By Lisa Morris
How should a hippy react to mass suffering?
When there is an outbreak of major drama in the (western) world, as there currently seems to be, most of my politically-engaged friends take to Facebook to push liberal views of tolerance and respect. My more spiritual, hippy friends however, stay silent. Do they not care?
This online presence marks a common divide between groups of people who are otherwise united in their choices towards an alternative, peaceful and conscious life: the ones who choose to change the world through social activism, and the ones who choose to change the world by keeping quiet and changing themselves. Many of the former (activists) don’t see the later (for lack of a better word, hippies) as vocal enough at a time when the world needs their ideas of peace, love and tolerance. Many of the hippies, however, see the endless cycle of drama and debate as part of a negative energy that they are choosing to totally disengage from.
As a self-confessed hippy I struggle at times like this, when suffering and negativity are so visible and close to home, to balance the compassion that spirituality teaches – for everyone fighting their own fight in the way that they choose to be best – with the disengagement from negative energy which spirituality also encourages. Spirituality teaches that the mind is a terrible master, and that we should always seek to listen to the soul instead. This is against the very foundation of democracy where the mind is considered the ultimate master, the pinnacle of justice and reason. Spirituality teaches that intellectual debates exist only in the mental realm; they are ‘real’, in the way that water and trees are. In this way, a hippy makes peace with themselves, knowing that they cannot control anything external to themselves and their own emotions about a situation. This is not what democracy teaches us and not what activism wants to hear.
There are two things in all spiritual teachings that are a constant, and these two principles are very public and very visible right now. The first principle is there is always suffering, cause for upset, cause for concern. The second principle is there is always change. If we rely too much on any one thing, whether it is a daily coffee or a partner or a car or a political system, the nature of change tells us that it will always, sooner or later, pass. And with that passing, that changing, if we refuse to accept it, we suffer, activating the first principle.
I’ve watched over the last days and weeks friends lose energy, lose focus, lose entire days, to political and social upheavals. Is it dismissive to tell them that the sun still rises, the sun still sets? I cannot tell you exactly where spirituality draws the line for when you start or stop staying silent and staying peaceful during rough times, but I can tell you that it teaches you to step back from situations, to “zoom out”, take a breath, rather than “zoom in”, fixate and freak out.
So, in these times of laugh-or-cry memes about what our future holds, before reacting, re-circulating and replying and driving the endless debate, take a moment to step back, remember that this problem, whatever it may be, shall pass. Choose with awareness how best to invest your energy in that moment. Whether you choose to stay silent and raise your vibration or you choose to move with action and raise your voice, keep some energy for yourself.