• Dave Burns

POLITICAL SPIRITUALITY: A TRIALOGUE IN THREE PARTS, PART 2

Characters


ANA (a budding spiritual teacher)


MARTIN (a spirited attendee of a public talk by Ana) 


JARED (a personal development coach, also attending Ana’s talk)


Part II (Click here to read Part I)



JARED …There is definitely a misunderstanding. 


ANA  May I clarify what I meant about perfection to you both? 


MARTIN  Please. 


JARED  Please!


ANA  Wonderful. So… Martin, right? 


MARTIN  Yes. 


ANA  Martin, I’m sorry I gave you the impression that I was discouraging political activism. That was in no way my intention. 


MARTIN  It certainly seemed like the natural conclusion to what you were saying. 


ANA  Quite the opposite. I’m a deep advocate for compassionate, non-violent political action. So much of the world is consumed by hate and greed and unnecessary suffering.


MARTIN  Yes!


ANA  And I’d love to talk more about the role I see meditation playing in all that. But first—I’m sorry sir, but what is your name? 


JARED  I’m Jared.


ANA  It’s good to meet you, Jared. I’m Ana. 


JARED  Yes, I know!


ANA So. Martin.


MARTIN Yes. 


ANA My experience has been this. I spent most of my young life consumed by resentment and rage. I believed that the system was broken, that people were broken, that I was broken. And I was desperate to fix it. All of it. 


JARED  I used to think I was broken too!


ANA  Right. This need to fix drove all of my thoughts and actions—for decades. 


MARTIN So far this doesn’t sound like a bad thing. It sounds like you were motivated to improve yourself and the world. 


ANA  I was. Except nothing important actually changed. 


MARTIN  What do you mean? 


ANA  I mean that people everywhere were still suffering, and I was too. And it didn’t matter how hard I worked. 


MARTIN Well of course some people will always be suffering… but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to do something about it. 


JARED  I’m not sure I agree that people will always be suffering! I think that’s a negative stance. Humanity’s going through an unprecedented wave of empowerment and evolution—people are waking up to their full creative potential! There’s no saying how much progress we’ll be able to make collectively this century. If—


MARTIN  If we survive this century. 


JARED  Now see, that’s extremely negative. 


ANA  May I continue? 


MARTIN  Please. 


ANA So—I was trying to fix everything, but everyone (including me) still seemed to be suffering basically constantly. 


MARTIN  Right. 


ANA And then something happened. 


JARED  You realized you weren’t a victim to your circumstances!


ANA  Well… I suppose you could say that. I’d put it a little differently. 


JARED  How would you put it? 


ANA  I’d say I somehow found myself asking myself the question—


JARED  —“How am I creating this?” 


ANA  I… sort of. Originally it occurred to me as the question… “what if there’s absolutely nothing to fix?”


MARTIN  I truly cannot imagine how or why anyone would ever ask that question. Except, I suppose, someone with deep privilege and a subconscious interest in maintaining it unquestioningly. 


JARED  Mark!


MARTIN  Martin. 


JARED  Martin! 


ANA  No, that’s a fair point. That may have been my motivation for asking it, originally. And perhaps exhaustion. 


JARED  You know, exhaustion is really a problem with chronic stress. Have you tried adaptogens? 


ANA  I don’t believe I have. But when I asked myself this question, “what if there’s nothing to fix,” something strange began happening. I’ve never quite been able to describe it… but suddenly all the problems I’d been fighting against in the world, and in my own life, seemed… empty. Like tricks my mind had been playing on itself. And a series of dominoes began to fall. 


MARTIN  And then you had that experience you described in your talk. 


ANA  Yes, exactly. 


MARTIN  Your description of that experience is precisely the thing I’ve been having trouble with. The whole “perfection” thing.


ANA  Well, that’s the thing. When I described that experience, I never meant to imply that “everything is perfect” is a truth about the world


MARTIN  Generally when you start a sentence with “everything is…” that does suggest that you’re communicating a truth about the world. 


ANA  Language might get us into trouble here. But—


JARED  Language is important. It creates our reality!


ANA  The felt experience of absolute perfection isn’t an objective political fact, nor is it even “perfection” as distinct from “imperfection.” It’s an experience, a flavor of reality, available to the human spirit in any moment, that immediately relaxes the constant, grasping impulse to “fix” that ordinarily keeps the mind’s hamster wheel of agonizing problem-perception spinning… and it’s an experience which, when relaxed into fully, allows for loving and skillful action to flow forth effortlessly in a way that it never can when the problem-seeking fixing impulse is constantly rushing ahead in a hopeless attempt to control the future. 

JARED  Wow!


ANA  Basically, my experience has been that allowing myself to taste the experience of perfection, and to stop constantly fighting against the present moment exactly as it is, equips me infinitely better to love and serve and help others than when I approached all of life as a problem to be solved. 


MARTIN  And you’re saying that meditation helps you to “taste this experience.” 


ANA  Yes, certain types of meditation do. 


MARTIN  Would you suggest, then, that we simply teach oppressed, abused, and starving populations how to meditate, and all their problems would go away? 


JARED  Well of course she’s not saying that


MARTIN  I’d like to hear her answer. 


Click here to read Part III…