Being Peace in the Belly of the Beast
I have an adversarial relationship with suburbia. I’ve been referring lately to the inner realm of our suburban subdivision as “the belly of the beast.” Sometimes I say it with a smirk, sometimes with a scowl, and sometimes with a bit of laughter at finding myself inhabiting this utterly strange and unfamiliar place. Often I don’t even have to say it. I just sense it deep within my core as I make my way out of the District, onto the Beltway, into the suburbs, and then deep into the center of my subdivision. My soul sinks. My heart catches. There is actual physical pain as I pull into the driveway. This can’t be healthy. My home should not be my enemy. How can I transform this relationship into one of peace? I’ve been considering the idea that I don’t have to see living in suburbia as a long, agonizing sentence to the deepest dungeon in the “belly of the beast.” Perhaps it is possible to see, to visualize, living in suburbia as an extended, intensive spiritual retreat in an “our enemies are our greatest teachers” sort of way. If suburbia made me completely content every single day, I would not have the opportunities that I currently have to practice compassion and love. I have been given a gift of 13 more years in suburbia. What do I need to cultivate in myself to make this relationship one of peace? In suburbia I become most distraught, hopeless, and hostile when confronted by the irrational conformity to mainstream everything, the adherence to uniformity, the love affair with the violence of consumption, the mindless cultural hibernation, the obsession with the tiniest details and minutiae of the accepted norms of childhood development, the environmental degradation, and the thoughtless overuse of fossil fuels that is taken as a matter of unquestioned entitlement. What can I learn from my reactions to these elements of suburbia? How do I grow to create love, peace, joy, wisdom, bliss, and blessings even as I live in relationship with this enemy known as suburbia? Can we change suburbia? It is possible, but not entirely, at once, in this very moment. But in this very moment, I can change my consciousness. I can change my energy. It is perhaps even more radical to strive to transform from within, to foster an inner revolution, right here and now. I can recognize in my reactions to my enemy that I have much work to do regarding my own arrogance, rigidity, complicity, fear, anger, and lack of faith in the choices of others. Now, thanks to suburbia, I see where my compassion must be focused. I see where the intention of my meditation must rest. Without my enemy how would I understand the ways in which to become peace? Instead of railing against the enemy, I must slow down, be still, be love, be mindful of each moment’s reactions, and make it my intention to transform those reactions with loving kindness and compassion.