When I was in 6th grade, my girl scout troop did a boating class at the local harbor in Newport Beach, CA. It included canoeing (my favorite – I loved to steer!), rowing (I sucked at), and sailing (I equally sucked at, and also found terrifying). Although boating wasn’t my favorite activity, especially sailing, I did learn some important things from this.
One time, my friend Roseanne and I were paired for sailing. It was a small two-person boat, just big enough for us. The wind was pretty strong, and we were at about a 90 degree angle from it. This is a strong angle to be able to control. I don’t remember which one of us was pulling on the sheet (the rope that holds the sail), but the wind came on so strong that the boat tilted us up almost on its side, and we came close to capsizing. Yikes!
Lesson number 1: Do not hold the sheet too tight when a big wind comes along.
Then there was the issue of turning. Turning a bit to the left or right was not a problem. The challenge comes when you want to turn the boat significantly, like in the opposite direction. In other words, you actually want to go back to the dock at some point. When you turn the boat around, the boom, which is the bottom of the sail essentially, swings across the middle of the boat to the other side. Which means that if you don’t pay attention, it will whack the living daylights out of you.
Lesson number 2: As the boom swings over, duck.
Regardless of what political beliefs you may have, Tuesday’s election results here in the US surprised almost everyone. People wanted change, voted for it, and now it is coming, with the outcome uncertain.
Some of us may have felt like we got hit by the boom, and we may have fears that the boat we’re on will tilt and capsize. We didn’t even know to duck, we weren’t look for this big of a change coming. We just held on tighter to the sheet and believed it would keep going the way it has been going. I think a lot of people are feeling like they’re in free-fall, with the bottom of the abyss nowhere in sight.
Let’s all take a deep breath.
I’ve had to sit with this a few days. Yes, this is a big change we’re seeing here in the US. It’s going to be a challenge for those of us on the spiritual path. We don’t yet know how it will all play out, but we do know that things won’t be like they’ve been the last 8 years. And potentially, there could be a lot of positive transformation ahead, too.
Part of why we got hit by the boom is that we didn’t feel the rudder shift and the boat turning around. We didn’t watch for it. But these things happen. When a pendulum swings one way, it’s bound to swing back the other way. When you take a look at history, you’ll see this pattern.
I think what is particularly difficult is that we’re seeing a much stronger swing in the other direction than we could have anticipated. And as difficult as it is for some people, I think there’s a reason.
Many of us say that our country is polarized, that there’s too much dissent between the right and the left. That’s true. What we tend to forget is that we are part of that. Our side, whichever side that is, isn’t the “right” side. When we cling to that idea, we make the other side wrong, and we create the polarization and separation. Our judgment feeds into the system.
I think that we’ve spent too much time talking about what we think is right, and have stopped listening. We aren’t listening to each other, and we aren’t truly listening to our inner selves. Not to the degree we really need to. To me, this is pulling on the sheet too hard – holding on tight to our thoughts, beliefs, opinions, perspectives, and not allowing ourselves to see from another point of view.
We tend to believe that allowing ourselves to see how others see will turn us into “one of them”. We’ll lose our perspective and become the way we don’t want to be. We want to make them like us, because we’re right and they’re wrong. Of course, that is an example of how we’re judging and polarizing. But it is also what creates rifts between ourselves and other political persuasions, other cultures, other races, other religions – and I’ve also seen in within families, between spouses, parents and children, etc. I’ve done it myself.
We may believe that we value being open and inclusive – and that’s probably true. But if we are saying that, while pointing the finger at those people who aren’t open and inclusive from our point of view, then we’re doing the very same thing.
We may believe that if we listen to “them”, they’ll get everything they want and won’t listen to us. That’s a common fear. Personally, I have not found that to be true. I have experienced that when I listen, from my heart, and feel for their heart and what is important to them, a way opens between us. A softening happens. And when I then ask if I can share my feelings, a new receptivity begins on the other side. They are more likely to listen. They may not change, but it’s the beginning of possibilities when we are listening to each other.
I don’t know how that all plays out politically. All I do know is that pointing fingers, trying to force the opposition to be the way we want them to be, to change their minds, usually creates resistance. This is the resistance of the wind on the sail, when you’re pulling the sheet. You pull too hard, clinging to being right, trying to force the issue, and the boat capsizes. The relationship suffers, and you lose the sense of connection and trust. We see this playing out in families fighting, neighbors arguing, and countries warring.
I don’t have all the answers – I actually don’t have any right now. But my heart calls me to reach out and open up dialogue. I feel called to action in some small way, to mend some ways and cultivate greater understanding.
For me, I would like to see more understanding and healing between the races, the cultures, and the religions as a start. I have seen a lot of people reaching out to one another the last few days, and it is heartening. Do you feel called to some sort of action, too? Then here are some ideas to get you started:
- Talk with people that are different from you. Ask them respectfully if you can talk with them about their experiences. A lot of people right now are willing to talk about the election, whatever they voted. It has impacted everyone in some way. This can open up connection and new understanding.
- This includes having conversations with people of different political persuasions. We have a tendency to hang out only with people of like mind. We can learn a lot from others that have a different point of view, and they can also learn from us. It’s possible to find common ground – what views do you actually share? Focus on those perspectives as a foundation to build connection and understanding.
- Start a council in your neighborhood or town. A group of varied races, cultures, religions, that is interested in and willing to come together and talk. To talk about the difficult stuff, the misunderstandings, the hurt, the fear, the needs, and to listen. To deeply listen to each other, from your hearts. NextDoor is a great resource for bringing people together in your local area.
- Wear a safety pin to show support for people of color, immigrants, refugees, and religious minorities.
- Participate in local groups that foster cross-cultural understanding.
- Participate in groups that stand for conservation, ecology, and to heal global warming.
- Stand up for the rights of everyone, especially those without a strong voice – a good place to explore is the ACLU
- Get involved in an interfaith organization, like URI or MultiFaith Voices for Peace
Regardless of where you stand with the nation’s events in this moment, I invite you to trust the process. This is awakening us in ways we can’t see yet. Open to the possibility that some good could result from these changes; don’t hold on too tightly to the sail. And stay present and aware – you never know when there may be a change of direction. You’ll need to duck when the boom passes over, and focus on steering the new path. A beautiful vista might be just around the next bend.