Monday, November 14, 2016

Only in Discomfort Is Change Possible

Low growing, prostrate form of Coyote Bush
(Baccharis pilularis 'Bodega Bay')
in stunning Fall flower
The last Supermoon occurred in 1948 when I was a mere four years old. The closeness of the moon to planet Earth heightens the moon's brightness. Here at MuRefuge tonight the moon is spectacular. This awe inspiring event seems to be readying all of us to step up as citizens of the United States of America. Our President in his press conference offered each of us a challenge today. The Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Julie Packard, says "if there is any silver lining in this time of uncertainty, it will be that people will be more motivated than ever to work for change." And the message below offers each of us an alternative view and response(s) to this time of unsettledness in our country.

Wisdom Teachings For Our Time

Posted: 13 Nov 2016 01:52 PM PST
Conversation with Manjushri, post election
November 11, 2016
Oh, Manjushri, these have been very tough days since the presidential election. Many have asked me if I have received a teaching from you about all of this. And though my grief is deep, and I have wept a great deal, I must say, the results – though shocking to me – did not give me new information about the deep values of a significant part of the American electorate. We are an immature society, a society that countenances violence while it tells itself a story about its own exceptional qualities and its right to impose itself on other nations. It often seems to me to be arrogant, self-congratulatory, and focused on the pursuit of wealth over many other possible values. We praise freedom from and ignore the possibilities of freedom for. Perhaps in some way, we deserve what we have done to our republic, for surely, we have done it. And surely there is a very great deal about how we govern ourselves and manage our affairs which could well be changed, often radically changed.

I come to you this evening with a very heavy heart, full of worry for our poor earth and the cascade of environmental destructions and for those Americans with the least access to power – people of color, the poor, Moslems, the ill, immigrants, the unemployed, and surprisingly, so many women and children. Once again, I am deeply concerned about the American role in the global world, our foreign policy, and our global economic institutions and policies. We are a challenging presence in the lives of many other nations.

And once again, I am impossibly stretched between these matters and the call of the Teachers to greater consciousness, to opening our hearts, to recognizing our interdependence with all beings, and to lives shaped by both wisdom and compassion. I wish I were brave enough to ask you to direct your shining sword against our ignorance, but I am not.

Perhaps you could grace us with some strong and clear advice about how to understand our grief, even when it seems self-righteous, and how to gather ourselves up to get back to our essential tasks in these precious lives of ours? Or is there another way to address our deep confusion? Anything you might be willing to say would be a very great gift to all of us.

Ah, yes, student whose energy I have come to know well, yes. Some words for you and your friends. First, and most important, do not be afraid! You have received many teachings about fear; they always remind you that fear is an enormous obstacle to clear thinking, deep understanding, and creating solutions to problems. Of course, you are afraid, all of you. So, take up the arduous practices of the fear-work: name the fear, most importantly, and say it to another. This slight moment of self-acknowledgement shifts the energy of fear significantly. Then, conversation may follow, or sending oneself compassion for the suffering that comes from fear, or inquiring into the roots of the fear; all are helpful.

Second, inquire into a simple question: what in my community or my country is an obstacle to recognizing your deep connections with each other and with all other species? This is the simple question about your awareness of interdependence, simple and extremely powerful, if you allow it to lead you deep into the many institutions and practices common in your society. Again, this may be done singly, but it is much more powerful to do this in conversation with others.

Third, ask yourself/yourselves, which relatively focused piece of this great puzzle will you commit to changing? Be clear about how it relates to the larger picture, but do not overwhelm yourselves with a grandiose goal. The possible projects are unlimited, but what matters most, at the outset, is that you join with a few others, promising to stay focused on some important dimension of change in your community and to support each other in the process. In all likelihood, the most important outcome will be to create seeds of resilient, open-hearted community, which in turn will begin to undermine the real sickness of American society, its embrace of competitive individualism.

Young people may need some assistance with this; elders may need support to trust their relevance, but all people, winners and losers in this election cycle and all the rest, can recognize there is much work to be done in their world. Becoming active, moving through the passivity and discouragement, is essential, before anything else can even be contemplated.

So: that is a brief outline of what you might do. I must once again re-frame the moment for you. You experience defeat, rejection, and powerlessness. You are appalled at those who would reverse much progressive social change from the last decades. Let go of all of that. It is not helpful. Instead, recognize that this very upset – a perfect word – suggests opportunity. Structures that seemed impossible to change now seem weak, even tottering. Normal practices and behaviors that seemed of little interest now carry much greater weight, in your view. Grand questions are on every page and in almost every beleaguered mind. All this is very helpful! Everyone is awake, on edge, at the same moment. It is a superb opportunity to re-evaluate, re-imagine, re-shape, and then, re-build.

And none of this is possible, unless you uncover and release your fear. Begin with that work, share it, and move to focused, achievable tasks, on behalf of yourselves and your community. It is a very pregnant moment. Do not waste it, please.

Thank you very much.

I am reminded by a mantra my "laughing coach" shared with me: "only in discomfort is change possible." The much loved and looked up to for discharging emotions, the late Annette Goodheart, often said that nobody makes a change when they are comfortable. Comfort breeds complacency she often admonished.

As each of us "uncover and release our fear" and identify our path to reconnect with one another, may we


  1. An emails from a dear friend on the Olympic Peninsula, WA: "Thank you for this post. I've read it several times and forwarded it to a couple of friends. Anne"

  2. Another email from a local like minded friend: "Thank you, Cathie, for your thoughtful and empowering post.I enjoyed it very much and will revisit your words many times in the days to come. Veronica"

  3. An email from Vermont: "hi cathie,

    how utterly sensible and down to earth manjushri is!

    did i put you in touch with penny?

    she's a good friend of mine and a great inspiration.

    lots of love to you and dwight, louise"

  4. An email from a broker/realtor on Bainbridge Island, WA: "Hi Cathie,

    I just opened and read some of your blog.I was compelled to write, to thank you for your healing words.

    Everyone around me is shell shocked and scared. Your words are very meaningful. They felt like medicine, with your permission I will share them with those around me.

    I posted last night to my friends who are scared and angry to please take action before those feelings go away. I too feel strongly this is a time for action while we have the world's attention.
    One very simple thing I suggested to my friends to go onto the ACLU website to cast a $20.00 donation to become a member or volunteer. The website crashed yesterday for a short time with the amount of people offering to help.

    One thing is for sure, change is enviable.

    Thank you again for sharing your talent of writing and empathy. We are all in this together.

    Warm Regards, Carii"