In a post just a few weeks ago, Six Spiritual Principles for the Politically Perplexed, I suggested that political passion need not divert us from a spiritually directed life and vice versa (i.e. no hate mongering, becoming informed and working for the issues that matter to you, etc.). Who would have thought then how much more intense it would get as we jumped on the seemingly endless roller coaster ride of the financial crisis? If ever there was evidence of our all being in the same boat, it was the domino effect of failed banks and sub-prime mortgages and the resulting plunge into a world-wide recession that got our attention. We are indeed in this together.
The Big Day is almost upon us. And following that is The Morning After. November 5 will bring elation and apprehension, fear and fireworks, relief and outrage, and maybe for those of us hooked on months or years of politically charged conversation and manic media coverage, a kind of post-partum depression. It's been a bumpy ride. That aspect will not end any time soon.
So what can we do? I would first suggest that a little rest and reflection would help us on the road to recovery. Stop holding your breath and start breathing. Oxygen to the brain and heart and other vital organs is always a good idea. Then, I offer the three ideas below to address the practical, psychological and spiritual aspects of taking the next step towards enlightened citizenry. It's a non-partisan approach. One size in this case can fit all. While some might naturally resist the idea of reconciliation, I offer it as the only practical approach that can really work. It's a perfect antidote to the sometimes toxic environment of American electoral politics.
It's the change we need.
Practical: Your candidate didn't get elected without your money, work and your vote. He won't be able to effectively address this nation's challenges without you either. Your job has not ended. You may have picked your candidate based on a specific policy. Keep learning about that and look for effective ways to continue to make your voice heard. Stay involved and informed. Pick a project; give your time, your heart, your expertise, your money. Conserve fuel, spend wisely, do good works. If it wasn't your candidate who was elected- the same applies. Sour grapes just make your mouth pucker.
Psychological: We are all Americans. If anything has come of this electoral process, it was the constant "in-your-face" opportunity for all of us to see that no one group in America can or should ever own or define what it means to be an American based on a narrow set of political agendas or cultural expectations. Some on both sides of the spectrum would still choose to do this. But it is simply not in our best interest. Notice I said, "Choose". We can be in disagreement; we can be angry or afraid. And, we can learn to transcend those responses for the common good (and ultimately for our own).
Along these lines, consider writing to both the winner and loser. Find something that you appreciate about their work and candidacy. Tell them. (McCain, Obama) Relate something about the issues that are particularly meaningful to you. Respectfully disagree or make suggestions. It is your right and duty as a citizen. If you just need to vent a little rage or stoke your fears, say it for your own satisfaction, but consider not including anything over the top in your letter. The object here is to know yourself, get past the negatives, energize the positives and pass them along.
Spiritual: There is always opportunity to transcend and connect to others in a meaningful way. The loving-kindness, (metta) meditation is as much for you as for others. Here is a link to a written and audio version of the meditation for you by Sharon Salzburg of the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, MA. Through it we can find the peace and health and happiness within and then consciously extend it to others- including, if we can, if only for a moment, those with whom we have major differences of opinion, distrust, or even dislike. You'll be surprised at what you can create.
Kay Goldstein, MA teaches meditation and writes poetry, fiction and articles addressing the challenges and joys of daily living and spiritual practice. www.kaygoldstein.com
For more posts on Election Anxiety, click here.