Moments of peace have been hard to come by in the tense, divided climate of this election season ― both for the nation and individuals.
As many mental health experts have observed, the turmoil of the 2016 presidential race has caused many people ― especially women ― significant emotional distress. More than half of Americans say the election is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, according to an American Psychological Association survey. One therapist even coined the term “Election Stress Disorder” to describe what she was seeing in so many of her patients.
But as Americans casts their ballots on Tuesday, one nonpartisan event at polling sites across the nation encourages voters to seek out a moment of calm and compassionate reflection in the midst of the chaos.
The Elevate the Vote initiative is bringing “meditation flash mobs” to nearly 1,000 polling locations in all 50 states to “[elevate] the consciousness of every U.S. voter on election day.” The synchronized meditation will be broadcast live to smartphones around the globe at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. More than 25,000 people have pledged to join in person or online, according to the event’s organizers.
The goal of the flash mobs is not only to soothe election anxiety, but to overcome divisiveness and separation through mindfulness, according to Jacob Devaney, one of the event’s organizers and a co-founder of the nonprofit media organization Unify.
“People are pissed off, they’re angry, they’re hurt and they feel hopeless ... So we thought, why not really try to hold a space for healing the divide that came from this whole bitter process?” Devaney told The Huffington Post.
“Whoever becomes our next Senate and president, we’re going to need mental clarity, inner peace and compassion,” he added.
“People are pissed off, they’re angry, they’re hurt and they feel hopeless ... So we thought, why not really try to hold a space for healing the divide that came from this whole bitter process?”
It’s now been proven scientifically that meditation can encourage these qualities by reducing anxiety, increasing focus and encouraging empathy and compassion.
Elevate the Vote isn’t the only event aiming to bring a little more mindfulness to Election Day. Buddhist teacher and author Ethan Nichtern will be leading a guided compassion meditation and discussion at his Election Night Dharma Gathering in Manhattan. For those who are unable to attend personally, the event will be live-streamed on Shambhala Meditation Center of New York’s Facebook page. On Nov. 9, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York will host a special “Election Exhale” meditation session.
So remember to cast your vote tomorrow, first and foremost. And once your ballot’s in, take a few minutes to meditate ― whether in a flash mob at the polls or in the quiet of your own home ― to combat election-related stress and find a little more compassion for others.
“I’d like to see us feel connected,” said Devaney. “We need to see through the divisiveness and recognize our common humanity with other people.”
Elevate the Vote’s organizers point to the 1776 inscription on the Great Seal of the United States: “E Pluribus Unum,” or “Out of many, we are one.” It’s a reminder we could all use right about now.
Head to the Elevate the Vote’s website to find or organize an event in your city.
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