All sources agree, that it’s been a particularly divisive election season. My neighbor, a little old lady – a Christian – sort of captured the current climate when she said, “I can’t in good conscious vote for either one of them!” Indecision, unfortunately, is not an option if we want to create a future we feel good about. So, here are some tips for ensuring peace of mind after you send in your ballot.
Before you do anything, visit mindfulVOTE to see what other conscious people are talking about regarding this election. Then…
Step 1 – What are your needs? Write down what you need from your government to make life better. Do you need clean air/water? More affordable housing/healthcare? More job opportunities? Student loan relief? Do you worry about those in need, and want them to have resources? Racism? Having access to certain herbs or medical procedures? Take some time to reflect. Look into your heart; are you being mindful with your needs? See step 3 to make sure you’re acting with mindful ethics. Some wisdom to keep in mind, from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:
“The righteous is not innocent of the deeds of the wicked…like a procession you walk together toward your God-self.”
“For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are met.”
Step 2 – Don’t vote blindly. Now that you know your needs, gather information. Get to know what’s on the ballot. Check your local news site and government (state, county and city) sites for updates, as well as online resources such as Ballotpedia.org and vote411.org. And new this year, a Google search will give you accurate election info. TechCrunch.com reports: “Web users who search for a query like ‘who’s on my ballot,’ will now be presented with detailed information about the candidates, as well as information on your own state’s referenda.”
You can also find an organization or publication that aligns with your beliefs and see who/what they’ve endorsed. For example, if you care about the environment, check this endorsement list of approved candidates from The Sierra Club. Or if you’re about women’s rights, here are choices from the Utah Women’s Voter League. It takes less time than you think to get an idea of which candidates and propositions align with your needs. **dont forget to study your local candidates and issues! Local elections arguably have a greater impact on your daily life than federal.
Step 3 – Review whether or not a candidate acts with mindful principles. Being mindful isn’t just about being in the present moment. There are ethics associated with mindfulness. In the Buddhist tradition, there are the 4 brahmaviharas, or states of emotion one strives to cultivate. They are: Metta (Loving-kindness); Karuna (Compassion); Mudita (Joy with others – being happy for their success); Upekkha (Equanimity – nonjudgement and non-reactivity). Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh gives an example of the type of conduct conducive to a mindful life:
“I am determined not to kill, or to condone any act of killing…I am committed to cultivating loving-kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am committed to practicing generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in real need.”
You may not have a “perfect” mindful candidate who follows all of these standards. Nowadays, it’s hard to find a politician who has never lied to save face, or never voted on the wrong side of an issue. As a mindful person, we are also asked to be forgiving (the concept of nonself says we need to love others as we love ourselves, because we are one) and take a look at that person as a whole. Are they apologetic? Compassionate? Connected to authentic causes? Try to see the big picture with a candidate before writing them off. There are dealbreakers: treating people without dignity, acting with blatant disregard for others and our environment, nonlistening. These traits show a deep suffering and unconsciousness, with which right leadership will not be possible.
Lastly, meditate. Election prep is important but even more important is that you continue your mindfulness and meditation practice. My teacher Deepak Chopra says it’s the best thing you can do for world peace. Just imagine if everyone was mindful; if we all cultivated the brahmaviharas; acted with nonself. A peaceful world is possible, as you’ve witnessed by creating a peaceful environment within yourself.
So namaste, and may you cast a mindful vote.
As always, I’m here to help if you’d like some one-on-one meditation and mindfulness guidance.