October 18, 2016

Tools for Fighting Despair in Tumultuous Times.

Words, Music and Mantra to the Rescue.

More and more people are feeling despair as the U.S. presidential election continues to go off the rails this month.

As an environmental educator, activist and long time Bernie supporter, I have found it to be increasingly challenging to keep the stress of this season in check. Stories of the bigoted billionaire candidate—we don’t need to mention his name—continue to flood the airwaves, triggering anxiety for many of us. During the last debate, when I found myself eating a bag of Halloween candy and drinking too much wine, I knew I had to focus on some less destructive behaviors.

While sugar and alcohol can help to dull the pain, they are not a good long term coping mechanism, so I searched for some forms of non-caloric nourishment to help maintain a better outlook through this season of mud-slinging and fear-mongering. Words, music and mantras to the rescue…

Joanna Macy is an ecologically focused Buddhist who is an expert on despair work. Her words help me face the mess we are in. She speaks of the stories of our time: Business as Usual (status quo), the Great Unraveling (describe the catastrophes happening now), and also of the Great Turning (turning it all around and healing). Which of these stories we will end up with is up to us and where we put our energy. Her perspective helped me to re-frame the work I’ve been called to do in the world and showed me that action can be an antidote to despair along with gratitude for the present moment.

Music is another way to I have found to cope. Instead of listening to the news, I’ve discovered some artists that exude a higher vibration. Listening to a song or two dissolves the gloom I feel for this upcoming election. My current favorites include Michael Franti, Allen Stone and Nanko and Medicine for the People.

My daughter plans to be on Broadway one day, and she has taught me that a good musical theater score can provide a welcome escape from life and its challenges. If you haven’t yet checked out the soundtrack of Hamilton, I highly recommend it. Lin Manuel Miranda’s words are transformative and magical—and as an added bonus, you’ll learn some U.S. history that they never taught in school.

Kirtan, a little chant music utilizing mantra, helps to provide refuge from fear and overthinking, and helps me drift off to sleep at night. Krishna Das and Deva Premal are two internationally known troubadours of Kirtan that I love to listen to.

As a bonus, Tonglen mediation is useful for difficult times. Pema Chodron has many recordings of guided Tonglen.

Whatever you do for self care in these tumultuous times, remember one thing: this too, will pass.




Author: Susan Rubin

Image: Instagram @discoaddiction

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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