The news is thick and fast these days and people are asking, “How are you managing these days?” I recall the time, when I was very young and the United States was fighting in WW2, that I awoke every morning to my parents worriedly listing to the radio for the latest news. We had air raid drills in school that were practice alerts for the possible eventuality a real raid. I did not understand the scope of what was going on, and it was certainly far away—I knew that—but still, I felt nervous in response to the tension around me. I have a sense that these days of unsettled government must feel that way to young children now. People get up and turn on the TV to see what happened during the night. No matter what voting choice people made, I think everyone feels upset by a sense of vulnerability, of not being safe.
Mostly, in teaching situations I respond to questions like, “What is the Dharma response to what’s going on?” by saying, “I try to stay balanced. I try to remember that the startle I am feeling from the news I am just hearing will not help me figure out my best response. If I can say to myself, “This is what is happening now. Let’s see what happens next,” I am calmed by remembering that there will be a “next” and I can prepare for it best by steadying my mind. Then I actively respond. I phone my senators and my local congressman. I exercise my right as a citizen to be heard. Even when I am most disturbed about what is happening, I feel good to be engaged and active. I leave messages, mostly electronically but sometimes to a real person. When I am finished with those calls and the requests to forward or write or sign resistance documents that come by email, I phone my friends.
I phone like-minded friends, people who are concerned, as I am, about the future of the world for generations to come. In many cases they are people I’ve known for years, people with whom I marched for civil rights and an end to the arms race and an end to war and a woman’s right to choose and an end to the death penalty. Sometimes we say things to amuse each other like, “Didn’t we already do this?” and, “Honestly, I have the same zeal as ever but not the same strength!”
I do not feel discouraged when I surround myself, in person or on Skype or on the phone with noble friends, the people the Buddha called “the whole of the holy life!”
When I was a young mother I think I thought about protecting my closest kin, especially my children. As I have gotten old, I see my view has widened, by itself, to the world of everyone’s children. Mine, of course, but everyone else’s too, because otherwise it would not be a real world.