Monday, October 10, 2016

Spiritually Poisoned

"Flowers in the Garden"
- At the Desert Retreat House -

Last evening my wife and I decided to have our dinner in front of the TV set while we watched the latest Presidential Debate - not a good idea!  I quickly discovered that I was literally unable to eat my food as my stomach tossed and churned over hearing all the vile insults and ugly threats that filled the air during that so-called “debate. For me, the atmosphere was so agitating and toxic that it was making me feel ill.   

Interestingly enough as I watched that “debate,”  I also started to get some emails and messages from various friends who told me how distraught and disturbed they were over what they were hearing on the TV.  In one of the messages a friend told me that he felt like he needed to take a shower after sitting in all that dirt scattered about in the debate, another person actually said he felt as if he had been “poisoned” when referring to how he was feeling. 

But if the actual debate wasn’t bad enough, the response after the event made it all even worse. The social media exploded with more insults and threats and even more toxic ugliness as fellow citizens ripped each other to shreds, warring over competing prospects of an upcoming election.

In the light of day, I wonder if an entire nation may have experienced a type of spiritual poisoning last evening (a slow-poisoning that has been going on for some time now), and when you get poisoned you have to do something about it or it will make you sick, so sick that you can ultimately die.

Back several years ago, just after the 9/11 terrorism attacks on New York City, my wife and I found ourselves glued to the TV, constantly watching the continuous coverage - story after story about death and destruction, families torn apart, anger and rage, pledges of retribution and vengeance against those who perpetrated the atrocities.

After almost a week of this constant media consumption my wife became violently ill, severe headaches, body pains and nausea - in fact she had all the symptoms of “food poisoning.” When we went to the doctor he asked a few question and quickly determined that her problem was that she was consuming too many “terror stories” in the media. It was poisoning her soul.  The doctor told us that he had been seeing many patients come to him over the past days exhibiting these exact same symptoms and he advised my wife to lay off the TV and put down the papers for a while. She did so and in a matter of a few days she was feeling much better.

I am reminded of an old familiar Native American proverb, the “life-lesson” a grandfather offers his inquiring young grandson:

Grandfather, I have two wolves fighting in my heart.
One is vengeful, fearful, envious, resentful, deceitful.
The other wolf is loving, compassionate, generous, truthful and serene.
Which wolf will win the fight?

The grandfather answers, ‘the one you feed.’

This morning I went into a “post-debate” mode and decided to turn off the TV and radio and unplug from the social media at least for a while.  I’m feeling a lot better now – maybe all the poisons in my system have been detoxified?   Obviously I will continue to read papers and watch the news and I don’t plan on cancelling my Facebook or Twitter accounts, but I also realize that I need to be very careful not to get sucked down into the pit into which these stories drag me.

At the very least I need to respond to all the ugliness by feeding my soul with things of beauty and engaging in acts of kindness and compassion. So today I will be sure to spend time consuming the beauty of the desert where I live, to take the time to sit in silence and watch the sun rise and set and to gaze each night at the brilliant starts of cosmos.  Today I will make an intentional effort at ingesting some beautiful poetry or maybe reading an uplifting story or listening to soul-healing music. Today I will be particularly sure to be especially kind, forgiving and compassionate wherever and whenever I find any opportunity to do so. 

It seems to me that maybe all of us need to take a few steps back and get a “spiritual detoxification” nowadays.  It’s time to cleanse ourselves of all those poisons that threaten to destroy.

The Buddha once said:

I play with flowers and their fragrance clings to my clothes.

If I spend my days sitting in the garbage, the smell will stick to me.  If I spend my time with flowers their fragrance will cling to my clothes.

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