Baltimore: A Spiritual Perspective

Full confession: Within the last year, I've stopped devouring the details – and the accompanying negativity – from news media. I always have some idea of what's going on in the world, so that I know where to direct my compassion. I'm just more protective of my energy field now that I'm on a spiritual path.

Yet as I watched the video replay of Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby addressing the media last Friday, I felt called to plug back in, and even to respond.

Does anyone else feel that we have been having a Groundhog Day experience nationally? Recently, I published an article on “Cultivating Joy” in Conscious Lifestyle magazine about how we as individuals may get trapped in our own personal Groundhog Day, à la Bill Murray, and we can only move on to the next stage of our lives by transforming from within. Given the traumatic sequence of events from Trayvon Martin in Florida, to Michael Brown in Ferguson, to Freddie Gray in Baltimore (among countless others), it’s clear that we are caught up in some kind of collective karma, and until something shifts, we won’t be able to wake up to the next day.

The eruption of anger in Ferguson last summer after the death of Michael Brown, and its recurrence in November when the grand jury did not indict, conveyed a deep urging for an overhaul of our criminal justice system. When that anger re-ignited in Baltimore recently, it signaled how urgent the need for transformation has become. We are tired of waking up to the same old Sonny and Cher song. We’re longing to sing a new tune.

That’s why Marilyn Mosby’s remarks came like a breath of fresh air. As I watched her take a firm and decisive stance against excessive police force towards Black youths, I felt tears streaming down my face, just as I had a few weeks earlier when I read about the asthmatic young man who pleaded for an inhaler as his physical condition rapidly spiraled downward.

Most inspiring about Mosby’s example is that she comes from a long bloodline of police officers, so she fully understands the complexity of the situation. When she ran for State Attorney as an underdog last November, her victory was called “unexpected.” Yet anyone who studies the Law of Attraction knows this was no surprise. The Universe always supports our personal visions, as long as it is for the highest good of everyone involved. Clearly, the Universe knew that Mosby would have important work to do.

It’s still early. No one knows how exactly Mosby’s prosecution of the case will unfold, and she does have her critics. Regardless of the outcome, I still believe her press conference last Friday is exactly what needed to happen. If the mindset and heart-set of this country is going to shift, someone needed to be the first ripple.

Real transformation is never easy. I was buoyed by a New York Times article signaling that cities across the country are reevaluating their police training, striving to put more emphasis on conflict resolution and less on defensive procedures. Yet even deeper systemic shifts are in order: parity in the quality of our school systems, and more access to mentoring and employment opportunities for at-risk youth. I think Obama has the right idea with his new initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, and Mosby’s own campaign platform included a program for steering young drug offenders away from further criminal activity. And of course, there are armies of youth counselors and visionary leaders across the country who have been working tirelessly on similar programs for years.

For those of us on a spiritual path, what we are called to do now is cultivate compassion, the second of the 4 Immeasurables from Buddhism. Compassion is a turning of the heart toward suffering, and a strong wish for all living beings to be free from it. This takes courage, since sometimes all we want to do is avert our eyes. Rather than being paralyzed by grief and sorrow (which is what Buddhists call the “near enemy” of compassion), we send light to all suffering beings and bravely ask: What can I do? The answer is different for each of us. Whether it’s dedicated time for compassion meditations on our mat every morning, or outright activism, our own heart’s wisdom will always show us how best to respond.

For many of us, it will be fairly easy to extend compassion to Freddie Gray’s suffering family, friends, and community. What may be harder is extending compassion to those who may initially arouse our anger, such as any police officers who have been charged in his death, or any rioters who have channeled their anger and frustration in ways that may have endangered other precious lives. And yet, where compassion is concerned, no one can be spared. We are all worthy of it. We all have something to learn here.

Let’s send a ton of compassion to Baltimore right now. And let’s all hold the intention that after we collectively see ourselves through this dark night of the soul, we can finally wake up to the next day.