Conversations with Lorian: America the Beautiful (Part 1 of 2)

Essays by Annabel Chiarelli and Jeremy Berg

How does one hold balance and advocate for sacredness in our current (US) political environment? How can people work together and respect each other when many disagree about what this country needs and who should lead us going forward? What tools does Incarnational Spirituality offer in this tumultuous time?

protest(1)This political season has been especially rife with emotions that have been simmering for a long time, heating them to a near boiling point: frustration with current political structures and “the establishment”; anger at having been let down and economically pushed aside; anger at the “1%”; anger at Blacks, Muslims, Mexicans, gays, immigrants and poor people; anger at oil companies, industrial agriculture, big pharma, and other corporate entities; fear of terrorism; fear of shootings; fear of gun laws; fear of a mounting authoritarianism and unthinking mob mentality that seems to chillingly parallel the rise of fascism in the 1930’s.

I’ve mixed views from different parts of the political spectrum in the above list, but beyond ideological polarities they all stem from the same ground of human vulnerability and a sense of victimization.

As long as we focus on attributing power or evil or manipulative genius to the “other,” we will feel disempowered and be stuck fighting each other over who the bigger victim is, attributing the ability to solve all of our problems to whoever our favored candidate is. As long as we meet other people's anger and hatred with anger and loathing of our own, the negative emotions that have led to the current political situation will continue to fester, regardless of whatever political victory is achieved in the short run.

Both outer work and inner work are vital and intertwined aspects to addressing these issues to work toward greater balance, empowerment, and sacredness. The outer work includes civil, inclusive discourse and finding common ground for the greater good, which can be addressed by techniques such as non-violent communication, active listening, deep democracy, world cafés, etc. It can be as simple as spending time talking with a friend, colleague or neighbor to try and connect your common humanity. You're unlikely to be able to reason people out of political views based in primal emotion, but just the attempt to listen to opposing views while infusing the situation with love and understanding can go a long way toward the beginnings of healing.

But to be most effective, the outer work has to be coupled with attention to subtle dynamics, grounded in an inner foundation of love, blessing, sovereignty, empowerment, and energetic balance. 

A way of doing this that works for me is a form of subtle activism:

First, I quiet my mind and allow whatever negative emotions I may be feeling to pass through me as sensations without mentally engaging with them until they subside. If I’m having a particularly hard time with a particular political figure I feel an aversion to, I go through the “acts of love”  starting with perception and working my way through the stages as far as I can go. I also attune to my sense of connectedness to humanity, the earth, and the sacred, which I personally think of as “the field of love.”

Once I’ve regained my energetic balance, I visualize and feel myself as a radiating light of lovingness aligned with and assisted by the larger field of love and with all the others doing similar work. I see us all working together to hold a space of blessing where people are able to overcome their fear and anger and learn to collaborate and communicate constructively and non-violently.

If I'm in a situation where someone is sharing views with me that I’m averse to and I don’t have time to go through the entire process above, I simply take a moment to attune to the field of love and to our shared sacredness and humanity, which usually gives me the wherewithal to drop my own defensive postures and engage with the person in a more loving way.—Annabel Chiarelli


american-flagsRecently I awoke from a deep dream in which I was singing America the Beautiful along with several others. It was a very moving and heartfelt chorus that I felt was being sung as an antidote to the current political and social upheaval in our country. The song has an interesting history

In 1893, at the age of 33, Katharine Lee Bates, an English professor, had taken a train trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Traveling high atop Zebulon's Pikes Peak, the words of the poem started to come to her and found their way into her poem, "America the Beautiful." And, just as Bates had been inspired to write her poem, Samuel A. Ward, too, was inspired to compose his tune. The tune came to him while he was on a ferryboat trip from Coney Island back to his home in New York City.

Here are the words of the familiar 1913 version of the poem:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

 O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

 O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

To me this is a song of the soul of the United States of America. It is full of the love of the land, nature and our founding ideals; Brotherhood, Grace, Soul, Freedom, Virtue, and noble Dreams.

So while you're watching and engaging this political season, whatever you think of the candidates and the process, I invite you to hold in your heart and imagination, to sing with me, "America the Beautiful". Imagine the Angel of America enfolding within its vast field of blessing all of the factions and aspects of our lush land and republic. Unfold an umbrella of hope and positive potential over our land which still offers so much hope and possibilities to so many in the world.

(Of course it is not necessary to use this song or this approach to imagine a blessing of the Soul of America over-lighting the land. Heck, I felt the same energy of my dream when Lady Gaga sang our National Anthem at the start of the last Superbowl. Use what works to help you imagine this blessing. It will have its effects — for you, for our country, and for our world.)--Jeremy Berg

Have more questions about how the principles of Incarnational Spirituality can help us individually and collectively cope with the turbulence and violence of our current political climate? Beginning April 18, David Spangler will be leading a week-long online Forum, "Surfing a Wave of Conflict", which will explore some of the inner causes of our current socio-political unrest and how we can hold our hurting society in "compassion, healing and wholeness." For more information or to sign up, please look here.