“Inside each of us, there is the seed of both good and evil. It is a constant struggle as to which one will win. And one cannot exist without the other.” ~ Eric Burdon
Mara is the evil demon who confronted Siddhartha, the Buddha, with the sole intent to break his enlightenment and block his pathway.
In most religions, there is a character who represents negativity or the evil aspect of the human condition, somehow showing up on the scene to f*ck everything up—causing chaos, bringing death, misunderstanding, fighting, and destruction.
In Buddhism the force is known as Mara—Shaitan in Islam, Satan in Judaism and Christianity, Kali in Hindu.
When perceiving this wisdom metaphorically, which is how, in my opinion, religion is meant to be perceived, while looking at the human condition through an existential lens, it becomes increasingly clear that, in our current social environment, Mara and the like are present and are taking no prisoners.
I am struggling to find peace, and it is obvious I am not the only one.
Currently, our country is up in arms; the Kavanaugh case threatens the safety of every woman and girl in the United States. As a mother, I can’t think about it too much or I will start crying and maybe not stop. I am angry and I do not feel safe.
In our current national and psycho-social environment, we are all faced with choice and with that choice comes the option of right action. We have the option to choose compassion, empathy, humility, grace, and generosity—or we can choose the opposite, Mara.
No matter which way we slice it, these right actions are the most advantageous way to meet any difficulty that faces us, no matter what side we are on; and in our current political environment, everyone needs to take a side.
But with Mara, comes struggle.
In June, I returned from a nine month hiatus in Southern California. I had gone there to work and also face the suffering that came when my daughter moved in with her dad. While I was letting the sunshine and heat heal my wounds, a good friend watched my place and my pups off and on since I couldn’t have them with me.
It was earlier, in April, that my downstairs neighbor had begun acting out toward other tenants, including my friend. When I returned, she came upstairs immediately and asked me to please walk up and down the stairs lightly, as she sleeps next to the stairwell. I apologized for my loud steps and was happy to oblige—not having a teenager here to constantly remind of these new guidelines, I was certain I could handle this request simply, without question.
Bare feet, light feet, light heart.
A few weeks passed and things seemed to be going fine, when one particular Saturday it all came crashing down. I had just gotten home from walking the pups when my neighbor came to the door.
When I opened it, she came barging in and began to hit herself repeatedly, screaming at me to walk lighter. My roommate was home and I called for her to come help because I was frozen in space—like one of those dreams where you wake up and can’t talk. The neighbor was two inches from my face, hammering herself.
After a few more minutes, she finally left on her own accord.
The moment with my neighbor was traumatic and raw, and has caused much room for pause and reflection. I meditate and try every day to find a calm space where Mara cannot enter, where she feels my created, yet genuine, harmony—hoping, praying, and taking right actions, so we can find peace within both our living situations.
I’ve written notes, I’ve apologized. I wear socks and I slide on the floor rather than walk, I take extra silent care to close doors and toilet seats. I let her know that I am going to be moving things, before I move them.
I am deliberate. I am kind. And I realize: I don’t matter.
While this might seem dramatic, it is poignant because—now that I have had some time to reflect—I have concluded this might be, representationally, what a majority of women felt like when Donald Trump was elected.
It is even more prevalent with Kavanaugh confirmed as SCOTUS—that the most matter the least. #MeToo is being rejected by the perpetrators. We are mad and a revolution is underway.
This said, let us remember Buddha did not succumb to Mara. Buddha prevailed.
When Mara comes knocking, we have to answer the door.
My experience with my neighbor mirrors perfectly my daily newsfeed—every day there is a new pinnacle. Toxic masculinity and a majority of our elected governmental system superposed against the feminine. Our Mother Earth is suffering at the hands of humankind.
What I am choosing to do with my neighbor is sit, breathe, and not react—although I want to. I have cried and I have found the opportunity to write.
My Mara is active, but I must learn to restrict it within me. When my neighbor is reactive, Mara has me in a stronghold and she wants to fight. I will not fight. I do not want to cause more strife and war. What I do want is to peace, so I will love and sit with breath until the right words come.
At this moment, many people are experiencing Mara: as rage, depression, anxiety, fear—and the most important thing we can do is be silent until we know what we say will be of benefit.
Our voices are needed—but only the voices that are comfortable speaking calmly and kindly while in an environment of anger. We can be angry with compassion. We have to be able to stand calmly in a climate of adversity and separation, with the end goal being unity, if we are going to overcome the forces of Mara.
I am far from comfortable with my neighbor’s hostility or with what is happening within our governmental structure and culture. However, as I deal with my neighbor and the national hostility simultaneously, I can see some light.
As I write this, I am becoming more comfortable with being okay when hostility and rage are present, and waiting for the voice that is within me to come from compassion, with a sincere desire to listen.
Our national system is a sh*t show right now, regardless where we sit.
Mara is in the building.
We cannot let Mara create such strife between us, that she takes down others or hurts them, as we have been hurt. Hurt people hurt people. Aware people heal. To be aware of others’ pain in the blanket of our own anger is tough, yet possible and necessary.
To demonstrate a path of kindness is precisely why Buddha came to be. Buddha taught the power of breath to calm our senses when they are aroused with potentially harmful responses.
When Mara is present, take deep, deliberate breaths. Let us find our breath, together.
In our current existence we must stand like Buddha, and not react. We must not break our kindness; we must not return Mara’s hostility through projection. We can and should stand united with others, together in our individual and unified magnificence.
You are magnificent and you are powerful—we all are. And together, we are substantially more so.
We all have Mara within us, and it is a phenomenon we must face within ourselves if we are to find the peace we seek in the world.
Aggression begets aggression. Kindness begets kindness.
We all, myself most definitely included, need to do what Buddha would do—even if we have to sit where we are and not move, struggling with our desire to react, but to not—instead breathe and allow the loss of words to make it on the page anyway.