6 Quotes By 3 Iconic Americans That Pro AND Anti-Trumpers Should Heed

With one month to go before the election, America is more divided than it has been since the late 1960’s when Vietnam, racial unrest and generational hostility roiled our country. Today’s strife is complicated, but for the sake of ease can be boiled down to those who support Donald Trump and those who oppose him.

These six quotes from George WashingtonAbraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. can serve as a roadmap for a way out of the fiery cauldron of bitterness America finds itself in.

George Washington

“Citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.”

What he’s saying: America’s first president, the greatest patriot in our history, is saying that Americans owe their highest loyalty to the greater good of the country, not to any one person, issue or parochial interest. This is what’s missing in today’s political arena. People are choosing party over country, person over country and issue over country. That has to end if America is to endure.

“We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth New Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times.”

What he’s saying: Washington wrote this in a letter to one of his military subordinates in 1777 at the height of the Revolutionary War. What both sides of the political divide can take from this is the optimism and strength at the heart of this American experiment. We all have to be mindful that America has endured dark periods before, most notably a bloody civil war, but has always emerged and gotten itself back on track. In other words, we can never give up on America.

Abraham Lincoln

“I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

What he’s saying: This quote goes to the heart of our political divide today. Most people who support and oppose Trump harbor tremendous ill will toward each other. But the fact is, they don’t even know each other. Why? Mostly because they live in different parts of the country. Trump supporters mostly populate the South, parts of the Midwest and the mountain West. Trump opponents hail from both coasts and parts of the Midwest.

In my Hollywood years I created a reality television show that put red and blue state people together for a few days to get to know each other and see if that didn’t bring out the humanity in both. Alas, the show was not picked up.

The point is, seek out someone from the other side and make an attempt to get to know them better. You may not agree with their views afterward, but you will in all likelihood understand and like them more because of the effort.

“We are not enemies, but friends…Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

What he’s saying: Lincoln appeals here for Americans to dig deep within themselves to find the ‘better angels of our nature.’ We all have the ability to choose moderation over extremism, restraint over passion and calm over anger. What America needs most of all right now is for its citizens to summon the strength to fight against their darker passions and allow the better angels of their nature to shine through.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

What he’s saying: The darkness of hate, mistrust and anger hangs like a cloud over America at present. King is right in saying that more hate, mistrust and anger will not drive out this darkness. Only love can accomplish that. Hate hasn’t worked very well. Americans need to choose love, which will take strength, courage and humility.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

What he’s saying: King is saying that we Americans have a choice: We can swallow some pride and offer an outstretched hand to our political opponents or we can align with our lower selves and remain in our bitter corners. The former will bring a rejuvenated America with a limitless future while the latter will throw our great country deeper into the abyss.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re fighting with your spouse, sibling or best friend, the best resolution always comes when both parties show some measure of humility. This is what America needs most in the coming weeks and in the years ahead. A national renewal fueled by millions of Americans choosing their country over their feelings. A healing propelled by our choosing to listen to the better angels of our nature.


A Valuable Lesson That Sports Like Rock Climbing, Basketball And Skiing Teach Us

You’re climbing up a seventy-foot rock face. Each move you make requires pinpoint precision because one bad step could mean death.

So, what are you doing, and what are you NOT doing while on that rock? What you’re doing is locking in on every single moment. Your life depends on it.

What you’re not doing is thinking about the rent payment due next week. Or whether your boyfriend is committed to your relationship.

Same thing with skiing. When you’re gliding down that mountain your mind is completely locked in to every moment, every turn. One momentary lapse and you could break your leg…or worse.

Basketball, too. When you’re on that court you need to be dialed in or the guy you’re covering could slip right past you and score. If you daydream you’re toast.

Basketball as refuge for the mind

I’ll never forget Kobe Bryant back in 2004 when he was on trial for sexual assault. If convicted he was looking at significant jail time. You know what he said gave him the most relief during this period? Playing basketball. He said he would completely lose himself when playing and forget the serious predicament he was in.

The key point here is to ask this question: What is it about these types of activities that people love? To be sure, skiing down a beautiful mountain with postcard pretty scenery surrounding you is great in many ways. Same with rock climbing. You’re outdoors. You’re releasing feel-good endorphins from all the exercise.

But I posit that there is one aspect of these activities that could outweigh all others in the satisfaction people feel. It’s something most people don’t even realize they’re benefiting from. And that is, the present moment awareness things like rock climbing, skiing and basketball require.

Humans are happier when present

The point is people just feel better and happier when their minds are locked in on whatever activity they are doing. Conversely, they feel worse and are unhappier when their minds are lost in involuntary, obsessive thinking.

You don’t have to take my word for it, either. A 2010 Harvard study by psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Matthew Killingsworth analyzed the effects of mind-wandering on basic happiness.

They created an iPhone app that contacted 2,250 adult participants in the U.S. at random times during the day. Participants were asked three basic questions: 1. “How are you feeling right now?” (i.e., happiness level, scale of 1–10); 2. “What are you doing right now?” and 3. “Are you thinking about something other than what you’re currently doing?” (i.e., mind-wandering). In 47% of the samples, people were mind-wandering at the moment they were contacted. Amazing, right?

