Healing the Soul of America

"How many times do we lose an occasion for soul work by leaping ahead to final solutions without pausing to savor the undertones? We are a radically bottom-line society, eager to act and to end tension, and thus we lose opportunities to know ourselves for our motives and our secrets." -- Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life

The "Soul" of America is sick and there is an urgent need for healing. A radical intervention is necessary if we are to recover our ability to feel and to care deeply, we need help. The emotional and spiritual burden of our collective past has become too much to bear. WE are at a major intersection, a crossroads and must decide which path we shall take going forward. We simply cannot go back and we have no template that we can use to form the systems and structure of this new world order. We must simply go forward with courage and in faith choosing to be present and choosing to be with one another. None of us has all the pieces of this puzzle, instead each one of us has a piece that is integral to the whole. We will not survive this current moment in time unless we build bridges and bravely walk across to greet our brother and sister with a sense of honor and appreciation for the gifts they bring.

Healing is a process. I recall how the most painful experiences of my life, resulted in healing that allowed my heart to open, the depression and anxiety that had been my experience since childhood was replaced by laughter and joy. For years after a radical spiritual awakening in 1986, my life went into a free fall, it was if someone had taken a hammer and dismantled with one blow everything that had been my life. I was forced to look deep within myself and to sit with the discomfort of my own words and actions. Slowly, I became willing to admit, that the pain I felt had little to do with people or circumstances. Facing the darkness of my own shadow and accepting the truth of my own power has opened the windows of my heart and given me clarity and a new way of seeing myself and all others.

Many, like myself, have survived more than one dark night of the soul. We have explored the terrain of our innermost thoughts, fears, anxieties and faced head on our shame and our guilt.. We learned to meditate, do yoga, pray, exercise,and some have spent countless hours on a therapist couch, trying to develop insight and to acquire the skills to reconnect with the deepest part of ourselves As a result, a sense of new life life has emerged and we have an inner peace that has little to do with what is going on around us. Still there remains somewhat of a struggle between the inner and the outer, the mind and the heart. We are better at listening and we are learning how to be still. Self acceptance and forgiveness has cleared away all the debris and we are living more fully and our lives are more authentic.

My relationship to my country and to my brothers and sisters of all races is painful and complex. I see little evidence that we have truly moved beyond the many horrors of our collective past. I feel a deep sadness, and it is really hard for me to listen to the psychological, intellectual, and totally irrational rantings and ravings of cable television. There is a meanness of spirit and a level of absurdity that permeates the airwaves. I feel the burden and discomfort of living in what feels like a hostile environment. There is a growing disconnect and an inability to be with one another and engage in a deeper conversation. There are so many in our nation who feel as though our house is on fire and our children's lives are in danger. At the same time, it seems like there are two very distinct and contrasting realities. Even when there is an acknowledgement that something is terribly wrong,, we do not seem to have the capacity to care, to feel deeply, to show empathy and to respond with kindness and compassion. We find it hard to engage and to confront painful realities with a sense that we have the will or the capacity to do something to change things.

I am a child of the 60s and though neither parent had a lot of formal education, they were both activists. They lived their lives in service to the community and they never ever backed down from a challenge or hid from adversity.

I have lived 61 years with the ambiguity of loving my country, feeling such pride in being American and the stark reality, that my country does not live up to the ideals that we espouse. I cannot ignore that in the name of democracy we have inflicted harm, terror, destruction and death on so many. Worse than the harm we have done to one another is the terror and havoc we have wreaked, the violence we have perpetuated and the lies we have told to and about our neighbors. Still worse, are the lies we tell to ourselves.

I grew up singing "this land is your land, this land is my land" and I felt a sense of belonging. What is also true, is that I grew up with bed time stories of lynchings in the south. For my dad, the threat of f the KKK, lynchings and the rape and violation of black women was the landscape that formed much of his early life. For this reason my parents and many others migrated North and still had to contend with Jim Crow and racism, it was just more subtle in New York. They had big dreams, they had faith and they lived all of their lives in hope that one day America would live according to the creed,"we hold these truths to be self evident, that all l men are created equal.

