Right Now, Election Fatigue is Just Part of What It Means to Be a Caring Human Being

Outside, it’s cold. In the 30s. As it should be in November. The trees, except, of course, the evergreens, are bare, brown, and leafless. Yet the sky is that deep morning blue. And it feels like it will warm up. Even though I’ve been enjoying the warmth lately, almost a week in the 70s, it’s a disconcerting warmth, almost scary in being so unseasonable.

 

Last night, election night, I kept checking in on the results until around midnight, when I went to bed. And then I had an interesting time watching my mind.

 

Rachel Maddow and others from MSNBC had earlier talked about surprising results showing that Democrats could possibly hold onto Congress. And many DJT picked candidates, awful and unfit for office, like Herschel Walker in Georgia, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, and Lauren Boebert in Colorado, could all lose. And these losses would show the GOP how much of a liability DJT was. And this would, ideally, lead the GOP to renounce DJT and all he represents.

 

For too many GOP, all that mattered was their power. Absolute power with an absolute ruler. Competence didn’t matter to them. Ethical behavior didn’t matter to them. Serving the people, and working to “establish justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty…” ⎼ the constitution didn’t matter to them.

 

Many didn’t seem to realize that if they served an absolute ruler, their power would depend on HIM (if it’s a him, and it would be). They’d lose any independence. Their future, their character, their well-being, all up to HIM.

 

And for me, in the dark of night, there was such a wondrous desire to say “we could win this. We could maintain control of Congress. We could hold onto the chance to promote justice and domestic tranquility, and act to benefit the welfare of all the people.” But I couldn’t say that out loud, not even out loud for only my own inner ears to hear. I couldn’t risk jinxing it. What ego, to think my thoughts so powerful! So, I listened as deeply as I could until the sound of moonlight filled the room.

 

Then thoughts of the worst scenario showed up. I felt afraid. My stomach tensed, my hands reached up, knocking off the quilt that covered me. I heard lines from different GOP, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying the first action of a new GOP House would be to impeach Merrick Garland. Then maybe impeach President Biden and destroy the remnants of democracy. The whole legion of DJT followers, election deniers, spreaders of disinformation, were all ready to deny any elections they’ve lost once again. All working to take away health insurance protections, Social Security, voting and abortion rights, working to turn the US into a a wasteland of lies, resentment, and hate. All to serve the mad quest for absolute power….

 

**To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

After the Vote, the Wait: Facing the Chaos of Numbers, Avoiding Deception, and then, Please, Let There Be News to Celebrate!

After the vote, we listen. We watch, and we breathe.

 

We know this has been an intensely stressful time, stressful few months, stressful 6 years. We know so much is at stake.

 

We face the chaos of listening to changing numbers on the news, the mad attempt to know before we can know, to get it over with. To be at peace. To feel safe ⎼ while too many of the GOP do all they can to interfere in and make sure we distrust democracy, foster hate, demonize and threaten with violence any opposition. We remember Jan. 6, Buffalo, Charlottesville, the attack on Paul Pelosi⎼ and so much more.

 

We know it will take many hours, or probably days, maybe weeks. Only later will we seriously consider what we did right, and what more we could do in the future. Now, we know we voted. We did something. We’re only one person amongst millions.

 

So, we breathe in and out as gently as we can and recognize the tension in ourselves. We’re as kind as possible to everyone around us because we know we need kindness ourselves. We need patience.

 

Only with this kind intensity can we then think clearly. Observe clearly. We assume nothing until we have sufficient fact-based information and analysis to know for sure. And then we’ll be ready for whatever happens and able to do what’s needed to protect and expand democracy, our future, and the well-being of our communities.

The Bear, the Raccoon, and the Hawk

It’s been eight to ten days of “firsts.” Last week, we woke up to find a hawk, with a bleeding chipmunk in its claws, sitting on a branch of the old apple tree outside the front door. That was a first.

 

A few days later, after midnight, a raccoon came in the second-floor cat window to the bedroom. We only knew it was there because one of our cats stood up on the bed and loudly hissed, waking us up. My wife and I got up and yelled at the coon. It climbed back out the window and we ran out the front door pursuing it, trying to frighten it enough so it wouldn’t return

 

The most dramatic and surprising visitor was the bear. Black bears are not unknown to the area. We had bird-feeders destroyed by bears in the past but only saw the mangled feeders left behind. But at 8:15 am this morning, with the sun shining behind it, we saw a bear cuddling a bird-feeder in the yard of our house.

