- Rev. Charles Perry
Meditated or Incarcerated?
Paul Manafort was a man who seemed to have everything: money, political position, power, and influence. These are the things that we usually equate with happiness and security, things that we spend our whole lives trying to achieve. But as we collectively heard a jury find him guilty on 8 felony counts that reflected the willingness to be dishonest to strive for even more money, power, and influence than he had, it raises the compelling question: why? Why wasn’t what he had enough for him? The truth is that there is never enough money; there is never enough privilege; there is never enough power to feed the craving. And that begs a simple question: why? Most of us probably feel as though that sort of problem simply isn’t relevant to us: we don’t walk the halls of power; we have no seven-figure accounts to offshore. But the actions of people like Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen are merely symptoms of a malady that are displayed in as many different ways as there are people. They are symptoms of a malady that is spiritual in nature. You see, friends, except for the few among us who have achieved full enlightenment, there are moments when we all believe in the lie of separation - times when we long for something greater than ourselves, and have no idea how to fill what feels like a bottomless emptiness within. It’s so tempting, it’s so appealing, to believe that the answer to that emptiness is more – more money, more power, more prestige, more recognition. So, like those people whose guilty pleas and convictions have filled the news recently, some of us chase money, power and prestige. Some of us chase thrills, whether it is driving too fast, participating in extreme sports, flinging ourselves from perfectly functioning aircraft, or cheating on a spouse or partner. Some of us become over-consumers, encouraged by a culture of consumption. We eat until we are obese, we drink until we are alcoholic, we shop until we are bankrupt, we binge on Netflix until our skin turns pale and our hygiene gets questionable. We play video games, post memes, friend and unfriend each other until dawn’s early light. And still, it is not enough. It is not enough, and it never will be, because we are treating a spiritual malady with a sensual solution. What we are all looking for is the experience of Oneness - the deep feeling that is Knowing - that we are One with Spirit, each other, and all that is. When we can feel a part of, rather than apart from the Universe, we lose the urge to overachieve, overacquire, and overconsume. Enough becomes enough. As researcher and speaker Brene Brown says, “The opposite of scarcity isn’t abundance. The opposite of scarcity is enough.” In contrast to those in the halls of power who are captivated by the struggle for more, researcher Meg Wise found in working with patients with terminal cancer that they had often achieved a level of peace that was extremely rare. She found patients often said, “You know, in some ways, my life is better since I was diagnosed. Family is more important. I don’t sweat the small stuff.” So then, the question becomes, “How do we get there? How do we travel from a sense of scarcity to a sense of enough?” How do we get to Oneness? The same way the cabbie in the old joke told the young cellist to get to Carnegie Hall - “Practice, kid, practice.” We practice going within, as Daniel Nahmod says in his song, to find our God. We practice being in the Stillness. We practice prayer and meditation, even when we don’t want to; especially when we don’t have the time to; particularly when it feels like we are not doing it right or even failing miserably, because trying to pray IS praying, and trying to meditate IS meditating. We run until we can no longer think of anything but putting one foot in front of the other, because it empties our mind. We do yoga until our bodies are wrung out (literally), and we lie in savasanya in a puddle of our own making, minds quieted, and spirits open to All That Is. We drum, we play on singing bowls. We spend time in nature - not “hiking”, not “trail running”, but just BEING, and allowing our connection to our Mother Earth remind us of our connection to all that is. We stop attempting to find what our hearts are calling for in the outer world, where it is not, and we turn our focus within, to the Source of all that is - to God, Spirit, Creator - and to our connection with it. We practice acceptance. We practice gratitude. We have enough. This explanation may sound ridiculously simple, and the truth is that there will be some days when meditation feels like a relief and other days when meditation feels like a chore. There will be days when the feelings will follow our practice, and there will be days when we must embrace our sadness or disappointment with tenderness and patience. But the path to Source is still, always, the path that brings us to wellness. I do not know if people like Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen will have access to “Dhamma Brothers” style meditation classes in the Federal prisons to which they may be sent. I wish we taught meditation in all of our correctional facilities - it has proven remarkably effective in preventing recidivism. But my prayer for them, and indeed, for us all today, is that we turn away from the fool’s errand of pursuing a material solution to a spiritual imbalance, and instead begin to explore our relationship with the Divine by exploring our innermost Selves. Because the Truth is, while we can’t get too much Oneness, we can certainly get ourselves in trouble chasing too much of ANYTHING else. Enough is enough. Rev. Charles