Step Up Your Game


For the rest of the month of November 2018, the Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago will hold daily meditations, Monday through Friday from noon to 1 pm. And on Thursday from 1 to 2 pm we’ll hold a special council circle to speak and listen from the heart. All of these are FREE and open to the public. We invite anyone (adults and teenagers) suffering from fear or anxiety, to join us for any of these sessions. In this way we can come together and support each other in this time of chaos and turmoil.

It used to seem like the violence and hatred was out there somewhere, far away. At first it was in Iraq and Afghanistan where we waged war to root out terrorists. Then it showed up on our own shores in America - at schools, at diners, bars, night clubs, entertainment venues, theaters, churches and synagogues. When we did our memorial service last week for the eleven people shot and killed at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh the hatred and the violence was still somewhere else but it seemed closer. Now it is no longer somewhere else but it is here in our own community of Oak Park. It’s time to take notice and step up our game.

One of our members, who’s son is a student at the Oak Park and River Forest High School, reports that there are increasing incidents of racism and hatred and anti-semetic graffiti, and vandalism taking place at the school. A teacher allegedly used racial slurs in the classroom that left students traumatized and crying. Rumors of violence have spread, and at a recent student assembly someone air-dropped a swastika onto students’ cell phones.

It wasn’t so long ago that white men marched with torches in the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us”. That should have been shocking but have we gotten used to it? Has the violence and the hatred become normalized? If you hear on the news that people were shot at a bar in Thousand Oaks, does it upset you or is it just another mass shooting? So far there have been 307 mass shootings in 2018 in America.

Our political environment is toxic and divided. Mussolini said that for a dictator to accumulate power, the best strategy would be to pluck a chicken, feather by feather, so that each squawk was heard apart from every other and the whole process was kept as muted as possible. So how many feathers have already been plucked from the chicken?

I don’t have any easy answer, but I do have a spiritual practice and a wonderful sangha community that supports me and others to open our sad and tender hearts, to practice the 3 tenets of a peacemaker of not knowing, bearing witness and loving action.

So we will step up our game. For the rest of November we will offer special noon time meditations (noon to 1 pm) Monday through Friday. We’ll also offer a special council circle each Thursday afternoon from 1 to 2 pm that is also open to everyone. You don’t need to be a member of our Zen community to join us - these events are open to you regardless of your religion, ethnicity or political persuasion.

Hatred grows in an environment of isolation, separation and social media that breed fear, hatred and conspiracy theories. So let’s ground ourselves by re-connecting with each other and affirming our basic sanity and unconditional love for ourselves and all beings.

May all beings, may our youth, and may all people regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, religion or political party be safe.


Roshi Robert Joshin Althouse