How to move through confusion, and Funkadelic.
Are you feeling stretched thin? Confused? Anxious? Or are you exhausted from the intensity that seems unyielding, and the pressures to conform to expectations that are unclear? You are not alone. The uncertainty amidst life is present whether or not we are in the midst of great social upheaval, the throes of a global mass extinction, or a pandemic. There are no quick salves, potions, or antidotes for all that is unresolved and unexplored. Our only option is to meet the changes with openness, curiosity, and the willingness to correct our own mistakes.
The last several weeks have highlighted the need for honest self reflection, open dialogue, and big changes both intrapersonally and interpersonally. Like it or not, systemic oppression, racism, and inequity in material conditions are part of everyone's life. We are all being confronted with the trauma of having a shared collective human history. Whether we can trace our ancestry back to either being victims of or profiting from enslavement, or our lineage puts us in the Americas in some other way, we are all living descendants of the horrors of imperialism. The conversations and decisions on where to go from here involve us all. If you have been paralyzed by the inundation of information, calls to action, or simply the confusion of not knowing what to do or say, or if you are clear in knowing what needs doing, this time is an invitation. The rush to wiggle or struggle our way out of this uncomfortable time, or to defer our autonomy to outside forces is a grave mistake we cannot afford to make. We must be methodical and thorough in our encounters with dismantling systems of oppression whether they live within us, or in the fabric of our global social, political, and economic life.
What I have observed over the last several months are very reactive, volatile, or avoidant approaches to problem solving. These strategies will not carry us far ahead of where we are now. Change is happening, and we are all knowingly or unknowingly part of it. We will fail at cooperating and creating strategies if we do not understand our own patterns and conditioning, and have a clear appreciation for our experience as human beings.
We fundamentally misunderstand the mechanism of our own experience. We have the sense that we can approach the context of our life either through a rational means, to avoid the messiness and discomfort of our emotions, or through a transcendental spiritual or "objective" view. This simplistic, either/or, approach leaves no room for curiosity or inquiry. Evidence has lead researchers to understand that we are only ever experiencing our constructed version of existence through the vehicle of our patterning and conditioning, much like we interface with the desktop of our computers. The summary of this TED talk (Do we see reality as it is?) is that instead of interfacing directly with the electrical currents that are translated into machine code, we see icons, programs, and interfaces that are aggregates of information pared down. Our whole way of experiencing ourselves is through a lot of cognitive shortcuts that lend themselves to reducing complexity and covering up bias. It is not a wonder why conversations around privilege, access, and inequity are so challenging. We cannot understand something if we are unaware that we are unaware. Now is the best time to question our beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and desires in order to clearly recognize what is harmful and helpful, and what our impact on others is.
The intense resistance to sweeping systemic changes, is partly because on an individual level this would require us to examine the narrative and identities we construct for ourselves. Questioning who we are, or how we know our life to be, is inherently disorienting and causes fear, anger, and doubt to arise quickly. It is our conditioning, hard wired into the way our system is organized, that causes us to react to change. But it is our identification with our conditioning that causes us to become bound in the resistance to change. We struggle, not because change is inherently full of suffering and struggle, but because the story of who we are, who we know ourselves to be, is full of suffering and struggle. We define ourselves according to our inward relationship with with human emotions. We develop patterns, behaviors, and beliefs around our emotions, telling ourselves what they mean about us, why we need to avoid or cling to them, and why we must not allow ourselves to experience them in new and different ways. Essentially, we respond to the threat of disentangling our self-concept by violently defending it, which brings us further into separateness not only from the depth of our own nature, but from each other, and the cosmos that surrounds us.
Rejoice my friend! The sum total of human culture has lead us to this moment, and it has also equipped us with all the tools we need to do this work. We have inherited wisdom traditions from every part of this world. They show us how to return to the slow and steady pace of nature. They teach us to observe the processes that unfold in the natural world, and to recognize them within ourselves. They illustrate to us the value of generosity, humility, and devotion to what is beyond our senses. They offer us guidance and wisdom, if we listen with our hearts, and not the conditioned lenses of our socially constructed minds and ego-identifications. They remind us of our capacity, as all children have, to be unassuming in investigating possibilities. They give us tools to develop discipline, diligence, and vigilance against rigidity. Yoga is a beautiful and complete system among so many others available. May we have the courage to choose, to use discernment, and to trust that the process will guide us to ways of connecting more deeply with our own life, the lives of others, and to the mysterious force that gives rise to life itself. May we connect with the beneficence that arises in each of us.
Keep going. Keep moving. Keep the groove. We can sing and dance and feel it all, the way Funkadelic does in Cosmic Slop (Hardcore Jollies version).