I am really sad about the outcome of the election on many levels. I suspect that many (but not all) of you feel the same way. Now what? I’m looking for ways that spirituality can fight post election despair. But first, something must be said.
I have not made a secret of the fact that I do not like Donald Trump. At the same time, I have done my best to remain in conversation with Trump supporters, especially on my Facebook page. And I often wrote “whomever wins, we need to come together as a country and find a way to heal.” I’ll be honest – I hoped that I would be the one who got to play the role of gracious winner, but the Universe has other plans for me. So I will take a page from Hilary Clinton’s speech, and look at Trump with an open mind. He won, and he and his supporters have an opportunity to prove that my fears are unfounded.
I really do want to heal as a country. This does not, however, mean giving up on what I believe in. As President Obama said, we see to a peaceful transition of power. Then we go back to work and fight the political fights.
But what can I do? I feel like crap.
Mussar as always has some suggestions.
Here are Five Soul Traits to help you process the election results and fight post-election despair.
Humility: We each only get one vote. Although I volunteered and donated, in the ballot box, I only have one vote. In fact, my vote counts less in California than it would have in the Midwest. It appears that Clinton won the popular vote. When it comes to a National Election, I occupy a very small space. We can rage against the machine, or we can accept reality. On the National and World Stage, I occupy a very small space.
However, in other parts of my life, I occupy a much larger space. I can make a positive contribution to my family and community. One friend of mine said she will write one letter about climate change a day for the next year. And I love this article from Jenna Amatulli in the Huffington post that outlines ways to help, by listing organizations that support progressive causes. Don’t move. Volunteer.
Patience – Mussar is teaching that Patience is bearing the burden of the situation, much as the Israelites bore the burden of slavery in Egypt. It is a gift to help us endure when we cannot take action. When it comes to this election, there is little we can do. The painter Paul Klee died in 1940, at a time when it looked like Hitler would take over everything. Five years later Hitler was destroyed. This election is not the end of the story, but we will have to endure years of policy changes that will hurt some of us to the core.
Honor the Divine Spark in others. I remember feeling bad for Republicans who were so bitterly disappointed that Obama was re-elected in 2012. I felt the same way in 2004 when Kerry lost to Bush. Today I tip my cap to the Trump supporters. It is their turn. I hope they will be gracious winners.
HOWEVER, it is more important to honor minority communities who may be feeling scared about what a Trump presidency means for them. And they way we can honor them is by taking action.
Enthusiasm – Mussar teaches that we should “Run to do good.” There are many hurting people out there. We can acknowledge Trump’s presidency while at the same time remain active in the civic and political arenas. Be aggressive to stop bullying when you see it. Reach out to your LGBT, black, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, feminist friends and let them know that you have their back. Another thing you can do is provide a safe space for people. A Rabbi friend started a private group where people can support each other through the stress of the election. And the Pantsuit Nation Facebook Group of women who support Clinton has over 3 million members. The woman’s issues raised in this campaign are not going away. Join a group and get active.
Equanimity – This soul trait is also known as Calmness of the Soul. It is a zen-like ability to be present, to accept what is, and stay on an even keel whatever happens.This is so hard for me. Spiritual masters like Eckhart Tolle call it being present, or being Awake. I’ll be honest – I’ve suffered a lot this year. I write suffered with a small s because the things that caused me unhappiness are stress and work related. Now, I have something truly calamitous to be unhappy about. Maybe this will be the incentive I need to start meditating, and doing what I need to do to wake up. Tolle tells a story of a student of his who was grateful for his illness because it forced him to go deeper into their consciousness and dissolve the ego. I really want to do this.
Finally, let me leave you with a Korean quote from my sister in law “It’s not the seven falls. It’s the eight rises.”
For many of us, this is a fall. When you rise, look around, and look within. I’m sure that something needs fixing in your own back yard.
Want to start your own Mussar journey? Click here to join me on the Soul Trait Profile Quiz.
Equanimity is a tough concept to explain, and as a Soul Trait it can be one of the toughest to bring into balance. The Hebrew name for the Equanimity Soul Trait literally translates as “calmness of the soul,” and putting Equanimity in proper balance means not becoming overwhelmed by the world but not tuning it out, either—not becoming so frenzied that we lose all purpose, and not becoming so sedentary that we lose all action.
