Election Stress

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Hello friends

If you are like me, this election is taking its toll. I have been deeply affected by it, unlike any other election that I have experienced. I have talked with a number of others who are also deeply impacted by what is happening in this country right now. Some people are naturally more “energy sensitive” and empathic and if you fit that bill, you are probably having an even harder time than the average person. I have read several interesting articles describing psychological, spiritual, and even shamanic views of this election. These can provide interesting context, and perhaps even some comfort, but do not necessarily help us to directly regulate the stress of it all. When we look at the fundamental structure of the human ego, it is rooted in survival mechanisms, and the development of an identity… a necessary and useful process, but one that also comes with dynamics that can contribute to our stress: strongly rooted beliefs and labels such as “Democrat” or “Republican”; or labels tied to any myriad of individual topics where one stands on one side or the other of of an issue, thus reinforcing identity and opinion, both parts of the basic structure of the egoic psyche. This duality and identification then can trigger the stress response anytime those labels are challenged. This often occurs at the subconscious level and often generates a threat response rooted in one’s very sense of self or identity (ego) being challenged, condemned, or criticized. We naturally respond with the emotional brain – usually to defend, entrench even deeper, or fight back. Some of us might also flee the interaction or freeze up inside during the exchange. The first step is becoming aware of this mechanism. One of my spiritual teachers, David Hawkins, taught that one of the fastest ways to come face to face with the structure of our ego is to “cease having any opinions on anything”! Wow, what a lofty goal that is. I certainly do not think that is attainable for most of us, but we might consider who we would be when we soften the edges around these structures. Often, this mechanism that we all carry in the structure of our ego prohibits our ability to practice deep listening and to provide space to hear another’s perspective. When we can turn our political danger detection system off long enough, we might see that underneath these labels and identifications we are all fundamentally seeking safety, as well as an experience of life that is as equally nurturing as it is empowering. I sense that if we can look past the storylines and emotionalized topics and see these shared human substrates, as well as to work towards finding internalized ways of seeking to get these needs met, we might move a little closer to an inner experience of peace. It is not easy. It takes practice. The fundamentals skills that we can cultivate include 1) real-time body awareness –> the conscious tracking of bodily sensations and the subsequent building up of our tolerance to these bodily sensations, especially uncomfortable ones. This is done using the observer curiosity approach, aka mindfulness – wherein we notice, as best we can, the continuous shifting flow of sensations in the body with a “hmm, isn’t that curious, I’m noticing sensations occurring in the body”; 2) breath awareness and breath control; and 3) the concurrent use of simple affirmations such as “now is not an emergency – relax – let go”. Sometimes the emotional circuits will win out, and this is a necessary part of our learning. In such cases, we chalk it up to experience, practice gentleness and compassion towards our own humanness, and take self-care actions to help the body and the mind to settle down and reboot. With practice, we can gradually improve our real-time ability to stay balanced amidst the chaos. Here is a simple 5 minute meditation I recorded to help you practice easing election stress… or stress during any other charged or difficult time – because that is a certainty (that there is going to be more of it – even after this particularly unique and charged election!):

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