We’re living in a time of intense political activity with heightened emotions being generated. Crucial choices are being made that will affect the lives of millions in the United States and around the world.
I’m beginning this post on mindful politics informed by two basic propositions:
1) That politics—the process through which we debate choices and make decisions about how we as individuals and groups live and work together in society; how we share and distribute resources; and how we relate to other nations and entities—is an essential area of engagement. Politics matters, but each one of us has to determine how much and whether we get involved;
2) That bringing greater awareness to the way we engage in the political process—particularly through bringing mindfulness to our beliefs, opinions, emotions, words, and actions—will help us engage more wisely, kindly, and appropriately in the process. And, this approach to engagement will be of benefit to ourselves and others.
What do I mean by mindful politics? The key to mindful politics is to bring ourselves—our beliefs, opinions, emotions, and reactions—fully into awareness when we make choices about when, where, why, and how we engage in the political process—whether it’s choosing to give money, demonstrate, phone bank or canvass for a candidate, vote, engage in discussion with a friend or colleague, or post on social media.
With much of our involvement in the political process, we take our beliefs and opinions as true or as a given: women should have the right to choose or abortion is obviously murder and wrong. We take our emotions—anger, fear, excitement, joy—as a given and not requiring much examination, and these emotions often trigger unexamined reactions, e.g., the man at the Trump rally slugging the demonstrator.
We often tie our well-being and happiness to particular outcomes—whether a bill gets passed or our candidate or party wins—and easily turn those disagreeing with us into ‘enemies’ or ‘bad people.’
Mindfulness invites us to take seriously the choices that we make and our responsibility in acting wisely and compassionately. And it invites us to take a step back from identifying with our views and beliefs to include our own emotions, beliefs, and reactions as something worthy of our attention and of allowing ourselves to feel fully.
When we let ourselves fully experience our emotions—feeling the fear, for example, when we contemplate the possibility of having a president who is uninformed and who targets minority groups as the cause of the “problem”—we are then able to make choices that are not triggered by fear or anger, but by wisdom and compassion towards ourselves and the world.