Love In the Time of Chaos: A Guide to Compassion in 2018 – Part 2 – Reactivity

Love In the Time of Chaos is a five-part series featuring the collective advice of the Be Here Now Network’s teachers on dealing with the chaos of the current political climate with love, compassion, and equanimity.

It definitely feels like there’s a lot of “us versus them” going on in the world right now. I know there’s a lot of gray area in there; it’s not strictly black and white. But I’m pretty sure we can all admit that going on Facebook isn’t quite as fun as it was before this last election cycle hit.

Maybe you’re not a cyber junkie getting into heated arguments online. Maybe you’re just like me and had a moment of reactivity while encountering a person in a red, “Make America Great Again” hat at your local coffee shop. It’s not like I immediately got so angry that I wanted to scream obscenities at the guy, but I did have a small moment of, “What is he doing in my coffee shop?”

Examining Our Reactivity


So how do we break the “us versus them” cycle? Mindrolling Podcast guest Roshi Joan Halifax talks about being able to “hold” both perspectives:

It is so easy for us to polarize. It is really fun to take sides, because we’re basically competitive beasts. However, if in discerning clearly we do not see that the so-called other side is suffering too, we’ve missed the point.

I’m personally in a process of trying to articulate my views around values and principles that inform our personal morality and national ethics. It took me about a year of working in a penitentiary for me to work with the subtlety of my biases in relation to people who had murdered other people, and to be able to hold both perspectives in a way that allowed me to communicate skillfully and to bring love and justice together. So I’m in a process right now; I’m working that edge internally. I don’t want to step into a world where I don’t have the skillful means developed within me so I can be an authentic and useful presence.


How much better would Facebook be if we all followed Roshi Joan’s advice and learned to communicate a little more skillfully?

Buddhist scholar and Awakening Now Podcast host Lama Surya Das recommends being nimble in your approach:

How do you reduce reactivity? Breath and awareness is one thing, that’s day-to-day in the moment, wherever we are. You don’t have to sit down, cross your legs, and meditate to do that. Also, taking a risk like being willing to cross that gap a little. Maybe you can listen to the other person a little bit more before reacting, or try to play the Devil’s Advocate and agree with them and see how that affects your side of the thinking. It’s like Improvisation Theater; you go with whatever’s happening, you don’t push back. There’s really not such a big gap between us, there’s always some common ground. We have to cross this gap and find some common ground.


Compassion Is Not Weakness


Sharon Salzberg, host of the Metta Hour Podcast, talks about cultivating compassion to combat reactivity:

Some views are really biased, and they’re ignorant, and they’re hurtful. Some actions are really wrong. But confronting someone as a bad or evil person is a very different thing. One of the difficulties I find in myself is the idea of cultivating compassion for someone does not mean you give up the fight. We think it’s one or the other. That either I’m going to have all this hostility and outrage – and probably die young – and fight and fight. Or I’m going to be peaceful and mellow and let things be, and have love for everyone in my heart. It’s not like that.

Communicating with somebody who holds a different point of view does not mean giving up all sense of principle. It means looking at somebody as a human being and realizing, as always, there are causes and conditions for anyone’s state. It means listening, really deep listening. What are those causes and conditions? It’s one thing for two people to come together around a position where they have diametrically opposed views, it’s another thing to reveal any kind of vulnerability.


Ram Dass also offers compassion as the ultimate tool for all of our Donald Trump related fears. Here’s what he had to say about Trump supporters on the Here and Now Podcast:

They and we are Americans. They aren’t the other, they’re part of our tribe. So that’s what’s frustrating us. One of my doctors is a Republican, and he thinks Donald is quite good. We don’t talk about politics, but I can see his mind.

I think we’ve got to get aware when Trump steps on our freedoms and our way of life. But I think we’re anticipating, anticipating, anticipating, and I think that’s wrong. Past and future are the storyline, and we don’t have to be caught in the storyline. Let’s just get here now, at the moment. I know people say that I’m hiding in spirituality, and not taking the situation seriously. But I understand. I do take this seriously. But by being joyful and loving and compassionate and wise… That will cause light in this situation.

I talked to [California Governor] Jerry Brown. I said to him, “I’m spreading love. That’s what I’m doing for this situation.” I look at the picture of Trump on my puja table and think about real power and real wisdom, and then I look at Maharajji and my fears dissipate. And the people who are terribly afraid of this situation, they look at me and ask, “Why isn’t he afraid?” I have this compassion which resonates from Maharajji and allows me to have compassion for the incarnation of Donald Trump.

May we all have even a little of that compassion moving forward, for all human beings, no matter the color of their hat.


Written by Noah Markus 


Part 1 – A Guide to Compassion in 2017

Part 3 – Navigating Through Anger

Part 4 – Dealing with Fear and Anxiety

Part 5 – The Power of Loving Activism


Leave a Comment

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.


Ram Dass Online Shop

Buy books, media, digital downloads, apparel, devotional, art & other great items!

Join Our Newsletter

Sign up for the Love Serve Remember mailing to receive news, exclusive offers & more.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Donate to LSRF

Help ensure that the teachings of Ram Dass will be available to generations to come.

A Network of Mindfulness & Spirituality Podcasts
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap