It is becoming a cliché even to say it, but we are living in exceptionally difficult times. We are just emerging, with hesitant and uncertain steps, from a global pandemic that has asked us all to accept, often on unsure pretexts, unprecedented restrictions to civil liberties and public services, to find ourselves on the brink of a world war – some would say already engaged in one – instigated by the lethal idiocy of a country whose leadership has made a career out of disinformation and untruthfulness. The economic ravages of these two circumstances are now beginning to cause real suffering (especially, as always, to the poorest among us) as inflation rises to a level many of us have not seen in our lifetimes. And all this under the umbrella of an increasingly urgent despair concerning the process of anthropogenic climate change and its effects on all life on our planet, human and otherwise. The very tools we might use to help us combat such devastating circumstances, from artificial intelligence to globalisation, are now often perceived as their causes rather than as potential means for their healing.
Distrust has become a civic virtue, it seems. We feel we cannot trust our politicians, nor the politicians of countries we have for long regarded as our allies; we feel we cannot trust the business organisations that can generate the wealth we need to overcome our difficulties; we feel we cannot trust the technological systems that allow us the ease of communication that we so desperately need to help each other think this through; we feel, we deeply feel, that we cannot trust each other. Anyone, friend or mentor, son or mother, might be a traitor in a rebellion whose causes are as muddled and uncertain as the things that caused them, might at any moment step across the shifting line of right and wrong – right and wrong as defined by whom? Certainly by no one we can trust…
Radhule Weininger writes:
Soften your gaze and connect with the world around you. Trust what you feel. Even when our world is being gravely damaged by climate change and war, we can rely on our intention to trust in a wider perspective, as well as on our dedication to open our hearts to all suffering beings. This intention and dedication situate us into our heart space and allows the energy of the heart to radiate outward into our world. Resting in the felt sense of our heart space allows us to feel calm, warm, and connected. Trust reminds us that there is a bigger context in which we are embedded. Trust allows us to relinquish, to surrender, to let go into uncertainty, while holding the faith that doors will eventually open for us. Trust allows us to go beyond our personal sense of being in control, especially in times when control is impossible. Trust allows our little heart to drop into the great heart of the world.Tricycle magazine (April 19, 2022)
In a world whose values are defined by Twitter and Truth Social, this is culpable madness. But what if there are other values? Sam Harris, in The Moral Landscape, argues that there are:
[Q]uestions about values—about meaning, morality, and life’s larger purpose—are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures. Values, therefore, translate into facts that can be scientifically understood: regarding positive and negative social emotions, retributive impulses, the effects of specific laws and social institutions on human relationships, the neurophysiology of happiness and suffering, etc. The most important of these facts are bound to transcend culture—just as facts about physical and mental health do. Cancer in the highlands of New Guinea is still cancer; cholera is still cholera; schizophrenia is still schizophrenia; and so, too… compassion is still compassion, and well-being is still well-being.Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape (introduction)
Trust is fundamental to being human. Perhaps in fact it is fundamental to being alive, in whatever form of being we may find ourselves. It is a value that transcends culture, transcends opinion, transcends our reactions to our circumstances – even ones that strike at our very existential security, and, in their threat to future generations, strike at our evolutionary sense of purpose as inhabitants of Earth.
There is a trust that rests on a far deeper foundation that our frail lives. Each of us will die: that is the one thing of which we may be utterly certain. But our death, like our life, rests in the ground of being from which we cannot fall. Radhule Weininger continues:
Resting in this way situates us in a much wider perspective than in our personal, often fearful, little heart view. The Isha Upanishad of the Indian Vedas tells us, “This is full, that is full, from that fullness comes this fullness, if you take away this fullness from that fullness, only fullness remains.” If we allow our personal hearts to rest in the limitless, boundless, knowing fullness of the universe, then we can anchor ourselves in a reality that is inexhaustible, that does not shut down, burn out, or get overwhelmed. Resting our hearts in this inexhaustible field of awareness provides the security, the psycho-spiritual container, to hold our suffering…
Acceptance of what is allows us to let the reality of the world in, even though it may be harsh. Acceptance, here, does not suggest whitewashing or the condoning of wrongdoing, but, rather, it means seeing clearly. People can experience the feeling of acceptance when a skillful doctor tells them compassionately the truth about a difficult prognosis. The individual then has the chance to spend the rest of their life with what is essential to them. In a similar way we may be able to accept knowledge of a possibly devastating future with openness and a peaceful heart when we are held in compassionate and loving awareness.Radhule Weininger, ibid.
In our practice we touch the centre of not merely our own lives, but of what it is to be. Awareness, the simple stillness of open awareness, can see that we are not other than that ground itself: tat tvam asi.
Yes, the cosmos is vast and appears indifferent to our mortal schemes, but every present moment of consciousness is profound. In subjective terms, each of us is identical to the very principle that brings value to the universe. Experiencing this directly—not merely thinking about it—is the true beginning of spiritual life.Sam Harris, Waking Up, p.206