Thank You, Donald Trump

January 21, 2017

Today, as the world watched, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. I won’t try to hide the fact that I’ve opposed him as a candidate and as a president-elect from the very beginning. To me he stands as the antithesis of the values this country has come to represent. A demagogue who hasn’t the least interest in making this country great again other than in how it might benefit him personally. He represents what Carl Jung defined as the collective shadow – the personification of our nation’s hidden dark side that strives for self-importance, control and power.

Yet as the great spiritual teacher Ram Dass reminds us, every experience is ‘grist for the mill’, or to use a phrase from the Ninpo tradition, Shikin Haramitsu Dai-Ko-Myo; a powerful reminder that every experience we have can be used as a vehicle for our own transformation and enlightenment. Seen in this way, even our greatest adversaries, petty tyrants, and perceived enemies have potential lessons to teach us. These lessons come to us on two fronts. First, anyone we dislike or oppose is a reflection of our own inner world. All our relationships, be they with friends, family, or to a national leader are a mirror of the qualities that we carry within ourselves. In this case those traits that we may dislike about our new president are shadow aspects of ourselves that we aren’t willing to embrace, which is why we recoil so strongly from them in another. Until we own them both as individuals and as a society we will continue to see them manifest on the personal, social, and national level.

Secondly, on a more tangible level, our opponents give us the opportunity for object lessons in how not to be. They demonstrate those characteristics and traits that we are striving to avoid or overcome in our own lives. They present a clear example of what not to do. Every choice we make has consequences and every choice is a decision that either expands or contracts our awareness. The beauty of witnessing the sometimes appalling behavior of those we dislike is that it can reveal to us the real-time consequences that arise from words and actions. We can watch the results of their actions and learn from their mistakes to make better choices ourselves.

Therefore, in that light, I would like to express my gratitude to our incoming president:

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to be unpretentious, genuine, and humble.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to embrace facts, evidence, and critically reasoned information.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to be altruistic, noble, and self-sacrificing.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to cultivate peace, harmony, goodwill, and equality amongst all races and nationalities.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to treat disabled persons.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to speak to or treat women with a sense of respect and equality.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to discourage violence, animosity, and hatred.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to be honest, transparent, and straightforward with the press and the American people.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to listen to constructive criticism with dignity and gratitude.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to behave on social media in an honest, educated, and mature manner.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to denounce hate groups and speech at every opportunity.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how to not to speak to or about our veterans or their families with the utmost respect and dignity.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to conduct yourself professionally and securely in matters of foreign policy and diplomacy.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to behave as an emotionally intelligent adult.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to be a courteous steward of the planet we all share.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to apologize, ask for forgiveness, and learn from your mistakes in judgment.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to treat minorities and immigrants with respect and value.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to be forthcoming with information regarding your businesses, taxes, or other dealings.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to maintain a cool, rational, and objective perspective on national and global events.

· Thank you, Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to be fair and equitable in all your dealings.

· And lastly, Thank you Donald Trump for demonstrating how not to be a decent, compassionate, aware, honorable, gracious, and unassuming servant of this nation, its Constitution, its values, and its people.

While you may feel this list is unfair, overly sarcastic or cynical, it’s based on the actual speech and behavior Donald Trump has shown us throughout his campaign – whether on video, during interviews, or on social media. I’m not going to debate the legitimacy of these examples with you. They are what they are and can easily be accessed by those who wish to find them. Having selective attention and choosing not to see what is doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

Regardless, I genuinely believe there are lessons to be learned here, lessons that we can all use in our lives to become better people. And for that, thank you Donald Trump for teaching us what we don’t want to be.

As I sat down to meditate this morning, I took a few minutes to reflect on the challenges of the past year and the potential opportunities that lie ahead in 2017.  I asked myself what would my intentions be, not simply for myself, but for the greater collective of our country and the world as we move forward into the future.  The answer came to me in the form of a passage from the Vedas, the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad that reads,

Lead us from the unreal to the Real, from darkness to light, from death to immortality. Peace, peace, peace to all.

This powerful passage can be thought of as a San Kalpa, or an intention with transformational power.  Indeed, contained within these few words is the prescription for enlightenment itself.

As I thought more on this intention, I asked myself, how could we embody this ideal and what would it mean to live this at the deepest level, both as individuals and as a society?  To that end, I identified what I believe to be the greatest challenges we face as a culture at this point in time:

  • Ignorance of our own nature
  • Intractable ideological ignorance and dogma
  • Rampant nationalism and tribal consciousness
  • Scientific Illiteracy
  • Racism, sexism, and inequality in all forms
  • The futility of war and violence
  • Attachment and the refusal to evolve

In no particular order, these 7 hangups have been and continue to be the biggest threats to our existence as a species.  Like it or not, we are standing at a fundamental turning point and if we don’t move past these hurdles, humanity will end up as a failed experiment.

