A Mean Spirited Roadhouse


The spiritual path is not complicated. It is the quest to create an ever flowing river of unconditional love for oneself and others; to keep our hearts open when they want to close. A simple path in description but profoundly difficult in execution. We are fortunate that many  wonderful and sublime teachings  are available to help us overcome the personal obstacles we have created to manifesting unconditional love and living a life of compassion. But, unfortunately,  words are not enough. They are just a finger pointing at the moon, not the moon itself. And, despite their beauty and inspiration, they are but a reflection of something much greater, the serene and joyful moments in which we find ourselves in the ineffable stream of love.

Following the path of love is more than understanding what we are supposed to believe and say; more than dogma and knowledge. We must take action. We must actively seek opportunities to love and act with compassion.  Loving action is required for those serious about this path. And this action is not a matter of convenience. It is not something you simply put down when you feel tired, discouraged or distracted. Vigilance is necessary. We are required by our dedication to be fully aware of the moments when we stray off the path and to bring ourselves with self-mercy back onto it.

Rumi said:

Gamble everything for love
If you’re a true human being.
If not, leave
this gathering.
Half-heartedness doesn’t reach
into majesty. You set out
to find God, but you keep
stopping for long periods
at mean-spirited road houses.

Which brings me to the convenient spirituality that has arisen in conjunction with  the 2016 election for President of the United States. Many of us, who consider ourselves to be “spiritual” or on a spiritual path, have suddenly stopped for a long period at this particular “mean-spirited roadhouse.”  We have gotten deeply lost in the election  story.  We have cast aside our spiritual filter as inconvenient and wandered away from our center. We have forsaken our path of love and replaced it with an angry and indignant flame of fear; we have celebrated our differences and rejoiced in separation. There are many alluring components are there not? The ego is filled with joy with the freedom to fully embrace blame and judgment because suddenly they seems acceptable and because it is the ocean in which everyone around us swimming. And we can discard personal responsibility for the unhappy areas of our condition that are drawn like moths to the flame by this unhappy spectacle. “Thank God. My unhappiness must be, as I always suspected,  somebody else’s fault.

Here is the silver lining to this dark place. Should we decide to take personal responsibility for our judgment and anger and to come back up onto the spiritual path, back to our quest for love, we will find that there is a much to be learned about ourselves from our reaction to the election, no matter which side we have gravitated toward.

One important question we can ask is, why did we wander into this mean spirited road house to being with? What incomplete area in ourselves is attracted to the venom and mean spirited nature of the election? Why are we sometimes obsessed by it? Why can we not control our urges to join this ego festival?

There is a great deal to be learned about ourselves from the places within us that reflect the dysfunction and fear that are attracting us. Discovering these places and admitting them is to take personal responsibility for our wandering off the path. We can choose to give up our fascination with the election and instead focus on our own reactions to it. With dedicated inner work, we can then clear up the obstacles to love which we discover. This response to the situation can help get us back on our spiritual path as stronger and more aware beings. We can develop compassion for others who have also been mesmerized.

When we became lost in the election story, we also gave up our spiritual discernment for some reason. We have not put the candidates to the spiritual test. Instead, we have moved into the secular realm of reasonable judgment and blame, separation and the focus on differences. We have embraced fear and separation without a thought. We have deserted compassion.

One of my favorite teachers, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpche once had a vision of a mandala. According to the photographer/biographer, Matthieu Ricard, its square center indicated that ‘the absolute nature is without distortion.’ Each of us sits in the center of the square, not a “god” but a manifestation of our own pure nature. This square has four doors which symbolize the four boundless qualities: love, compassion, joy, and impartiality.

These are the central qualities we aspire to in our spiritual quest. As we continue to immerse ourselves in this seemingly never ending incendiary and fear saturated election, we will remain outside of this center. Yet Inside it is where we will find the spiritual refreshment we truly seek. As for the importance of the election, we might ask, has there been any mention of these qualities? What candidate most closely embraces any one of these these qualities? Who is moving toward the light?  More important, why have we, who sit at at the center of our spiritual evolution, forsaken these qualities to loll about in  this lowly, mean spirited road house?

Awareness is the doorway out of this common roadhouse; personal responsibility the gateway to the road that leaves it behind.

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