Rev. angel Kyodo williams | Beyond idiot compassion

Rev. angel:  Transactional is about winning; about campaigns; about moving a piece of policy forward. Just in our own relatively short lifetimes we can see that things we’ve worked hard for—fought and bled for—can be pushed back with just the swipe of a pen. So hell, let’s enjoy what we’re doing while we’re doing it, so that if it gets pushed back we’ll still have had the joy, the generative feeling of love that comes from the process itself. That’s the gift, the transformational benefit, rather than the transaction being successful. It’s almost like taking a scenic drive. Generally you have a destination in mind, but the joy is in the journey. When framed in that manner, the outcome becomes just the outcome, the destination, but every moment of the process was the point. Life is what we live for, not what we accomplish in life.

The MOON: And that’s how you are not attached to the result.

Rev. angel:  Right. We live the result. And that’s very challenging for us because we’re so conditioned to misunderstand what the result is. If I go to bed each night with a sense of having appropriately used myself, then I’ve accomplished my goal for the day. And then there’s a new day and I get to apply myself anew, over and over again.

Over-extending, overdoing, steals your joy. It steals the possibility of loving life when you work beyond your capacity on a habitual basis. And that’s not the result we want for society either. The way our society is presently organized, some people are severely and habitually over-extended, while others are not nearly living to their full potential.

The MOON: Why are some people not living to their full potential?

Rev. angel: We live in fear and contraction because of the illusion of separation. We operate from holding on, trying to keep what we have, trying to protect it from others, which doesn’t allow us to live fully and authentically, to chase the dreams that are ours to chase; to be in truth with our relationships. We literally don’t have the fortitude, energy, and courage because we’re trying to hold on to stuff—including the stuff of ideas about who we should and shouldn’t be in the world. Also, because we don’t operate from the premise that everyone has a contribution that is equally valuable, we don’t invest in developing the potential of perhaps ninety percent of the people in the world. Instead, we focus on ensuring that perhaps ten percent of the people of the world have unfettered access to everything, from food and water to education and oil. The problem of separation is huge. It sits at the root of all that is wrong, all that is misaligned in the world.

The MOON:  How do you personally maintain balance?

Rev. angel:  At CXC we say, “It’s a matter of life and death; don’t take it too seriously.” And that’s really how it is. In the moment, you completely give everything you have to it. And then when the moment has passed you let go of it. The outcomes are none of your business. That’s when you say, “Things are as they are.” We do what we can to relieve suffering, but then we don’t perpetuate suffering by letting ourselves twist in the wind about it, because that’s suffering.

It’s very “both-and.” Truth is paradoxical. Every truth worth its salt has paradox at its root.

The MOON:  It seems, though, that the world can suck us in with its problems and the more we spend time engaged in them, the more it consumes us. It seems that there might be a time when we need to draw back and attend to ourselves. I don’t know if it’s daily, or minute by minute.  [Laughs]

Rev. angel:  I think it is minute by minute. But if you weren’t going to be sucked into the world’s problems, what would you be doing here? Engagement is what the world is for. Full on.  We get in it; we engage. We love, we experience joy, we carry on with life in the face of the suffering, while we address the suffering. We do both, because freedom is not about getting everything right; it’s about making our best efforts and bringing ourselves to the challenge.

Thus far in human history, we’ve seen some leaps and bounds from time to time, but on the other hand, we have more people killing more people now than at ever before. The social justice changes that we’ve seen, particularly in our own society, have not matched the technological evolution of our society. The negative impact of our ability to create more stuff and to extract elements from the Earth has outpaced our more refined consciousness to be decent, to be kind to each other.

So I’m looking for the kind of change that flips the switch in us as human beings—at least in enough of us—so that those of us who are often the subjects of oppression are sufficiently empowered to just not allow it—internally, in our minds, because the oppression of people begins with their minds. And on the other hand, I’m looking for change that will enable people who are not the subject of oppression to recognize in a deep visceral way how wrong it is. They will feel it. Not because there’s a law. Not because someone told them it was wrong.

Actually, there is a law; it’s the original instructions we came with. We need to return to those original instructions, we need to get our compass turned inward—so that we don’t need a set of laws and policies to tell us how to behave in the most fundamental ways—like schoolchildren are taught early on: don’t hit; don’t steal; don’t lie; don’t engage in sexual misconduct; don’t be greedy. I mean, do we need governments to tell us these basic things? I don’t think so. I think that what we need is reorientation back to what’s fundamentally human and good in us. Part of that is healing the deep spiritual wound and emptiness—the deep lack that is the driving force behind the corruption of our compassion.

Americans have lived with an enormous lack of accountability. We allow our government to do things we say we wouldn’t allow—even in the meditation-based world of spiritual communities.  Racism in that world is alive and well because racism has not been addressed in the teachings.  Just because you have a calmer mind doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to stop thinking black people are really strange and hard to understand so you recoil from them. It’s not inherent in learning to negotiate your internal world to address deep-seated issues such as racism. There are some things we have to learn explicitly, piece by piece—such as, that this kindness and ease in our minds means we have to treat other people with kindness. Compassion has to extend even across the ocean, even when other people make us fearful. We haven’t gotten to that place.

Eastern traditions have brought in a wonderful thing—the concept of practice, the need to work on ourselves. That’s a gift. Religious engagement in America generally has not been one of practice. If we go to church once a week we think we’ve met our obligation. Eastern teachings—whether they’re yoga, meditation, or anything else—have brought with them the sensibility of practice. You have to actually do something with yourself to change yourself. But the people who can afford access to ongoing practice and instructions have often made their money from activities that are in direct opposition to what’s being taught.

This is part of why I turned my attention away from trying to figure out how to get spiritual people to be more active, and instead I’m now trying to get the activists to be more “spiritual,” because they’re already headed towards changing the world. They may not be doing it in the most effective way because they’re recreating the circumstances and conditions that created the problem. But if we could get them information to alter the way they are working—so that they’d have good analysis and a practice they could actually live—look how different our prospects are.

The MOON:  Can you give some examples?



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