December at Red Cedar Zen Center
A week after the election we had a "supermoon" - the moon as close as it's been to the earth since 1948 and an opportunity that will not be repeated until 2038. I read this was coming and several friends pointed it out with excitement. And I could feel the anticipation of seeing something special and maybe getting a great photo with my telephoto lens. A little excitement and a little desire arose in my heart.
And not too unusually for the Northwest it was rainy and cloudy - at least when I looked (I'm not too hard-core about such things). So I didn't get to see the full moon clear and unobscured.
The first time I looked up at it, I barely looked. All I could really register was the disappointment of not seeing what I'd wanted.
And of course for so many of us since the election we've been thinking and feeling in all kinds of ways about the unexpected results of our national elections.
The full disclosure here is I'm on the liberal side of the equation, but I hope these reflections are useful for my friends on the conservative side. And the minute I write that I'm aware of how limited and narrow is it to think that there are just two kinds of people in our country. I reminde myself that people have all kinds of reasons for choosing to vote for one candidate or the other, or choosing not to vote at all.
The next morning after the "failed" supermoon viewing, I was up early and went out to my backyard mediation hut to practice.
Another full disclosure: for week after the election I found it really hard to keep up my daily practice. I skipped several days figuring I'd be sitting with others in mindfulness classes or at the Zen center. Which is true enough but it doesn't serve the same essential purpose as sitting quietly at home in the morning does for me.
I'd felt literally a bit ill in the body - queazy, low energy. And I'd felt a bit sick at heart. It's been hard to really show up for life. Challenging conversations in classes and at home. Trying to make sense of what's happening and trying to be helpful as others make sense of it. Sometimes trying a little too hard to reassure others. Other times feeling shut down and not wanting to engage. Wanting to hope that everything is okay sometimes. Other times batting down the whisps of despair that everything is very much NOT okay (and again this paralyzing belief in there only being two possibilities).
And then that morning I saw the moon. There is was hanging just above the horizon to the northwest. On it's way down for the day. I saw it through the trees and in the clouds. I could just make out some of the details of the lunar surface. Mostly a glowing white orb.
And I stopped. I really saw the moon - the supermoon! - as it was showing itself at this particular moment. Not what I had wanted in my mind, true. And incredibly beautiful and just as it is, also true.
I've heard people (mostly those within my liberal-leaning circles) talking like this is the beginning of dark days. We'll have to be strong. We need to mobilze. So much to do. Anger and frustration needs to be channeled and used. I've heard doubts about peacefulness too: we don't want to chill out too much, we need that hard edge to be strong, to be motivated, to show up.
But of course the America of Monday the 7th was, more or less, the same America that voted the way it did on Tuesday the 8th. Either the dark days have been with us for a long time or it's not quite right to say the days are dark.
The days are dark and light. The moon is clear sometimes, obscured by clouds other times. It's still the moon. This is still our beautiful, diverse, strong country. Part of the liberal ethos is to be a little suspicious of "loving our country" - that could be code for a certain kind of narrow minded, potentially violent, nationalism. And I guess it can be.
But maybe it's time for all of us, no matter what our particular kaleidoscope of views is, to learn how to really love our country. What is our country after all but the lands and peoples that live in it? And that live in it now. It's time to learn the effective and clear way to love everyone. That's what I hope our mindfulness and compassion practices will support us in doing. I think we need a much bigger vision than "enduring dark times."
Will sitting on the cushion and bringing our attention back to our breathing with kindness solve anything really? Not exactly, but it can help us find a stronger ground to stand on to do our work of love. If there's anger, we can find ways to include that reality with honesty and with kindness, if there's fear - the same, but spilling our anger and fear out into the world only adds to our troubles.
My secret hope from the surprise (or even shock) of this national election we will all be moved to find our own particular way to express and contribute to our hopes for the future. Whether that's renewing our attention to the quiet helping we're already doing at work or at home, or whether it expresses as overt activism. And I hope that somehow the insights of our practice will help us not fall into these binary traps. Us and them. Good or bad. It's a mix. It's an unbelievably rich mix, and none of us can know the whole story.
So I can understand if you voted for Mr. Trump. I really can. I want to know your reasons and I want to be in dialog and I hope even as you support the changes you hope for in making that choice we'll all join together to resist the anti-love expressions of misogyny and racism that also emerged in his campaign.
It's time to be strong and loving. And this isn't new. It's always been true. Maybe this month we all received a big wake up to that ongoing reality regardless of how we voted or didn't vote (the third choice which about half of us made!).
Nomon Tim Burnett
Sangha Events for December:
November 30 - December 4, 2016: Rohatsu 2016 - Buddha's Enlightenment retreat
December 1, 2016: Public Dharma Talks by Nomon Tim Burnett and Eko Jeff Kelley
December 10-11: Saturday-Sunday, Rohatsu (Buddha's Enlightenment) Retreat with Myoshin Kate McCandless and Shinmon Michael Newton. Please join Mountain Rain Zen community for our annual 27-hour Rohatsu retreat. Let’s sit together through the night with determination, then celebrate the Buddha’s enlightenment with all beings! Details and registration online: http://www.mountainrainzen.org/events/2016/12/10/rohatsu-buddhas-enlightenment-retreat
December 17, 2016: Saturday Morning Practice with Breakfast
December 31, 2016: New Year's Eve Zen Ceremony
January 1, 2017: Zazenkai: a morning of silent practice
March 2-5, 2017: Three Day Sesshin with Zoketsu Norman Fischer & Nomon Tim Burnett
Board of Directors News:
November 2016 Board Minutes
November Dharma Talks:
November 2 Nomon Tim Burnett discussesthe four Foundations of Mindfulness: Observation of Body
November 16 Nomon Tim Burnett:Loving My Country
November 23 Nomon Tim Burnett discussesthe four Foundations of Mindfulness: Observation of Action
About this newsletter: Red Cedar Zen Center will send out a monthly newsletter to highlight upcoming Sangha activities, member news, and other noteworthy events. If you would like to feature something in an upcoming newsletter, please email Johnathan Riopelle ten days prior to end of the month for submission in the upcoming newsletter.