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Jan 28
Opinion Pieces
Accelerating Change

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!

Kim Kelso (Phoenix/Tucson, AZ) has been studying and practicing Shambhala Buddhism since 1980, when she became a member of the Nelson, B.C. Dharmadhatu in British Columbia, Canada. Subsequently she was a member of the Vancouver and Victoria sanghas and served as a co-director of the Victoria Center. She has been teaching since 1992. In 2008 she moved to Arizona to care for her mother and became a member of the Phoenix Shambhala Center. Retired from a career as a social worker, she continues to enjoy and be involved in community development, leadership and social change.

A version of this article was originally published on the website of the Shambhala Meditation Center of Phoenix.

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3 responses to “ Accelerating Change ”
  1. Kim,
    Thank you so much for writing about this. I keep hoping (and praying) that this is an “underbelly” of our society that needed exposing, a boil coming to the surface that needs to be exposed and cleared. I am encouraged by the sense of community coming together in activism, in caring, the interfaith connections being made and the outpouring of love I experience in town hall meetings with politicians, in marches, in discussions around town, in vigils and postcard writing. Our goodness is so much stronger than the hatred. At times it can feel overwhelming as we are in swirling chaos…unnecessarily created….like being faced with attacks from the maras in overwhelming numbers. And yet, people continue to wake up in overwhelming numbers…counter-balancing the swirl that would/could pull us under. Practice grounds us and for me, there is no other choice but to be very engaged. With love,

  2. Lora Wiggins
    Feb 3, 2017

    A beautiful and articulate article. This very much parallels my own efforts to make sense of things since the election. Thank you, Kim

  3. Russell Rodgers
    Jan 30, 2017

    Perhaps there’s a parallel between the apparent contraction under Trump in the US, and what happened in Canada under our former prime minister, Stephen Harper. Like Trump, Harper dismissed the science of climate change. He was very money-oriented and vicious towards opponents. He put a gag order on government scientists, who could only speak with political approval. He wasn’t enthusiastic about refugees. Harper was roundly rejected by Canadians, who wanted a change of tone.

    The new prime minister, Justin Trudeau, immediately volunteered to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees. I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed a few months later that the tone of complaint against the government had changed. The new government was slow in getting it organized. Hundreds of small towns had arranged accommodation, raised money and created support groups. There was a chorus of “Where are our refugees. What’s wrong with you? You promised!” Government ministers were on the defensive.

    Yesterday there was a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec. Now government flags are at half-mast, and there is a huge out-pouring and lots of vigils in support of Muslims.

    Maybe people need to feel what it’s like under someone like Trump. As in Canada, maybe it will swing back in the form of a big opening and a change in how people identify themselves. It’s possible. We can cross our fingers.

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