Sometimes it may seem like the individual is somewhat helpless when confronted with large-scale tragedies or dysfunctional government politics. One vote doesn’t amount to much, and our worldwide information system can deliver tragedy wherever we go. If we only focus on the enormity of chaos, we may feel overwhelmed. We could even become negatively influenced on an inner level so that we struggle with fear or anger (or any shade thereof). What can one person do?
Lots. Enough to engage a lifetime.
When confronted with mass trauma or human frailty, a Zen answer might be: Shine — light up one corner of the world. Be the presence that sheds light wherever you are. Rumi once said: Be the type of person who, when entering a room, luck goes to the person who needs it most.
Both good answers, but I think it might be helpful to be little more specific.
Perhaps our first task, our ongoing task, is to discover our personal medicine — our gifts for the world. This will probably involve some sort of preparation, training, and ongoing education and practice. This is an endeavor we owe both our Soul and ourselves. Our predilections may tend to make us more outwardly active or more introspective. Whole books can be written on the subject, whole lives to live. Any endeavor fully engaged will have impact.
It is important for awake people to be awake. It is important for those that have the potential to live awake lives to work on becoming awake. It is in this life, or in the next life, every person’s job to find their sacred self and attempt to integrate an aspect of that self into everyday life. Connecting with Source will activate the Tao of your existence. We may begin the path with peak experiences that give us a taste of the transcendent. These experiences need to find the ground of our lives in order to deepen spirituality. A spiritual practice will round out perspective. We will transfer that experience into daily life. This will inevitably bring one into the awareness of contact with polar opposites that appear to contradict our spiritual experience of non-duality. Rather than deny duality, we should make compassionate observation. The deeper our insights into life, the more likely we will see into the root causes of polarity. What do both sides of polarity really want? Understanding polarity will help to identify common ground or provide the basic elements to begin the work of alchemy.
When transmutation becomes a long-term project, we need to continue the focus of living out of the center of our being. Does that require strict and ongoing dispassionate non-attachment? Does it mean that we don’t engage our opinion or stand up against what seems to be a regressive or maladaptive view? Of course not. Hopefully, it means that we are able to engage without rancor or giving in to the pull of lowest common denominator. But that doesn’t preclude passion or even indignation if we do so with situational honesty. In any case, we hope to engage with our eyes open — with our medicine. We do not “stew in our engagement.” We learn to act cleanly and precisely and know when the situation is over so that we can let it go. It means that we return to our Source Being and not to the battlegrounds of the mind. If reflection is required we do so in a reflective space that allows us to put the situation into context or deepens insight. Am I painting the picture of a saint? I hope not. I’m portraying an individual who knows who they are and will, at the end of the day, settle back into union with Spirit. Obviously, some days will flow better than others.
Joseph Campbell had two pertinent observations. First, he stated that coming into illumination did not mean retreating from the world. There are some fights we will feel compelled to join, because we are saying “yes” to the demands of our life. Like the old Irish saying, “Is this a private fight or can anyone get in?” Later, he offers some balance with a samurai tale in which a samurai warrior had the duty to avenge the murder of his overlord. He has cornered this man, and is about to deal the deathblow, when the defeated man spits in his face. The samurai sheathes his sword and walks away. Why? Because to kill the man at that point would have made it a personal act. The lesson isn’t about when or when not to behead an opponent. The lesson encourages dispassionate engagement, leaving the ego sheathed.
In the meantime
While you’re working on enlightenment, here are some practical suggestions:
Contribute to all the communities of which you are a member. Methods include active prayer, practicing good citizenship, or contributing to a specific cause or causes. It might also include finding your life’s work, or simply applying integrity to whatever endeavors you engage. Unless you are a renunciant or a full-time mystic, keep yourself appropriately informed through reliable sources. Always question truth. Maintain your sacred obligation to Source as a priority over popular culture. As a seeker of truth, be prepared to challenge authority, while at the same time practicing compassion with the pain, chaos, or selfishness of life out of balance. Tread lightly, except where you mean to leave your mark. Always maintain your individuality, while also giving back to the resonant connections to which you owe allegiance. In a very real sense, you are the center of your universe — the gatekeeper of perceptual views. Work toward expanding the clarity of that universe.
In every culture there are good people, corrupt people, and shades of impressionability — regardless of politics or religious affiliation. It is important that people who have the ability to engage the Good of human nature make their appropriate contribution. If the tipping point of shared consciousness leans toward the Good, circumstances will provide freedom of action.
Photo from Facebook photos page: Rumi