I hit rock bottom the day I took my dog’s Xanax. Let’s be absolutely clear: I STOLE DRUGS FROM MY DOG. What kind of crappy human does that? Or perhaps my big low was the day I made myself a cake with cream cheese frosting. I ATE IT ALL. It’s pretty clear that my regular coping mechanisms have come unhinged in the wake of the election.
Since 2010 I’ve worked hard, and somewhat publicly, to find shama, which is Sanskrit for inner peace. In search of shama, I took a five month road trip with my Xanax-taking dog Yoda. Between my time on the road and in the years since, I’ve been convinced that I’ve figured out how to live with inner-peace. It’s a combination of living authentically, and working hard with each new situation to find the calm within the ever-changing storm of life. Living with shama is hard work that needs to be done on a daily basis. But it gets easier with practice, and after six years of commitment to the path, I figured I was practically an inner peace Kung-Fu master.
But then the election happened.
One morning I found myself on the bathroom floor desperately gulping for air amidst my huge grief-filled sobs stemming from the fear that Donald Trump is going to destroy our democracy, eliminate our civil rights, and could possibly blow up the entire world with nuclear bombs. Inner peace Kung-Fu master I was most definitely not.
The election of Trump has brought the ugly underbelly of America to the surface, as evidenced by the hate crimes being committed in his name. The vitriolic rhetoric and dark behavior that has been unleashed is not who we are as a people. But here’s the positive spin: now that we can see the disease, we can work together to cure it. It’s not going to be easy, but we will do just that.
But first, we must tap into our inner-peace, because our ultimate power to change the world for the better must stem from a place of goodness, calm and wisdom. There are ways to find shama, even amidst the shadows of this unfamiliar world in which we now find ourselves.
1. Compartmentalize and Don’t Feel Guilty for Moments of Happiness. This is important. There’s a lot to be angry and sad about, that’s for sure. However, you are not going to do anyone a bit of good, least of all yourself, by living with those emotions 24/7. So compartmentalize. Visualize putting those emotions in a box to be accessed when you need them (see #6 below). Make it your mission each day to find moments of happiness and laughter. Those moments are going to carry you when the going gets tough over the next four years.
2. Limit Your News Intake. Going down the rabbit hole with a news binge can easily make you feel hopeless and ruin your entire day. Here’s how to fix that: subscribe to a newspaper to ensure you are not reading fake news. Read the news only at set times of the day. Think of our parents’ and grandparents’ pre-internet news consumption habits. They read the newspaper in the morning and watched the evening news. The rest of the time was spent living their day.
3. DO NOT NORMALIZE THE ERA OF TRUMP. Although you’ll be working hard to control your angst by putting those emotions in your metaphorical box, don’t for one second allow yourself, or others, to normalize the hatred, discrimination and anger that Trump’s election has brought out from the darkest recesses of our country.
4. Meditate. Hear me out on this one. There is an infinite wisdom inside of you. But the problem is that the world is very loud right now, so you need a tool to access that wisdom. There is no woo woo New Age trick to mastering this. All you have to do is start with as little as five minutes a day and focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. You can do this sitting on the subway or sitting at your kitchen table. Once you access that spot of quiet stillness that resides inside of you, the world will seem a lot less scary.
5. Be the Light. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” So be the light. Visualize a golden light surrounding you. When fear or anger surfaces, envision that light. You are going to carry that light with you and others will feel it, and then they’ll carry that light with them and spread it to others. Light is contagious, and that’s a good thing when such darkness has settled in over the world.
6. Take Action. Taking action is a very important part of maintaining inner peace. The bedrock of our democracy is that all Americans deserve equality, safety, acceptance and a voice. The one good thing about this election is that it woke people up. The government works for us, the people. We need to stay engaged not only to ensure our government does what it is supposed to and doesn’t derail any further, but also to protect the civil liberties of all people. That not only means putting your senators and representatives on speed dial, but it means working on a local level. Go to community meetings, join the school board, stay invested and informed in what your state government is doing. Taking action also means standing up for others when you see them being discriminated against. And it means donating to causes that are going to lead the way with protecting our civil liberties, safeguarding the earth against climate change, and making sure the Constitution remains the supreme law of the land.
Now breathe. You got this. I got this. With continued practice in this new world, we can all become inner peace Kung Fu masters. And instead of stealing Xanax from our dogs, we will make the world a better place.