I know what you’re thinking. Nothing about this 2016 US election cycle screams Loving-Kindness. As many astute analysts have pointed out, nobody is winning in this election. Not the Democrats, not the Republicans, and definitely not regular people like you and me. Because we’ve become so mired in divisive politics, it’s hard to take the big-picture point of view, which is that all human beings alike ultimately desire happiness and will fight for that happiness the best way they know how (not realizing the long-term harm of their actions).
While Obama’s 2008 campaign was all about hope, this 2016 cycle seems to be all about desperate times and desperate measures. And nothing great comes out of the desperate.
So what can you do?
Rise above the despair. While certain candidates may arouse within you the type of hatred you never even knew you were capable of—an important perspective to begin exploring is that nobody steps out into the world thinking that they are evil. As Aristotle famously noted in his Nichomachean Ethics, everybody desires what they perceive as good. Even when they act in a harmful manner, they necessarily must see some good in it that motivates them to act in this way.
Similarly, ex-CIA agent Amaryllis Fox has famously said that, in her worldly experience as an undercover agent, she has seen each side struggle against the other with the perspective that they are good and the others are evil existential threats to their values and their survival.
Recognizing the basic humanity of your opponent, and even acknowledging the existence of wounds that make it easier for them in this present moment to act in ways we deem harmful, is the first step on a long journey of healing that is ultimately your best chance at making the world a better place. It doesn’t excuse harmful behavior and it certainly doesn’t mean you have to agree with beliefs that are fundamentally at odds with yours.
It does mean that you can begin to heal your own heart of the wounds that feed hatred and approach the situation from a place of hope rather than despair. That way, you are better equipped to do your part in the world, acting from a place of empowerment and not loss.
It also means you become capable of sending out some healing energy to those you hate most. Many believe the good intentions one sends to another can shift the energetic landscape of the recipient and introduce positive shifts in their hearts. This is a necessary point in the transformation of a despairing heart, reenacting its hurt upon the world, into a compassionate and wise presence that spreads goodness.
If you can heal yourself, and aid in whatever small way to the process of healing within the heart of your enemy, then you have done more for this world than you ever could trolling the forums of your enemies, furiously tweeting your anger and outrage, inciting and being baited into arguments with your fellow human beings or even staring in disbelief at the TV screen feeling nothing but absolute hopelessness—all of which ultimately trigger the defense mechanisms within you and within those around you, further deepening your already presumed convictions and increasing the gulf of understanding between us all.
So instead, I offer this following exercise, taken from practices of mindfulness meditation. In this exercise, you offer positive wishes to your enemy as a way of healing yourself and changing the character of your energetic transactions with this person. Rather than depleting yourself with hatred, you rise stronger for having transcended the blockages within.
I promise you, practicing loving-kindness for your enemy won’t have any adverse effect on the outcome of the election or anything else externally. It will only begin a beautiful process of healing that the world needs desperately right now. It will also help you make choices that actually make a positive difference in your life and in this world.
To practice the Loving-kindness meditation:
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Beginning with yourself, repeat the following good wishes for your own life: “May I be free from inner and outer harm. May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”
- Now call to mind somebody you love. Repeat these same wishes on their behalf: “May you be free from inner and outer harm. May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”
- Now call to mind somebody you feel indifferent about. Maybe it can be your mailman. Or the person who served you coffee this morning. Wish them the same things.
- Now call to mind that person you hate. And wish them the same happiness, health and peace.
Congratulations! You have officially risen above! Turning the gaze inwards is the single best way a person can begin to do good in the world. If you try to serve the world from a place of disempowerment, you can only ever contribute to the reenactment of negative patterns. But investing in your personal self-development allows you to pour from a full cup. And that is the real trump card in a losing game mired in despair.
So go forth and fill your cup!
Don’t know where to begin? The Akasha app leads you step-by-step through your journey to personal self-development. The modules in Akasha allow you to take the right steps forward to begin living your life from a wholehearted and empowered place of self-knowledge and wisdom. Download Akasha to get a free meditation!