Gratitude for Healers (Rev. Tom VandeStadt)
Eastern Rising Sun
by Rev. Tom VandeStadt
The sun of human dignity can be likened to the physical sun spanning the darkness. When you have a brilliant sun, which is a source of vision, the light from the sun shines through every window of the house, and the brightness of its light inspires you to open all the curtains. The analogy for hierarchy in the Great Eastern Rising Sun world is a flowering plant that grows upwards towards the sun. The analogy for the setting-sun hierarchy is a lid that flattens you and keeps you in your place.
How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being.
Otherwise we all remain too afraid.
Sometimes people can really suck. Sometimes they just suck the energy, life and vitality out of me; I can feel it. And they suck it from others; I can see it. Sometimes they stifle, smother and suffocate. Sometimes they squeeze and squash, overcome and oppress, use and abuse, belittle and demean, attack and scapegoat. They radiate negative energy and throw off bad vibes. They resist growth in themselves and others. Sometimes they seem to care only for themselves, but not much for themselves.
It’s not easy living in a world where people can really suck. Or as Tibetan Buddhists might put it, a setting sun world. For Tibetan Buddhists, the image of the setting sun conveys the ways people can suck. Though I’ve never actually encountered the word “suck” in a Tibetan Buddhist’s description of the setting sun, that’s how I understand it. Sucking the life out of others, putting a lid on them.
But there’s also the Great Eastern Rising Sun, the realization that by nature our bodies are conduits through which vital life energy flows into the world. People who embody this realization beam positive liveliness into the world by radiating good vibes. They produce liberating, healing and reconciling effects in the world. They uplift, encourage and inspire. They love with open hearts, think with open minds and share with open hands. They grow towards the sun and bloom, and help others do likewise. They speak their truth, care for others and enjoy being themselves.
But here’s the thing. There’s only one sun. The sun that’s now rising in the east is the sun that’s now setting in the west. Within each of us. I’ve not met a single person in my life who was either a rising sun or a setting sun. Everyone I’ve ever known, including me, is both sunrise and sunset. We give to others and the earth in beneficial ways, and we suck from others and the earth in harmful ways.
I’m grateful for the Great Eastern Rising Sun in my life. I’m also grateful for the most intense sunsets I’ve experienced. Those times when my life really did suck and I suffered, when people screwed with me and made life hard. I wasn’t thankful at the time, but I can look back now with gratitude. In part, because I made it through OK. In bigger part, because those ordeals helped me embody rising sun more often and more skillfully.
We’re living in a time when we’re facing a pervasive setting sun. The sun’s going down hard and it’s going down fast. Yes, I’m talking about Donald Trump; he exudes a powerful setting sun vibe. But I’m also talking about the ways we all produce harmful effects in the world. Each one of us. Even the most dedicated climate justice activist beaming strong rays of sunrise energy oozes some harmful sunset vibes as well. The trick is to face and acknowledge our setting sun in ways that lessen the harm we do, and to practice embodying the rising sun every day. And to encourage, inspire and help others do the same.
I’m grateful for all the people who’re doing this right now. And it’s not just a Tibetan Buddhist practice. It’s a human phenomenon to which Tibetan Buddhists are pointing. I personally know many people who’re practicing what I’m describing, and none of them are Tibetan Buddhists; I don’t personally know any Tibetan Buddhists. It’s a human phenomenon that expresses itself through many traditions. Call it practicing tikkun olam. Call it embodying the spirit of the resurrected Christ. Call it saving Mother Earth. Call it whatever you like. If you’re rising up as bright, courageous and beneficent energy, if you’re actively liberating, healing and reconciling the world, then I’m grateful for you.