Seeing confusion as an opportunity for positive change
by Kim Kelso
Thinking about the results of the presidential election at first filled me with disappointment, dread, and fear. As the weeks unfolded, I was tempted to be forlorn. Yet I knew from my Shambhala teachings that ignoring or withdrawing was not the solution. As I searched for a way to maintain some sense of equanimity while staying engaged and not shutting down, I came across a reading that helped. It spoke of our current situation as a way to accelerate change.
I liken it to our meditation practice. As we sit, thoughts arise, sometimes parts of ourselves we prefer to ignore come up–making us squirm with uncomfortable and anxious feelings. Our teachings say that this revelation of negativity can be considered good news because by noticing that which has been invisible or hidden in ourselves, we can mobilize to change it. Actually, the very fact that it has arisen and is staring us directly in the face causes such suffering that we are motivated to do something about it.
Likewise, on a societal level when that which has been hidden, ignored, or invisible in our society becomes evident–like extreme greed, prejudice, racism, and power devoid of compassion–we can mobilize to change it. It is now becoming evident. The latent cultural subtexts are erupting, becoming blatantly obvious. It is hard to ignore. It is painful to behold. It is now available for all to witness. It could be good news. It could be the trigger that galvanizes humanity to abandon old limited ways of thinking, to make different choices. It could be a means for accelerated change.
Haven’t we been hoping for change? For a paradigm shift? I have. Since early adulthood in the 1960s, when I saw the discrepancy between a world that I aspired to be part of, and the one around me that was dominated by the almighty dollar, the pursuit of wealth as happiness, the subjugation of large groups of the population, the depletion of the earth’s resources, the war in Vietnam, the general arrogance and mindless greed and consumerism. I realized that working for change within that paradigm was not going to cut it. For genuine change there needed to be a paradigm shift. The ground rules had to change. Ground rules like how we measure success, how we manage health care, the cultural norms around gender roles, holding on to historical stereotypes, the entitlement of human dominion over Mother Earth. All needed to be examined. Our sense of separation from the whole, our view of ourselves as humanity, and our view of the meaning of life needed to be reformed.
The Sakyong, who is doing so much to help us realize the foundations of a good human society, encourages us to “reflect on the themes of warriorship, compassion, and bravery” and to embody the principle of basic goodness. I hope I live long enough to look back on these times with some historical perspective, to be able to say that although it was chaotic and scary, it was the big break–the beginning of the paradigm shift, the opportunity for accelerated change for the good. I hope I can say we were brave warriors who faced the cowards through “following and delighting in the confidence which is primordially free.” I hope I can say we valiantly raised windhorse and helped our society do the same. To quote the Sakyong: “Only by staring directly at the confusion–examining it and absorbing its reality–will our species discover a way forward.” We are in a great position to do that right now and to be agents of accelerated change. Ki Ki So So!