How does one reconcile such contrasting realities? How does one feel safe in the midst of friends who are silent in the face of your loss, your hurt and your pain? Many, like myself struggle to understand what feels like indifference, the absurd attempts to justify that which has no justification and the refusal to admit, even as we bear witness to the killing of Eric Garner, that a criminal act of terrorism has been inflicted on one of our own.

It is unthinkable and incomprehensible, that good people, people who identify as Christians, people who are to protect and keep us safe, could leave the bullet-riddled body of Michael Brown uncovered in the street for four hours? From what moral high ground do we have the right to label anyone else a terrorist?

Many of us are addicted to ambivalence, numbed by our own arrogance and crippled by our fears. Because we do not want to face our shadow, we see danger lurking around every corner and perceive that we are vulnerable to attack and even annihilation. We attack, we defend, we lie, we cheat, we manipulate, we hide and we blame whomever is the most vulnerable. It is because we project, our own self hatred onto others, rather than face the shame and the guilt we carry, the fabric of our society has been shattered and the essence of our democracy is threatened. What is needed most is the willingness and the courage to engage one another in a deeper conversation.

Yes. America has a racial problem. It is a mistake however, to conclude that race is our biggest challenge. Instead the problems of America are at the core fundamentally about issues of power control and domination. The face and demographics of America is changing. America is no longer the center of power and never shall be again. No amount of aggression, of political posturing, or fear mongering and no amount of money can change what is the dismantling of Patriarchy and the inevitable rise to power of marginalized peoples. A spiritual awakening is happening all over the planet. The institutions, systems and structures of society are disintegrating and that is a good thing. There is a level of anxiety and terror that is fed by the media and those who are fighting hard to stay in control.

Because we are afraid we are easily manipulated and lack the capacity and will to respond from a place of clarity, intention and love. What I know for sure is that money, privilege and access to opportunity does not buffer one from the dangers of buying into and embracing the dominant culture and pervading mindset. Neither does prominence in the community necessarily ensure that one lives with strength of character, courage and integrity. What we see and what we feel is always, on some level our own reflection. There is so much pain and suffering in our world, we have lost our center and will do almost anything to keep from feeling and to protect our self image.Our collective self hatred has grown to become a virulent cancer eating away the threads of the tattered fabric of our collective sense of identity and eroding all ,meaning and purpose.

Maya Angelou said "whatever one human being is capable of, I am also capable of, Whatever another human being has done, I am also capable of doing." This is a starting place, an equalizer and a cause for profound humility, self acceptance and radical forgiveness. The problems of America will not be solved by demonizing one another. We have outgrown the comfort of such a simplistic worldview, and we suffer from a distorted sense of self that attributes virtue, entitlement, privilege and credibility to one group over and against another. America is still a great land, and we are still a great people. How we will be remembered depends on the choices we now make. Radical honesty is necessary and gentleness is required. There is inner work, healing and forgiveness that is most needed now.

If we are to survive, we have to revise our maps of reality. We must acknowledge that our worldview, our cosmology, our theology and even the Constitution of our nation is imperfect, incomplete and in some cases based entirely on error. To find our way back to ourselves and to one another we must fire the "god" up in the sky and dethrone the bible as the supreme and total authority over our lives. The bible has been used to justify and perpetuate some of the most horrific acts, Christianity as it is practiced and understood has been a major cause of war, violence and destruction. The biggest threat we face as a nation is not radical Islam. We must not be fooled into believing that it is ISIS we are to fear. That which most threatens our future can be found in the hearts and minds of our own people. The nations of the world do not hate us because of our democracy. We are hated as a direct result of our long and undeniable history of aggression, violence, greed and dishonesty in our relationships at home and abroad.

If America, heals, the world will heal. Healing is a process of going within, facing the darkness and our demons and allowing the truth to replace the allusion. Healing is forgiveness and acceptance. It starts with forgiving ourselves, and offering that sweet fragrance to others. We are powerful beyond our ability to imagine. As a nation we have abused our power and now we face the dreadful fact that we are not nearly as powerful as we once thought. Dr Martin Luther King says the "arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." We need a new vision for our nation. Thomas Paine said "we have it in our power to begin the world over again." A new vision, and the courage to act in loving ways will change our minds and open our hearts and heal our soul. A fierce and radical love is required and must be practiced as we refine the skills and develop the habits that are required to live consciously and responsibly.

