Sylvia Boorstein on how to give our children — and ourselves — hope in a worrying time.
Question: I grew up under the shadow of nuclear war. Today, my children fear for the future of the world because of climate change and Donald Trump — and nuclear war too! While I know that Buddhists are supposed to transcend hope and fear, I don’t think it’s good for children to grow with a feeling of hopelessness and impending doom. How can I give them hope for the future when it looks pretty bleak?
Answer: Even a small moment of clarity in a mind filled with confusing, afflictive energies is like a break in the clouds that allows light to shine in. Find some hope yourself and then you can inspire it in your children. Here’s an example.
I was waiting for the red light to change, my foot on the brake and my mind churning with anger, dismay, and despair. I had been reading the distressing morning news and watching the TV commentators. I was scheduled to teach that morning about cultivating compassion in a crazy world, but it felt like I’d just be preaching to the choir. My faith in fundamental kindness was being tested.
It was raining as I waited at the light. The older man who works as the traffic guard was wearing a bright yellow rain slicker and a matching hood with a visor. He had a big red stop sign in one hand and an umbrella in the other. He held the umbrella over the heads of groups of two or three children as he walked them across the busy street, all the while holding the stop sign aloft so he could regulate traffic.
The world is going to be all right.
Something about the exquisite, unrushed, 100 percent attention that he seemed to give his charges captivated my attention, and I loved him. My mind cleared. In recognizing goodness in the world, I remembered that fear clouds the mind and keeps it from seeing possible solutions.
“The world is going to be all right,” I told my class at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. “Think of it this way. Imagine the world surrounded by a rain of troubles. We each only need umbrellas and stop signs and the intent to protect. We don’t need to do the whole job ourselves.”