On Accepting the Reality As It Is
So, last night, Trump won the election. After a year of feeling anxious (even having nightmares and trouble sleeping), I was shocked at the outcome. Disclaimer: I was hoping for Hillary to win. I find Trump too ignorant and immoral to be president.
But I let the election get to me. Even though I’ll never meet him, and never want to, I found his obscenities and messages filled with hate left me feeling anxious. (But this is on me. Why would I let a jerk run wild with the keys to my happiness?)
Last night I was sitting on eggshells watching the vote shift towards Trump. First there was denial. Then there was shock. Then it was 1 am and I decided to go to bed, only to wake up repeatedly during the night, until about 5 am, when I could no longer sleep. The entire day felt like a shock, a kind of daze I haven’t felt since 9/11, trying to comprehend how the US created it’s own Brexit, rebelling against normalcy for radical ugliness.
But just because that’s the choice the country made, doesn’t mean I make the same choice for myself. In fact, now it’s more important than ever for me to develop my meditation practice, strengthen my own morality and wisdom. By working on myself, I can be a better human, and hopefully inspire others to do the same. As we develop individually, then collectively we all benefit. And by owning our development on a personal level, we’re not longer giving away the keys of our sanity to outside forces. We remain centered and balance irregardless of what is happening around us.
One key concept in Vipassana meditation is remembering to observe the reality objectively with a calm mind. As sensations arise, and you observe them without giving them importance or preference: to practice correctly, then you’re not craving sensations, and not yearning for them to disappear.
Outside of meditation this becomes challenging, as we’re bombarded by messages from people around us, TV, computers, phones. All these distractions take us away from observing our experience to being a character in the drama that is unfolding. So, the majority of the time we forget. (Hint: anxiety over elections, sleepless nights)
Another challenge is understanding which reality it is that we’re observing. My thoughts generally paint a very descriptive picture of “my reality”, almost like a movie — but I don’t mean this reality. The physicists delve into the reality at sub-atomic scales, and super-astronomical scales. I don’t mean that either. No, in this context, it’s the reality of the sensations that you’re experiencing at this moment.
When you can observe that you’re experiencing a thought (not the content of the thought), or you’re aware of your breath at this moment, or the visuals your eyes are viewing — then you’re observing the reality as it is. It is what you are experiencing, right now.
Right now is a big catch too — it’s so tempting to try to explain how you were feeling yesterday, or how you think you’ll feel tomorrow. And it may be the same, but if you assume that it is, then you’re no longer observing what is… you’ve been sucked into a story about the past, or a projection of the future.
By working on this level, we can come out of our suffering, and live to our full potential. As we make progress, so will those around us. Society makes progress, but never in a straight line. We go forward, we go back. Some changes take decades or centuries. There is no use in getting discouraged when we take a step backwards — we just start from where we are and forge ahead.