Does “spiritual” mean that we do not act politically?
When the 2016 election rumbled, screeched and then slammed into the national psyche, I was working (as I still do) as a spiritual teacher and coach, had authored books on resiliency and “innate mental health,” and my focus overall was on turning people “within,” to find their own connection to well-being, to wisdom, to compassion and love.
I had once been a political activist, then an investigative journalist (and had won several awards for my work). But through my work as a journalist, I had come to see that when people choose “sides” on an issue, they begin to lose their capacity to listen, to take in new information, and to possibly come into alignment with solutions that might work for most, if not all.
So, I had more or less “given up” on politics, feeling that helping people look at their own thought systems and “B.S.” (belief systems!), and to see how these block insight, and new learning, and connection, and well-being would then translate into new policies in the “outer world” that would better reflect our essential unity as human beings, our innate compassion and caring.
But this election changed all that. A couple of weeks before election day, (though I had watched some of the debates), I still felt confused about who to vote for. Having not really followed politics for some time, I was mistrustful of Hillary. Mostly because everyone seemed to think I should be. I could not really get to the bottom of Why. What had she actually done that was so horrendous?
I thought Trump was refreshing in his “casual” style, but his stances in general were so opposite mine, I could not fathom voting for him. As a woman who was sexually harassed repeatedly in my youth, his statements about women sealed the deal.
I began to listen to NPR, and follow the news, and I stumbled across an interview with the one journalist who had gone through perhaps all the FBI files on Hillary Clinton and her emails. In his summation of her “misconduct,” he basically concluded it came down to being generationally challenged by, and somewhat clueless about the technology. Also, government technology is remarkably, pitifully archaic. There was really no “evil intent.”
Without going into all of the charges against Hillary (and some that may be accurate), suffice it to say that I felt, overall, very misinformed. I started to get excited about Hillary — in part because she had been so hatefully smeared for so long — and in part because I just felt she cared about people. Maybe she was taking big donations, maybe she was making unsavory deals. For me, that felt like run-of-the-mill politics for all men and women. But somehow, she was made out to be so much worse than all the men. So, she tried to create a single-payer health care system. Did that make her the devil? Because she cared about people having access to health care?
Who has ever run for President and not had to make unsavory deals? And take big donations? (And do I love Bernie Sanders? Yes, I do.) The current system is indeed corrupt and unfortunate and should be changed, but this all seems to be “how it is” at that level. We all need to work on these very, very big problems. I also acknowledged that, interestingly, many Trump supporters seemed to feel the same way about government.
So, there was that.
Something “Weird” This Way Comes
Anyhoo, once I started to show my “Hillary” colors, I was invited into the “secret” Facebook group called Pantsuit Nation. I write about that experience here. Reading women’s and men’s posts there (there are now nearly 4 million in the group), the stories of people who felt they needed to hide their support for this woman running for office, began to open my eyes.
And something very weird was happening with Trump … there was a certain level of fear going on about him, and his most avid supporters. People were being harrassed and attacked by Trump supporters, even by their own family members and husbands.
So, again, and as a former journalist, I dived deeper into research. Little bits of info seemed to find me almost “by accident.” I was in my local bookstore and stumbled onto statements by the ghostwriter for The Art of the Deal, Tony Schwartz, who now deeply regrets having helped Trump climb to fame (he describes Trump as a “sociopath” now). Schwartz mentioned the books by Hitler that were said to have been in Trump’s bedroom by both Ivana Trump, and Trump’s friend, Marty Davis (My New Order and Mein Kampf) …
Interestingly enough, a friend of mine who works with pro-athletes told me that some of the atheletes he worked with were planning to vote for Trump, and against Hillary, really just because she was a woman. He also reported a visit to one of Trump’s golf clubs, where the views expressed on the greens were so virulently racist, he had to leave the game.
Well, that was more than enough. With hate crimes and sexual harassment being reported across the country, and even the globe, after Trump was elected (and before, during his rise), I faced a decision. Would I continue to keep my head down and do my work on Mind, Thought and Consciousness? Try to stay neutral? Try not to offend anyone? Not risk losing Republican or conservative clients or colleagues? Hmmm …
As I continued to follow the news and do my research, I had a moment where a feeling of sheer … I don’t know if “panic” is the right word, maybe fear, shot through me. The dots all connected in my mind, and I realized that we had elected a white supremacist, and near or actual fascist who was 1) undermining and threatening all news media that did not flatter or agree with him, and supporting those platforms that did (i.e. Fox News and Breitbart and Russian sponsored outlets) and, 2) appointing people (Stephen Bannon, for example) to his would-be cabinet who had once controlled media platforms that were hateful toward (non-traditional, non-straight) women, toward minorities, toward “liberals” and gays (the whole LGBT community). And now Trump would be “leader” of the perhaps not-so-free-anymore world.
