Stuff hurts right now. A lot of stuff hurts. If you’re not feeling at least some pain right now, you’ve probably numbed out with an addiction, psychiatric medication, dissociation from your body and your emotions, or maybe even some form of spiritual bypass, like meditating to transcend your human pain. If you’ve numbed out, that’s understandable. You’re human. That’s what humans do when they don’t have the emotional resilience to handle a broken heart. Whether chemically or emotionally, you’ve closed your heart, so it doesn’t have to feel so much pain. But it also cuts out your capacity to feel joy, to play, to love, to laugh, to feel gratitude, to cry at the heart-opening beauty of a sunset.
Dressed in rain gear, prepared for a downpour that never came, I gathered with 60,000 of my sisters (and the men who stand with us) to choose love. I started crying from the first moment I encountered the crowd. I was so touched—by the beauty, the passion, the fear, the anger, the love, the frustration, the intimacy, the humor, creativity, the raw, pure humanness of 60,000 of us gathered together in our messy, human glory.
I’ve admittedly led a sheltered, privileged life, so I’m aware that my perspective is skewed, but it’s still true that never in my 47 years of life have I felt so strongly the impact of the level of collective fear on this planet. Fear seems to be making headline news every day right now. Terrorist attacks are becoming a daily occurrence on every continent. Climate change that can lead to mass ecocide is escalating right when we’re swearing in powerful politicians who don’t believe in climate change. The Dakota pipeline is threatening not just the sacred, life-giving water, but the very essence of the seeds of planetary healing that the indigenous people of all nations have been holding through the horrors of colonialism for many centuries. The U.S. election has polarized our people against each other, not just in the U.S., but all the way in Bali, where I just spent two months. At this pivotal time in the evolution (and questionable survival) of our species, we are more divided than ever, right when we need to unify, to acknowledge the Oneness that links us, not just as humans, but the Oneness that links us to the mountains, the oceans, the rivers, the trees, the endangered and extinct animals, the Oneness that acknowledges that everything is sacred and conscious, that we cannot perceive mountains as dead rocks or rivers as unconscious water, that everything is spirit and everything is connected and everything is God/Goddess, so we cannot harm the water or judge our neighbor or even demonize the terrorists without inflicting harm upon ourselves. Just as an aspen tree appears to be separate but is connected at its roots to a community of aspen trees, we are inextricably linked to All That Is. We have forgotten (bless our innocent hearts). We have attached to the story of the separate self, and this forgetting has allowed us to commit atrocities against nature and one another. But we are remembering. Let us forgive ourselves for the forgetting and gently and humbly come back to the remembering.
As the sun is rising on the small Indonesian reef island of Gili Meno, off the coast of Lombok, I wade over the shallow coral until it is deep enough to submerge myself. Once I do, I am transported into another world. Nemo-esque clown fish with wavy, floaty, fanlike fins, like the most elegant couture. Tiny electric blue schools of moon fusiliers, long nosed silvery needlefish, brain-shaped coral formations, sunfish that swim on their sides, eyeballs facing up! It’s like a candy shop down there, with all these brilliant colors and shapes. It’s also like a meditation—the only sound is the sound of my own breath—in and out, in and out.
But then OUCH! What is that? My arm is burning. Ouch! Again! What is it? I can’t see anything, but the stinging subsides quickly. I pause, still looking for the cause of the pain, but I see nothing. So I keep swimming.
I’m in Bali leading a writing retreat right now, so it’s been strange to navigate this polarizing election from another country, where I am surrounded by not only native Indonesians but by ex-pats from all over the world. Given that we are supposedly the most powerful country on the planet, this election is not just about the United States. It touches everyone, and the shock waves of this divisive election are rippling all the way over here to Bali.