Therefore, my intentions for 2017 both personally and collectively are as follows:

  1. To awaken to our true identity as members of a global community which are interdependent pieces of the whole of humanity. No man is an island; you cannot exist in a vacuum sealed away from the rest of humanity – we are interconnected in every way.  We are part of the environment and it is part of us.  What happens to one happens to all.  Our actions have consequences and we are all accountable for our choices.  Ultimately, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the other way around.  The material word we experience every day is only one small sliver of a much larger reality and it is our destiny to awaken to our true nature.  Like Neo in The Matrix, we have been living in a dream world.  Until we recognize that we are cells in the greater body of humanity as well as citizens of an infinite universe that we are barely beginning to understand, we will continue to harm ourselves and others in an endless wheel of illusion.
  1. To liberate ourselves from the shackles of fundamentalism and antiquated ideology. Dogmatic thinking, be it in religion, politics, or worldview has no place in our modern world.  Using fear or ignorance (lack of knowledge) to manipulate the behavior of others is not only a concept that should have died in the middle ages, but is also morally bankrupt.  We must awaken to the truth and not allow ourselves to be intimidated or controlled by centuries-old beliefs and outdated religious/political worldviews that only hold us back and perpetuates the control of others by the few in power.  We need to escape the comfort or our own beliefs and illusions to collectively recognize that we have elected a Charlatan-In-Chief, who despite having no military, foreign policy, diplomatic, constitutional, legislative, judicial, or executive experience; who has publicly mocked women, disabled people, attacked minorities, lied pathologically, and demonstrated bigotry, misogyny, and xenophobia at every turn; whose election should be considered highly suspect if not illegal and potentially treasonous, to the highest office in the land.  We need to come to terms with our own cognitive dissonance that has allowed our old beliefs to somehow override what we know to be morally correct and aligned with factual evidence.  Clinging to such outdated and fear-based beliefs open the door to the worst kind of control and manipulation, an existential threat to our democracy and way of life that if we don’t collectively recognize and reject the results could be dire indeed.
  1. To transcend the extreme nationalism that continues to divide us as a people. The notion that we are morally superior to other countries is a sickness that only serves to divide us from potential allies and partners on the road to awakening and compassion.  The United States is a wonderful land of opportunities, ideas, diversity, and vision.  However, in the global landscape of history, we are a very young nation.  And we have enormous power.  Adolescence and strength can me a volatile mix.  Our power and strength must be tempered with wisdom and compassion.  We cannot fall into the trap of believing we have the right to control or make other nations more like us.  Nations, just like people evolve at their own unique pace.  Our global community must avoid the temptation of being caught up in an Us vs. Them mentality.  Naturally, we should protect ourselves from those that wish to do us harm, but we should never forget, that many, if not all of the hostilities humanity has faced through the centuries has been the result of an inflammatory tribal consciousness.  Any belief in the “exclusive rightness” or moral superiority of an individual or nation has historically not ended well.  Remember that seen from space, there are no national borders.  Borders are ultimately artificial lines of division that keep up separate from those not like us.  Until we begin to see humanity as one race, we will potentially see others as potential enemies.
  1. To embrace knowledge, critical reasoning, and scientific literacy as fundamental tools in the quest for the truth. We must be diligent in our pursuit of knowledge over ignorance.  Paradoxically, and despite our ever increasing technology, we seem to be backsliding into a cultural worldview that is deliberately choosing to reject critical thought, factual understanding and scientific evidence.  This anti-fact/anti-science position is not only harmful to understanding the truth, but it seriously undermines our future as a nation and a society.  Science is not some liberal or progressive conspiracy – scientific understanding is one of the most reliable tools we have to 1) understand exactly how the natural world works, 2) make predictions on that understanding, and 3) create modern efficiencies to improve our quality and length of life in countless ways.  And to be blunt, you simply can’t have it both ways.  If you accept the science that brought you flat screen televisions, Wi-Fi, the Internet, cell phones, medical technology, microwave ovens, the device you’re reading this on, and countless other modern conveniences, you don’t get to dismiss that same science when it makes discoveries about issues that may disagree with your beliefs on religious or political grounds. We don’t get to cherry-pick science or factual evidence to make ourselves comfortable.  The theory of evolution, the established age of the universe and the earth, the origins of life, and global warming are real, evidence-based discoveries that need to be taken seriously and not dismissed or cognitively dissonated because they disagree with your deeply held beliefs.  Science and facts are based on proven evidence and are true whether you want them to be or not, and I hate to be the one to tell you, but your personal opinion (whether based upon internet ‘research’ or long held belief) is not as valid as empirical evidence.  As a culture, we must learn to grasp the fundamentals of the scientific method, what constitutes scientific expertise, a scientific consensus, and general scientific literacy.  False news and ignorance of the facts serves to put us at serious disadvantage on the world stage and hold us back from the progress and forward thinking that has been the hallmark of the United States.  Idiocrasy should never be our destiny.
  1. To overcome racism, sexism, and all forms of inequality. It’s hard to believe that we have yet to get past the outdated, primitive, and insecure idea that someone is less worthy or deserving of basic human rights based solely upon the color of their skin, their sex, country of origin, religious beliefs, age, or sexual identification.  Let’s be clear, if your judgement of another is derived from one or more of these surface level qualities, you need to take a hard look at yourself and recognize that the world is as you are.  Those prejudices and beliefs about others are generated within you and as mature adults, it’s our responsibility to step up and grow out of the fear-based Archie Bunker, homophobic, islamophobic, misogynistic, white supremacist worldview.  If we continue to lump people together in stereotypical boxes, we deprive ourselves of the creative, intellectual, cross-cultural, diversity that makes our world stronger, not weaker.  We all need one another, just as all the cells in our bodies need each other.  Liver cells need brain cells; heart cells need stomach cells; retinal cells need spleen cells.  They all are part of a unified whole.  Each of us has a Dharma, or purpose that helps to uphold the whole of humanity.  As such, every person, (male, female, transgender) regardless of where they are from, color of their skin, ethnic background, or other differentiating attribute has the right to be treated with equal amounts of fairness, dignity, financial value in the workplace, right to heath care, and other basic human needs.  To diminish one weakens the whole.
  1. To rise above our fight or flight tendency toward violence and warfare. As a tool for lasting peace, war and violence never have and never will work.  Centuries of spilled blood stand as testament to the futility of trying to bring about a more civilized society through the use of force.  As Mahatma Gandhi pointed out, “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”  The notion of “Peace through superior firepower” is a myth perpetuated only by those who refuse to understand that the temporary “peace” attainted is achieved only through fear, which is just another form of violence.  As any wise martial artist will tell you, the best warrior is not the one with the most techniques or weapons, but the one who is who is most judicious and skillful in their use.  In feudal Japan the most honorable samurai realized that if they unsheathed their sword, bloodshed and loss of life would be the inevitable result.  In our modern age when our weapons have given us the ability to kill or maim dozens or millions, we cannot and must not allow ourselves to fall back upon the primitive, Bronze-Age mentality of killing others over ideological, religious, or geo-political disagreements.  Our very survival, our lives, and the lives of our children literally depend upon it.
  1. To embrace change and detachment. I strongly believe the reason we have become so deeply polarized in our political, religious, and ideological worldviews over the last several decades is due to our ability or lack thereof to embrace change and progress.  To clarify, we have to understand a central truth – evolution.  I’m not talking about natural selection or the theory of evolution (both based upon scientific evidence, see above) but the overriding concept of evolution as a prime mover for all life as we know it.  Everything evolves, grows, progresses.  We each grow and evolve physically – from infants, to adolescents, teen agers, adults, senior citizens; our sense of self, intelligence, awareness, emotions, grow and evolve; societies grow, change, transform.  Everything in nature is growing and evolving, and moving forward from a more closed and constricted state, to a more expanded one.  Wherever you look – your body, your relationships, our society, country, the world, it’s all changing and it’s always happening.  Now, with the addition of technology, that evolution has grown at an unprecedented rate.

