Off the Mat: Election Edition – NO on Fear! YES on Love!

Election Eve: Tools for Hope and Love

Last Sunday found the three of us gluing felt feathers onto felt wings. Smile on my lips. He’s old enough to truly join in making his costume. I’m the jumpy one. Not one to be crafty. Why are you nervous, Mama?

I worry that it won’t look like the picture in your head and you’ll be disappointed. I want you to like it. In this simple case, acknowledging it was enough to dissipate my fear and open room for love.

Too often, fear becomes the guiding force, squeezing out love. Too often, my love for my child leads down the fear path. As if my worry can protect him. 

The day before, we voted early. My kiddo chose to go in the booth with me.  Everyone within earshot soon knew how I voted.  Which circle is that, Mama? Can I fill one in? Why did you pick that one? What are these yes and no questions? How do you know which one you want – you didn’t read them! (I assured him I’d researched the ballot questions at home and let him color the circle for an unopposed candidate.)

In my 46 years, I’ve voted in 8 presidential elections. Almost every state and local one, too. Junior year in college I took a last minute mental health road trip and missed voting. Yet this election feels unique.

So much fear.

Many accuse the campaigns of creating division. Others observe these polarizing tactics bring existing frustrations to light: anger about disenfranchisement, race and gender and economic inequality. Fear runs rampant on both sides. We’re soaking in it. Our kids are, too.

In their efforts to build a constructive conversation about race, my neighbors openly share their daughter’s fear that their family will be divided by Donald Trump’s wall. My own school-loving-nerd-boy asks, If Donald Trump wins, will I still get to go to school? Fear. Fear that their most beloved people and places will be taken.

My circles are on the left, but I have no doubt that children in conservative families express similar fears in light of their parents’ anxiety over a potential Hillary presidency.

Fear sticks out. We’re wired for anxiety. Like the joke goes: two cavemen are sitting by the fire when they hear a twig crack in the woods beyond. “What’s that,” asks one, jumping to his feet. “Oh, probably nothing,” says the other. Which one do you think we’re descended from?

The biological utility of fear is well documented. We need the fight/flight automatic response for survival. But our bodies get confused by psychological fear; the anticipation of something negative happening. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between a present threat and an imagined one.

My movement and meditation practice – or yoga for short – keeps me breathing in the space where I can feel fear, examine it, and move through. As meditation teacher Sally Kempton reminds, just telling myself that love is stronger than fear isn’t enough. Avoiding, ignoring, and masking don’t quell fear. Actually allowing myself to feel my fear opens the way to find the love and confidence to move beyond fear.

Regardless of what guides our political decisions – religious grounding, feminist roots, astrological guidance, ideological convictions –  our belief systems all offer tools for fear and tools for hope and love.

Reach out.

Lean in.

Participate.

Choose love.

[Photo credit: (cc) troye owens]


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ginny Hamilton

Ginny is a pain specialist, bodyworker and yoga instructor who offers workplace education programs to ease pain and prevent injury. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice. www.ginnyhamilton.com

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