“The worst tyranny is when good people don’t stand up; when they are complacent and let the tides roll over them, as we have seen throughout history.” — Gangaji
In 2009, my most significant spiritual teacher, Sydney Banks (founder of the “Three Principles” and its now global movement, for which I serve as a teacher, coach and mentor) died. A year later, my father — a deeply devoted student and friend of Mr. Banks — died.
The journey through this time was marked by turbulence, upset, loss and also — simultaneously — great gain, a true gain of freedom and inner authority.
At one point, however, I felt the need for a new, also “awakened” teacher, and I prayed for one. It was shortly after this that I met Gangaji, a teacher, author and beloved spiritual guide the world over.
I have written elsewhere about what this meeting meant to me. Suffice it to say that after the 2016 U.S. election, I saw hate crimes spike across the nation, including attacks on my own family members. I researched Donald Trump’s personal and professional history and affiliations, and the more I learned, the more upset and distressed I became. It was natural for me to turn to Gangaji for guidance.
What follows is a transcription of the conversation we had on one of her monthly webinars for the “With Gangaji” series and online community … about spirituality, activism, ego, fear, anger, upset and, finally, what is always here.
Ami: I joined today because I felt the need … and then I heard the topic of “God.” You asked the question: “What do you worship at this time?” My response is in relation to the political situation here in the United States; what I’m seeing is sort of a crisis, at least externally.
When you asked: “What do you worship?” I was thinking “democracy,” and “freedom, civil rights, my country.” I’m coming to you to see how to relate to all of this … Because I’ve had moments of great love and here-ness in the midst of all this. But my background is in journalism and activism, and I put all that down years ago, in seeing that level-of-consciousness work was called for. I saw consciousness (expanded or contracted human consciousness) as the root cause of everything … I put myself wholeheartedly into that work — “level-of-consciousness” work, or “waking up” work — and now what I see is that perhaps we, as “spiritual people” have left politics aside to our peril. And, not being involved in, and being connected to the world in that external, “political” way has led us to what we see today.
For myself, I see a way forward, and I want to try to bring love. I feel this calling to be, as you say, “supportive” of everyone. And then, there is also, among my friends, here in my community, and on social media, and so forth, just a tremendous amount of fear. … I’m sure you’re tuned into all of that. There are questions of: How do we move forward?
I think I’ve found the way for me, but still, there is some fear for me, there is a sense of despair. Sometimes I feel angry, and then I’m like: “Don’t feel angry … Because you want to be spiritual and loving.”
So, I am asking you. Is it my worship of democracy and civil rights that’s the problem? Or is it me wanting to see the outcome of all this be a certain way?
I’m having a hard time settling [into peace and love]. But I am also feeling this strong pull to use my skill set, my communication skills or whatever I have to offer and seeing some very true things to do. That’s where I’m at. And, thank you.
Gangaji: Ami. So full. So articulate. … And, I want to support you fully. I understand what you’re saying. Sometimes we leave particular worlds behind, in your case: journalism and activism. We have perhaps been too ego-driven in them, and we recognize that to some degree. So, we retreat and develop our dive into the deeper aspects of ourselves.
But finally, when we dive in all the way, we find there is no boundary between the world and God, or between the world and ourselves, or between anger and God, or between disappointment and God. We find we have full permission to be useful in this play of God, and then, that in itself becomes a deepening.
“I also am a great lover of democracy and freedom, and I experienced this election as a catastrophe.” — Gangaji
You point to something essential for us in these times. I also am a great lover of democracy and freedom, and I experienced this election as a catastrophe. And yet, I know also that “catastrophes” can shake us out of our complacency, can shake us out of our false dualistic evaluations. And, as we know, throughout history, tyranny has arisen to overthrow civilized dialogue or to overthrow support for those who are not at the top. And this seems to be what is happening in the United States right now.
So, I call on everyone. We need everyone to be true, to love freedom, relative freedom in this case; to love democracy; to love all … So that, somehow, the dialogue that has fallen into such shallow waters can be made deep again.
Your anger is fine. Anger is an aggressive force. I don’t support acting out anger on other people, but the arising of anger can be an awakening force. It’s like a plant breaking through a concrete sidewalk. A little blade of grass breaks through, and that aggression, if used in service to life, in service to love, in service to democracy and freedom — if that’s what you love (and we share this love) — then yes, yes. Let your skills be used for this. This is needed in this time. The worst tyranny is when good people don’t stand up; when they are complacent and let the tides roll over them, as we have seen throughout history.
So, I support you, sister.
