Have you found this election season as distressing as I have? The hatred being spewed on both sides has left me feeling both saddened and worried about our future as a country.
On November 9th, no matter what the outcome, how do we move forward?
I've been gratefully savoring The Book of Joy, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams. I only read a page or two at a time, as I need a day to absorb the lessons.
One passage struck me as having powerful relevance to our election. In it, the Dalai Lama talks about using a Buddhist meditation practice called tonglen, "giving and taking." He used it to calm his own fears about how the Chinese authorities were handling an uprising back home in Lhasa. He says, "I tried to take on their fear, anger, suspicion, and to give them my love, my forgiveness."
This spoke powerfully to me, as I have used a similar practice from Hawai'i called ho'oponopono. In that practice, you think of a person you are estranged with, or who has wronged you, and for 21 days in meditation you repeat the following phrases: "I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you."
Neither of these practices is easy. It's some of the hardest work I have ever done.
It's so much easier to hold onto my righteous anger. It feels good to be on my high horse looking down on the world. I don't want to give that up.
As for our election, right now it's easy to feel (whatever side you are on) that We're Right and They're Wrong.
"But!," I can hear my friends say, "THEY are SO [fill in the blank]!"
And yet... we are all Americans. If we feel this strongly about the election, doesn't it mean that we care? That we want the best for our country? Isn't it possible that our brothers and sisters who disagree with us so strongly want that too, but they see a different path?
I have been working on letting my anger go and practicing tonglen. Every time I read something on Facebook that riles me up, can I take this practice and apply it? How can I take on that person's anger, fear, or suspicion? How can I offer them my love and forgiveness with an open heart? How can I ask them to forgive me for my anger towards them?
While the Dalai Lama says in The Book of Joy that this practice of tonglen will have "no physical effect on the ground," it has been my experience that something magical can happen when I diligently apply practices like this with a loving heart. I have seen immense change in relationships despite the other person having no idea I have done this.
I truly hope that by loving our brothers and sisters through this, we can all come out the other side a better country.
Stephanie Weaver, MPH, CWHC is a writer and health coach. Her book The Migraine Relief Plan will be published on February 14, 2017 by Agate/Surrey Books. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.