I have been saddened as well as gladdened by the recent events that have unfolded in the United States and around the world.
Saddened by the pain and loss caused by ignorance, fear, injustice, and racism. And gladdened by what seems to be an increasing awareness of the systemic problems that are merely today’s expressions of a 400 year old history of slavery and oppression.
I enjoyed playing sports when I was younger, and still enjoy vicariously tuning in to the sporting world at times. I have limited capacity and interest to look at screens so I settled on one sport to watch: professional football. (Judge me if you must)
It is the off-season, and we are in the middle of a pandemic. However, ESPN is constantly putting out sporting world headlines and articles. So, I have enjoyed watching teams assemble their players for the 2020 season which is scheduled to start in September. Probably in empty or partially empty stadiums.
What the heck does Football have to do with the protests that are happening in the streets?
The NFL (National Football League) is a microcosm of our country in many ways. I will skip the analysis of why this is so. The headlines on ESPN regarding NFL news have been surprising and encouraging. I am seeing things happen in this very “old boy” institution that I could never have imagined seeing prior to the recent acts of racial violence and protests against it.
After receiving a video put together by several influential, black NFL players - Roger Goodell, the commissioner (CEO) of the NFL released the following statement on Friday:
“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and systemic oppression of black people. We admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all players to speak out and peacefully protest. We believe that black lives matter.”
To give this statement context perhaps you have heard of a Quarterback who played for the San Francisco 49ers named Colin Kaepernick. He is now being remembered because he started taking a knee during the national anthem as a protest against police brutality and systemic racism, back in 2016. Soon more black players followed. The NFL, led by Goodell and the team owners, suppressed the protests by requiring the players who wanted to protest to stay in the locker room until the anthem was over. Colin has not been re-signed by any team since then. Not because he lacks the merit, but because he would offer no guarantee that he would not protest again.
Future Hall of Fame player, and quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees was quoted earlier in the week saying during an interview that he will “never agree with anyone disrespecting the flag of the United States of America.”
His teammate, Demario Davis, let Drew know how deeply his comment hurt him, and he and other teammates had a hard conversation with their leader about what taking a knee during the national anthem was truly about. Drew heard him.
After speaking with Demario, Drew made a public apology and acknowledged that he completely missed the point. Demario posted the following comment on social media: “A big part of leadership is admitting when you are wrong, and correcting your mistake. A model that All of America can follow, admit the wrong done to the black community, fix the issues and WE ALL move forward together. Let’s all stand together now and find solutions.”
There are many more examples from the microcosm of the NFL indicating a sudden and major shift in awareness from players, to coaches, to general managers, to the commissioner of the NFL. And, I know there are many stories like this happening throughout the U.S. and the world in all arenas of our society.
Yes, no doubt the polarization in U.S. politics (a mirror of the divided mind), and around this issue, is also playing out. But for now, I am choosing to focus on the possibilities for greater awareness, capacity for taking responsibility where we can, for acknowledging another’s pain and any role we have played in it. And the capacity to deeply and truly forgive one another as well as ourselves.
I don’t expect to see world peace. I don’t expect to see the end of injustice, ignorance, fear, hatred, greed and all the many other shades of our collective shadow. As far as I can tell, this human experience is much like a school where we are free to have any experience we choose, and learn from the consequences.
The duality of this world is a given. What is not a given is the choices we make when we notice a moment of choice. Will we choose what is familiar or what is right? Will we choose comfort and safety or love and charity? Will we choose stress and unhappiness, or will we choose forgiveness and peace?
Perhaps you have experienced your own personal version of a tipping point of pain (on any level) that became no longer acceptable. And out of it came a cry of protest against the oppressive force of the fearful conditioned ego, and a movement toward authenticity, wholeness and true freedom.
What if what is happening in the world is an expression of our collective state of consciousness?
If this is true, then in addition to whatever actions you are moved to take to further the betterment of the state of this world, deepening in the presence of the abiding Love that is our true nature is perhaps the greatest contribution we can make to our ultimate shared challenge:
To choose love over fear.
To let go of what no longer serves us or anyone else.
To take responsibility for what is ours to do, and do it.
To realize true peace and to include all beings within it.
you are welcome here, as you are
The Spiritual Process is an organic unfolding of revelation, realization, and transformation guided by the very power and intelligence that is awakening to itself.
It is not something you "do", and it does not ask you to be something other than what you are, or some place other than where you are. Right now, and in every moment.
You don't need to be "spiritual" or to "get it." You already ARE IT. And as misunderstanding is replaced by the clarity of direct experience, and as what has been feared or rejected is quietly and warmly welcomed, the obscurations to the Truth fall away or are no longer perceived as obscurations. Our mind and body become more open and transparent to the light and presence that shines through it.
Our eternal and perfect spiritual nature is not in question. Yet, we can ask: "What seems to be in the way of realizing it?
Our basic dignity as a human being is not in question. Yet, we can ask: "Am I relating to myself as I would with someone I deeply love and respect?"
Our shared future on this planet IS in question. It seems more than a little possible that catastrophic change is in store for generations to come. Yet, we can ask: "How do I wish to live in the face of this likelihood?”
Our responses determine our experience. If we want to realize more of who we are both as unlimited awareness and possibility, and as the full spectrum of our unique human expression, we can - and must - learn to look in the right place and to exercise our capacity to respond wisely and skillfully to what we find there.
What if Covid-19 is merely the beginning of a global process of profound change?
One of the most common human fears is that of change. Yes, we are generally okay with change as long as we are in control of when and how much. Most people enjoy ongoing moderate changes in most areas of their lives.
However, when we are not in control of the change and it is happening quickly, that is a whole different story. Then, our brain shifts into high alert because we are moving in unknown territory. Even when the change is beneficial and positive, it can evoke feelings of unease. And, even when our current situation is far from optimal and sustainable, we may want to hold tight to what we know rather than risk opening to new possibilities.
Regardless of what we think we want or don’t want, change is here, and much more is on the way. As a result, it seems quite apparent that psychological (and biological) resistance to the new world we are living in or will be living in will be a ubiquitous feature of the times ahead.
There are many unhealthy ways to respond to this challenge. You are probably quite familiar with your own greatest hits. Fortunately, there are also very empowering and liberating ways to respond to significant and fast changes. I trust you know the difference between an attitude to change that generates more stress and unhappiness, and one that empowers you to face what you must, feel what you must, release what you must, and do what you must.
If this speaks to you, I encourage you to take some time to clarify your intent. How do you want to view the changes that are happening? How do you want to respond in the face of them?
We are so much stronger than we know.
We can do hard things.
Listen for the message
The deep knowing within you is your guide to peace.
If you are against, or afraid of, anything you are feeling or thinking, try opening to hearing what it wants you to know. Here are a few ways of asking:
“What does this feeling want me to know?”
"What could I learn from it?"
"What message does it have for me?"
Keep asking and listening until your stance of being-against has turned to being-with.
When we are being-against, we suffer our experience by demanding it to be different from what it is. When we are being-with, we are blessing our experience while allowing it to be just as it is.
When you ask with a willingness to listen and learn, whatever has got your attention (such as physical or emotional pain) becomes a portal for answers to come from anywhere they need to. From your body, your knowingness, your reason, or pure spiritual wisdom.
Don’t require the answers to make sense. Just let what you need to know or need to hear to come through.
Maybe it is as simple as, “You are okay.”
May whatever you are experiencing lead you to a deeper knowing that knows just how to set you free.
Moment to moment.
Saleem Berryman is a contemporary spiritual teacher and psycho-spiritual guide.