 

Years ago, I had had nightmares about bears breaking into the house. And here one was, walking toward the apple tree where the hawk had rested just a few days earlier, and where the bird feeder had once rested. No nightmare, just fascination. All I thought about was preserving the moment, finding the camera, and taking pictures. I went from window to window looking for good angles for photos.

 

The bear seemed so soft when I studied it, so— not human, yet not that different. A cousin in the animal world and a fellow mammal. It had an inquisitive face and wasn’t afraid to look up at the window where I stood with the camera. It was driven more by thirst for food, for seeds dropped by birds from the feeder, then by watching us.

 

But when it walked right up to the front door, stood up on its hind legs, and reached out as if to knock on the door or knock out the window⎼ everything changed. My wife started shouting at it and banged her fists against the wall. I ran out the side door with 2 metal bars and started hitting them together making a wonderful clanging sound. The bear disappeared so fast we didn’t perceive where it went. It was like it was never here⎼ except for the photos, memories, and mangled bird-feeder. Too bad we didn’t take a picture of it at the door.

 

What should we make of this event? Clearly, the human and non-human are meeting more often than expected, not that the human world was ever separate from the rest of nature. But we humans are spreading everywhere. The realms where non-humans could live without our interference are getting smaller and rarer.

 

Many primatologists, zoologists and others have speculated that wild creatures like bears live immersed in the world of trees, bees, rivers, fish, rain, as well as other bears, just like we are immersed in sunshine, buildings, cars, technology, religions, politics, history, and other humans. Their world is one of more direct sensation. Ours, more abstracted, languaged, filled with our human imagination and thus with time, plans, and worries.

 

So, what happens when a bear lives so close to humans? Does it develop worries? Does it suddenly want to wear a watch and listen to the weather report? …

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

Five Ways to Begin the School Year With Mindfulness and Compassion: RePublished

For every teacher I know, the end of summer vacation means rising nervous energy, anxiety and excitement. It means getting ready to begin a new experience, with new students and sometimes a new curriculum.

To start the school year, or anything new, it is obvious that we must make plans. We need to determine where we want to go, and what we want to accomplish, in order to fulfill those objectives. But we often ignore the emotional side of getting ourselves ready.

  1. Meet Each Moment Mindfully

Take a moment to feel what you feel and notice your thoughts. Only if you notice your thoughts and feelings can you choose how and whether to act on them. Start with understanding what beginning the school year means to you and what you need. Then you can better understand what your students need.

Many of us plan our classes so tightly that the realm of what is possible is reduced to what is safe and already known. It’s not truly a beginning if you emotionally make believe that you’ve already done it.

Take time daily to strengthen your awareness of your own mental and emotional state.

If you arrive at school energized but anxious, get out of your car, stop, look at the building and trees around you, and take a few breaths. Then you’ll be in your body, present in the moment—not caught up in your thoughts. After greeting yourself, you’ll be more prepared to greet students.

 

Practice SBC: Stop, Breathe, Notice.  Periodically stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, take 3 breaths and notice your thoughts and feelings. Notice how it feels after such a break.

You can do this with students to begin each lesson, or in the middle of a heated discussion….

 

*To read the whole post, go to MindfulTeachers.org.

**I did not get to update this blog and incorporate suggestions to help students and teachers better face all the threats, upheaval, and trauma we have recently faced. One source to help out, if you haven’t already read it, is Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness by David Treleaven.

***A somewhat different blog for a general audience on the same subject was published a few years ago by The Good Men Project.

Why Is Nature Capable of Being So Comforting? We Can’t Escape the Earth or the Universe Because We Are It

Why does nature have this effect on us?

 

I take a walk in the woods and thoughts fly off like birds⎼ swallows, crows or chickadees, to be replaced by insights or a beautiful sense of quiet. Or I sit on the beach, by the ocean, and my attention goes to the seemingly infinite space over the water. My whole body seems to move rhythmically with the sound of the waves. Before I was tense, my mind and body racing. Now, as I’m sitting with the ocean, I am comforted. Relaxed.

 

Why is this?

 

I’ve used the rain, the sky, the sound of birds and peepers, crickets, and cicadas, the feel of my breath or the air on my face, the seasons, the glow of the moon in the middle of the night or the wind in the middle of the day as doors to meditation, or to calm and slow down enough so I can feel or perceive the world and myself more clearly.

 

Even an ice storm can evoke a sense of beauty; and the dark clouds of a hurricane can reveal a sense of awe⎼ right alongside the fright.

 

Being outside in nature or viewing it helps us stay healthy, happier, and recover more easily from illness. We experience less stress and pain and heal quicker in a hospital if our room has windows facing trees, streams, or mountains or there are murals of such scenes painted on the walls.

