Are politics getting to you?
Ahh, it’s that time of year again. Summer is coming to an end (unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere in which case…enjoy your summer!), the leaves are changing, the temperatures are cooling just a bit and…politics are in the air! Oh yah, right! If you live in the United States, you’re probably already sick of the political commercials and the negative ads that you’re being bombarded by.
If you don’t live here…good for you! But even if you don’t live here, do the negative campaigns and the untruths of politics ever get to you? Do you ever wish that politicians would tell the truth?
(The following is a slightly rewritten version of a previous post that is more timely now than ever! Enjoy…)
Do all politicians want the same thing?
Regardless of our political inclinations or leanings, we are all subject to the political fracas that erupts during the Presidential elections. This year seems to be as bad, if not worse, as previous years and with the entry of “corporations as people” into the mix, there are even more negative ads and eye-popping visual displays being forced into our already overwhelmed minds.
Do you ever get the impression that many of these politicians, regardless of their party, don’t have any idea of how badly we all want things to change for the benefit of everyone? For instance, I don’t think that any of us – republican or democrat – want Medicare to disappear, leaving the elderly in dire straits. Nor do we want those in need to simply be abandoned and forgotten. Could any of us say that we want to see more people unemployed, or suffering? The “how” of solving these dilemmas is what separates the parties, but in general, no one – republicans or democrats – want to see others suffer, right?
We’re all the same in our desire for happiness and to be free from suffering.
Think of this for a moment: all of us, regardless of our political affiliation, nationality, religion, race, or gender want to be happy and want to be free from suffering. “Meditate” on this, let it sink in. None of us wishes to be unhappy, and we all want to be happy…even if we’re willing to make others suffer for our happiness! Let’s keep this in mind as we read this post.
Politicians want to be happy too!
So, even politicians want to be happy, and for them, happiness means that they get elected to the office that they’re running for. Unfortunately, most politicians want the happiness of winning so badly that they’re willing to sacrifice even their values in order to gain their office. But, does that really make them happy? Perhaps, and perhaps not. They certainly struggle once they’re in office, so politicians deserve our compassion!
Compassion in politics, is it a reality?
What’s missing in the political landscape? Compassion. Many people believe that the Democrats represent the compassionate approach, focusing on providing financial and social welfare for those in need. Whereas, others believe that the compassionate conservatism of the Republican party, aimed at having people help themselves and become less dependent upon a huge centralized government, is the way to go.
One definition of compassion that I like comes from a book called, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, written by Sogyal Rinpoche. He writes:
What is compassion? It is not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for the person suffering, not simply a warmth of heart toward the person before you, or a sharp clarity of recognition of their needs and pain; it is also a sustained and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering.[i]
I like that in this definition, it includes a “practical determination to do whatever is possible…” For me, and for others who practice within a meditative or contemplative tradition, this act of doing anything possible includes working with our mind and meditating on compassion for the benefit of others. And this practical determination also means having compassion for politicians…even if we’re fed up with what seems like an endless stream of half-truths or platitudes!
All spiritual traditions have definitions of compassion. Even science has jumped into studying how compassionate meditation affects the brain and how practicing compassion can alter the connections (synapses) within the brain.
Should You Be Compassionate Towards Politicians? Even Towards Those Who You Disagree With?
How this relates to politics and politicians is that when we hear a politician say something, or find out that they’ve done something that really goes against the grain of what we believe, let’s remember that they’re doing what they believe is the right thing to do. Whether that “right thing” is something based on a selfish motivation, or an altruistic one, it comes from the same place: this person wants to be happy and wishes to be free from suffering. And…we all do that, we all seek to be happy, sometimes at the expense of others.
But “Wait, wait, wait” you say!! You insist, “I don’t want others to suffer just for my happiness…I practice meditation and generate compassion at every chance I get.” Good for you. Do you also drive? Or eat food? Or wear clothes? Do you use electricity or buy products that come in plastic? Yes? Well then, somewhere, someone has suffered, even if only a bit, for your comfort. Get used to it. We are all inextricably interconnected and nothing that we do, short of living off the land, spinning our own yarn, and growing all of our own food, will allow us to be completely free from causing others to suffer for our own benefit. Oh well, welcome to the modern world.
Meditate on compassion for politicians…
So, how do we meditate on compassion when we’re completely fed up with politics as usual, or when our preferred party doesn’t seem to be getting it right (or maybe our least preferred party seems to be getting it “wrong!”) Try these four steps:
- Realize that everyone wants to be happy and free from suffering. While we may observe another and view their actions or words as harmful or against what we “know” to be the truth, we can acknowledge that they’re doing their best to be free from internal conflict and to create happiness for themselves. So, meditate compassionately and bring your least favorite politician to mind while doing so.
- Reflect on the fact that trying to create happiness based on our external circumstances is what most of us do. We all try to manipulate our outer circumstances so that we can have happiness. What this constant focus on the outer circumstances brings us may not be true happiness, because true happiness resides within ourselves, not “out there” in our bank accounts, homes, businesses, spouses…whatever. True happiness is based on our being able to rest our mind in what is, and to be at peace with whatever we have and whatever is going on in our life. Reflect in your meditation on the fact that everyone wants to be happy, even politicians.
