If you are anything like me, when I see the presidential election adds on television, I find myself tensing up. My shoulders get tight. My stomach clutches. Then my mind takes over and I start doubting myself, losing hope and wonder how I will survive this election.
But mindfulness offers us a different way of being during these difficult times. Mindfulness invites us to find a place of calm and peace even in the middle of a pandemic, worries about climate change and all the destructive rhetoric we hear and read.
I invite you to consider the following “survival” techniques for the next 30+ days as we prepare for the 2020 US presidential election:
Be mindful of what you consume
I’m not talking about food here (although keeping to a healthy diet isn’t a bad idea when dealing with stress). I’m talking about the news. I don’t know what you are watching or reading, but just remember that any news source is TRYING and counting on you following them. For the next few weeks, try to limit what kind of news you are consuming. Mute the television when a political add comes on and close your eyes and breathe. Or better yet, get up and walk around the house. Notice the beauty of the changing season. Spend some time with a hobby or a pet, call or text a loved one to brighten their day. So often it is FOMO that makes us habitually turn to the news. Trust me – the news won’t change that much and your Facebook feed will let you know when the really important things happen (like RBG’s death last week:-( – this still makes me sad…)
Compassion towards yourself and towards others (and all living beings on this planet). Compassion means bringing a deep sense of value and care to ourselves and others. Compassion means noticing when you body and mind tense up and close off and inviting a life-giving breath to help relax. Compassion means listening with an open heart to those who do not think like you do. Know that while you may think their fears are unfounded and based on conspiracy theories, they are their fears nonetheless and it doesn’t help to disregard them.
Something very sad has crept into the nature of our public discourse over the past several years. “Freedom of Speech” has turned into “I have the right to say what I think regardless of how racist and hurtful it might be!” In the face of this lack of civility, we have been given the opportunity to practice “right speech” and “right action.” Sometimes not saying anything will be right speech. But other times, saying something in the midst of injustice is the right thing to do (thank you, RBG). Chose your words carefully. Once something is said, it is said forever. Use the 4-fold ethical guidance – Is is true? Is it helpful? Is it said from a kind heart? Is it timely?
This past week a dear Lutheran pastor, Robert S. Graetz, died at the age of 92. Pastor Graetz lead a congregation in Montgomery, Alabama, during the civil rights era. He served an African American Lutheran congregation and supported the bus boycott. He and his wife, Jean, continued to be activists into their latter years and I had the privilege of meeting them at one of our ELCA churchwide assemblies. Pastor Robert and Jean courageously stood up for justice and serve as a model for us all. His book, A White Preacher’s Memoir: The Montgomery Bus Boycott, is a wonderful retelling of his years with MLK, Jr.
When you say or think, “I don’t know how these people can vote for Trump,” remember, you probably are not going to change anyone’s mind at this stage of the game. Instead, change your thoughts and words to, “How can I live a life that shows my commitment to compassion, civility and courage?”
Let’s face it – the stresses of this election year will not be over on November 3rd. The election will most likely be contested. There will be many opportunities for stress and anger to rear their ugly heads. What a better chance to to practice compassion and civility when our emotions are hijacked.
Take a breath. Take another. On November 4th the sun will rise. We will need to attend to our needs and the needs of others. We hold the key to happiness, justice and peace right now. Do not lose hope!