Mindfulness at a Crossroads

Photo by Jon Sailer

The people of the United States, voting in numbers that far exceeded the last presidential election, have chosen to change our country’s path. Exit polls and campaign priorities indicated that young people and people of color were the major drivers of this change and their top concerns were choosing a leader with good judgment, character and temperament, who would unify our people, and who would better manage the pandemic response.

As chance would have it, this announcement happened right in the middle of a class MAM was offering on mindfully navigating the election results. As a community, we were able to hold and process this news together and begin to imagine the road ahead. We were supported by the benefits of co-regulation, allowing us to welcome all our complex thoughts and emotions with compassion and equanimity.

In the midst of this change, we must acknowledge that over 70 million people, primarily white people without college degrees, expressed their wish to stay the course. In fact, over 50% of voters in KS and MO, where MAM primarily serves, preferred to continue on the path we have been walking for the last four years. This means there is still so much division in our society and many people are likely feeling disenfranchised by these election results. We cannot dismiss this significant part of our population who breathe the same air, walk the same Earth, and raise children who will inherit the same society we are co-creating. Harboring hatred, stoking divisions and promoting fear will only lead to our continued collective suffering.

The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth. – African Proverb

How did we get here? There has been much speculation and many wise people have researched and written about this. I believe that harmful and outdated mainstream cultural values, such as rugged individualism, pathological competitiveness, and the false promise of meritocracy, have dehumanized us by separating us from our common humanity, deep interconnection, and inborn instinct for compassion and altruism. These values, along with the more primitive parts of our human nature that remain unexamined in many of us, have ultimately reduced our ability to adapt to a changing world. Clinging rigidly to obsolete or unwholesome views has made us vulnerable to cognitive distortions, emotional reactivity, and self-dealing, which in turn has lead to:

Fortunately, the truth of impermanence has offered us a crossroads. In our reactivity, whether to joy, despair or complacency, will we miss it? Or might we pause amidst this turning of events and notice what is really here? Can we breathe and ask ourselves what is needed? Might we open to some difficult realities and ask ourselves some important questions?

No matter who wins, that’s when the work begins. A loss or win doesn’t absolve us from our future. – Roshi Joan Halifax

While we may need to pause for a moment, take a breath and resource ourselves, we must also remember that an election result is not a solution to our problems. If we want to co-create a more just and compassionate world, we must remain mindfully engaged. On a micro-level, each and every one of us can do the hard work of self-discovery, awareness, education, and healing as well as embodying our highest values in our daily lives. In our families and communities we can recognize and counter disinformation, stand up to cruelty and injustice, celebrate prosocial attitudes and behavior, and elevate voices that are often unheard. On a macro-level we can continue to stay involved in politics, boycott institutions and systems that cause harm while supporting those that create non-discriminatory benefit, and protest against unjust policies and laws. Our mindfulness practice can empower and fortify us to be activists for a better world, in a sustainable way, for the 10,000 mile journey ahead.

I hear the polls
are going to be open on Tuesday.
All day.
Good. I certainly intend to go to them.
I certainly invite you to go to them and vote too.
But today I say the polls
are not just open on Tuesday.
I say they are open every day.
Every hour. Even here. Even now…
I’m going to vote, right now,
for the right to dream of a world
where the word politics
doesn’t stop me in my tracks,
and where the word honor still
has a few good meanings left.
I’m going to vote right now
for the power of free people
to actually be free,
no matter who they are,
no matter who has abandoned them,
no matter who hates them.
I actually am going to vote for love,
I am going to vote for truthfulness as the norm,
not the exception.
I’m going to vote for a world
that doesn’t vote for killing, control and swagger,
I’m going to vote for you.
I’m going to vote for me.
Right now. Right here. Silently. But for real.

Mark Belletini, Election Promises in “Sonata for Voice and Silence”


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