Tuesday, November 15, 2016

7 Tips for Mindfully Processing the U.S. Presidential Election

mindful action, voting, u.s. presidential election, spiritual politics, awakening change, spiritual awakening
This past U.S. presidential election cycle has been particularly base and disgusting. It seems to have pulled out all the stops in appealing to people's most basic fears and interests. To date, I don't remember any candidate in my lifetime discussing his penis in a debate. That, of course, is hardly the worst of the campaign cycle. With the election of Donald Trump, a good many people in the U.S. and around the world are deeply worried about the direction of this country.

I'm not going to sugarcoat this. There are some deeply concerning views that President-Elect Trump has espoused, and even if we take the most positive view possible--that it was all just campaign bravado to whip up his base of support so that they'd vote for him--there are very real repercussions of xenophobia and bigotry towards different minorities. It creates a permissive atmosphere where some individuals act or even commit hate-crimes against different minorities and groups of people because the President-elect has appeared to support these types of views and actions.

Additionally, there are statements like this regarding how to fight ISIS:

"The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don't kid yourself. When they say they don't care about their lives, you have to take out their families," Trump said.

Here's the CNN story: Donald Trump on terrorists: 'Take out their families'

This is a war crime as stated by the Geneva Conventions.

Geneva Conventions bar Donald Trump's idea of killing terrorists' families, as Rand Paul says

Later on, he seemed to backtrack a little on about doing this, but not much. His support of torture is just as concerning. It's more than concerning. Both positions are inhumane and barbaric.

If I wanted to, I could dig up a lot more troubling statements. Plenty of others already have, however, What I want to help you do is to mindfully process this election. (If you are new to this blog, processing means to work through the emotions, ideas, and physical sensations that get triggered by any event.) I cannot emphasize enough that the path of love is about accepting what is and embracing others instead of succumbing to fear. In succumbing to fear, we become increasingly permissive to all kinds of hate crimes and even war crimes. Or people act out hatefully and punitively against others. Neither will help us as a global community of human beings to create a more peaceful and loving world.

Thus, let us talk about what it means to embrace the path of love after the 2016 presidential election when it appears that others will not do so.

1. Go Within

As always, we have to start with ourselves. It is so easy for politics to trigger our unconscious ego selves and all of our undealt with issues. It seems like it is impossible to have a sane conversation between anyone because people hold onto their beliefs so tightly. It's not even about being right for the ego; it's about being safe. People cling to their beliefs about the world as a kind of safety net, but they don't keep them safe. Clinging to beliefs like this keeps people blind.

In fact, the clinging to beliefs is part of the reason people are so upset after this election. Many people have this belief that others think like them. But clearly that is not the case. There are many ways of thinking, and that thinking is born out of very different situations throughout a country. So it surprises many people whenever a bunch of other people vote for the "other" candidate simply because it violates this ego belief of "other people think like me."

So, I can only encourage you to do your inner work to confront beliefs like this as well as deeper issues. Breathe into your own pain and upset. Look at what you are scared or angry about. While it may seem altruistic to worry about other people who may be hurt by this next presidency and it certainly makes sense to worry about yourself, lots of fears are often about very different issues hiding in the darkness within us. Thus, going within is key to understand what is happening inside of you.

Letting Go of Beliefs

2. Find the Real Issues

When you go within, it's helpful to journal about the thoughts that come up. It's helpful to notice the emotions and physical sensations that arise. You may notice that they remind you of other situations. Perhaps they remind you of your father yelling at you as a child and calling you stupid. As you journal the feelings and memories, you can start to process the pain of that past moment. This is critical. As you deal with that pain, you may suddenly find yourself less actively triggered by the statements of the current President-elect or any official that got elected that you didn't like. It can be surprising how much of how we look at life is viewed through the lens of childhood pain and family illusions.