Ami: Thank you so much! It’s been — it has called on every reserve that I have, every ounce of courage, to speak up [given that I might lose my students, or my clientele, or attract unwanted attention] and every kind of “meditation” to know what to do, and every sense of inner wisdom in moving toward a certain group or person to find support. And then these beautiful, serendipitous things have happened — where someone is just right there with the list of e-mails I need .…
“I don’t support acting out anger on other people, but the arising of anger can be an awakening force. It’s like a plant breaking through a concrete sidewalk. A little blade of grass breaks through, and that aggression, if used in service to life, in service to love, in service to democracy and freedom — if that’s what you love (and we share this love) — then yes, yes.”
And yet, I don’t want to be afraid. That’s the other thing: I feel the fear is very high. Among my friends, it’s tremendous. I’m trying to help. My message has been what you always say: “What is always here? What is still always here?”
Gangaji: That’s right.
Ami: And we don’t have to think about politics all the time.
Gangaji: That’s right.
Ami: And it feels to me that we need to come back to this reservoir of love —
Ami: So, that’s my answer. But I still have some fear at this time, and many people do. I don’t know if you have anything to say to that.
Gangaji: What’s wrong with the fear?
Ami: I don’t know. It doesn’t feel so good.
Gangaji: No, it doesn’t feel good. Medicine sometimes doesn’t feel good. Yet, sometimes, fear is absolutely appropriate — when you see democracy threatened, or you see your world threatened. Fear, like anger, can galvanize you to action.
If you’re fighting fear, if you are hiding from fear, or if you are worshipping fear, those are movements of the mind. Then, yes, fear is a problem. But if fear is simply allowed to be part of the experience of the horror, then, yes, you experience fear … and you’re still here. You don’t worship fear, but fear is allowed to be here.
Ami: Thank you. I just thank you so much. For support … And, on the other hand, the beauty of this whole thing is that I’m finding I’m much more bold in certain ways. People have said to me: “Oh, Ami, you’ve always been bold!” But sometimes, you don’t actually feel like that inside. So, I’m just being more bold, and I can see a beauty in the path that’s opened in front of me. So there’s that. And, again, I thank you.
Gangaji: I’m so happy. Yes. Thank you, Ami. There’s a time to be bold, there’s a time to speak up, there’s a time to retreat, a time to withdraw. And, if we all are willing to tell the truth, in the midst of the biggest fight, there can be a time to withdraw; or there can be a time to stand up.
I believe what Ami is sharing is true for many of us. Even if you supported Trump, the surprise of this election, and now what’s happening after the election, as we see who’s being appointed … the shock of that and, wanting to be used somehow, but then afraid that if we’re used we will be caught up in the same ego-driven world of war and hate that has created the mess. … So then, this fear then can be part of vigilance.
“People may judge you as ‘spiritual,’ or ‘not spiritual.’ Clarity is already beyond all of those evaluations.”
Taking us back to the question of this meeting, this inquiry is: “What do you worship”?
If you worship fear, then, when it appears, it will be a signal for you to be small, and be not seen and to be safe. If you “fight fear,” you will be inappropriate. You will be trying to either deny to yourself what you are experiencing, or to railroad over someone else. And if you hide from fear, you go numb, you just retreat.
All of these strategies are also appropriate in their own time. But what is essential is the willingness to tell the truth to yourself. What strategy is operating in your own mind, at this particular time, about whatever issue that has threatened your world, has threatened what you love?
That’s where the stopping is. It’s not about getting rid of fear, it’s about actually stopping the attack on fear, or stopping the denying of fear, or stopping the worshipping of fear. Just stop … and allow fear to be the life force of our intelligence. Perhaps something is happening here wherein fear is appropriate, and, in that, there is more clarity.
I believe when Ami was speaking, [she and] almost everybody are looking for clarity. Actually, “clear light” is another definition of God. When there is clarity of being, there is simply appropriate action, regardless of the cost, regardless of what public opinion may be … People may judge you as “spiritual,” or “not spiritual.” Clarity is already beyond all of those evaluations … So that’s what I support you in, Ami, and all of you, all of us.
We can be a support for clarity, and often that requires a retreat, if only for an hour, a meditation, a webcast, or a walk in the park, or simply asking yourself: “What is always here?”
And then, from that retreat, you are supported to play the role you have in this lila, in this play of God, this mystery play — rather than dodging, and running and attacking. Just play the role fully and completely. Then, we are all supporting each other.
Yes, these are trying times. But trying times can bring out the best in us, as well as the worst. So vigilance, then, is our support.