- Remember that politicians truly believe that they are trying to help others. I know that this one is a stretch, rarely do I perceive that those in politics are truly altruistic, without their own motives and agenda. There really are people who are unjustifiably selfish and whose interests are not in the interest of the greater good. Even still, and here’s the biggest stretch for me, someone who is promoting the agenda of “special interests” still is benefiting others, albeit a select few. Meditate on the fact that even those who are selfish don’t want to suffer.
- Everyone deserves compassion. There isn’t one person, libertarian or republican, tea-party or democrat, who isn’t deserving of compassion. As a registered nurse, I’ve taken care of the wealthy and the downtrodden, the caring and the careless, the well off and the homeless, the democrat and the republican. And in all that time, there’s never been a single person whom I didn’t wish to help to feel better and to be free of physical or mental suffering. It’s just that simple. When you meditate on compassion, imagine that you’re the politician who you don’t like. Imagine that you are experiencing what that person is experiencing. Imagine how much you want to feel happy. And then imagine sending that happiness to this person.
The ideas presented in this post may not appeal to everyone, nor may they seem easy to digest. Even for me (and I’m writing this stuff), I find myself struggling with how to find compassion for those whose actions or words go against my basic sense of what is “right.” Yet, when I dig down, when I ask myself who these people are, I find myself realizing that we’re all human, we’re all doing our best to get along in the world, and trying to do what is “right.”
Maybe if we focused on our commonness more than our differences, we’d find ways to take the politics out of government, and simply be able to do what benefits all of humankind. Dreaming? Perhaps. Far-fetched? Maybe. But the alternative is to continue to go on, fighting for our “small self” without realizing that by doing so, we’re fighting against the greater good that is humankind.
So, should I keep politics out of these discussions? Are there things that I forgot to say? Is there another way to bring compassion into politics? What do you think? Let me and others know what you find think. And, as always, please feel free to contact me if you’d like to see additional content or other discussions on this site. For more information on how to meditate, exercises in working with the breath, and other nifty stuff, please see the Related Posts below.
How Do You Meditate?
I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that those who read this blog know how to meditate. If you’re already familiar with how to meditate, then I hope that what I have to offer here is of some benefit to you in your practice.
If you haven’t meditated before, or are new to the practice, I suggest that you download the free ebooks that are available on this site and use them as tools to get started in your practice. Additionally, go to the tab for “Meditation” above (or click on this link) to read posts on meditation. If you’re a healthcare practitioner, I would (humbly) suggest that you consider purchasing a copy of the book, Minding the Bedside: Nursing from the Heart of the Awakened Mind, as a resource for learning to meditate as well as a lot of other great information.
As always, please feel free to drop me a note with any specific practice-related questions or if you need clarification on any of the information that I’ve provided in this post or anywhere else on this site.
Finally, please read the recent update on the Indiegogo campaign for this site, it’s important. Thanks.
An Update on the Indiegogo Campaign (A small piece about paying it forward)
It’s been almost four weeks since the launch of my book’s Indiegogo campaign. The primary purpose of the campaign has been to help me to relaunch my book and to get it into the hands of as many nurses worldwide as is possible. But, I’m also doing it so that I can relaunch this site and provide even more great and FREE content to you, my readers.
For twenty months, I’ve been plugging away at creating content, posts, free ebooks, and even audios so that you can be supported in your meditation practice. Now I’m asking you to become part of a founding-community here to improve this site and all that it has to offer.
Since launching the Indiegogo campaign, I’ve found out that its success depends entirely upon a number of things:
- How many people view and share my campaign
- How many of these “shares” are through facebook, twitter, etc
- How many people comment on the campaign, and lastly
- How many people fund or contribute to the campaign.
What these actions do is to take my campaign from the back pages of the site, where it’s buried among hundreds of other campaigns, and bring it to the front so that more people can see it and contribute to it. This is VERY important.
I’m asking all of my readers and subscribers to at least visit the site – found here: http://www.indiegogo.com/mindingthebedside – and share or comment on it. If you have the means to contribute, please do so. Even small amounts count (and you can get some cool gifts too!) But if you can’t contribute, I understand. Please at least check it out and make the “social links” that will help to bring it to the front.
***ALSO, please share the site with others and encourage them to do the same.
Thank you all in advance for doing this. I know that your lives are busy and full and that time management, physical energy, and finances are challenging to many people right now.
This site has tons of tools for learning how to meditate and be compassionate.
I encourage you to look through the HUNDREDS of articles that I’ve written and especially check out my weekly meditation tips and other useful meditation materials provided for your health and well being. Please let me know if you’d like to discuss anything with me, have any questions or need clarification regarding anything that I’ve written about.
Other Great Meditation Resources and Information:
Please view the Related Stuff below for help getting started in your meditation practice! Also don’t forget to download my free e-book, Can Meditation Change the Way that You View Your World? and download the free e-book, How to Work with the Four Distractions to Meditation and get started learning how to deal with some of the major obstacles in meditation.
[i] Rinpoche, Sogyal. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. San Francisco: Harper, 1992, pg. 187.