 

Something like 170,000 years ago, evolutionary changes like a loss of body hair and a subsequent need for protection from the elements led early humans to clothe themselves. Or maybe it was also for artistic reasons. Maybe as long ago as 400,000 years ago, certainly by the Neolithic Revolution of 12,000 years ago, we began to build homes, shelters from the storm, or from dangerous animals. Later, we began to build walls to protect us from our own species. We then tried to control nature or wall it away, but we couldn’t, so we walled ourselves from nature, or tried to do so.

 

Likewise, in our personal evolution, so many of us had to wall away traumas that were too much to face at the time or aspects of ourselves we didn’t know how to integrate or accept.

 

And because of this effort, of walling ourselves from nature or ourselves, the question arose: why is nature⎼ why is what we are walling away so often healing to us, despite the storms, the ice, the fires, and the bears?

 

Because nature ultimately includes everything. It’s not just trees, beaches, streams, and sky that can comfort us. Almost any aspect of nature can be used as an object for meditation and for calming ourselves, but so can almost anything we perceive. A poem, a work of visual art, a person, pet, park bench, building, a piece of paper, a question. We can use the mere act of looking to help us see more clearly, or a moment of fear to study how we construct emotions. The key is to find what comforts us….

 

 

**If you’d like more information on any of the practices referred to in this piece, click on any of the links provided, and, if possible, find a reliable and experienced teacher, therapist, mentor to be a guide.

***To read the whole blog, please click on the link to The Good Men Project.

Collective Trauma Will Only Be Solved by a New Dawn of Compassionate Action

 

President Biden is sometimes criticized for not helping Ukraine get fighter jets from Poland, or for not pushing NATO to establish a no-fly zone over the country so Russian jets can’t bomb and strafe the Ukrainian people. Biden says he can’t risk escalating the conflict and starting a World War, but critics maintain we’re already at war and so should go further in supporting Ukraine.

 

But the strategies endorsed by some critics would mean NATO pilots either flying jets to Ukraine or flying over the country and could result in NATO, including Americans, shooting it out with Russians. Maybe, they think, we should just bomb Russian troop convoys and artillery.

 

Where is the line between helping an invaded nation and going to war alongside it? Or where should it be? What constitutes enough of a motivation to risk World War? To risk nuclear war? Does anything warrant that risk? Talk about an environmental crisis.

 

The President is expertly weaving a very fine line here. He has moved that line as he has led NATO to come together like it hasn’t before.

 

The World is not at war. Ukraine is at war with Russia, or with Putin. Ukraine is being attacked. The Ukrainians are dying. The Russians are losing not only in world opinion but often in the ground war and so are purposely targeting the civilian population. Ukraine’s cities are being destroyed. Their democracy as well as their homes, bombed. The rest of Europe, the U. S., most of the world is not.

 

Yes, Russia, especially, has facilitated cyber-attacks against us, against our elections and businesses. But so has China, North Korea, other autocrats. Yes, our sense of humanity is at war and our nation is divided against itself. Yet, we are, or most of us are, relatively safe.

 

Yes, we are paying higher gas prices. We face shortages. We face rising anxiety and fear. We face a constant news assault on our sense of shared humanity. On our future. But we are not facing bombs. Disinformation bombs. Yes. New strains of COVID. Yes. Organized hate and 5 years of assaults on our rights. Yes. On our education systems. We are facing a climate emergency. And now, this war against a people, a nation, against democracy.

 

That is where we need to put our effort. Into strengthening our humanitarian work, into helping Ukraine defend itself and into stopping autocracy here as well as Ukraine.

 

If we think we are at war, now, in most of Europe and the US, as many say we are; if we stop maintaining a conceptual as well as physical line between supporting the Ukrainian war effort and refugees and actively, militarily fighting Putin, then we are lost. We must find other ways to oppose autocracy and stop the killing.

 

Putin’s War can show us what we might face if we don’t do whatever we need to do, not only to stop Putin, but stop autocrats in this country, too. If we say we are militarily at war with Russia now we might create the false impression that we can go on with a relatively normal life while autocrats are attacking us⎼ or if Putin and those who support him, like DJT and other GOP, continue their attacks. That is a dangerous idea.

 

Every time we see it in the news, we might imagine ourselves being bombed. And this empathy might actually help us take appropriate action⎼ as long as we can also let it go. We also need to be able to find moments of peace in ourselves. When we respond to a crisis with inertia, we seed anxiety. When we respond with compassion and action, we seed a sense of agency. Strength. We respond more fully, think more clearly, and feel more alive. Feel more powerful.

