My husband of 24 years died 10 years ago today, November 9, 2016, the day that Donald Trump has been elected, despite many expectations to the contrary, to the presidency of the United States. I have learned that everything changes, that in an instant, that which you thought would always be there for you, is gone. Nothing is permanent. It is a stunning correlation for me, that 10 years ago today, I started a new chapter of my life, and now, in 2016, we as a country are starting a new chapter.
I have learned that this day, this new era of a Trump presidency, is not a mistake. It is an opportunity for each and every one of us to grow. It is a teaching. You can say, “Oh great. Just what I needed to hear. I don’t need a teaching right now. I’m bummed. Screw the teaching, this sucks.” Well, yes, maybe it does for some people.
But why does it suck? Because what we wanted to happen, didn’t happen? Because what we believe is best for us, isn’t falling into place? Well, saddle up. If you are a practicing yogi, or anyone committed to a mindfulness practice, then what you are working to understand is that all mindfulness practices are about learning to be in relationship with what is! And that is huge, and, admittedly, a little difficult.
One of my students who owns a yoga studio in a tony town in Long Island, texted early this morning and said that people were coming in for practice crying. My first reaction was “Seriously? Yogis whining and moaning and complaining?” But then I realized that that attitude wasn’t all that compassionate. Maybe we all need time to cry, to mourn the loss of something that was important to us. OK. If you are going to cry, well then, it is important to cry. But it is also important to remember – eventually as you recover – what the word practice means in yoga philosophy? The Sanskrit word for practice is abhyasa, and, interestingly, it is translated as the ability and effort to keep one’s mind steady, with effort being the operative word here! What does that mean? It means the struggle to be here, no matter what. You can only “do the work” if you are here – fully and completely. Pay attention, our practice tells us. Notice that you have been knocked off center. Notice what is going on. Notice your attachment. Notice you are crying. Why are you crying? Because something you thought should and would happen, didn’t? Because of fear for the future? That isn’t being present. Just notice that. Now, can you steady your mind?
Isn’t the whole point of studying yoga about training in mindfulness? If mindfulness is learning to be in relationship with what is, then what is is that Donald Trump is the president elect. You can argue with reality but it isn’t an argument that you are likely to win. So what to do? Get your butt in gear. Same as yesterday. Do the work. There is tons of work to do. There has always been tons of work to do. We don’t know what will happen. And if Roe Vs Wade or the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve or the gains for gays or gay marriage or land or the water or a woman’s right to chose becomes in jeopardy down the road, well, jump in then, and do what needs to be done. But now? Today? You are a yogi – model the behavior you want to see in others. Be kind. Be positive. Be grateful. Be compassionate. Be present.
We can wail or cry or say it’s not fair, but that doesn’t change anything. In yoga we learn that we “do the work,” without regard for the outcome. Not easy! Part of “the work.” You plant the mango seed, simply to plant the mango seed, not because you are going to sit around and wait for mangoes. We do what is right and fight for what is just, because it is the right thing to do, not because we expect to bathe in the outcome.
It is gray and cloudy and rainy today, kinda gloomy. I went to the gym this morning to work out, because I didn’t get much sleep and I didn’t feel like being outside. After a few curls, pull downs, crunches and plank poses, I stopped by Fuel, our local coffee shop, to get a sense of the mood in town. A young woman working behind the counter was talking to a customer and bemoaning the day. “This is the worst day of my life,” she said as she foamed some milk for a cappuccino. I thought to myself “Oh boy, she’s young.” I had a momentary flash of her future. “You should be so lucky,” I thought.
I looked at her and said “This is the best day of your life.” Maybe I should have waited a few days before I laid that on her. She was clearly miserable. But she looked at me – puzzled. “Seriously?” “Yes,” I said, and picked up my darjeeling tea, smiled, and thought about how she must be feeling. How long has it taken me to get to this point. That no matter what, this is the best day of my life? It takes work, a lot of work! It’s all yoga.