Before and during tests in high school and college I'd repeat a silent mantra to reassure myself of my abilities, fighting to drown out the conditioned voice in my head saying things like, "Give up -- math's not meant for girls." And despite all I've accomplished, to this day at work I remain self-conscious about how I come across in any interaction. Too soft and thus an incompetent pushover? Too hard, so obviously a heartless bitch? Or just right and therefore still unqualified?
Over the years, my mindfulness practice has helped reveal previously unconscious beliefs I've been clutching, such as the harmful belief that women don't deserve the same opportunities men do, or that all men see women as objects, worth their bodies and sandwich-making abilities and nothing more. I've worked hard to unravel this conditioning that doesn't serve me or anyone else. And I've been making progress. Our nation, I thought, was making progress. Then last night happened.
Last night we were forced to look at ourselves under unforgiving florescent lights, at a paranoid image of hate, fear, and separation. It was a shocking reflection for me and many others. I've known I've been living in a bubble in San Francisco, but I didn't understand just how different things were outside of my world of diverse, open-minded, open-hearted friends, colleagues, and fellow yogis.
I woke up feeling like I'd been hit by a semi this morning. I did a reality check to make sure I wasn't dreaming. I looked in the mirror and saw tired, swollen eyes. I willingly drank the sadness cocktails my Facebook feed spun up, and I debated posting various vitriolic statements myself. But now I'm thinking about what comes next, and how I might be of service.
Recently everywhere I look I see this word: "bodhicitta." Granted, I've also been surrounding myself with books written by the Dalai Lama, but still -- this word in particular is catching my eye, ringing in my head. The practice of bodhicitta is the practice of putting others above ourselves. And a bodhisattva is someone so committed to bodhicitta that she chooses to delay nirvana, instead pledging to remain until all sentient beings are free of suffering.
Of course, this is no easy feat. But this is what we should all strive towards.
I've had a lot of thoughts today. We all have. But the end of the day I keep coming back to this: Despite our differences, we all have something in common. And that is the fact that we all suffer. Everyone does. Even Trump supporters. Even, of course, Donald Trump himself. Not everyone is suffering over the outcome of the election today, but we're all suffering over something. Loss. Poverty. Injustice. Unrequited love. Impermanence. Across the world there is pain.
But guess what, yogis? We can do something about it. In fact, we absolutely have to, if we really care as much as we've been claiming to. We can't leave our efforts at a Facebook-status-update level -- that's not enough. It's time to give more, love deeper, and serve harder.
Dr. Angela Davis said, "I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept." This is what we must do if we want to see the world awaken. We have to show up, awakened, and share our own light. This is the practice, and it's not on the mat. It's out there in the streets and schools and shelters, and anyone can take part.
With Liberty and Bodhicitta For All,