Last night I watched a fantastic Incubus show right underneath a glorious and terrifying lightning storm. I drove 300 miles to Phoenix from San Diego yesterday morning, through the desert, along the steel wall that separates Baja California and Sonora from the United States. Border patrol stopped me, asked to search my trunk, and I said “no.” The agent listened. I went on my way unharmed.
2000 miles away, some of my greatest heroes stood arm in arm facing men with riot gear and automatic weapons. They weren’t police. These heroes are the clergy of our time. They’re pastors and preachers. Scholar activists. I admired a picture of them standing linked together, singing and praying while just feet from them violence erupted and a young woman lost her life as a terrorist plowed his car into the crowd. Their prayers and songs are heard. They were echoed this morning in churches around the country, and will be this week in many forms of sacred space.
I’ve found such hope in the writings and teachings of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. He was an activist, exiled from his home country and now helps people from all nations understand that Buddhist practice requires us to recognize we are all connected. Our suffering is bound up together, and thus we must show up and care for each other.
Sometimes it feels as though my faith has told me not to get attached to the fight for justice. At the root this teaching points to attachment as the core of suffering, and I believe this to be true. But turning off the thirst to learn and simply exist ignorant from the real suffering in my country at this moment does not lead any closer to Nirvana, it only lulls me into false notions of self-care as the only necessary form of practice. We come to the cushion to find awareness of ourselves, and this is called a “practice,” not “our life.”
Because the world is waiting for us when our sit is over. Sitting helps us to be mindful in the action, to remain unattached to outcomes but stand hopeful that love will prevail.
I’m proud of the religious and spiritual leaders for recognizing that they have voices. I was thinking today about the Civil Rights Movement and subsequently the internment of 120,000 Japanese immigrants and American born citizens, two moments that feel both far in time and close in context. We might read about the leaders who ushered change and progress in textbooks, or hang pictures in our offices years from now. But they show us a great example of remaining present in this moment, armed with the texts and words of timeless prophets and teachers, focused on saving lives today.
The lighting storm terrified me. It lit up the sky as if we sat trapped in an electric glass bubble, and the thunder boomed directly on top of us. I kept looking to my right to see if I could run for it. The band had left the stage, and I wanted to book it to my car. But I stayed in my seat, feeling safer among the crowd. The cheers and shouts around me reminded me I wasn’t alone, even if I was terrified. We are not alone in this fight, we have arms to link and songs to harmonize. I am grateful for every pulpit that spoke truth today, especially to call us in.