Thursday, November 17, 2016

Being in the Body Post-Election

Last week, I asked my students in my weekly contemplative writing classes to write about their feelings regarding the election from their bodies. The most potent pieces came Wednesday morning, as folks had either stayed up all night, most of the night, or gone to bed and woken to the news.

The fact is, the over-whelming majority of my students are liberal. But a lot of students were able to feel how human our reactions are. This anonymous piece in particular struck me with the universal human level of fear in the body. 

I offer this as a model for being present, for watching not only the body but the mind itself. Regardless of whether you are celebrating right now or in deep despair, tap into your body. Fear consumed most of us pre-election, and if the results had gone the other way, the "other side" would right now be feeling a similar way post-election.

Finally, one of my favorite parts is where this student opens up questions about neurotic smallness (childhood survival, which was useful but she now sees as disempowering) versus the kind of smallness that can open us to all of the present moment - simple actions like picking chard from the garden. These two smallnesses are often conflated with each other, but the second can offer serious liberation and deep relief in times like these.

I breathe into my body through my feet.  The sun is a vibration of continuance, the yellow leaves of a neighbor's tree shimmer and wave.  The sky lightens into a bright blue.  I find comfort in the fact that my garden is still growing, people are still walking their dogs down our street, I can still hear traffic from nearby streets; the world continues despite last night's outcome.  Or at least it seems to continue.  The world of people and politics and the world beyond people and politics.  I pick chard, red and green, my hands and cuffs soaked with morning dew.
There is a feeling of anxiety in my stomach, anxiety and fear, shock really—how can I live in a place where people would align themselves with such ugliness?  I think this is fear—and that the call to compassion is more important than ever.
 But still.  Just below my fear is anger, I feel it lower in my gut, anger and helplessness.  And with the helplessness comes a temptation to sidestep, to suddenly feel nothing, to live in a story that is smaller and relies heavily on survival, just getting through and assessing the damage later.  And in many ways that makes sense to me—I can't imagine living each day for the next four years in despair and denial of that despair.
 It worries me, this ability to flip into just keep your head down and deny what is out of your control to change.  I became so good at that as a child and I think it is vital to not revert to that way of coping—as necessary as it was when I was young, I can't live with that disempowerment now.
 So, the question is, how do I continue?  How do I feel I have a place in this world without indulging in contempt, disdain, hatred?  Or without pretending that this is, whatever it really is, is not going on all around me?  All around the world.
 I remember that my garden still grows, people still walk their dogs and call out good morning.  Living my small life with as much depth and integrity as I can muster has to have some meaning.  I will hold on to these things.  I will continue to be grateful for all I have.  So much seems unknowable and terrible.  I need to look at this as directly as I can and still hope.  And when it is too much, I need to believe I can find comfort in the small miracles of this world that continue beyond this concern with human politics and cycles.

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