A Zen Approach to Our Politically Driven World

How to detach from Fear in a polarized world?

When we think of Zen we think of a solitary monk sitting under a tree in a remote area chanting or simply meditating. Most of the time we never think to cross Zen and politics. Politics has turned into a rough sport between high rolling lobbyists and power hungry politicians. Not to be naive, not all politicians start out bad, nor do all of them end up bad. It’s the system that we should blame, and the system is where we can inject a drop of Zen.

The Mall in Washington, D.C. is almost twice as large as the Vatican City. That size may give you some insight into how we feel about our political system. For decades, we have viewed ourselves as the ultimate power structure, untouchable, and incorruptible. In large scale, when claims such as these are made we know that the system is simply better at hiding the problems rather than fixing them. Therefore, we must act like a dedicated monk and dissect the way we think about politics and our government in order to develop some detachment and peace from it.

Detachment? Yes, that was the implication. How can something so deeply rooted become detached from our sense of self? This is where Zen comes in; we need to establish political information and structure as if we were handling our ego. When we look at our ego, i.e., sense of self, we often look at the parts that make it up. Our likes/dislikes, fears, wants, needs, and conditioning. This too can be applied to the way we interact with political matters. We must first understand the conditioning that is involved.

Ask:

Is our way of looking at politics conditioned by the way we were raised?

Are the views we hold true naturally ours?

Are there other views that appeal to us but we have been too scared to embrace them for reason of exclusion from friends or family?

When we get to the center of the answers to these questions we realize that not all of our views are as organic as we originally thought. We find that many of our base views about politics are founded in past condition and fear. Ironically, these are the two main culprits when dealing with the ego as well. By using awareness and compassion we can learn to embrace the view we are more apt to hold as true versus the preprogrammed methods of looking at the political system.

Through this introspection, we can understand more clearly our position with larger issues that affect the whole of humanity. We are, therein, able to step back and look at our interpersonal relationships associated with the political topic. Would we no longer be friends with some people? No, that’s an alienation tactic. Instead, we would establish rapport with those of different view structure in order to know them as better human beings, allowing them space to express their individuality. This could also be summed up as, political compassion.

After we have taken a step backwards, we are now ready to look for patterns in the way we react to political statements and situations. Are we subjecting ourselves to conditioned habitual forms of action and reaction that place us in a defensive stance when confronted with opposing views? How does this deepen our relationships with others or spark real solutions towards pending political problems? Most of the time they don’t. By acting in knee-jerk fashion we don’t give space for our thoughts to breath. We react habitually because we are comfortable (settling) with that way of reacting to conflict. Most of the time these are defense mechanisms that are put into place to keep us from getting hurt. When discussing politics with someone of different view keeping our thoughts and reactions in check is incredibly important towards the validity of the relationship. Unfortunately, politics has a way of dividing friends, family, and organizations. We become deeply invested in our point of view, so much that we forget that there are other points of view out there that may be right as well even if they are conflicting with ours.

As we endure this time of political change we need to approach each situation as a time to become more aware, egos in check, and watchful of how we react. And just like in 1798 when John Adams spent seven months on his farm in Massachusetts to care for his ill wife Abigail, we too should take time out to take care of the system that is in need of constant care and attention.