2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Being Peace in the Midst of the Global Financial Meltdown

Photo by Virginia Bergman

Every day the stories in the media become more heart-rending: jobs have been lost; mortgages have been foreclosed; and not just individuals, but entire families have suddenly become homeless, trying to survive by living in their cars and using the public restrooms in parks.

Then comes Tom Edsall’s article in the Huffington Post declaring the affluent the big winners in the stimulus package. That’s all we needed to hear, right?

In my judgment, we all need a time out from rancorous politics; the depraved moronic behavior of Wall Street barons and Corporate CEOs; and a pandering media.

In the year 2000, Jack Kornfield, Buddhist monk and clinical psychologist, wrote words that have validity today:

“We live in disordered times, complicated, distracted, and demanding, yet to sustain a spiritual practice demands our steady attention. The first task, then, in almost any spiritual voyage, is to quiet ourselves enough to listen to the voices of our hearts, to listen to that which is beyond our daily affairs…we need to step out of our usual roles, out of the busy days on automatic pilot.”

Mindfulness meditation can help break the habit of living our lives on automatic pilot, but it’s hard to do alone.

Yesterday I responded to an impulse that’s been begging me to act for several months; I issued an invitation to neighbors, friends and acquaintances to join me in forming a Sangha or spiritual community.

We’ll gather regularly to read and discuss writings by spiritual leaders such as Kornfield, Thich Nhat Hanh, and the Dalai Lama. We’ll set aside time to share our personal spiritual journeys, and we’ll conclude our time together by practicing mindfulness meditation.

We’ll hold our meetings in one of several community rooms in my apartment building here in the Twin Cities. I envision our gatherings as an opportunity for spiritual growth in a peaceful and nurturing environment.

I will also keep in mind Thich Nhat Hanh’s question in his book Being Peace: “What is the use of practicing meditation if it does not have anything to do with our daily lives?”

Thay also said:

Aware that the essence and aim of a Sangha is the practice of understanding and compassion, we are determined not to use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit or transform our community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

This does not mean that we must be silent about injustice. It just means we should do it with awareness and not take sides. We should speak the truth and not just weigh the political consequences. If we take sides, we will lose our power to help mediate the conflict.

It’s my hope that our Sangha will heal and energize its members that we might transcend politics to speak the truth and take leadership roles in making peace in our families, our neighborhoods, and in the wider world.


  1. I applaud this action you are taking. Because it is so much more important to "be" than to "do." Especially in trying times.



  2. Hi SYD,

    As usual your insights are right on target. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement.

  3. Wow,
    Virginia, I applaud your actions. And thoughts, of course.
    What you are implementing is courageous, given that our current leader, at least in my opinion, appears to lack spiritual guidance. I hesitate to pass judgement on another regarding such a personal matter but what is one to think? These are indeed trying times, and it is my hope that we all have a source of comfort in these days. I thank you for your constant regard for the spirital aspect of our current dilemma. Personally, I don't feel very good about all of this and your blog provides me a shelter from the storm however fleeting it may be given the current landscape.

  4. Hi Becky,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. There is something about taking a few minutes each day to simply be still and pay attention to one's breathing that connects our minds and bodies and steadies us during difficult times. I've not done this with a group previously, and I'm really looking forward to the experience. Several people have already signed up!

    It's also kind of fascinating to step aside and observe how the practice of meditation changes the way we interact with the world from day to day.

    Take care!

  5. Hi Heidi,

    I wish you could, too!

    All the best,