After we finished recording our episode, Resistance and Backlash, I realized that Sarah and I resolved our conversation by deciding that meditation is the answer to polarization--a conclusion that probably prompted loads of eye-rolling or at least confusion. While we always try to offer something that you don't exactly find on cable news, we stepped way out of the mainstream this time and have some explaining to do to those of you who aren't sitting in stillness every day.
One of our core realizations in creating episodes of Pantsuit Politics is that political conversation has to be about personal growth to be effective. If you're engaging to convince other people of anything, you're pushing against rope. Meditation is a key contributor to personal growth for both Sarah and me. Meditation teaches you to observe your own thoughts, and that sort of mind-management has become an essential part of my political thinking.
For example, this morning, I was thinking about universal basic income in the shower (WEREN'T YOU?). I decided that UBI is a good option even for fiscal conservatives (doesn't it have to cost less than the bureaucracy wrapped around loads of other social programs?) and libertarians (doesn't it honor the personal freedom and inherent autonomy of people better than our current welfare system?). Then I heard myself thinking, "of course, there are the crazies who think all taxes are forms of stealing."
"The crazies." Not exactly nuanced.
I paused, and I methodically took myself through the logic that a reasonable human being might use to determine that we should not have to pay any taxes. I do not agree with that reasonable human being, but I can see that argument and think about that person with respect.
Catching these moments of thought loops and mental laziness makes a major difference in the way I interact with information and people. I'm trying to consistently check in with my "observer" self before I tweet something snarky, unfair, unsubstantiated, or generally unproductive. When we receive emails that rip into me for something I've said on the show and I feel this flash of heat or sickness in my body, I've started labeling that feeling almost immediately and letting it go. I read the message, experience the sensation, and tell myself, "Beth, you are allowing a person you've never met to make you feel inadequate right now. Stop." It's pretty effective.
And when someone I do know and usually love says something that I find shocking, I let myself experience that sick feeling then say, "Beth, you hate what this person is saying, and you love this person, and also this has nothing to do with you."
This is all to say that when we know our minds better, we can engage in conversations without devolving into rage, sarcasm, or estrangement. And, we aren't the only ones who think so. Gunilla Norris expresses it more effectively than I can:
Within each of us there is a silence
—a silence as vast as a universe.
We are afraid of it…and we long for it.
When we experience that silence, we remember
who we are: creatures of the stars, created
from the cooling of this planet, created
from dust and gas, created
from the elements, created
from time and space…created
In our present culture,
silence is something like an endangered species…
an endangered fundamental.
The experience of silence is now so rare
that we must cultivate it and treasure it.
This is especially true for shared silence.
Sharing silence is, in fact, a political act.
When we can stand aside from the usual and
perceive the fundamental, change begins to happen.
Our lives align with deeper values
and the lives of others are touched and influenced.
Silence brings us back to basics, to our senses,
to our selves. It locates us. Without that return
we can go so far away from our true natures
that we end up, quite literally, beside ourselves.
We live blindly and act thoughtlessly.
We endanger the delicate balance which sustains
our lives, our communities, and our planet.
Each of us can make a difference.
Politicians and visionaries will not return us
to the sacredness of life.
That will be done by ordinary men and women
who together or alone can say,
“Remember to breathe, remember to feel,
remember to care,
let us do this for our children and ourselves
and our children’s children.
Let us practice for life’s sake.”
Let us practice for life's sake. So, download the Calm app, friends. You won't be sorry; you'll be more nuanced.