Dear President Trump,
Normally during Lent I focus on giving up one of the many habits I’m not especially proud of and I am working on one this year (refraining from self-promotion that’s driven by insecurity), but I realized this morning I also need an active Lenten practice that’s doing something and not just refraining something. Last night when I closed my letter to you by sending out the intention that we all might live peaceful lives and die peaceful deaths it got me thinking about what sort of world would support such a reality. Obviously this is something countless people before me have tried to do, including John Lennon through “Imagine.” I think, though, we are necessarily limited in our ability to see such peace because we have to imagine all that it’s not, and at least for me, it’s hard to have much of a sense of what would be left other than a bland, kumbaya sort of existence. And still and yet, what we’ve got now and where we are heading if we stay on this course is not at all conducive to peaceful life and death. While I get that some people would like turbulent, dramatic lives and ends, few of us really want to be tormented by others while alive or killed by others, so at least on this super basic level of peace, there’s probably decent agreement that it’s something to strive for.
The practice I landed on this morning that I am going to carry through Lent is tonglen. You might recall from an earlier letter that tonglen is basically like turning oneself into a filter where you actively breathe in the painful things swirling around, the fear, hate, despair, and then you consciously breathe out a sense of peace and calm. Kind of like how trees breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. There have always been people who have seemed to naturally be such filters, who are able to absorb the worst of what humanity brings and radically transform it into love and compassion. I, however, am not naturally one of those people, but maybe if I’m diligent and practice tonglen every day between now and at least Easter, it will come a little easier for me and maybe there will be some helpful manifestations outside my meditation time. It would be awesome if you would try it too. Imagine.
May you hold everyone’s safety precious.
May you hold everyone’s happiness precious.
May you hold everyone’s health precious.
May you be so bold as to insist that everyone is precious enough to have peaceful lives and deaths.