It was a very strange night for me. I paced the floor when I was standing up. When I was sitting, I stood up. When I was lying down, I did not sleep. So, I basically paced the floor. I did not sleep well for probably three nights. I was very relieved when my friends who had also been following Trump closely told me they were experiencing the same deep discomfort.
“It’s Just Your Thinking!”
At the same time, I was getting emails from colleagues who were encouraging me to “calm down” and see that my reactions were “just my thinking.” From time to time, I doubted myself. Was I making all this $%# up? The “fake news” and conspiracy theories about George Soros and others were flying in from all sides — and I finally had to block the hysteria from my pro-Trump friends, who were sending links to articles to prove their points, but who had not even read the full articles, which proved them wrong in the end. (And I concede points to conservatives that CNN and MSNBC can be just as bad — but I would say not always on the “liberal” side. I saw one interview with the original Breitbart founder in which the interviewer would not let the guy get a word in edgewise, and I could tell he had been totally misunderstood. No wonder he was pissed at the “liberal” media.)
What I was not seeing in the media was a true moral, humanitarian stance, even a fact-based stance. And what I was not seeing in well-intentioned efforts to “help me see my thinking” was a true moral stance, either. For me, “seeing our thinking” does not mean we do not have discernment and look clearly at what is happening on the “outside.” It does not mean we ignore people being hurt or threatened … It might mean that our approach or response to all of this is different, but it does not mean we do not look and look to see very clearly.
For me, “spirituality” is not about sitting on a mat, thinking of God, or praying silently for the benefit of humanity. “Spirituality” is not about teaching people to breathe, or about their thinking, or to calm down, or to realize the inside-out nature of life. For me, “spirituality” is all about all of these things, but also much more. It is about everything. There are no rules to it. While we create our personal realities (and my own fear, too) from the “inside-out,” the “outside world” is created as a combination of all of our thoughts and beliefs, and resultant feelings and behaviors.
Thus, it is indeed very wise and true that when we look outside, we must look within. If we decry the hate and violence we see outside, we must look within to see how we ourselves can be prone to hate and violence — how we contribute to the problem. If I am “trolled” by a Trump supporter, do I attack back? Does this contribute to more harmony and understanding? I try to respond to Trump folks with respect and calm. We will need all of us, in the end.
Some of the most patronizing comments I received on Facebook have come from men purporting to have a “spiritual view” of the election. One said, “Did you even watch the video?” as if I were very dumb (and I did watch it), and another gave me a top-down lecture on how I should learn not to over-react. I am sure I am guilty of off-kilter tone and comments too, but I am trying to be vigilant about this.
And, on the other hand, what is the proper “spiritual” response to a neo-Nazi becoming the President Elect of the U.S.A? Many of my “spiritual” friends are pissed and sad and frightened. I have been pissed and sad and frightened. I think that’s totally appropriate. I think that if you’ve done the research and realize who this guy is, who backs him and and who he truly represents, it would be very weird not to feel pissed and sad and frightened at some level.
I don’t think spirituality and even the “Three Principles” I teach have anything to do with not responding emotionally. It’s about what happens after.
A friend of mine who was sexually abused by her father from the age of three, once, on her way to see one of her favorite spiritual teachers, Gangaji, ran out of gas on the side of the road in Marin County. It was cold and pouring rain. She stepped out for help, leaving her husband, who was not feeling well, in the car. And then a car slowed and stopped to help, and who was in it? Gangaji!
My friend slid in the car, and they pulled away to get help together, and for some reason, my friend began to almost involuntarily “spill the beans” about her childhood and her father and the abuse. She was upset already, and all this upset just came pouring out. Gangaji listened quietly, and did not tell her it was “just her thinking” or say, “What is always here?”
She listened, and she too started to cry.
Is Donald Trump “Innocent?”
Interestingly, my liberal friends who are also spiritual were trying to find reedeming qualities about Trump. And I was that way too, at the beginning. Perhaps we should be listening to him! Perhaps he is challenging our beliefs in a good way!* Perhaps he will appoint Obama as an advisor! (See, this is why I love liberals) … I wanted to agree with them, but something inside of me was telling me: No. This guy is for real. He is a racist, a believer in eugenics, and a white supremacist — among so many other “not nice” things. Trump’s goal is money and power and fame. It comes from his father, who was brutal, and those he chose to advise him in his business early on.
