Tag: William James

Where Politics and Spirituality Intersect

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I really don’t see the difference between politics and spirituality.

We do not reside in a totalitarian state. As members of a democratic society, we’ve got a civic duty. In a democratic system of government, politics is just one more aspect of everyday living.

Spirituality isn’t an other-worldly affair. It’s a principled worldview coupled with a system of training that orients our entire being to the world where we reside.

Politics isn’t a distraction from spirituality, but one facet of everyday life with which spirituality is deeply worried.

Saying that politics is a distraction from spirituality is like saying work or relationships are barriers to spiritual practice. They are not obstacles, they’re opportunities for our spirituality to be born to the world. Segregating politics and spirituality is an effort to closet your spirituality-to protect it from things that push your buttons, as opposed to leaning to your own struggles and learning how to move beyond anxiety, fear, and rage.

We aren’t called to hide behind a vapid smile or to look another way. Any spirituality that hides behind a distraction isn’t spirituality but a defense mechanism. It’s spiritual bypassing, not religious practice. This is true no matter if our practice is rooted in Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, or lacks spiritual affiliation altogether.

Gandhi once wrote: “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics don’t understand what faith is… Truly, religion should pervade each one of our activities. Here religion doesn’t mean sectarianism. It’s not less real because it is unseen. It doesn’t supersede them. It harmonizes them and gives them reality”

It’s difficult to be mindful and politically engaged in exactly the exact same time. It’s hard to watch the news or read the newspapers without getting wrapped up in it, particularly in this day-and-age using a 24-hour news cycle and a controversial president that dominates every minute of that cycle.

Mindfulness and activism frequently feel mutually exclusive. But uniting both is our path. We must root our politics in mindfulness and quiet. If we fail to do so, we will either fail our civic duty, or our politics will be tainted with fear and aggression.

And it’s no accident that these excellent icons of mindful activism have come before us, showing us the way. They’ve outlined the course before us.

Venturing into the world of politics without tethering the mind to reality is the means of madness.

But it’s not enough to sit every morning. We must bring the essentials of meditation-letting go and returning to the ease of the present moment-into our everyday life. But we have to disown the anxiety, anger, and aggression, not the sense of injustice, which is grounded in reality.

Politics devoid of empathy is simply one more way to vent resentment. Our body politic is already saturated with resentment. Prayer connects the brain and the heart, melting resentment. William James wrote in Varieties of Religious Experience, “Religion is nothing if it be not the very important act by which the whole brain seeks to save itself by clinging to the rule from which it draws its life. This action is prayer.”

And the heart is the principle where the brain draws life. But once again, it’s not enough to pray only in the morning. We must see aggression as a reminder to pray during the day. When we are frightened or angry, we must pray for the ones that stimulate our resentment. We’ve pray for those in need. Prayer gets us out of our mind, from our self-centered mind.

Spirituality reminds us that it’s our duty to be a voice of sanity, a light unto the world. I say that not having a condescending tone, but with an awareness that I also must work harder to bring mindfulness, compassion, and sanity into my politics. Politics is a sticky topic. It is easy to become caught up in politics. But the spiritual path always cuts through our barriers. It goes around them.

This is the course we in the age of Trump must trudge, and we have to do it together.