players, he chose to use the power of his visibility as a pro athlete to call attention to racial injustice. But then, he and the other teammates who had been ‘taking a knee’ during the national anthem were required to stay in the locker room while it played. As a meditator, he chose to follow his values and his heart. He retired.
However we may feel about a controversial issue, can we practice being present and listen to someone who completely disagrees? Can we hang in there with each other, and learn what goes into our conflicts? Studies have shown that mindfulness and compassion practices can reduce implicit bias which increasingly divides and polarizes us. Too often these days, I hear “I can’t stand to talk with my sister/brother/parents/relatives/co-workers about anything to do with politics!” How can we solve the many challenges facing us without listening to each other, without civil political dialogue and respectful conversation?
Recently, a Texan candidate named Beto O’Rourke was asked by a veteran if he thought players’ taking a knee was disrespectful. Beto welcomed the question. He saw it as a chance to discuss a contentious subject in a direct, empathic way, informed by his willingness to understand some historical reasons and precedents for the silent, non-violent, passionate protests. You can watch the video here. See what you think – and feel free to let us know.
Decades ago in the 70’s, before the Dalai Lama became famous, his smiling face was on the cover of a newspaper called The Snow Lion. The quote under his photo struck me so powerfully that I cut out the cover page and stuck it on a kitchen cupboard where it yellowed and tattered over the years. That piece of paper is long gone, but I always remember what he said: “Maybe I am the last Dalai Lama. It’s all right. There’s nothing wrong.”
His words shook me, a young practitioner. How can it be all right for his legacy and tradition to disappear in the slow genocide unfolding in Tibet? How to understand what the Dalai Lama said, given how much his people rely on his compassionate and courageous leadership?
Uttered in the context of Tibet’s tragedy, those words - “It’s all right. There’s nothing wrong.” - inspired me through many sad, hard times in my life. I remember sitting quietly in the meditation hall, tears of grief streaming down my face, simultaneously knowing that deep down, it’s still OK. Mysteriously, it is all right. Not the breezy ‘all right’ of “it’s all good”, which can be a dismissal or denial, but the “all right” of humbly embracing our broken-heartedness with loving awareness. Then we can discover the “all right” of compassionate presence and grace.
Next time you feel that all is lost, try sitting down right in the midst of your grief or despair. Sitting and walking mindfully in meditation, it’s easier to be with ourselves more lovingly. Through the courage to meet life as it is and drink it in - straight up! - we embody the compassion of our clear, radiant true nature. Deeply knowing: yes, this heart is aching. And it’s all right. There’s nothing wrong.