If you’re truly serious about self inquiry, you know that looking inward sometimes yields painful and frightening realizations. Many of us don’t have the adequate skills to process these moments of self-reckoning. We often respond to our own faults with acute anxiety, depression, and self-condemnation (that we sneakily transfer onto others). In an effort to avoid these states, we just skip looking inward at all. And who could blame us?
This election is like a painful self-realization turned living nightmare. We’re hurt and scared, and in the extremity of the shock, many of us are floundering. Our go-to’s aren’t holding up, and we’re mired in the mud of despair. Philosopher Judith Butler beautifully illustrates our collective shock in a statement she made on November 9th.
"The word 'devastation"'only starts to approach the wide-spread feeling of the moment among those I know. We did not know how widespread anger is against elites, how deep the anger of white men is against feminism and the civil rights movement, how demoralized by economic dispossession many people are, how exhilarated people are by isolationism and the prospect of new walls and nationalist bellicosity. Is this the new 'whitelash?' Why did we not quite see it coming?"
As a meditator, I propose we turn Butler’s inquiry inside out. The principle question isn’t “Why did we not quite see it coming. . .” (which is a damn useful question, by the way). In fact, there isn’t really a central question, not yet. But there is a central point. Progressives were unaware of the extent of this country’s anger and disenfranchisement. This is the main point.
So, before we start asking questions, let’s first embrace this new-found awareness in the same way we, as meditators, strive to meet our own personal faults — with tender, loving, non-judgmental awareness.
Why tender and loving? Like it or not, our hearts are sweet and vulnerable. We owe it to ourselves to keep them that way. There is no harder, or more rewarding work. This is what makes us human. This is where happiness comes from. This is what keeps us moving forward both individually and collectively.
Why non-judgmental? Non-judgmental = objective. It’s the only way to see clearly.
Why awareness? So that we can actually act and implement change. Without awareness, we forfeit the ability to respond.
So, what exactly has this election made us aware of? As I said: it’s made us aware that we were previously unaware. And that alone can be painful. It’s also made us aware of the extent of dissatisfaction. It’s important to remember that this dis-satisfaction is not unilateral. While what Butler says is true, it’s not the whole story.
"Trump has unleashed pent-up anger against feminists, figured as censorious police, against multiculturalism, viewed as a threat to white privileges, against migrants perceived as a security threat. The empty rhetoric of false strength has triumphed, a sign of a despair more pervasive than we knew."
Not everyone who voted for Trump did so out of anger against multiculturalism and women. But, everyone who voted for Trump accepted this rhetoric of hate-speech as an acceptable-enough representation of our country and values. And that, for many of us, is unacceptable. And deeply, deeply disturbing.
This is why so many of the strongest, most educated, most balanced people I know are literally weeping. On Wednesday, people silently wept in the streets, walking empty like ghosts. If you don’t live in New York City, please know, I am not kidding. This weekend, we are just as confused, but we weep indoors, still struggling to understand. We weep not for politics per se, but for what has been voted in as acceptable. This hurts our hearts.
It is rare that our hearts burst open like this. Embrace this. Because this is our strength. The will to enact change might persevere (and I pray it does), but the terrifically raw, heartfelt tenderness we feel will dissipate.
The results of this election are tantamount to a painful self-realization. But here, our usually narrow self has expanded to include our fellow citizens. We feel embarrassed and scared for our fellow American Women, Muslims, Mexicans, and Blacks. We must hold these painful fears with tender, loving, nonjudgmental awareness.
We must reach deep and not give in to anxiety, depression, and condemnation. We must work hard - harder than we ever have - to meet ourselves and one another not face-to-face, but heart-to-heart.
--Megan Mook. Megan will be teaching a meditation workshop called