It’s been a doozy of a couple weeks for Shaw Yoga. Exciting and momentous things are happening on many fronts. Parker is marrying her wonderful partner John next weekend, Ben and I are a month and a little more away from having a baby girl, and we’re very close to a step to make the Shaw Yoga experience more accessible and meaningful for all our beloved yogis (teachers and students alike). More on that excitement very soon!
I’d wager that it’s also a doozy of a time for the city and the country at large, and I do mean, primarily, the momentous election cycle upon us.
Some of you know that I am a high school English teacher. I love words, and I love looking words up—even, or especially, words I already know and use. Because we can forget the origins, the original intent, of a word. It can get tied up in associations and misunderstandings. I just looked “doozy” up as I used it here. It’s OED definition is “something outstanding or unique of its kind.” Now, that’s spectacular, I think. The definition is so much more positive than I thought it might be. How wonderful to come back to the origin of something and discover it was brighter than you thought.
Perhaps like many of you, it’s hurt my heart to witness the partisanship, the animosity, the mudslinging that this election cycle has engendered. My 11th grade English classes read Hillary and Donald’s respective convention speeches, thinking about the rhetorical appeals each candidate used to make their speech persuasive, and I cautioned the students against virulent judgment of the side they didn’t agree with. It chastened them in the moment, and for the class period, but I doubt it had any lasting effects on how the students feel. I’ve had to stop listening to NPR on my morning commute to work. I had been telling my husband how it set such a troubling tone for my morning, and he asked me, “Why do you listen to it, then?” My instinctual response was, “Because it’s the truth,” and in reflecting on this later, I couldn’t help but chuckle at my own silliness, my disconnect from the spiritual teachings and the wisdom that yoga has offered me. Election cycle bickering, jostling, and vitriol is not the truth. It couldn’t be farther from it. It’s what is happening, and it’s only what is happening because we don’t know of another way to get at what is right.
Today I read an article entitled something like “Trump’s Violent Innuendo against Hillary Becomes More Blatant,” and then I was sad for a few minutes. Then I flipped open my “Pocket Thich Nhat Hanh,” and of course immediately found solace in his wisdom.
Here’s what it said:
“Societies and nations that are locked in conflict need to learn the practice of inclusiveness if they really want to find a way to live together in peace. Can our side accept that the other side also needs a place to live and needs the safety and stability that can guarantee a peaceful and prosperous society?”
The answer is simple. What is true is recognizing that very, very few people actually have bad intentions. We are all trying for the same thing: safety, peace, and prosperity for ourselves and our families. Accept that as truth, and let the rest of the noise and the misunderstanding and yes, even the violence, pass you by as mildly as it can, because it is not the truth. Pray for the country and its would and could-be leaders; dedicate your good energy to the world. Pray for reconciliation and peace.
And give this a try: anytime you encounter something about the election, think of someone you know, ideally someone you love, who stands on the other side of the political spectrum from you. Send them your love and your trust and your empathy. Think about how their intentions are good. What are they motivated by? Concern for their loved ones, love for the country, hope for a peaceful world. Pray for the candidates on both sides. I’m not asking that you support or even forgive the one (or both!) that you don’t agree with. I’m suggesting that there’s something bigger and truer and older and much more important than politics that you can devote some of your attention to, instead.
Meditate on this: “what is good is what is true.” And accept that we don’t know all the answers, and we don’t know the future. But loving our neighbor as ourselves is a charge that we will never be sorry we’ve fulfilled.