I’ll be upfront from the get-go: I’m a lifelong Democrat who strongly favors Joe Biden. But this piece isn’t about slamming Trump. For though I worked in the political world in Washington for fifteen years, my work now focuses on teaching meditation and mindfulness.
What is the purpose of this piece then? To offer three ideas to those of you flipping out about the upcoming election and, probably more important, what happens after November 3.
As someone with DC experience, I get asked a lot about the current political tempest. Friends and relatives froth at the mouth with “Oh, my God! Can you believe he said he won’t respect the results of the election unless he wins!?” “Can you believe these a-holes are going to ram through a Supreme Court pick six weeks before an election when in 2016 they said nine months was too close to an election to consider a nominee? Shameless!!!”
Instead of flipping out about these things, try doing all three of the following.
1. Stay calm, be present
A little tough love is in order here. Buzzing around like a pinball venting to anybody who will listen about how angry, scared and fearful Trump’s actions make you does you no good and does nothing to help the situation. It’s just neurotic noise.
Staying present and not allowing your attention to be dragged into future ‘what if’ scenarios is the mindful way to handle this and all matters in life.
Think of two of the most successful activists of the past hundred years: Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Gandhi and MLK didn’t panic or become unhinged when the going got tough. To the contrary, they were the personification of presence and calm.
The result? They were effective. They achieved real reform. “Great,” you’re saying, “easier said than done. I’m not Gandhi or MLK.”
Fair enough. So how do we mere mortals actually accomplish this ‘being present’ thing when our minds constantly drag us into Crazytown? I’ve found that practicing meditation and mindfulness is the best concrete strategy for building ‘presence’ muscles. These muscles are in your brain and are like any other: When we exercise them they get stronger.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness is the mental equivalent of pumping fifty pound dumbbells to build up our bicep muscles. So if you haven’t developed these practices, now is a great time to start. (Go to davidgerken.net for a free program to get you started.)
For those of you who do practice meditation and mindfulness, remember that spiritual growth occurs during times of challenge and duress not when life is hunky dory. So use the current political firestorm as an opportunity to strengthen your practice and become more conscious.
2. Take action
Fine. Let’s say you can remain present and calm. Is that all you can do? Stay calm and present and watch our democracy go down the drain? No. Here are some concrete actions you can take in the now that will give you a sense of empowerment and hopefully quell your propensity toward aimless venting.
A. Indivisible.com: Go to indivisible.com, a fantastic, one-stop resource for grassroots involvement. Surf around the site to find events you can attend near you and all kinds of opportunities to make your voice heard.
B. Contribute: Biden-Trump isn’t the only race right now. There are several close Senate races, too. If you have some extra dough, contribute money to them. Jaime Harrison has a chance to beat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina.
Ditto John Hickenlooper in Colorado, Steve Bullock in Montana, Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, Mark Kelly in Arizona, Sara Gideon in Maine, Theresa Greenfield in Iowa and Amy McGrath in Kentucky. Go online and send them some money.
It doesn’t have to be thousands or even hundreds of dollars. The point here is to give yourself a sense of empowerment, of doing something other than just kvetching. You’ll feel better if you do.
3. Cut down on news
If you’re like me, you’re OD’ing on news every day. For me it’s reading The Washington Post and Politico.com throughout the day, catching a little MSNBC at breakfast and lunch and then watching a full hour of Rachel Maddow at 6. That’s too much.
So I’ve decided to cut waaaaay back. It’s now just the Maddow show.
I don’t need to read all these articles and columns all day. It just gets me spun up.
But I also don’t advocate completely tuning out. It’s important to stay informed, especially now.
How about you? Do you doomscroll through Twitter all day long? Do you read every political piece that comes across your transom?
Then cut back. It’s that simple. Think of one news source you can read or watch at one given time during your day and leave it at that. Surfing around intermittently throughout the day is a huge waste of time and, worse, just makes you anxious. So cut back.
Stay present. Take action. Cut down on your news. What do all of these require? Discipline.
I know many people recoil when they hear that word, including me. But this is doable. You just need to hunker down and exercise your free will to do these things.
Because the next few months can either be a never-ending avalanche of apocalyptic anxiety or a period of proactive presence. Be good to yourself and choose the latter.