Cries of, “let’s try to understand,” kept coming at me, but less so as the days wore on, and the cabinet began to be filled, and the crazy and mean and greedy (and maybe some just misguided) kept on coming. I still believe we need to understand each other, but I am speaking now of Trump supporters and conservatives — who have their valid points. I am not speaking of Trump himself at this time.
So, let me be clear, if Donald Trump or Stephen Bannon comes to me for coaching or counseling, my job is to try to understand. My job is to see innocence, and to provide love, and help each find an inner fulfillment and contentment and ease they apparently have not yet found, and the absence of which continues to drive them, unceasingly.
But neither has called me so far (unless I’ve missed a voicemail). And given that each now may soon have a role of tremendous power in this nation and the world, and given that each has professed via word or deed his disregard for the well-being and safety and security and peace of mind of perhaps the majority of Americans (if we include women, people of color, mixed-race people and LGBT people), what is the spiritual response to this election?
The “Spiritual” Response is Your Response, From the Heart and Without Fear (… or, with a little fear)
For me, I still feel that the public, including many millions of Trump supporters are simply very “in the dark” about him. We cannot have an authentic response to an event like this if we do not have clarity and true seeing about the players, and the media, and donors backing them (Fox News and Roger Ailes, Breitbart, etc.). Given my journalistic background, this seemed like Job One.
Was Trump a harmless and vain buffoon, as portrayed on “Saturday Night Live”? Or was there something more? I began posting articles, videos and documentaries to Facebook and Twitter, and writing this new blog. For me, this was simply my natural response. It felt way, way better than doing nothing at all.
I absolutely felt, and still do, that to say nothing at this time, for me, would be a moral and ethical compromise. So, I assumed I might lose some of my audience, and clients (who think I should be more neutral or more “spiritual,” as they define it), and dived in. But this is me.
I have a friend who lives in Hawaii who cannot commit to any activism around Trump. She was an activist for many years around GMO’s and the environment. But the frustration and anger that seemed to come from that for her burnt her out, and drove her into a state of depression. She spends her time now cleaning up beaches, volunteering for Surf Rider, being in service to others, and giving massages. She is totally opposed to a Trump Presidency, but is acutely aware of her achilles heel around activism. I love her, and I support her.
I have friends who will only pray and chant or meditate on this election. I have friends who are at every protest, and writing and signing petitions and donating money and wearing saftey pins. I have friends who will continue to teach “the Principles” in a very neutral way (and I will too). I respect this and I trust their wisdom on this (if that’s what it feels like to them) because everyone — including Republicans, Democrats, Trump supporters, conservatives, liberals and Nazis — would benefit both themselves, and the world by learning how to be happy with what is (in the world and inside of them.) And then, moving (including politically) from that space with compassion.
I have friends who see it all as the play of maya and will teach this to others. If this feels authentic and good for them, I support all of these efforts. But we must each go within, with courage, to discover what wisdom leads us to do, or not do, at this time.
For me, the inside and outside are one. We go within, and our actions (outside) reflect this inner dive. We do live, at least temporarily, in a world of “form” and human suffering. Wisdom-inspired, Love-inspired thoughts and deeds do relieve this apparent suffering. The great Indian sage Ramana Maharshi, a contemporary of Gandhi’s in India**, used to stay put beside his favorite, holy mountain, without any wordly goals at all, only speaking to people as they gathered in the hundreds around him. Ramana said of Gandhi — who was so very active in the world — that he too was truly “awakened,” but his destiny was to work in politics, to teach the world ahimsa, love, and nonviolence.
These days, I think often of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as my “strictly” spiritual teachers, all of whom have inspired me deeply. I am very clear that the stance of Trump and his cabinet to date is not in alignment with wisdom and compassion and listening to understand. That does not mean Trump is not a human being, it just means that he is a very lost human being, who believes his happiness and success is contingent on the degrading of others.
I think of Jesus, who said that one could either worship God or money, but not both. Because if one loved money, one would come to hate God. (Matthew, 6:24) “God” is all of us, all connected, all One. I see the worship of money in Donald Trump.
Jesus also had a response to those who hated paying taxes (and this was to the arguably corrupt and imperial Romans). He said: “Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s.” For me, this means, forget about the money. If your focus is truly spiritual, then focus on the spiritual. Stop thinking about yourself. Think about others. Money is not your salvation. Love is.
