If I had one wish today for my country on the eve of our presidential election, it would be to infuse every citizen with a strong dose of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of focusing our attention and awareness on what is happening in the present moment, without getting carried away by past stories or future imagined scenarios since the present is the only place we can take action.
As a former international economist whose life path led unexpectedly to mindfulness advocacy, I am a big fan of the work of Rasmus Hougaard, who wrote the book One Second Ahead: Enhance Your Performance at Work with Mindfulness (Palgrave Macmillion 2016). Hougaard incorporates the types of matrices, graphs, and equations that were the norm in my former life, but are less common in the mindfulness literature that now fills my bookshelves.
Here’s the equation in One Second Ahead that will make or break our national post-election experience.
P X R = S
P = pain. R = resistance. S = suffering.
Half the country will be in pain after the election. The degree of their suffering, however, will depend on the volume of their resistance to the outcome that will by that point be totally out of their control.
Regardless of where we stand on the political spectrum as individuals, we have power to influence the outcome by our actions up until the election (donating to campaigns, get out the vote efforts, casting our vote, etc.). After the results are in, however, it will be time to accept the outcome and refocus on what we actually have control over.
Outrage, indignation, anger, fear-mongering...all of it creates suffering individually and collectively. You can resist the election outcome and insist on being “right,” which multiplies the pain, or you can accept the reality of the situation and choose to not suffer.
Accepting an outcome doesn’t mean we are happy with it, or that we’re giving up on our principles. Acceptance doesn’t make us a doormat. Acceptance does, however, keep our higher level thinking online, rather than sinking into our reactive, fight or flight-driven reptilian brain.
Mindfulness allows us to choose productive action as we move forward from the election. The practice enables us to recognize the lessons in difficult situations and embrace the truth that the only constant in life is change.
So once this difficult campaign season is over, my hope is that we’ll choose to let go of resistance and the suffering it causes. We're all so much more effective when we take emotion and reactivity out of the mix and move forward with measured, intentional action.
Though it feeds our ego to view ourselves as victims, we have a choice to say no to that whiney voice. Our shared humanity, the essence that connects all of us, is what has always sustained us and carried us forward. We all have a choice in whether to give the power to our ego or our essence.