New Years Intentions |Brussels Yoga

Yoga and Mindfulness Reflections on the Election

By now we all know the results of Tuesday’s election in the US.   This isn’t meant to be a political post, though it is about politics.   But I know many people, including myself are grieving and/or feeling numerous intense emotions right now and at such times people often turn to their yoga and meditation practices and teachers for comfort. I have some thoughts I wanted to share that have been evolving over the past few days.

Feel your Feelings: This has been an important part of healing for me ever since I discovered mindfulness in 2008. Being able to check in with what you are experiencing, positive or negative, notice where you feel it in your body and acknowledge it is a main tenant of mindfulness. Too often we feel we have to push down our emotions and “put on a happy face”. For slices of the yogic community the idea of a positive mindset is the ultimate goal.   Do yoga, become happy. Don’t get me wrong, positivity is great and I don’t have a problem with being happy, but no one can be happy all the time. And on Wednesday there was no way I could be positive.   I was (and am) grieving and I knew the smartest and healthiest thing I could do for myself, and for my students, was acknowledge that reality and ask for help. I knew people would be coming to yoga looking for solace from a stressful day, there was no day I could help them find that. While I was met with mostly sympathy and support I was also shamed for not just “relaxing” and “spreading the love”.   Yet at the moment, trying to do that would be inauthentic, it would be pushing away my true self, working against one of the goals of yoga. It was tempting to take on that shame, and ignore my feelings. But the more I thought about it I wondered where those feelings would go, I knew they wouldn’t disappear, if I pushed them away where and when would they show back up? I was feeling real grief, it wasn’t just going to go away because I got up and showered and taught a yoga class.   My practice and teaching has always been seeded in mindfulness. One of the best articles I’ve come across in the past few days is this piece from Lions Roar (http://www.lionsroar.com/buddhist-teachers-respond-to-news-of-trumps-presidential-win/) The first take away I got from it was this quote from Ethan Nichtern of the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York

“Tomorrow I will try to follow the lead of those whose vision I trust to see how I can help move our world forward with compassion. But today, it is OK to grieve the fact that we have taken a massive emotional and spiritual step backwards. Please remember, the point of meditation is not to suppress your feelings. It is to make friends with yourself. On days like this, meditation is simply a way to remember a glimmer of your own basic goodness. Please remember it is OK to feel exactly what you feel.”

Thankfully another blessed yoga teacher offered to sub my classes for me. I was able to take the steps I needed to start making friends with myself again.  All of this is to say; if you are feeling positive or feel that you can put on a big smile and help yourself and others feel better that is amazing and I honor that in you.   But you should never have to fake it.   Many people are grieving right now, and it’s ok to be one of those people.   Your grief is real, and if you are feeling it please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I had been saying this since early Wednesday morning but this Huffington Post piece summed it up perfectly.   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/election-pain-grief_us_58234497e4b0d9ce6fc03fd8

If you are in despair ask for help.   Talk to your partner or a friend. Find a helpline. You don’t need to put on a smiley face or “fake it till you make it” when dealing with grief. And when you are ready….

 

Practice self-care: I know “self care” has been a catch all in the wellness industry but I think at times like this it is so important to remember you can’t help others until you are ready to help yourself. And there are going to be a great deal of people who need help.   So find something that you know makes you feel better and do it. Yoga works for me, when I finally found myself ready to get back on the mat I found great relief in grounding poses and some cleansing Lion’s Breath. I also know for some people when grieving or in anger the idea of yoga sounds like torture. Go for a walk in nature, go kickboxing, cuddle a dog, and bake a cake. Do something to connect with yourself. Don’t forget yoga is about compassion, not just for others but for yourself as well.   And when you’ve surrounded yourself in love…

Share some Love: I’ve seen lots of posts and articles about spreading love and compassion to the “the other side”, reaching across the aisle to Trump supporters. If you are ready for that, bless you. Personally for me I am too angry at the people, all of the people, who voted for Trump.   Yes I know people are hurting and that inspired many people to make the choices they did, but they put their own hurt above the safety and protection of their fellow Americans, and I am not ready to love them.

But love someone. Show a bit of extra love to your partner.   Not ready for that yet? Find a dog to play with, animals are often easier to deal with than humans. Puddles is blissfully ignorant and getting on the ground and playing with her has put a smile on my face. Buy a homeless person something to eat. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to and ask them how they are and really mean it. Donate to a cause that matters to you, especially if you are worried it may be affected come January, and do it in the name of someone you know could use some encouragement.

None of these things is going to change reality or build that time machine I keep dreaming about. But if you can find some relief for yourself and others you’ll be ready for the work we have ahead of us. And it’s a lot.

Finally, a few “yogic resources”

Lion’s Roar: http://www.lionsroar.com/buddhist-teachers-respond-to-news-of-trumps-presidential-win/   Even if you aren’t a Buddhist, if you have any interest in spirituality this is a very comforting read.

http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22 The Meditation for Working with Difficulties has been helpful for me before but provided some of the best feeling I’ve felt all week.   And it is only 7 minutes.