When I listen to hateful and angry right wing people expressing themselves, I have been hearing a huge backlog of unprocessed hurt, of bottled up feelings of being thwarted by others, by people who are more powerful, of being made to feel inferior, ignored, unheard. I hear anger at not being in control of one’s life.
I see the roots of all of these feelings in myself. I see myself getting angry because a business kept me waiting, because someone didn’t return my phone call promptly, because a room is too cold, because my head hurts or back hurts, because the store is out of a certain fruit. I feel myself putting up walls inside because a friend said something that made me defensive. I see myself taking offense. I see the mind adding this offense to its existing pile of offenses. I hear myself bringing this ball of past offenses, hurts, fears, up in the mind again and again. Using it to generate some energy in the tired body. Using it to build a well-defended life. Making a wall between myself and others and then being sad because the wall blocks out love and connection.
I’ve begun to see that when this happens in me, it is adding to the hate and anger that is spilling out throughout human society. I’ve begun to watch it and sense it more carefully because I can see that not doing so, not being in touch with these dynamics happening in me, surely leads to hurting others in small ways or in global ways, not to mention the damage that it does to me.
For some strange evolutionary or biological reason, it’s easy for us to feel our outrage and unquestioningly follow it up with action and yet it is much more difficult to really see these dynamics for what they essentially are: builders of walls of anger, hate, and isolation.
It’s not too hard to see what happens to any of us when our inner anger, hate, resentment is not clearly seen. I’ve seen myself lash out hurtfully at a person and have noticed that they are getting the brunt of my buried feelings from other situations that had little or nothing to do with them. They were a lightning rod for backed up anger. And if I were suddenly made president of the US, it is quite possible that I might lash out in the same way but with the tremendous power that office provides. What a horrifying thought!
Maybe it’s possible for people from different backgrounds to begin listening to each other so that the sense of not being heard can lessen and so that pent up feelings have a chance to come out. But what is clear to me is that virtually every single waking moment of my life, these forces are going on in me and need to be given careful attention and interest. This is full time work.
I remember at an early retreat that I went to with Toni Packer on maybe the sixth day, she was giving a small talk in the sitting room and said something to the effect that every one of us had had at least a moment or two of not adding to the sorrow of the world. I was taken aback! But I’ve been sitting here quietly, attentively, for days, hour after hour, I thought. How is that adding to the sorrow of the world?
I’m beginning to understand now what she was talking about. Watching carefully how this body responds to the physical environment – tensing, tightening, defending – and then seeing if it is possible to relax to the coldness or the pain or the worry. Then instead of hard walls there is a softer being with what is. How the body/mind responds to other people – wanting to get away, or to control the conversation so it feels more comfortable, or to convince them of something that’s important to me. And experimenting with the possibility of just hearing this person – who they are and what they feel a need to express.
Maybe you feel that you’re not as self-centered or defensive as I have found that I am. What seems to matter most is that these inner movements of the mind – probably very deeply programmed – become visible, noticeable – and that each of us begins to look for ourselves whether we are reinforcing, adding in the tiniest of ways to the trickle of hate, anger, fear, and isolation that is bursting out as a torrent in human beings and causing so much suffering. And wondering and watching on some level to see what the alternative is, to see how love does, for moments at a time, function through us if there is a burning interest to see how we are really living/thinking/feeling – not the ideal that I want to be loving and not hateful, not the image that I am trying to become a good person, but the reality of how the mind is really functioning, which much of the time is in trying to build walls of anger and hate.
To see all of this inner working clearly, as it really is, whether beautiful or ugly. This is a rare thing among us humans. When it happens, it feels like an expression of immense compassion and intelligence. It feels like a moment in which I am not adding to the sorrow of the world.