Acting Without Fear
What happened to me after those three days and nights of low level “terror”? How did I deal with that? Well, first, I accepted my response as my response. It felt natural to go through these emotions, given my research, and I did not want to deny them. I knew that even with all outside circumstances being the same, these thoughts and feelings would also pass.
My husband helpfully reminded me that this is not the first time facism has arisen in the world — and that people the world over suffer greatly, and probably more than most of us will suffer in the next four years (if it is just four years). But that remains to be seen.
People have suffered under Obama, worldwide (and we can argue re: who, and why). The world is a deeply imperfect place, and human “lostness” and cruelty is nothing new and not unique to white people or white supremacists or even Nazis. Someone sent me a video clip by Joanna Macy, which I posted on Facebook. I did not know who she was, and her approach seemed a bit “new-agey” to me, but she said something that struck me (many things, actually).
She said: “Do not be afraid of the people’s suffering.” The next day, I walked out my front door, and into the bright morning sunlight. Donald Trump was still the President Elect. I had the strong sense that I would continue to do what felt right to me, to resist or oppose his racism and lack of care and concern for the planet, and our combined future in this beautiful and terrible world of form. Or, perhaps I would help with education and positive alternatives, or continue conversations with Trump supporters and conservatives. Or perhaps I would stop all activity for some time and just tend to my garden, or do Christmas with my children and replenish myself for a while, but I did not need to be afraid. And indeed, I could still walk in joy and feel love, and be deeply Here and Now, as we all always are, but for our thoughts.
And if I was afraid, for a moment, or sad, for a day, it was because of a deep, deep Love that exists inside each one of us, that sometimes — sweetly, exquisitely, organically — expresses that way. A Love for Life itself — and all people, and all creation within. … Yes, including you, and me, and even Donald J. Trump.
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*I actually think this is still true.
*Also, teacher of Papaji, who in turn was teacher to Mooji and Gangaji.
What you can do:
Share this and my other Medium articles with others, especially Trump voters. Boycott all Trump products, businesses and investments at #GrabYourWallet. (Excellent spreadsheet at this link, including where to send emails and letters). Boycott Exxon (to support the phenomenal, brave Native Americans, veterans and others protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Trump’s Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, which owns the Pipeline — as well as having extensive ties to Russia and Putin. You can also divest from banks investing in the Pipeline. More on “anti-Trump efforts” large and small, to come.
The following Letter to Electors (who by now have already sold us down the river and into the hands of Vladimir Putin) lays out some of the essential reasons why Donald Trump is not fit for office, including white supremacist and eugenics views, attacks on a free press and free speech and foreign interference in the election. Please share with friends and family, including Trump voters.
Crucial Educational Resources:
The Choice 2016
FRONTLINE investigates what has shaped Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, where they came from, how they lead and why…
Where to Invade Next on iTunes
Watch trailers, read customer and critic reviews, and buy Where to Invade Next directed by Michael Moore for $14.99.
How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory
At the Fox News holiday party the year the network overtook archrival CNN in the cable ratings, tipsy employees were…
How Trump Took Hate Groups Mainstream | Mother Jones
The first warning sign that something new was brewing came in June 2015, as Donald Trump joined the crowded field vying…
Best Fact-Based, Humanitarian News Outlets (in my mind. Suggestions welcome):
The Washington Post
The Guardian (London)
Dan Rather (on Facebook)
Mother Jones (progressive/liberal, but very well respected news outlet. Excellent investigative reporting on Trump and all candidates)
See below and please share: a very helpful guide to media and media bias. This does not include, as far as I know, the very troubling Russian-sourced news outlets (RT and Sputnik) that have been influencing self-described “conseratives” in this country. All global citizens should be aware of Russia’s very sophisticated trolling and social media “amplifcation” efforts:
Russian propaganda effort helped spread 'fake news' during election, experts say
Editor's Note: The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have…
Also, some would say the best source for any objective news about the U.S. is from outside of the U.S. Please look for respected journalists whose background, stance and intuition you also trust. I have been very disappointed in the news media’s coverage of the election and Trump — to much opinion, chatter and arguing and not nearly enough deep research into and coverage of the facts we need to know and the “bigger picture” of Donald Trump’s decidely fascist leanings. Part of why we are in the mess we are in.
Marianne Williamson has what I consider to be a principled stance on this election: at Twittter.
I recommend also dipping into “alt-right” (white supremacist) or far right news from time to time just to see what the latest conspiracy theories are or thinking is, and also to see if you can find a kernel of truth in what folks are saying there.