If you are reading in the UK, you will know we have an election this week. For me this election has been bringing up a lot of challenges, it brings to the fore how many different visions for our society there are and how many people have such different views to my own. There also seems to be so much negativity around, accusations and criticisms flying left, right and centre (pun intended!). So it is great to take stock of how a heart-based approach to life can be brought to bear on the situation we find ourselves in.
For a lot of us, we will be consuming the election through our television, laptop and smartphone. Personally, I have the habit, after a day working in front of a screen to grab my phone and scroll through Twitter for the latest news. I know it is important to ask myself whether that is really helpful or not. To stop and notice the instinctual urge to grab the phone, to feel what that feels like in the body and to see if I can create some space by returning to my breath. As I breathe in and out I can decide whether or not this is the best thing for me right now. If I have 30 minutes on a train maybe putting on some music, breathing and becoming aware of my body will resource me better than 30 minutes of Twitter scrolling. I like to be informed, but I can know there is also value in unplugging.
Recognising strong emotions
There will be politicians and policies we don’t like. I know I need to be vigilant to see how this is affecting me. If I see an interview on TV, what emotion is being brought up? A regular mindfulness practice helps us to become more aware of the emotions that are alive in us. As we sit and breathe we are more able to identify what the mind is doing, what mental states are alive in us. We can bring this into everyday life. So we can take a few moments to see what emotional state has arisen in us after engaging in the election. It help to name the emotion “fear, I see you”, “anger, I see you”, “despair I see you”. We don’t need to make these emotions go away, but it can be very healthy to recognise them and accept them, to breathe in and out with the fear, the anger or the despair. By recognising and embracing the emotions we will allow them to be there for a while and leave when they are ready. We might want to let the emotions guide us to take a certain action, but we don’t want to be overwhelmed by them or allow our emotions to drive us into subconscious actions that don’t serve us. This might become really important if we wake up on Friday with a result that is different to what we were hoping for!
Listening with compassion
We are likely to encounter people in this election who will have different options to us and this can be difficult. Maybe a loved one or neighbour sees things differently to the way we do. It can be incredibly difficult but the best thing we can do in these situations is to listen with compassion. Can we really hear what the person is saying even if we disagree? We might feel a huge urge in our body to interrupt and intervene, to say “yes, but…” and start correcting everything they say that we think is wrong. Resisting that urge is the work of a hero! Listening spaces can be great training for this. When we resist the urge to interrupt and intervene, we allow the other person to be heard and accepted. We can remember that there is a human being in front of us who has their own hopes, concerns and fears. This can be so beneficial in keeping our relationship positive. If the other person has really been heard there might be the opportunity to gently point out where we have a different point of view. If we do that in a way where we are just sharing what is real for us, rather than actively trying to change the person’s mind, it will be easier to hear and easier to maintain a harmonious relationship!
Mind versus heart
It is definitely possible that the election will pull us away from our heart and into our head. If we have a grounding in heart-based living and ideally others who are trying to live in this way, we can hopefully return to the heart!