The Spiritual Dementia of Racism
“The place to start deepening my understanding of the unconditional worth of every person is within myself.”
What can I do about systemic racism? What can you do about it? How can we help heal a wound that has been with us for over four hundred years? Should I go to protests, put a sign in my yard, form a book club, or start a discussion group focused on racism? Will I get more involved politically or give money to causes and candidates that will address racism?
Any of these might be something you or I could do. They're each admirable and important.
But the most basic thing I can do every day is sit. In meditation, I mean. Apply the seat of the pants to the seat of a chair or cushion. Can a daily meditation practice contribute anything meaningful to healing racism? Isn’t that hiding like a monk, cloistered away from the world and praying that others will find a way to sort out the mess?
Racism at its core is a failure to see the innate dignity and sacredness of every human being, regardless of skin color. The place to start deepening my understanding of the unconditional worth of every person is within myself. When I sit in silence, I remember that I am one tributary of the Great Stream of Consciousness—and so is every other human being.
The place to start deepening my understanding of the unconditional worth of every person is within myself.
When I fail to treat others with the dignity and respect they deserve, either in person or in my mind, it is an episode of spiritual dementia—a forgetting that I am not a small, separate bundle of self-centeredness who must go through life feeling threatened by others or putting them down so that I can prop up my fragile ego.
The spiritual dementia of racism is a forgetting that I and every other person are unconditionally sacred not for having a certain skin tone, but just because we are human.
When I sit and allow my mind to become quiet, an ever-present inner voice of wisdom speaks: Every human being is as immeasurably worthy as yourself. Every child is as sacred as your own child. Settling my noisy ego-mind allows a glimpse of what some call “God” in myself. This would be only spiritual arrogance if I fail to see that same Divinity in everyone else. When, however, remembering my own sacred Self helps me see the sacred Self in everyone else, it becomes the central practice of a life of love and compassion.
Why do we need to remember our own sacredness over and over? Because most people are more judgmental, critical, and unforgiving of themselves than anyone else. We may try to distract ourselves from this inner harshness by putting others down, but that only turns us into a superspreader of our own festering spiritual infection.
As a child I sometimes played with a Lite-Brite. Maybe you did too. It’s a perforated screen into which you insert red, green, yellow, orange, and purple pegs to create a shape or pattern. Each peg looks like a separate light. But there’s a secret: Behind the screen there’s only one light that shines through every peg! This simple image captures what I remember each time I meditate: The Light of life, of consciousness, of love, of hope, of dreams flowing through me is the same Light flowing through every other human being. One Light, billions of pegs of various colors creating the image of a world without racism.
Being and Doing are not opposites. Doing that is not fueled by the correctives we access in the Being energy of meditation risks becoming compulsive, reactive, or destructive. Meditation is pausing all present doing and the planning of future doing to let pure being (or Pure Being) inform how we can be a vital, active, healing force in the world.
Again recently, in meditation the voice that speaks in silence reminded me of my inherent sacredness. Then it told me to get off my butt and write this article. What is it telling you?