Wow! What an extraordinary election season this has been. It has brought out the full spectrum of emotions – optimism, love, naivety, fear, resentment and vitriol! It’s like an emotional version of one of those breakfast buffets at a Las Vegas casino. A few delicious things and a bunch of crap that is hard to digest. It all culminated in last night’s verdict that Donald Trump would be the next president of the United States. I don’t think there has ever been a more polarizing election in the history of our country. The decision was a momentous one. At the core, the question for voters was whether to vote for an establishment candidate who would maintain and reinforce the status quo, or to vote for a total wild card with a penchant for arrogance. The country opted for the wild card. I’m not giving an opinion or taking sides here, simply looking at the situation from an objective, unemotional and mindful perspective.
The common denominator is fear. Supporters of Clinton fear the notion of Donald Trump having the most influential job on earth. Supporters of Trump fear that if our government doesn’t change, they will feel increasingly disempowered. People on “both sides of the aisle” are both experiencing a ton of fear and, frequently, letting that fear take over.
In Buddhism, there is a term called “maya.” Maya is an illusion that we live under which prevents us from experiencing the true nature of spiritual reality. Essentially, it is a waking dream where we think that what we are seeing in present reality is the one and only reality, when, in actuality, it is only an experience of what we think of as reality based on our preconceived thoughts and feelings. Over the past few months, I’ve seen both Democrats and Republicans fall victim to maya. This victimhood shows itself in emotional reactions, both positive and negative. In my experience, anyone who allows their own emotional state to be dictated by circumstances beyond their control suffers from being in a state of maya. Doing so means that one has ceded control of their own power by saying that they can only be happy if the reality that they experience conforms to their preferences. You can’t kidnap your own happiness and give the universe a ransom note filled with demands and expect the universe to fulfill those demands.
The great thing about fear and anxiety is that these emotions serve a purpose. If we allow the feelings to take over our conscious minds, that purpose cannot be served. We become consumed by the feeling and the emotion then becomes unusable. But by learning to separate from the thoughts in our minds and the feelings in our bodies, we can see that who we are is not the identity created by thoughts and feelings, but the powerful spirit that provides a container for them. This is not some nonsense that I’m spewing, but a perspective gained after years of mindfulness practices. Let’s look at a very tangible example. Everyone has either been in a car accident or, at least, a close call. When these events happen, we are triggered into a fear reaction which makes perfect sense. Our feelings of safety have been temporarily compromised. However, once the initial shock has subsided, we don’t go on identifying with the fear. That is because we are not the feeling. We are the witness of the feeling. The same thing that happens on a micro level (a car accident or a close call) also happens on a macro level (electing a president), but the feeling is amplified by a collective cultural anxiety, which then makes it feel that much more real and permanent.
The question that I feel we all need to ask ourselves is how can we use the outcome of this election to create positive change in our worlds? Rather than focus on what we can get from our “leaders”, we need to be the leaders. The quality of your life is almost entirely in your power to create, no matter what appears to be happening in the world around you. This is a wake-up call for people to learn how to access their own inner power. Become increasingly vigilant about your own tendency to slip into states of mind that feel powerless. You have an extraordinary power to be able to adapt to any circumstance that life creates, but the desire to be in charge of your own life and your own sense of freedom has to be larger than the emotions which get in the way.