On the evening of November 8 I was scheduled to give a talk about the perennially timely wisdom of the Buddha to guests at a large health and fitness resort and as the audience was assembling for the 8PM start time, someone told me the election results that had just been confirmed. I was personally shocked as I had very much believed and hoped that Ms. Clinton would be elected. I also was very troubled by what I thought a Trump presidency would mean for this country’s future. I also knew that not everyone in the audience shared my opinion and that my role was to be a representative of the Dharma, not a partisan speaker.
I did not have time to plan, so I began by telling the truth about how that moment was for me. I am not sure of my exact words, but they were something like:
I know from seeing everyone here on their cell phones and talking to each other that you all have heard the result of the election. We are a large group, and it is most likely that we represent diverse political opinions and that each of us voted in the way we thought was best for our country as well as for our individual families. Some of us are happy and relieved and the rest of us are unhappy and concerned. I think it is likely that our opinions, one way or the other, are strong opinions since this has been a remarkably contentious election season. More than ever, I understand why terms like “battleground states” and “war chest” are used in strategy discussions as if the United States is having a war rather than an election. And, how we come to think of people who vote differently from the way we do as our enemies. Each of us, no matter who we supported, has had more than a year of hearing other people vilify the person we chose. Even now, I won’t ask you to identify you choice of candidate to the people around you. You’ve been here half a week hiking together, sharing communal dining tables, taking fitness classes together, stretching and balancing your bodies on adjacent yoga mats and you’ve exchanged cordial greetings, or at least friendly smiles. We are the same good people who hiked and ate and chatted congenially with each other all this time. We all are interested in nutrition and health and fitness. All of us love our families. All of us hope our families will flourish in a peaceful world. We chose the candidate we voted for because we believed it would be the best choice. If we were all in relaxed mind states, we could talk to each other about the reasons we had for voting the way we did. Now would not be a good time to have that talk. The negative rhetoric of these last months and weeks have traumatized us all. Those of us who feel disappointed are likely frightened by what we imagine will happen next. For myself, I hope to use these next days to let my nerves calm down and my mind settle, to talk to my friends, to have the remind me that equanimity is the ability to say, “This is what is happening now. Let’s see what happens next.”
The Buddha would have said something like that, if not those exact words. His last words in his life we, “Move confidently into the future.”
I have been very sad since the election. The good things that I had imagined would happen with a Clinton presidency won’t happen. As I spoke with one of my friends this morning, I realized that although my sadness persists, I haven’t been angry and for that I am grateful. That would be extra, and it would make things worse.