2016 election

It is a contentious and unsettled time here in America. The election is over but our country remains divided and emotions are running strong.

Therefore it is especially important to take a deep breath and intentionally navigate our way through whatever is to come.

No matter what side you’re on, it is probably safe to say that big changes are coming, and any big change can be challenging.

Although it may be hard to see, from a mindfulness perspective, the tough times can be great teachers; opportunities to cultivate equanimity and the ability to be with strong emotions and feelings.
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Good, Bad, Who Knows?

There is a great parable that illustrates this point and can help us not attach to our beliefs, or to hold too tightly to a certain outcome.

The story is about an old farmer who lives in a small village with his son. They have one horse and a small plot of land that they farm. Life is simple and modest but they have each other, and friends and all their needs are met.

One day someone accidentally left a gate open and the horse ran away.

The neighbors came over to commiserate. “This is terrible,” they exclaimed. “Now you won’t be able to plow as much land and you might go hungry. How awful!”

The old man just looked at them and said quietly, “Good, bad, who knows?”

A few days later the horse returns. While he was gone, he had met a tribe of wild horses and 2 of them followed him back. The old man and his son got all of them in the corral, so now they had 3 horses.

The neighbors came back to exclaim what great luck this was! Now the farmer could plow much more land, grow more food and make more money selling it. This was great news!!!

The old man just looked at them and said quietly, “Good, bad, who knows?”

While the son was trying to tame the wild horses, he was thrown from a horse and broke his leg.

The neighbors came back over to talk about how awful this was. The old man was too old to tame wild horses and now the son couldn’t do it. No one could plow the fields to grow and sell the food. They were now back to starving. This was terrible.

The old man just looked at them and said quietly, “Good, bad, who knows?”

A few days later, the army came through the village conscripting every able-bodied young man to go off to fight a war. Because he had a broken leg, the son didn’t have to go.

This, my friends, is equanimity in action. Equanimity, or calmness of mind even in stressful situations, can be your best friend right now.

We sometimes THINK things are awful and catastrophic, but we truly don’t know.

I’m sure all of us can think back to a time in our lives when we thought something was horrible (maybe a job or relationship ended) and it ended up being the catalyst for something much greater.

We are limited by our human perspective, by our filters, and by not being able to always see the divine plan.

When we believe our thoughts, we often create suffering for ourselves. We can watch the thoughts, feel the feelings (we don’t need to push anything away) and ask ourselves:

Good, bad, who knows?

Another way to ask is:

How do I know this is not a blessing?

I ask myself a version of this on a regular basis and it helps to cultivate my “Don’t-know-mind” as we say in the world of mindfulness.

It’s helps me consistently find peace in my own mind and body, which is the first step to creating peace in the world.

Suffer Skillfully

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk and peace activist who grew up in Vietnam. He offers other great ways to cultivate equanimity and deal with suffering.

Yes, we can learn how to suffer skillfully! We don’t have to run away from it or to hide from it by consuming. Food, drugs, alcohol, shopping, mindless TV are just a few of the ways we can distract ourselves from pain; temporarily, of course.

The secret to happiness is to acknowledge and transform suffering through our mindful presence and holding our experiences with a kind, compassion; much as we would hold and comfort a child who is crying.

We know the child has reason to be upset. But we know, as the wiser being, that all will ultimately be well. We can have that relationship with our own, inner small child who might be having an inconsolable temper tantrum.

Don’t Blame the Lettuce

If we plant lettuce and it doesn’t grow well, Thich Nhat Hanh says that we shouldn’t blame the lettuce. It is wiser to look at the reasons it isn’t growing well.

It may need fertilizer, or less sun or more water. It is never helpful, and in fact is a waste of energy, to blame the lettuce. The same is true with people. If we can understand and care for each other, we can grow and thrive and coexist in peace.

He says:

“Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding.”

It is so important to remember this with our fellow human beings. I see so much anger and blame on social media right now. While I understand it, it is not the most useful thing we can be doing with our energy. It is equivalent to “blaming the lettuce.”

The more we can stay in love and understanding, even when we disagree with the views of another, the quicker we will find peace on our planet.

No Mud, No Lotus

Thich Nhat Hanh also talks about how the beautiful lotus flower can only grow out of a lot of mud.

We NEED mud for certain beauty to be expressed. There is no other way. It is the natural order of things. Without grit there can be no pearl. We need darkness and light.

There is a useful role for things that might seem, at first glance, to be nothing other than a dark, ugly, painful mess.

This perspective can create less suffering when a dark, ugly mess shows up. We can start looking for the lotus. Perhaps it’s just a tiny, almost invisible bud, but it’s there somewhere.

Oh, my fellow humans, the good news is that we have laid down plenty of mud. We have great, rich, fertile ground for so many lotuses!

Now is the time to start rising above the mud and blooming. Let’s join hands and hearts and do it together.

Post Election Intentions

These intentions came to me after my morning meditation in this beautiful creek side spot on election morning.

  • May we all find acceptance and love in our hearts even though we disagree with the views of another.
  • May we focus on our commonalities and our universal human needs and desires rather than our differences.
  • May we use our imaginations to envision the highest good for all of humanity instead of focusing on false and dualistic choices.
  • May we open our hearts to the beauty that surrounds us every day instead of being distracted by circuses and sideshows designed to pull us away from that which really matters.
  • May we move forward with a commitment to be the peace that we want to see in the world.
  • May we consistently reside in a loving heart, even in the face of continual fear-mongering. This is a radical act of sanity and revolution.

Thinking of you with great love on this day,

Erin

PS- Please forward this to anyone you think might need help with the post-election blues. And, as always, I am available for a free 30-minute coaching call for anyone who might want more individual, mindfulness-based help processing things. Click here to contact me about scheduling something.

 

 

 

If you’re new to mindfulness and want to get an introduction to the practice, please click here for my free 7-day mindfulness challenge! Actually doing the practices is what will ultimately help you stop “blaming the lettuce”

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