Voting From Our Spiritual Heart
Today’s post is by Tilden Edwards
From where inside do we listen when we decide for whom we will vote? From where do the candidates listen?
The greatest contribution a contemplative orientation can bring to such a question is its invitation to listen from a deeper place than those that might first show up, the most likely of which is our ego mind. In our ego mind we feel a sense of personal fragility—ourselves as contingent beings, dependent on many un-assured resources for our survival and for our physical and mental well-being. Our ego self tries to cope with these fearful circumstances, to protect us from harm and to accumulate resources that allow for as much safety and satisfaction as possible.
When we listen to a candidate with our primary identity rooted in our ego self, we listen for policies and values that will bolster our sense of power and well-being. We bring to the candidates the underlying question: “What can you do for me and mine?” This is a legitimate question, but it narrows and limits what we hear.
Another place from which to listen is our objective rational mind—listening from the accumulated knowledge and values of our conceptual mind and beyond the subjective filter of personal/family security to the larger political situation and common good. We bring to the candidates the underlying question: “How do your views connect with my cultivated, rational views of the political situation and of needed policies?” What we hear from the rational mind is an invaluable contributor to our discernment, but it is subject to the limitations of the mind’s conceptual categories. When the concepts are held too tightly, they are in danger of taking on a quality of ultimacy: they become the final truth that must be frozen and defended; they become idols that lose their openness to the larger truth.
We might identify a number of other places from which we listen, but I will single out just one more: our contemplative spiritual heart—that faculty of intuitive awareness that appears when we are present to deep reality. With our contemplative heart, we listen from the deepest place of compassionate wisdom in us. Listening from the heart can bring us to special underlying questions for political candidates: “Do you listen more from your ego and rational self, or from a place of compassion and wisdom?”
A politician who is ready to return again and again to that deeper place of openness to loving Spirit wisdom is, I believe, the most trustworthy. We live in a time of such complexity and challenge that more than ever we need leaders who draw from a deeper well than ego needs and established understandings. We need leaders who can remain open to what they do not know, making room for fresh vision to continually evolve in our local, national and global communities. We need leaders who carry enduring hope through all the corruption, horrors and failures to love they encounter in the world; leaders who can inspire people to stretch beyond their narrow self-interests — embracing and, if necessary, sacrificing for a larger shared vision of the common good. We need leaders who care more for the integrity of the visions shown them for the common good than they care about re-election.
We won’t find any spiritually pure candidates in our kind of electoral system and in our fallible human condition. However, sometimes between the lines of candidates’ political words and biographies, we might sense whether or not they are at least sporadically listening and responding from the deeper place of the heart. We might sense those who have been touched by the underlying message emerging from the contemplative spiritual heart in a myriad forms: i.e., that we are part of an inclusive family invited to water the seeds of justice, love, beauty, creativity, and community with one another and the earth, and we are unique if forgetful images of the gracious One whose energy fills those seeds.
I ask you to pray for such leaders. Pray for them to be given ways to awaken and sink deeper into their contemplative spiritual hearts, however buried to our consciousness. Pray also for voters to listen from the same deep place, so they can encourage and affirm it in leaders. Do not vote primarily from the fears of your ego mind. Inform your rational mind as best you can, but go deeper still. Vote from the eye of your heart.
This is an excerpt of an article that first appeared in the Shalem News, Fall 2008.
Current offerings from Shalem: ELECTION PRAYERS: Join Shalem for prayer during this election season. Patience Robbins is offering a free weekly guided prayer time at noon over the next several Wednesdays. Sign up here for information on how to join.
LEADERSHIP SEMINAR: Longing for contemplative grounding for your leadership? Join Leah Rampy for this online leadership seminar: With Hearts Wide Open. Seminar begins October 5!