This week my home country made a stunning leap forward in becoming a saner and safer place to live. The supreme court recognized that gay couples have the right to marry and supported the country’s imperfect attempt to give every person access to health care. In other news, another court undercut a previous ruling that allowed one’s boss to dictate whether you can have insurance that gives you access to birth control. It was a very good week for those who want to be free. It was a great week for finding happiness and reducing suffering in our own way. It was a terrible week for hatred, judgement, and shame.
As a person writing about meditation and awakening I often don’t touch on politics. These are usually such divisive topics. For those who are looking for spiritual solutions to life’s problems (likely a lot of people who read what I write) politics can seem like a waste of time, as if worldly concerns drag us away from the path.
They don’t have to.
Social causes can reduce real suffering in the world, and as long as we keep our eye on reducing suffering (including our own), being involved in politics and social causes can be a skillful part of a spiritual path. I thought about this a lot this week. As a person who works in psychology, and especially with families in crisis, this week has been especially poignant for me. I am lucky enough to see the public in private, so to speak, and that means abstract social problems that make headlines often make up a big part of my workday, even if they don’t impact my private life. It is a privileged position (I am fortunate beyond all reason), and so this week I reflected on all the gay teens that I have worked with who were terrified to come out, and those who faced terrible consequences when they did. I thought about all the broke working families that I treated virtually for free because their insurance wouldn’t cover the necessary therapy. I thought about all the unnecessary suffering I’d been privy to, and those who allowed me to witness it. This week meant something very real to these families. If a person is on the path of awakening and focused on reducing suffering, then working to create the kind of week that just happened should be part of a full practice. A vast amount of suffering has been erased from the future. I hope that it inspires more people to become active.