Obviously, I've got a whole spiritual blog full of tips on dealing with all kinds of issues. So if you're new to this website and the concept of doing inner work, you may want to read the blog post here:

How to Start Your Spiritual Journey

3 Understand the Other Side

The unconscious ego in us loves to demonize the "other." It doesn't matter if the "other" is the newly elected president, the people who voted for him, the people who voted against him, or the opposing high school football team. Particularly in the U.S., people can get caught up in this polarity of us versus them. If you want to process this latest election, it is important to understand who "they" are.

So especially in this election--but really for any election--seek out people and sources that offer views from the "other" side. You don't have to agree with them or like them. You just have to genuinely listen to them or read them. If we want to get out of this highly polarized political discussion in this country, we have to bring understanding into the equation. In so doing, you start to see what the real issues at work are.

Here's an article that a friend on Facebook was sharing. It's a good one if you were a Hillary supporter. If you're a Trump supporter, then I recommend you find some articles that share liberal concerns around Trump so that you can understand some of their upset.

Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People

4. Educate Yourself on the Issues

Education about the topics you care about is key. We often think we're educated about a lot of issues by virtue of having opinions, but if you are really serious and sincere in your inner work, you'll find questions and gaps in your knowledge. It is important to fill those. One of those ways of filling knowledge gaps is like the above step. Understanding the "opposition" is key because most issues require some amount of compromise, and this is a big country. We need to do a better job of learning to live together, and understanding is a doorway to that goal.

Additionally, you need to review studies and sources that do not support your position. The better you understand a wide range of information, the more you can see the whole picture. To be sure, there is a lot of false information out there, and you need to learn to evaluate the sources of studies and other information. Not every scientific study is reliable or even correct.

On top of that, people tend to listen to only sources that tell them the narrative that they want to hear. In the U.S., this means that liberals tend to listen more to liberal-leaning sources while conservatives tend to listen to conservative-leaning sources. This leads to a lot of blindness on issues, lack of compassion towards others, and increased polarity--and we have certainly have had enough of that in this country.

As you learn more, it'll probably be clearer what issues you want to work on and where and how if it wasn't already.

5. Get Involved and Stay Engaged

I can tell that part of processing for many of you is going to be about activism. But it is critical to do the first four steps so that you can come from a place of clarity. Reactivity comes from fear and anger, and much of politics is fed by fear and anger. You need to break that cycle of pain and suffering within yourself first. As you do that, it becomes clearer and clearer where and how you want to stay involved with the process of social decision-making (aka politics) in your local, state, and national governments.

Cycles of Pain and Suffering

One of the big problems with the U.S. election system is that many people only vote every four years. Maybe some of you vote every 2 years because we have major elections every two years. But after that, people stop being involved. The people who stay involved tend to be more radical and include a wide variety of lobbyist groups. This means that the people who actually influence the laws that get implemented and who get different candidates to run are often less representative of what the country actually feels. Additionally, this limits and skews the choices of candidates and ballot questions by the time it's election season again. What you are voting for gets vetted before you ever go to that ballot box.

But you can influence change in this regard. That means staying involved during the rest of the days, months, and years when laws are getting enacted, and not just voting every few years. (And if you aren't voting, good grief! Vote!)

I really want to emphasize that people acting from a space of love, clarity, and presence are badly needed, and the spiritual path is not a passive one. There are probably a hundred thousand ways that doing anything with politics can illuminate more of your own issues, and you can work on them to become an even clearer agent of conscious change. In becoming clearer in yourself, it becomes clearer what is true for you to do in the world of politics. For instance, you can more clearly see that hate and xenophobia cause suffering. In seeing that, you can take action to support legislation or defeat legislation that fuels suffering. It's not a neat and pretty world, and because so many people think in wrong or right terminology, you'll find out that a lot of legislation has some things you like and some things you don't. But if you're calling your lawmakers, organizing grassroots movements, or are part of a task force to develop laws, you are involved. This can shift how legislation works and move it away from political extremists and corrupted lobbyists back towards real solutions that can help alleviate suffering in the U.S. and the world.


