Some mornings I wake up and am hit with irritation that I did not get the amount or quality of sleep that I had wanted. Another wave of irritation hits when I realize I have to move my cool and stiff body out of the warmth of my bed. In recent months, however, I have learned to cut through the heavy morning irritability with awareness. Taking a moment to feel my breath, listen to the stillness, and allow my eyes to adjust to the light. I consider this a brief moment of gratitude. I simply acknowledge that my days are numbered and that this morning was not guaranteed nor was it deserved or earned. It is a gift. So far, I rarely feel like it's a gift, but I acknowledge that it is, in fact, given to me without my asking.
Then, before my children wake up I creak through our old house, through the dimly lit hallway, down the stairs, and erect myself in lotus position on my meditation cushion. I never thought I'd find myself doing this on a regular basis, though somehow arriving here each morning delights me. It is a sacred pause - something so meaningful that nothing could transgress against it. It's like the moment you connect with your child or niece, becoming completely aware of her joy and reveling in the pride of being a parent or aunt. It's pure love; and it seems that no amount of stress can compete with such a moment's ability to break through daily fears.
And if you think that sounds like pie in the sky, then what I do next will make you ill. I spend the next ten minutes on the cushion repeating the phrases of a traditional Vipassanā Loving-Kindness meditation; "may I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be at ease." And when I've finished wishing good vibes toward myself, I move on to others. Systematically, I run the practice while imagining specific people, sometimes feeling hokey and contrived, nevertheless - it seems to have an impact on my perspective of the world. Especially, when I stretch beyond my comfort zone.
I pass these well wishes to benefactors, family, friends, people I don't know but pass during the day, people I struggle to get along with, and then finally, people that infuriate me. "May Mr. Trump be happy, May he be at ease." These are difficult phrases for me to repeat to myself, but sitting on the cushion, my mood shifts slightly as I move from remembering the racist, inconsistent, and hypocritical words he has spewed, to also remembering that he is a human being and, like all human beings, desires safety and peace.
It isn't for Mr. Trump's benefit, but for my own that I use the Loving-Kindness practice with him in mind. Each time I sit I work to rewire my mind toward kindness, respect, and generosity, regardless of the recipient. Love can be taught and we can teach ourselves using such a practice. I spend most of this practice while thinking of my family members, friends, and co-workers, those that I interact with the most, but someone like Mr. Trump is also in my life. His tweets and heavily opinionated musings about deportation and jailing women that get abortions or people that burn flags has an impact on how I view the man and how I feel when I catch wind of his latest tirade. It's for this reason that my lenses need to be continually adjusted. Unless I become bitter with anger and more easily aroused by his antics, I find it helpful to my own wellbeing to sit and meditate on his humanity. He is a human and I therefore must concede that he too seeks safety, health, happiness, and peace. I may be opposed to the strategies he employs to obtain such basic needs but acknowledging that he does indeed desire these things makes him more tolerable, indeed, more equal to my mind. He is not a villain.
The fact of the matter is that this practice makes life more tolerable. My anger, fears, and self-imposed restrictions and expectations have relaxed. My mind has become more of a friend to my existence. The more I do this practice, the more that my spontaneous thinking throughout the day inclines toward friendliness, warmth, love, and compassion. The more this happens, the happier I am, the better I sleep, and the more empowered I feel. And I need all these things if I am going to remain resilient and compassionate over the next four years.