In the face of such rapid change, we have two options 1) embrace the change, or 2) resist it.  One of these choices has a future.  The other only has a past.  In accepting that change and evolution are a force of nature, the notation of resisting is clearly problematic.  As eastern philosophy is clear to point out, nearly all human suffering comes about as a result of attachment. In an impermanent material world, change is a given and clinging to things that are transient is only a recipe for disaster, whether that thing is a relationship, worldview, or political ideology.  The tidal wave of change is looming on the horizon – will we dig our heels into the sand and brace for impact, desperately clinging to our outdated and old ways of doing things, living, and believing, or will we learn to surf and ride those waves of change into a new and brighter future?  Ultimately, we have very little choice in the matter.  We can let go or be dragged.  It is this subconscious realization that I believe is fueling the desperate resistance of the old guard’s refusal to budge on social, political, economic, scientific, and religious positions.  Indeed, we seem to be entering a period reversal of the progress that has been made thus far.  In the eyes of some I’m sure it seems like a desperate battle to hold on to how things have always been.  Be that as it may, we must find a way to become comfortable with the uncertainty of change and detach from the past so we can embrace a new future together.  Fighting change is fighting the power of the entire universe, and is a battle that cannot be won, nor should it be.  The future of a safe, happy, sustainable, awakened society will always be forward, not backward.

Looking forward into a new year of hope and optimism, I encourage you to embrace these intentions, and commit yourself to making the conscious journey from the unreal to the real, from darkness into light, and from death into immortality, bringing peace, peace, peace to all.

Namaste & Happy 2017!