6. Appreciate Checks and Balances

The president of this country has a lot of power. It is no small thing to be Commander-in-chief of possibly the world's strongest military force if not the most heavily funded. Fortunately, the founding fathers of this nation created three branches of government. The legislative branch and the judicial branches have powers to inhibit the executive branch of government. It's important to remember that they exist, and they are accountable to the voters (if they hear from you). It's unclear how the Republican-controlled Congress will interact with Trump, but as I said, stay involved. Influence this check on the power of the executive branch if there is a proposed law that is not in alignment with truth. If your congressional representatives hear from you regularly, it makes a difference. You can also catalyze your friends, family, and others to be in touch. You can organize a lot of grassroots involvement if you choose. All of this is important to counteract new laws that discriminate or cause suffering, and your involvement provides an important check on the power of professional lobbyists who influence representatives everyday.

Additionally, some people are probably going to have to create legal challenges to laws that may get passed. If something is truly unconstitutional, the judicial branch of the government--namely the Supreme Court--is there to counteract that overreach in power.

Finally, don't forget your state and local governments. A lot of important decisions get made there that affect people more than they realize.

7. Improve the 4th Branch of Government

The fourth branch of government is a euphemism for the media. The media is supposed to be a check on the other three branches of government, but in this last election cycle, they did atrociously. It's just so utterly disgusting how poor their coverage was. They focused tons of time and energy on the most outrageous and crazy things candidates would say, and they flooded our screens with that nonsense. That only encouraged candidates to say and do more outrageous things, and to be sure, Donald Trump masterfully manipulated the media to boost his campaign through this kind of sensationalist tactic. If there were any positive policy debates going on, they didn't seem to hit the frontpages of CNN and other news sites. That's a disgrace to the news industry.

There's a lot of reason that news sources have devolved to either sensationalist journalism or outright political propaganda. But if we are going to improve this unofficial branch of government, it means changing our collective viewing habits. Once again, it's easy to fall into the habit of looking at things that support our viewpoints or give us something outrageous to gawk at. That's why working through our own ego issues is key. There are people who just get caught up in both the liberal or conservative viewpoints, and in watching those news sources over and over, they reinforce the world view that they choose to believe in. Many of those news sources go to extreme points of views, and whenever a TV personality is going to an extreme point of view, it's time to change the channel. That's how you get the media's attention. Stop watching or reading. Less viewership means less money in advertising. So don't click on the link to the article depicting the latest Reality TV-style spat between two candidates. Don't watch the YouTube video about how the world will end because of a candidate winning. Stop giving your attention to these things.

Instead, give more attention to news outlets offering thoughtful indepth coverage of any political campaign in which you're interested. If an hour long discussion of the intricacies of a multi-national trade deal shown on CSPAN crushes it in the ratings, you can absolutely expect every other news source to start showing the same types of things. Over time, we can collectively re-shape our news sources. Or they'll get worse if we keep watching and keep making them tons of advertising money.

In this way, though, you can see how the news media's failures in reporting meaningful political discussions was also our failure too as U.S. citizens.

It's Not the End of the World, But...

Every presidential election cycle in the U.S. seems to come with the "end of the world" threat of the "opposing" candidate winning. It hasn't happened yet. Life goes on. However, I think because of the President-elect's statements on a lot of issues that people need to stay engaged to potentially protect themselves and the rights of others from being trampled. There is far too much potential for this next president to cause vast amounts of suffering to millions of people not just in the U.S. but around the world.

Mindfully processing this election to get clear on actions you need to take is key. There's a lot you can mindfully do in the world when you deal with your issues and act from kindness. But always start with yourself. The more clear you can be, the clearer it is how to handle murky situations and circumstances when people are really upset. You have a lot of power. You can use it mindfully to enact conscious change in the political sphere. Just remember to come from a place of love. Then whether you are fighting for gender rights, latino rights, or African American rights or if you are fighting to stop or prevent the killing of combatant families, another oil pipeline that will pollute the water, or the roll back of gun control laws, then you can do so cleanly and at peace within yourself.
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