Disturbance and Recovery
Over the years, I have read many studies about the effect of meditation on the brain. There seems to be general agreement that the overall impact is positive, but lots of different theories about exactly what that positive change is. One study showed that long-time meditators still reacted strongly to external stimuli but that the length of time of the reaction was significantly shortened. They were equally disturbed by the sound of a loud bell, but the meditators returned to a baseline calm after the sound much more quickly than did the non-meditators.
I’m thinking this may be a useful skill for many of us as the Trump presidency moves forward. Now, several weeks after the shock and despair of the election results, I’m on more of an even keel. I’m not happy about the situation, but I’m mostly back to being concerned with the ongoing life here at the Temple, my coaching business and window treatment options for our new house.
But yesterday I got angry and depressed all over again reading the New York Times. Charles Blow’s op-ed piece ‘No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along*’ was what sent me over the edge. Blow reports on the recent meeting Trump had with the Times editorial staff where, after months of viciously attacking the integrity of the Times, Trump turned flattering and genial. As if nothing had happened.
Blow goes on to address Trump directly saying: “You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions. I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.”
This is inflammatory language that does nothing to build bridges or affirm our common humanity. And yet, as I read it, I felt a deep agreement. Blow articulates the deep anger I have that someone who would play so fast and loose with the truth is going to be our next president. (And I know that many people who voted for Trump would say this same thing about Hillary.)
Even a day later, I am disturbed by this perspective of our incoming president. I do believe it is an accurate assessment of how Trump has behaved up until now and I see no reason to assume that he will change.
For many of us, this new era will be one of regular disturbance offering the opportunity for repeated recovery. Our meditation, our inner work, will not change Trump, but it may help the rest of us live fully and responsibly in difficult times. The point is not that we should not be upset, but rather that we come back to center again and again—both to appreciate the blessing of everyday life in the midst of it all, as well as to organize and take action where we can.