 

We need a new dawn of caring. Of compassionate leaders. Of listening and collective action. This is what will, hopefully, save us all. We can diminish the collective trauma here by using mindfulness and studying ourselves, psychology, philosophy, history to uncover and dissolve the hidden pain, hooks, biases, and expectations that autocrats use to seize our attention, manipulate, and hurt us even more. We can send resources to Ukraine and help get out the vote here. And we can find our own ways to care for our families and neighbors, be creative, join hands with others, and stand up together to end this war.

 

 

*This post was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

The Power that Liberates vs the Power that Corrupts: The Skills Needed to Obtain Power and Lead Effectively are the Ones Most Likely to Deteriorate Once We Have Power

What is the root of real power, power that is consistent with having a satisfying life? That inspires others? That makes us effective leaders?

The people of Ukraine especially, but really the whole world, have been suffering due to political leaders like Putin and DJT politicians whose idea of leadership is to center power on themselves alone. Too many people have this maladaptive idea that only by being selfish and ruthless can we be an effective ruler. Some even think that only by being ruthless can we succeed in making the world a better place.

I was just re-reading two articles from the May/June, 2017, Scientific American Mind that clearly show research on power proves the opposite to be true. The first is about the psychological effects of power on the powerful, and that one of many reasons the common idea of power is maladaptive is because it can undermine the motivation by ethical and empathic people to want to take political action. The second article is on self-compassion.

The British politician and historian, Lord John Acton, has often been quoted as saying: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power to corrupt absolutely.” He was mostly speaking of Popes, Roman Emperors, and absolute monarchs, but he could be speaking of Presidents.

In an article called Power Moves: Success Changes How People Think and Act—Often, But Not Always, For the Worse, psychologist and science writer Theodor Schaarschmidt asks if the corrupting influences of power are real and attributable to the mere fact of having power? Or is it that ruthless people are the ones most likely to search for power to begin with? The article discusses psychologist Susan Fiske’s research—as people gain influence, they change. They act with less empathy and with a reduced concern for details.

In general, those in powerful positions tend to overestimate their skills, take greater risks, think in terms of stereotypes, and ignore outside viewpoints. The more power they get, the fewer social norms they tend to follow. They can become “Machiavellian” and disregard moral or even legal limits and feel free to use others in the pursuit of their own status and advantage. Schaarschmidt cites research by psychologist Kibeom Lee showing that when Machiavellian traits combine with narcissism and psychopathy, people act with less honesty and humility.

At first glance, it might seem from this research that empathy is somehow in opposition to the sense of agency and motivation to assume power. However, in his book The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, psychologist Dacher Keltner says it is social intelligence, or the power to understand, value and advance the goals of others, that yields true power; and it is involved in every relationship and interaction. Without this social intelligence we tend to act like patients who have damaged their brain’s orbitofrontal lobes (the parts of the brain critical to empathy and socially appropriate behavior)….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

**This article is an update and re-write of an earlier piece I wrote, https://irarabois.com/power-liberates-vs-power-corrupts/

https://archetypeinaction.com/index.php/en/more-tools-to-change-society/162-politics-a-rhetoric2/political-psychology/4770-the-power-that-liberates-vs-the-power-that-corrupts

Embracing the Whirlwind, Finding Depths in Ourselves We Didn’t Know Existed

The next 2 or 3 days might be a whirlwind, a hurricane of historic proportions. Who knows what will go on. Hopefully, on Wednesday or Thursday, we as individuals as well as we the people of this nation, will still have a mind and a voice left, after watching and listening to the news storm through our hearts. Hopefully, the physical world will still be intact. COVID might still be raging in our communities but the rage that DT embodies, his emptiness of care for others, his lies and hate will have been exposed and, at least politically, for now, defeated. Our efforts to form a “more perfect union” advanced. But if not, if even more is needed, we will continue the fight. We can discover depths we didn’t know existed in us. We will be the people we want to see in the world, the friends and neighbors, creating the world we need and dream about.

 

So, be alert and safe. I will be, in mind and body, air hugging all those I love and care about. Hoping everyone I know has or will vote. If you see me wandering around with my arms out, don’t be alarmed. It is just hope and love trying to embrace the world, wishing for myself and all of us that we soon have something wonderful to celebrate.

