What the hell can meditation do about Donald Trump?
My mantra won’t make The Donald go away.
(Now if the Democrats, in unison, start chanting the mantra “impeachment” at every opportunity…and there will be many…that might do the trick.)
Meditation can’t undo the damage he’s already done, or will do.
It can’t do anything about his sneer, his massive insecurity complex or his spray-on tan.
But it can do a lot. Here are 5 ways in which my meditation practice helps me deal.
1. Meditation helps us stay present for all the non-Trump stuff in life.
In the Vedic practice I teach, meditation isn’t a way to disconnect from life. It’s not “Calgon, take me away!” Meditation is a tool that helps us connect to something that’s way bigger than Trump’s ego: the present moment. It helps expand our awareness and strip away the distortion that stress, and stressful thinking, creates. And by doing both those things we can be more truly present, we can pay attention to everything else that’s happening in this big, wide and beautiful world: to nature, to our kids growing up, to the food we eat, the bodies we inhabit and to the people we love. So that we don’t get swamped with negativity, doom and gloom.
Because while we shouldn’t try to run away from what’s happening (Trump really did get elected. This really is where America is at right now), it’s not helpful to obsess about it either. So next time you feel a rising tide of anguish about the latest travesty log off social media, go outside, breathe and look at a tree. Get down on the floor and play with your kid or a dog. Move your body. Really take a moment to taste your food. Or just sit quietly and notice the play of light and shadow in the room. It really helps.
Here’s an easy, simple getting-present exercise I teach called “Coming to your Senses.” It’s a great way to get out of your head and into the flow of life.
2. It lets us see there are no “sides.”
Every astronaut who’s ever been shot into orbit has looked back at this beautiful blue ball and had the same life-changing epiphany: “It’s all one planet. There are no borders. We’re all one human family.” Thankfully we don’t have to be shot into space to experience this truth for ourselves. We can experience it, in consciousness, when we meditate. When we can transcend the mind and it’s torrent of freak-out thoughts. We can go beyond the ego scrambling for survival, seeing every cabinet appointment and executive order as a personal attack. Meditation allows us to touch that layer of unboundedness, that field of pure consciousness, pure being, that place at which everything and everyone (including you and The Donald) is completely connected. (It’s true.) It is a place of wholeness. A place of healing. And you can access it daily.
3. It can give us the ability to act without anger.
Does that mean when we open our eyes and step back into the world that we won’t encounter divisiveness and people who harbor ill will against us? Of course not. Does it mean that we will be called on to act, perhaps with great urgency, to stand up for the progressive evolution of our society? You bet. Does it mean there won’t be conflict or violence? No.
But it does mean that we can do what we must do, to help where we can, without hate. That we can try to keep our anger in check and rancor at a minimum. We can realize that if we’re all truly connected that I can’t hurt you without hurting myself. That I can’t hate you without that hate leaving a mark on me. And I don’t mean this as some kind of ooey-gooey spiritual bibble-babble. I lived this.
From my 20s to mid-40s I used to be a super-political person. It gave me an endless series of opportunities to be right. And, more importantly, to vent my anger at those who were wrong. I could use my intellect to eviscerate someone’s argument, make them angry, and make myself feel better by making them feel worse. It’s not pretty, but that’s who I was.
After I learned to meditate a lot of the anger just began to melt away. And one day I remember being at a political rally and watching a wave of anger build (self-righteous anger, the most destructive kind) and I realized in a flash that all my anger, all my need to be “right,” my issues with authority, was really me just yelling at my parents. I grew up in a pretty divisive household and at a young age I could see that my parents were wrong about some pretty fundamental things and I told them and they did what parents then did: they hit me and told me to shut up. So I learned to sublimate that sense of right and wrong. But I was still seething with, still carrying all that anger. Politics provided a lens through which it could be focused, like a laser. Meditation helped me finally release that anger, so that I could move forward, still supporting causes I felt were right, but without being such an asshole.
4. It makes it easier to replace blame with compassion.
Meditation expands our ability to empathize and be compassionate, two qualities we sorely need right now. I find it interesting that a great many liberals protesting that Trump’s anti-immigrant policies lump all immigrants together themselves tend to lump all Trump supporters together as some kind of racist, misogynist monolith. That’s not going to get us anywhere. Instead of blaming those who voted for him, perhaps start by asking, really asking, why. What has life been like in rural and suburban communities (places that overwhelmingly voted Trump) across the country, even in many “blue” states for last 20–30 years? It’s been bleak. Life across a huge swath of America has been a slow, steady slide into desperation and hopelessness. Make America Great Again really resonated there. Try to understand how desperate for change someone would have to be to overlook all the nasty things Trump said and did and vote for him.
And see if you can even find some compassion for the big bogeyman himself. I feel sorry for Donald Trump. I really do. He has a miserable inner life. So angry. So insecure. Flying off the handle at every imagined slight. I would never want even a minute of his life. There’s a great book called Crickwing, by Janell Cannon we’ve read to both our boys. It’s about how bullies only act the way they do because they have hurt inside them. Trump, of all the things you can say about him, clearly has a lot of hurt inside.
5. Meditation can help us be the change we seek.
Just after the election my teacher shared a bit of wisdom:
The world is for us as we can be for it. Your own state of consciousness is all you know. To change the world, change your own state of consciousness. Leaders are the mirror of the average state of collective consciousness. “Leaders” are led by, and constrained by, a collective alone (there is no “leader” without enthusiastic followers). Raise the average. Be personally exemplary of a higher consciousness state until, personally, you lift the average. Don’t expect “leaders” to lift a collective…that is grass-roots activity. It is your activity.
Where do we go to raise our state of consciousness? Within.
Where do we go to feel centered in turbulent times? Within.
Where do we find the love we need to drive out the hate? Within.
Where do we find the sense of purpose we need to move forward? Within.
How do we go within? Meditate. Find a technique or a practice that works for you. Something you can stick with…and stick with it.