Along with my progressive, liberal, Clinton-voting friends and acquaintances, I've been struggling to come to grips with the bizarre reality of a President Trump.
(Yikes, just writing those last two words brought about a feeling of impending doom.)
Today I came across a Vox post, "An ancient Buddhist strategy for overcoming paralyzing fear," that contains some good advice. Here's some passages from the short piece that I particularly resonated with.
In the days since November 9, an oppressive cloak of fear and dread has descended upon a great many Americans.
...This fear is not trivial and it may not be easily subdued. Fear is a biological response we’ve evolved to protect ourselves from threat, and it originates in the limbic system of the brain, the primitive reptile inside us.
Neuroscience tells us that uncertainty inflates our estimates of threat. So it’s not surprising that the uncertainty of what will come to pass in a Trump administration is leading many people to flirt with all-consuming, paralyzing panic.
...We’ve got 62 days until Trump takes office, so it seems like a good time to seek out the world’s oldest psychological teachings on transforming oppressive fear into something more productive.
...One of the most fundamental Buddhist teachings is mindfulness — the act of bringing awareness to the present moment. I spoke to Brother Phap Dung, a senior monk and teacher at Plum Village, the Buddhist community founded by the Zen master and author Thich Nhat Hanh, about bringing mindfulness to bear on fear.
“We see the mind like a house, so if your house is on fire, you need to take care of the fire, not to go look for the person that made the fire,” Dung says. “Take care of those emotions first, because anything that comes from a place of fear and anxiety and anger will only make the fire worse. Come back and find a place of calm and peace to cool the flame of emotion down.”
The simplest way to calm the mind is with the basic meditation practice of sitting quietly, focusing on the breath.
...“Unskillful fear … has got such a good argument: which is, anything can happen in the next moment.” A President Trump raises a multitude of deeply troubling possibilities of harm in the future, and while “that seems like a really convincing argument to keep on worrying and being afraid,” it’s actually not a good reason to remain gripped by fear in the present. We can’t know the future, and so allowing fear to hold us prisoner in the present is ultimately unskillful.
Skillful fear is watching it, getting really close to it, and uncovering the purer feelings, like love, underneath it. We can use fear skillfully by redirecting its energy and our attention toward more wholesome virtues, like courage and kindness, Lesage explains. “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the floods of fear,” Martin Luther King Jr. said.
On a more practical level, Brother Phap Dung recommends that people stop reading the news if it feeds fear. “Go take refuge in nature, and find a cause where your heart doesn’t feel inactive and in despair,” he says. “This is the medicine.”
As wise as this advice is, everybody will have a different way of dealing with negative emotions stirred up by the presidential election.
Personally, I find a lot of comfort in reminding myself that "I" don't really exist -- at least, not in the way most of us feel ourselves to be. Namely, an independent free-willing self who continually faces choices about what to do, and is responsible for the actions that we either decide to undertake or forego.
This feeling places a huge unnecessary burden on us. Unnecessary, because both ancient Buddhism/Taoism and modern neuroscience say that the self is an illusion.
Five days before the November 8 election, I pointed to this understanding in "A Taoist approach to coping with the presidential election (and everything)."
Most people believe in free will, even though 21st century neuroscience strongly argues against its existence. We feel like there is a "me," a "self," that floats around independently inside our head, somehow disconnected from the goings-on of the physical brain and able to make decisions unaffected by prior experiences or external influences.
...People today still struggle with the same question: if I'm part of the world, why does the world so often seem to be at odds with me?
...Something is making everything be what is is, and do what it does. That something can't be separate from nature, unless we embrace some sort of nonsensical dualism. So why not call it the Way?
...The human mind can experience the world more clearly, or less clearly. We all know this to be true. Some days our mind seems to be in such frantic motion that it can't discern what is happening in the ever-moving outside world. Becoming calmer, more centered, helps us gain a clearer perspective. If I read or watch too much political news, I get information overload. Relaxing, I realize that there isn't any sort of objective presidential election reality. How things appear in our pre-election day perspective depends on what enters our minds, and how we look upon it.
...When I'm impelled to be politically active, to care about the presidential election, to help a chosen candidate, I need to realize that it is the World, the Way, that's bringing this about. Sure, I may feel like I'm making choices to donate money, vote a certain way, and such, but this is illusion. I, along with everybody else, am just a small cog in the Great Machinery of the Cosmos. My doing ultimately doesn't come from me, it comes from everything.
...Almost certainly, either Trump or Clinton is going to be elected president in a few days, an Electoral College tie being very unlikely. To deny the November 9 result is to deny reality. To believe "this wasn't supposed to happen" is to embrace an utterly crazy worldview, one which posits a schism between the what should be mind of the believer and the what is of existence.
I, like you, am part of the Way, the Tao, that also can be called Nature or the Laws of Nature. There isn't us and the world, or us and the presidential election. We're all in this together. We're all producing this together. We're all responsible for what happens together.
Hello Brian - A Trump supporter here who just read and loved your Plotinus (Return to the One) book. That how I found your site.
Please don't worry about Trump - at least give him a chance. There are many reasons I voted for him. I know many others who did too. I'm in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN area. I am not a racist nor are my like-minded well-educated aquaintences. I have traveled widely in Asia many times and am no stranger to visiting Muslim countries. I am not dumb and uneducated. I have a University of MN degree. I tell you this so I'm not seen as a yokel.
I have to tell you that people who voted for Trump around here (probably many placdes) sure didn't say anything about their plans. Instant branding of racism, sexism, xenophobe would have been the result. It's become dangerous to publicly disagree with the left. So we just stayed silent and voted. For this reason I will not give my full name.
My reasons for voting Trump:
OBAMACARE (aka "Affordable Care" act): It's KILLING us. Destroying my livelihood (small business, self-employed), We can't grow! My payments go up 50 to 60 percent every year. The deductibles double every year. I can't afford it any more. It's expensive and worthless now.
Immigration and Entry laws need to be enforced and the law respected. I'm not against legal immigration. When I travel I need a passport and visas. Why is that not the case here? Why can't we know who is in our country?
Washington is rotten to the core. If anyone can shake up the system he can. I don't know if he will succeed or not. We need term limits - no lifelong politicians. Curtail the power of lobbyists!
I know I won't change any minds but please don't think that we are all racist (my wife is Korean, I am white), homophobic (just went to a gay wedding in Chicago last month), Islamophobic (have muslim friends in Indonesia & India), xenophobic, etc....
I was prepared to accept the loss to Hillary who I really disliked as candidate. I know Trump is not perfect but who is?
It's worrying to see what went down out west with the protests. I know that area. Been to Seattle, Portland, many times. My mom is from Salem. Why do protesters destroy their own cities?
I guess my main message is: don't worry and give him a chance, please.
And write some more excellent books, too. ;)
Posted by: Anthony W. | November 22, 2016 at 01:43 PM
Posted by: Jesse | December 01, 2016 at 07:49 AM