We have paid a very high price for the success and achievements of the past century. Every hard won victory was soon followed by the unintended consequences of assimilation into mainstream culture and access to opportunity. There is no way that the founding fathers of this nation, could have imagined the America we are today. Black people were not thought to be fully human. The Native Americans suffered genocide at the hands of the settlers and we still say that Columbus discovered America There are no more lands to conquer. The terrain that awaits our exploration is the inner landscape of our deepest fears, our worse thoughts, our shame and our guilt. Legislation alone is inadequate and lacks the capacity to heal our hearts, erase our shame and relieve us of our guilt. What matters most is how we feel about ourselves.

There is no god coming to rescue us, to punish our enemies and to save us from ourselves. We get to choose and to act and we also get to experience the consequence of our thoughts and our actions. There are some that would forever keep us fighting one another and fearful of one another. There is so much invested in preserving the status quo and in the control over the thoughts, actions and responses of the masses. We simply cannot afford the luxury of observing from the side lines. We have to be willing to get our hands dirty, to get into the ring, to risk defeat, failure and loss. There is no lasting peace to be found by hanging out in our comfort zone. The richness and fullness of life can never be ours until and unless we face the terror of our own thoughts and acknowledge our capacity to cause harm. Humility is not a sign of weakness rather it is symbolic of strength and moral courage.

Ignorance is not bliss. To grow, we must change. We have to sit still long enough for the mud to settle and the water to clear. From that place we have the clarity and the courage to ask different questions. The answers to the questions we dare to ask, have the power to transform and to liberate. We simply know too much and have access too so much information, spiritual blindness is no longer a viable option. There is simply no possible way to achieve a world of peace without suffering the anxiety and uncertainty of questioning everything, doubt is an unavoidable part of the process of spiritual growth.

Spiritual growth moves us out of the particularity of our own lives and delivers us from narcissism and self absorption. The violence of our nation and our world is deeply rooted in the very flawed Christian story. Women have suffered burning at the stake, religion has many of us feeling ashamed of our own bodies. The command to conquer and subdue has given mankind permission for the aggression, violence and total disrespect for the Earth and environment

Indigenous people had little or no concept of personal ownership, the land and everything was to be shared and used for the benefit of all. Rampant materialism, the arrogance of entitlement, the abuse of power and unearned privilege have resulted in a psychological disconnect and spiritual bankruptcy. If Jesus, were to return to Earth, would he even recognize the religion named after him? How is it possible to have an understanding of the message of Jesus and at the same time justify bombing innocent women and children and defending the execution of young black men in the street?. Would Jesus embrace "trickle down economics" and allocate billions to war? How can it be that America is a Christian nation when speak lies and distort the words spoken by Jesus of love and forgiveness? People who fight to prevent abortion, care not for a hungry child? How can anyone with a moral conscience be silent when CEOs are making millions, while running banks that refuse to loan money even after the government bailed them out?

It would be a tragic loss if we fail to act in loving and decisive ways. We are inter connected and our lives are inextricably linked to one another. Every life has value, Every child is our child. The violence of our nation has become so pervasive and no one is safe. The evil perpetrated against a people return to the sender often with a vengeance and exacting a horrific price. We must be careful and vigilant that we do not shift our focus away from the inescapable fact that our collective soul is in need of healing. We Are a diverse and beautiful people. It is our diversity that is our greatest strength. It is the hope of our democracy that offers us a vision of a world where every life is valued and every voice is heard. The path forward, challenges us to be comfortable living with uncertainty. Courage and radical truth telling is necessary if we are to let go of that which no longer serves us. Our capacity to acknowledge and embrace the gray areas of life and to find joy in exploring together, will open to us, new ways of being and living as one nation. We can allow this joy to inspire us to create a new and universal language, to co create a new culture and a new cosmology of peace, kindness, equality, fairness and compassion

I offer you the words of Dawna Markov, in hopes they will inspire and ignite a movement towards peace and love:

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.