What a week, eh! (if you’re in Canada already) or What a week, matey! (that’d be Australia) or What a week, ¡No manches! (if you’re already south of the border). To many of us it was a week of disbelief and creeping anxiety over not only our own safety, but the safety of our families, communities, country and the world.
Many, many friends and journalists have deconstructed the results of the election in smart and thoughtful ways, offering encouragement, hope and calling for action. I won’t attempt to match their good work, but I do have a few things to offer.
Freaking out is in our nature. It’s a normal, natural human response to change. And, if there’s one thing that is a constant, it’s change. It’s the adaptation to change that is the bugger. We like things to stay just like they are. [For some (men), this was a job, a woman in the kitchen and no damn foreigners sucking the country dry.] We experience small changes daily, even if it’s a new smile line where there wasn’t one yesterday. Or, on some days, like this week, the changes are huge, shocking, and disturbing. Change happens, it’s inevitable.
Being present and mindful helps us deal with these constant changes and how they affect us, either in a good way or not. Many of us have some sort of contemplation “practice”, whether it be a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, meditation, prayer, or just sitting still with a cat on our lap. This practice can be tied to movement, like yoga or tai chi. We are always “practicing” because it takes vigilance and effort to keep our mind steady and on the look out for the “freak-out” tendency.
I know. Meditation and prayer can be frustrating and boring. Thoughts can bubble up that seem better left pushed down. It’s easy to think, “why am I doing this”, nothing’s happening”, “this is stupid” and “I’d rather be watching ice cream or playing solitaire”. Understood. But know that history has shown and science has proved that over time, meditation literally rebuilds the brain’s gray matter. he grey matter area, in the hippocampus, is important for learning and memory and is associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection. When many people start practicing meditation they find their brains have been literally rewired for happiness, peace and success.
Our practice pays off. Everyday, we are challenged with situations that require us to offer compassion to ourselves and others. But it was this week, especially, that was the test. Can I avoid the “freak out”? Can I contribute a measured, caring and skillful response to the post-election conversation? This is not easy, for sure. If you have a meditation or contemplation practice, keep it up. If not, it’s a good time to start, don’t you think?
One more thing. To keep the outcome of the election in perspective, “Trump still got every last person that would vote for him to the polls and he still lost the popular vote”(1) Fewer than 60 million American voted for Trump; 260 million did not vote for him. This comforts me, a bit.
1. Ethan Nichtern tweet. @ethannichtern