Harvard study

But the most important finding was that people reported being less happy when mind-wandering than when they were actually engaged in some present moment activity. And this is the kicker: It didn’t even matter if the activity they were engaged in was enjoyable or not.

Bottom line: When we’re engaged in the present moment, we’re happier. And when we’re off somewhere in the fog of compulsive, involuntary thinking, we’re less happy.

So what can we learn from this fact? First, do more rock climbing, skiing, basketball and lots of other activities that require your total attention.

Meditation gets you there, too

But more important, and the point of this piece, you don’t have to limit yourself to these activities to access the present moment. There’s a practice that’s been around for thousands of years that will help strengthen your ability to remain present in the everyday moments of your life. That practice is meditation.

Some of you may have heard meditation is brutally hard. Not true. The hardest part about developing a meditation practice isn’t the actual meditating. It’s getting used to sitting your butt in the chair and doing it until it becomes a habit.

Meditation itself is uber simple. All it is is sitting quietly and placing your attention on something happening in the present moment, like your breathing. Then when your mind grabs your attention and throws you into thought, you simply notice that that has happened and bring attention back to your breathing.

The mind loves to wander

Can that be difficult at times? Sure. For one reason: The human mind loves to wander. But like anything else, the more you meditate, the better you get at it.

You need to know, though, that the science has proven that to realize its transformative benefits, meditation needs to be done regularly. Stopping in at a meditation den every week or two isn’t going to cut it.

If you’ve wanted to give meditation a try but didn’t know where to start, I designed a simple program to help regular people develop a practice. You start by meditating for only two minutes a day then building gradually from there. It’s free and can be accessed at davidgerken.net.


Constantly Getting Knocked Off the Spiritual Horse? Create a Go-to Catchphrase

Anybody who’s fighting the good fight on the path of spiritual growth is going to get knocked off the horse, and usually on a daily, if not hourly, basis.  Example: You’ve been doing well with your meditation and mindfulness practices, but then your mother-in-law (think Meryl Streep in HBO’s Big Little Lies) throws you a passive aggressive left hook about your son’s table manners.  You either: A) explode at her, or, more likely, B) pass it off as if you didn’t hear it, but seethe inside. Your present moment awareness bids adieu as your mind takes over and settles in for an evening of thought churn that alternates between fantasies of smacking your mother-in-law in the face and pushing her over a cliff.  It doesn’t have to be that way!  An effective way to get yourself back on the horse quickly is to have a Go-to spiritual catchphrase at the ready.

What is a spiritual catchphrase?  Let’s use the example above.  Right after Meryl lobs her verbal grenade this person could say to herself, “Notice your breathing.”  Or “Accept this moment exactly as it is.”  Or “Surrender to the flow.”  The list is endless.  

I came up with this in my own life because I kept finding myself in situations where something would happen (my kid melting down, problems with my website, an argument with my wife) and the next thing I know the rest of the day I’m uptight and off.  And if two or three of those things happened in close succession, forget about it.  My day was toast.  As somebody who dove head first into the spiritual “ocean” several years ago, I had many little phrases that I’d go to in a pinch.  But I found that when I was mired in some tough situation, it felt overwhelming to figure out on the spot which one of these might help me at that time. So I decided to do the obvious: pick one that is foundational to my specific life situation and stick with it. Mine for the past several months has been, “Be present and trust in life.”  That sentence re-grounds me after being hit with virtually any adverse situation (for reasons too in-depth for this piece, but I’ll get to it in a later one).

The central reason for creating a catchphrase isn’t to avoid getting your buttons pushed.  Eliminating our core/button pushing issues will come only after many years of spiritual practice.  But most of us, including yours truly, are not Dalai Lama, serenely invulnerable inside. So the reason we mere mortals need a spiritual catchphrase is to minimize the amount of time we spend on the ground after being thrown off the horse.  

In the example above, our poor protagonist loses an entire evening (and possibly a full night of tossing and turning in bed) due to giving in to her reactive mind.  If she had just immediately walked to another room and said her catchphrase to herself, “Notice your breathing.” a few times, she probably could have gotten back on the horse in a few minutes.  See how important this is?  

But how do you create your own spiritual catchphrase?  It’s not that hard.  You just have to do it.  The obvious and most important thing to do is come up with something that is central to your current life situation. If your core issue is a feeling of overwhelm and chaos due to a combo of work, kids and managing relationships, something like closing your eyes and breathing with the words “Slow…down” might work.  If your base issue is tension and stress arising from being a control freak, maybe “Surrender to the flow of life.” would be effective.  If your root issue is just persistent, generalized, low-level anxiety, “Accept this moment exactly as it is.” or “Don’t resist what is.” could work.

Two things to keep in mind when creating your catchphrase.  First, keep it short.  Five or six words max.  You want your catchphrase to be easy to conjure from your noggin when stress/a pushed button arises.  Second, try just one catchphrase at a time.  If it’s not resonating after a few weeks or months you can switch it up. But it will be much easier to deploy this weapon on the spiritual battlefield if it’s not competing with other phrases circling around your mind.

Life can be tough. Incorporate this easy practice into your life and it’ll be less so.