The UMOM New Day Centers work throughout the Phoenix, Arizona area to make sure families have the medical care, childcare, education, and job skills training they need to establish successful and loving lives. They work with some of the most vulnerable members of the community every day, and they do not become overwhelmed and quit nor do they shut their eyes to the problems so many encounter. their work is a testament to the power of proper Equanimity in action, and American Mussar is proud to present this organization with a Point of Light award.
Homelessness is a problem all too easy to turn a blind eye toward. It’s also easy to look at the staggering size of the problem—as many as 3.5 million people in the United States, nearly half of them children, will experience homelessness at some point in a given year—and to see the problem as unsolvable. UMOM does neither, taking the direct action it can to bring an end to homelessness in its own community.
True Equanimity is active, not apathetic, and UMOM New Day Centers give us an important lesson in Equanimity impact. You can join American Mussar in donating to their efforts here.
Its election year, and you will hear many requests to vote. Some people don’t vote because they feel like their vote doesnt’ count. As someone who lives in California, I get it, because this state is super blue. I feel that my vote would count more if I lived in a swing state like Ohio or Florida. Plus, I’m not a billionaire or even a millionaire. Will my voice be heard?
You may feel like a cog in the machine at work. Does anyone care what you have to say? Do you beat your head against the wall trying to get people to listen? I’ve been there. For me, there are few worse things than being ignored or not taken seriously.
For more senior people in corporations, it doesn’t necessarily get any easier. There is almost always someone you need to please – a bigger boss, shareholders, customers, employees. The stress can be intense, and some people feel like a fraud. Any minute, you will be figured out.
It may feel like no one is listening. It may feel like no matter how hard you try, no one knows the real you. If we are lucky, we have a handful of people who will have our back no matter what, friends, parents, spouses, and siblings. But those people are few and far between. And even then, they do not always listen.
When we don’t feel heard, we feel alienated and alone. It is demoralizing and disheartening. Sometimes communication can be improved, especially with a friend or partner. Best practice for business is to make everyone feel heard, and a key part of the team. But there is no guarantee that your company will do the right thing. In all of these circumstances, being heard depends on someone else willing to listen. Maybe they will, maybe they wont.
How To Guarantee Your Voice Will Be Heard in 2016
There is, however, a way to guarentee that your voice will be heard in 2016. You should talk to yourself. I don’t mean the steriotypical muttering under yoru breath, or swearing at other drivers. Singing in the shower doesn’t count either. Have a heart to heart with yourself. Look inside, and find those things that cause you to get stuck. And then talk yourself into making a small change.
This is what Mussar has taught me. How many of us know what we should be doing, but end up doing something else? Who feels trapped, not only that no one will listen, but that we are powerless to do anything differently? I don’t know how many times in my life I’ve sent an email, and then regretted it later. Why did I hit send right away, when I know that I should wait an hour first?
Learn to talk to yourself in a way that you can listen. Tell yourself that you have choices, and use the Mussar practice to bring your life into focus. Instead of just stumbling along from moment to moment, focus on the choice points. As helpless as you feel, you still have choices to make. Do you walk into the room with a smile or a frown?
Viktor Frankl, the holocaust survivor and psychologist wrote, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Remind yourself that within your soul, there is a battle between the Good Inclination and the Evil Inclination. I don’t mean the big evils, I mean the small. The judgement, the hurts, the indifference. We are wired to respond more quickly emotionally. (Which is why I should always wait before responding to email.) It is better to take time and let your better self chime in. You can be heard – you can hear your better self. Which one will you listen to?
Three Soul Traits to help you hear your better self.
Gratitude – focus on what you have and be grateful.
Order – plan time to talk to your self, and to listen. Try meditation – it can bring calm and clarity. If you are not a meditator, give it a try. The first time, chances are that your thoughts will start to race, like a voice shouting in your head. That voice is yours too, listen to it.
Awe – We live in an amazing world, full of beauty in music, art and nature. Whether you believe this is the hand of the Divine, or part of the wonder of the Universe, Awe can help you get through. If you are feeling stuck and unheard, tap into the power of wonder to help you listen to yourself, and to give you the courage to do something better, something greater.
Take a few minutes right now to talk to yourself. Start by listening. What is going on? What do you need?
And then ask what you can do for other people. Taking action to help others is a way to overcome paralysis that can come from not being heard.
I’ve started asking myself “If you are so lonely, why don’t you ever call anyone?” Ring Ring, you will hear from me.
If you talk to your soul, it will listen. You are your soul.