The Walk That Reveals Dragons: Walking So Our Capacity for Compassion Is Strengthened Along with Our Legs

Walking has taken on new significance and importance today, due to the coronavirus. Gyms are closed, so the outdoors have become a gym we all share. Or we have always shared this gym, but maybe we now do it more deliberately. Almost everyone I know says they take walks. Where we each go⎼ that is not so shared. Some have the privilege of deep forests, beaches, or river sides, others city streets, parks, or parking lots.

 

I took a walk a few days ago that could have gone on forever. Our home is in a rural area, on a steep hill, and I only stopped when my legs tired. I was also experimenting with how to walk as more a meditation⎼ how to lose myself for at least a few moments. And how, when my mind wandered, to kindly return attention to the basics⎼ breathing, looking, listening, and feeling.

 

When I first started my corona-walks, I distracted myself from each step so the weight of steps wouldn’t drag me down. The walk up our hill is challenging. I would set a goal to exercise for maybe 30 minutes or an hour. But if I began each walk thinking about how many minutes I had left to finish, each step would become a burden. So I either counted steps or thought about interesting ideas or people or projects I could take on. Or I played this game with myself. I pretended I would only walk to the big house up the road. And when I arrived there, I’d tell myself to walk just a bit more, to the maple tree where I saw the turkeys last week. And when I reached the maple tree I’d continue to the next memory or turkey siting.

 

But not this time.

 

In an online birding class I took recently, the teachers spoke about how we honor the birds we live with by knowing their names and their songs. This was a new and beautiful idea for me. But as I walked, I just wanted to listen. To name the birds would be another distraction from the song itself. It would mean me, here, and it, there. But to stop walking and just listen, the sound grew closer and clearer. And when the song ended, the trees and insects and stones and cars on the road were waiting for me even more distinctly.

 

In the past, I often thought about what it meant to feel at home someplace. This is the answer. That the gullies, streams, and trees, the wind, heat, and the house I owned would live inside me, not just me inside it. That I’d be open to all of it. That it would be a place to love and think.

 

There are so many ways to think. We can think rationally and critically, use words, concepts, examine theories, research and organize facts. Or we can let our minds wander through imaginative realms, memories of the past or ideas of the future⎼ through our pictures of ourselves or how others picture us. Or we quiet the mind, by focusing on a singular chosen point of focus⎼ the breath, sensations, the maple tree, and especially feeling⎼ or awareness of whatever arises in the immediate moment, including awareness itself….

 

**To read the whole piece, go to the Good Men Project.

 

*For information on walking safely when you might meet up with other people, in this time of the coronavirus, please refer to this NPR program, Masks and the Outdoor Exerciser.

The Fruits of Our Actions: Transforming Self and World

Wouldn’t it be nice if people who seem awful to us got their “just” rewards? If bullies and thieves were stopped and punished and we got to see the punishment? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if narcissistic rulers who ripped off their nation and committed acts of inhumanity were taken from the White House to the jail house? Oh, if only. But it’s obvious that it doesn’t always work that way, at least not in our personal timeline ⎼ except maybe in the section of our imagination reserved for wishes and dreams. …..

 

A Meditation on Taking Action

 

And when the rage and the fear and the tears about the state of the world breaks through, or when the despair threatens to overcome us, when we feel isolated (because fear is isolating), or want to run to a different universe, then we need to take a breath and step back from the emotion. Instead of hiding it away, we can notice it. Make it something to observe and learn from. Such fear is not a message to run away but to open up.

 

Close your eyes and notice how you are breathing. If you feel powerless, it is not a message about giving up but that you need to act. If you feel lacking in courage or you can’t imagine what to do, then imagine someone you know or have read about or wish to know who acted with courage. Someone compassionate and driven to act, or someone informed who knew and did what needed to be done. Maybe someone creative who thought of something no one else thought of.

 

Who was this person? Imagine her or him. Imagine what she looks like. What was it this person did? What do you think she felt when she did it? Or felt before she did it? Imagine the fear or self-doubt he might have felt? How did he act despite the fear? Imagine her feeling fear yet acting anyway.

 

How is this person just like you? Is her fear any different from yours?

 

Imagine him feeling he had to act. What have you done in your life that was helpful to someone else or creative?

 

You and this person are not so different. You both feel fear. You both breathe in and out. You both notice what is happening.

 

So now let come to mind some situation you want to change, and you feel needs addressing. Let come to mind something you can do. And imagine doing it. Where do you start? Who can you talk to about it? Who would share your concern?

 

And what do you need to know? Where could you find that information? And what would the change look like?

 

What would it feel like to have taken these actions?

 

Take a breath in and out. How do you feel now?

 

To read the whole blog, go to The Good Men Project.