Politics Won’t Give You Peace
As a gay Mexican, Salomon Angulo, 36, was prepared for a day like Trump’s electoral win. Close to 6 years ago, unemployed with no money, Salomon’s friend convinced him to begin meditating. He instantly developed a habit of meditating at least 3 times a week. Since moving to the U.S in February, he has been working as a receptionist at New York City’s Kadampa Meditation Center.
“I’ve been trained for this,” said Salomon when he recalled his immediate need for meditation as soon as he heard Trump won. Although he was saddened by the news, he refused to take part in the anti-Trump protests. As a meditation practitioner, he has learned not to react with anger.
“Hate grows so fast,” he said, but he assures that had the election occurred 6 years ago before he began meditating, he would have been out on the streets fighting, out of anger. Instead, Salomon has learned to respond with compassion for others, including Trump.
“I don’t feel hate for him. Imagine all the world hates you, making fun of you, he’s suffering, he must be in so much pain,” he said sadly.
Salomon is not the only one using meditation to cope with Trump’s win. According to him, since the election, Kadampa Center’s phone has been ringing more than ever with people mentioning the election and saying, “I feel so anxious. I don’t know how to relax.”
A week after the election, all 25 folding chairs were occupied by clients of all ages taking Kadampa’s “How to Meditate” weekday evening class. The meditation room seemed like a small, cozy room of a home basement with carpeted floors, a short ceiling, aqua colored walls, lit candles, and statues of Buddha and deities such as Tara, the goddess of compassion.
Each person in the room was instructed to place their right hand in their left palm with thumbs touching, straightening their back, closing their eyes and repeatedly breathing in and out. A tall and scrawny instructor named Tim Cockey, 61, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, sat on a pedestal, cross-legged, in front of the class. Throughout the one-hour session, he repeatedly told everyone to “imagine everything outside these walls melt into the light and disappear.”
Sheila Ruschel, a Brazilian model living in New York, is one Kadampa customer who had felt personally stressed and disappointed with the electoral results. Although she started meditating a couple months before the election, she explains she needed it the day after the election more than ever.
“The day after, I came in, and spoke with Kadam [an instructor] about how I felt demotivated with a feeling of injustice after the election. He talked to me about acceptance, and that from every difficulty we become stronger,” said Ruschel who mentioned she felt less stressed afterwards.
For others such as Kathy Overman, 56, and Sonia Mukhi, 27, the electoral results encouraged them to begin meditating again.
“I felt so distracted. Trump is everywhere on TV and on my phone, and seeing who Trump is appointing to his cabinet made me anxious. I needed to bring back focus in my life,” said Mukhi, a manager for American Express, who appreciated that meditation allows for a time to turn her phone completely off and completely “detox from content” provided by the media.
“I don’t support Trump, but I have cousins in really red states who post horrible things about Hillary on social media. I don’t agree with the things they say and post,” said Overman, a full-time nurse who wants to start meditating again to deal with the stress of family members with differing political opinions.
Silence hasn’t worked for everyone. For April Lin, an NYU student majoring in political science, talking about the election has helped her digest what has been happening.
“The protests have helped me feel like I’m not alone as a woman or a minority,” said Lin who participated in a student walkout at NYU three weeks ago. “The walkout created a sense of solidarity and even hope that a lot of people needed, including myself.” Lin understands why some people might choose to meditate. The first rally had left her feeling extremely overwhelmed.
“I feel like the best way to make change happen is to stay mad. If we all gain compassion for Trump that could very quickly lead to complacency and normalization of his presidency and we can’t let that happen,” said Abbie Richards, a neural science major at NYU who has tried meditation before, but doesn’t feel it works for her.
As a person who was dragged by his wife to a meditation class 12 years ago and has been meditating ever since, Tim Cockey disagrees. “If the candidate that anti-Trump protestors wanted had won, there would still be a limit to true happiness that would have brought,” said Cockey who gave the example of President Obama as a desired leader many had chosen, but who ended up disappointing them later on.
“If you want to be happy. Don’t dish on the election over dinner with your friends. Don’t create a negative space that leads to an agitated mind,” said Cockey.
“We can’t control things that happen externally,” said another Kadampa instructor Naimah Hassan as she described the responsibility to control your own happiness regardless of the electoral result.
As the electoral grief continues to hang over the city, the Center’s teachings of love versus hate have been particularly appealing to newcomers.
Felice Carson, 45, the child of Holocaust survivors, began meditating for the first time, frightened to think that people voted for someone with Trump’s views.
“I just need a place of quiet,” said Carson referring to the noise protestors made on the streets as they passed by her apartment downtown. After her first meditation class at Kadampa Center, she was happy to say that she did feel “mentally weightless,” and will continue to meditate.