Bodhichitta and Fear

As a left end of the spectrum politically person, the recent Presidential Election has left me adrift.

I’ve got all these swirling feelings in my heart and mind, and picking just one to nail down and work on is proving very difficult. I suppose the most prevalent emotion is fear. Which is ironic, because on the Monday before the election I started reading The Places That Scare You; A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chödrön. Sometimes I wonder if my reading list is psychic, but I mostly suspect it’s just that my taste in books leans towards the mystic.

The ability to be open hearted is bodhichitta.

“Chitta means ‘mind’ and also ‘heart,’ or ‘attitude’. Bodhi means ‘awake,’ ‘enlightened,’ or ‘completely open.'” The goal of a bodhisattva is bodhchitta. It’s my goal. But it’s a hard thing to attain, to strive for, to reach out towards, because that bodhichitta is the ‘open wound’ of vulnerability and compassion. When we’re open hearted, we open ourselves to pain and suffering.

Our minds are endlessly creative when it comes to avoiding pain and suffering.

We put up walls and barriers, we build structures of justifications and ‘reasons’ for why we are the way we are. We deliberately blind ourselves to the reality of the situation, all out of fear of pain. And in the wake of this election, we can see the walls going up, the justifications for cutting ourselves off, the reasons for why we can’t be open and compassionate and vulnerable.

It hurts to be open hearted.

This is a fearful time, for those of us who are ‘other.’ We feel that we’ve been failed by the system, by the media, by each other, that now we are targets and potential targets for all the hateful acting out inspired by the political rhetoric of the far right. Those on the right have felt betrayed by the system, by the media, and that they were targets of the feared Social Justice Warriors, come for their money and guns. There’s fear and pain and hurt all around.

We are all hurting and scared.

There’s an author whose works I adore named Spider Robinson. He wrote about a quirky bar with time travelers and androids and a talking dog, but aside from the loonyness, he also had really good, deep, meaningful stuff to say. The motto for Callahan’s Cross-Time Saloon was “Pain shared is halved; Joy shared is doubled.” The bodhichitta hurts, striving for it hurts. But if it becomes a shared work, something that we come together in, that pain is lessened.

I’m still afraid, and hurt, and in pain.

But this is me sharing my pain and fear, in hope that it can be lessened. I know that you are also afraid and hurting. Namaste, I see the divine in you, I see the pain and the fear and the aching open wound of your heart. Don’t let life harden your heart. I’ll try not to let it harden mine, and when I feel it calcifying, I’ll take the ax of the Way and open it right back up again.


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