Compassionate Presence

Grateful every day for living here.

Yesterday was challenging for me, as I know it was for many people. The domestic terror attack on the US Capitol shook up a lot of Americans, even some who had been sleeping as the groundwork for it was laid by the president and his enablers. But it wasn’t the event itself, or even the government’s and media’s whitewashing of the egregious double-standard of law enforcement response when compared to crackdowns on Black Lives Matter peaceful demonstrations across the country last year. It was one word that undid me: Proud.

Like many meditators these days, I participate in a virtual meditation group, or sangha, that meets over the phone every weekday morning. I’m grateful for those who were there with me in the beginning more than four years ago, and for those who have joined since, grateful for our commitment to balancing our own minds, and trying to bring balance into the world with our daily practices of stability, kindness, and insight. Our teacher brings great skills to leading us in contemplation day after day, and has a remarkable capacity to respond to the needs of the group in the moment. Some mornings we do checkins, some mornings we jump straight into meditation. Some days checkins can be lengthy, and some mornings we do the ‘two-word checkin’, which is what she asked for yesterday, in light of events in DC.

Those two words yesterday morning from a dozen people included longing for safety, numb, hopeful, upset, startled, grateful, disappointed, anger, disbelief, and proud. The last word was spoken by the only Trump supporter in the group. I spent the whole meditation trying to figure out a positive interpretation of that word, and I couldn’t do it. I was gobsmacked by the idea that anyone could be proud of what transpired at the Capitol yesterday. I spent the rest of the day turning it over and over in my mind and heart, discussing it with a few friends: maybe she was proud of the Capitol police for not escalating the violence? maybe she was proud of… what? else? could she possibly have meant?

I exercised mindfulness skills in directing my attention elsewhere, but I still couldn’t shake the icky feeling that someone I know was proud of the white nationalist terrorists who attacked, looted, and contaminated the Capitol in an effort to subvert constitutional order.

I walked the dogs to the top of the driveway, where our neighbor has hung a Trump flag, and on the way back it struck me, Maybe he is also proud of the white nationalist assault on our nation’s capital… This sinking feeling was amplified this morning when I read that 45% of republicans approve of this terrorist act; but yesterday, I continued to try to redirect my attention, looking for gratitude, making Pad Thai for lunch, digging under snow to find a few feeble tips of green onion, which tasted extra sweet.

… and baking focaccia crackers for the first time. I’m grateful for the magic of YEAST! I’m grateful for fresh rosemary growing in a pot in the sunroom. I’m grateful there are recipes for anything and everything online.

As more clarity comes from the professionals who are unpacking what actually happened at the Capitol Wednesday, I’m grateful for the alert congressional staffers who whisked the certified electoral college votes to safety, precluding even more chaos if they had been burned or stolen by the Republican terrorists. I am now not so grateful to the Capitol police, some or many of whom appear to have abetted the attackers; though I’m still grateful that there were undoubtedly some or many who tried to do their job well in a terrible situation. I’m grateful to R. Hubbell for calling out the truth with this cogent assessment:

The relevant differences are that those who attacked the Capitol are
         White.         Republicans.         Future voters for Cruz, Hawley, Cotton, Rubio, et al.
         … The media are normalizing terrorism by refusing to call it by name.

He goes on to call out the Department of Justice, the ‘Problem Solvers’ Caucus, congressional Republicans, and others, for the same thing, normalizing white supremacist terrorism by refusing to call it by name, when ‘terrorist’ is routinely applied to people of color in more benign protests.

Yesterday, our meditation teacher responded to our two-word checkins with a meditation called “Seeing Truth Clearly.” Cynthia Wilcox rose to the occasion in a way that I can only aspire to at this point in my mindfulness studies. I’m inexpressibly grateful to have reconnected with this high school classmate, ten years ago around our common interest in Buddhism, through the (qualified) magic of Facebook. Grateful for her wisdom and generosity of spirit, for how she can hold the same confusion I have with far more compassionate presence, which incidentally was the meditation she brought to us today. I invite you to set aside about 25 minutes sometime, settle comfortably into a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, and follow one of these meditations. Maybe both. Make some time for mental health the same way you do for physical health, and cultivate balance, clarity, understanding, and compassion for yourself and all beings.

Seeing Truth Clearly
Compassionate Presence

2 thoughts on “Compassionate Presence

  1. Rita, I am with you on this topic you have so eloquently put before us. I, too, am startled that a huge segment of the U.S. population condones the actions at the Capitol by Trump supporters. When I cogitate on that mindset, I liken it to trying to reason with a drug addict. There is no big picture for them. Theirs, I believe, is the need for power through what amounts to self abasement in the long run. A temporary surge of vindication from perceived wrongs, thinking that the end justifies the means, acting as if America is only one type of person. I believe they will be left behind to wallow in their misperceptions, however, this action jolted me into an acute awareness that we cannot become lackadaisical about our democracy. And we cannot become reactionary in our execution of it, which has been happening for quite awhile in Congress as a result of the extreme bipartisanism. Until every person believes in a good higher than their own, self aggrandizement will prevail, and violence will be the preferred method of resolution simply because these people cannot tolerate a system that asks them to make any sacrifice to the good of the collective. They defend their staid, out dated beliefs that white supremacy is and should be the highest order in the land and no voice outside of that tired, lack of imagination orientation has value. That idea is so obsolete, as you know, but even more so as we enter a new age of higher thought and cooperation. There is no love in what they do; they are a group of people trying not to do the work to make the changes that are inevitable. I take solace in the fact that it wasn’t more than 49%. At least we carry some momentum into the future. Thank you for what you posted. Thank you for thinking it out. Thank you for being a compassionate human being – that is the quality that will prevail; and I do believe that change is coming, and I think it will come rapidly once some of the dead wood has gone to compost.

    • Dear Pat, Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I’m heartened to read your insightful perspective, and can only hope that enough people of good heart can persevere to bring about the changes you describe. I grieve for last week’s violence, but also look toward the inauguration with trepidation. I shudder to think what might go down, and pray that there is sufficient protection in place to prevent an even more widespread and violent uprising. Wishing you to stay safe and well, and hope to see you on zoom again before too long.

      rita hines clagett writer, photographer, artist


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