Excuse my (abbreviated) language, it’s meant to be a little bit funny. But it’s also really an important question. I imagine that any one person’s mind would go to one or the other answer quite strongly and it might be interesting to consider the validity of each side. It also takes us to a junction of consciousness of our time.
“Actually, yes it does!”
Whether it functions consciously or unconsciously, this answer is a common outpouring of opening to non-dualism. There is a release of ideas of “good or bad” which can begin to peel away layers of shame and who knows how we might change for the better with less shame. There is a valuable emphasis on using everything as a means to look at ourselves, release the idea that someone else needs to do it our way, and thus open up to loving more parts of ourself. If we are All One, we are all one no matter what we do. Consciously or unconsciously, some take the next logical step from here: thus, it is most important to live the truth of each moment’s impulse, no matter what that feels like to someone else.
“No, quite the opposite"
This answer also makes a lot of sense. If we are all one, it would make sense that, we would want to have some awareness of how our actions effect others. We would see how harming another is actually harm to ourselves. We would find some path to hold–with no shame or fear–that our actions are rippling out to form the world. I heard an explanation recently that was given by creator of Zero Balancing therapy, Fritz Frederick Smith, MD (and I may not be saying it perfectly). If we accidentally step on someones toe, or bump them as we pass and just keep walking, that resonance stays in their nervous system and ripples out to all nervous systems they interact with in that day. (And that’s how innocently we can create a world of stress and disregard) However, if you bump someone and say something. Like just say, “I’m sorry” it can be done. Done. Over. And they get to move on. (Feel free to expand this to larger issues…) I know that a lot of people reading this have a problem with the idea of “Im sorry,” but it’s less about that and more about the acknowledgement of the humanity and experience of the other person.
Well, I’m sure you caught the tone of the way I phrased the question. You probably sensed the place of personal frustration that it was asked from. And, even beyond my own hurt that was up for healing, my philosophical stance that moral relativism does not actually equal universal love AND that this question cannot be either or. Perhaps the “Yes” answer could take on a practice of awareness. Perhaps the “no” answer could release some judgement and fear. Perhaps the two together could find their way to discernment. For myself, my personality tends to be driven by higher principles. I do believe it is a medicine that I am meant to bring, but I also acknowledge the bit of fear in my dance between working to not be too critical and the existential crisis that total relativism can bring (“NOTHING MATTERS!” and all that leads to in my mind). This is all to say, this question is a current point in my journey and also I think a very important moment in the spiritual arc in this country and the world.
In the moment that I asked that question, it got quite simple. I was at Bhaktifest where I have felt an interesting outer and inner evolution over the past number of years. This year, I was exposed to a good bit shadow in a place where I have also experienced immense bliss, even through healing that was incredibly painful. It put me on the edge of one of my greatest fears—that nothing is real and nothing matters. I am still sorting out what of that shadow was my projection and what was the shadow of the festival that I was–for some purpose–meant to see. Were people coming to me to tell me their pains of exclusion because I was attracting a pity-party to justify the places in me that do not feel welcome? Or, were they coming to me because, through my experiences, I know how to offer a salve and as a sign that I am healed enough myself to take the charge forward and communicate without anger?
Anyways, I had been shoulder-checked by the hundredth bliss-drunk person. (And yes, it was my own associations of the past that made me take that as a lack of seeing me, rather than contact with the divine. I see that now). I was helping one of the teachers I assist move equipment and couldn’t get a pathway through. And then noticed a pocket of clear mind in the space. This beautiful agave plant. The people would walk into it, jump back, and then say quite sweetly (and I think that sweetness is a clue to the truth that is here-in-between as they had no ill intent and also no anger at the lesson) “watch out for the agave.”
My slightly butt-hurt bitchy-shadow-kali-self then said, “there are many great teachers at this festival, but this agave may be one of the greatest.” She was teaching people to open their eyes.
Past the admittedly bitchy energy of this moment, it is also actually what I believe and want for people. I simply want to help them open their eyes. Yes, this may mean “open your eyes to see the place where you are unknowingly contributing to the harm of another. Yes, for me, it very much means “open your eyes to see with simplicity the work that needs to be done.” But, most importantly, it allows us to open our eyes in such a way that we can see the beauty that is around. Krishna/shiva/god/divine/meaning is not off in that hypnotic realm that many are working to fly off to. [It] is right here.
(I know I am possibly redundantly owning my own projections here. But I think it is important that I take responsibility so that any helpfulness in what I am trying to communicate here does not get thrown out in the name of butt-hurt.) I realize that, just as these people were caught in their trance of bliss, I was caught in my trance of the world being quite harsh— both equally contain a belief in separation).
For me, all this comes together in what I interpret in the quote from the Dalai Lama during the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit,
He said this in the context of saying he was a feminist. A literal reading is most salient, that we have a sort of freedom–and I don’t think that should be ignored. However, I also hear a deeper meaning in this statement.
If I take the two parts: “woman” does not mean female-bodied. It means “the feminine principle.” That which is receptive and all-embracing, yet also protective and strong. “Western” does not mean “from American” (sorry, American Exceptionalism), it is also symbolic. “Western” brings in the important role of skepticism to thought. Even neo-Western capitalistic thought (even think McDonalds: “service with a smile”) brings important gifts. I think this quote means that, what will save the world, is a synthesis of these two seemingly antithetical concepts.
The error of skepticism is nihilism.
The error of the capacity of judgement involved in skepticism is that things get cut out from ones heart.
The error of service-with-a-smile is expectation and losing one’s good mind if the pickle on your hamburger is out of place.
The error of an Eastern-style full embrace is chalking everything up to a “Kali moment,” (phrase coined by my dear Manoj) where things go wrong and it is only used as an opportunity to let go and the opportunity is not taken to look at what could be done better.
So, if we believe at all that it is our call to “save the world” or to try to do so and in the process to release our own judgement. Then, it is in that way that I believe “The world will be saved by the western woman.” The agave will save the world. It is this synthesis, and the simple teachings of the agave that will allow us to do better from the place of love. I think this is the juncture of evolution of consciousness that we are in. Can we love it all AND discern?
I had a lot to learn from this festival. Maybe some things that I will get the honor of helping to address and evolve outside of myself and also I got to see a lot about how the way I was being was unconsciously contributing to the harm of others. That’s really the heart of my perspective and of why this conversation is important: I believe that most harm in the world is caused be all good intentions. As for Bhaktifest and basically anything else, that is why I don’t believe that countering criticism with “oh but there is so much good” is a necessary retort. Because we know there is so much good. And that does not negate the opportunity to see a way to do it different. From great love, I was causing harm as well.
To close, when I look at the desert picture above, I feel a profound gratitude and humility to that earth. It’s capacity to continue to welcome our energies that are done is incredible, as well as its capacity to continue to give. I offer these thoughts above, but also get in that picture that it all is beyond thought and also beyond what I can cognitively conceive. More powerful than any other thought:, I am grateful for this journey.