Mindful Politics

If you have ever meditated you are more than likely familiar with the term mindfulness. If you live in America you are wondering what the hell the word mindfulness is doing next to the word politics. Lately, we are a country in the grips of division and downright hatred for each other. While progressives technically “won” with Trump gone, we lost power in major ways with the fall of Bernie. There are more reasons than ever before to be filled with rage on all sides of the political spectrum. The only people in America that aren’t enraged are the elite, highly educated, wealthy whites. If we are to put up the fight of our lives to build on Bernie’s momentum and try to live a peaceful, happy life it will take some mental strength training. While this specific piece won’t be on meditation, a valuable lesson still applies, like exercise to keep the body in top shape, we need to keep our minds and mental health in top condition to stand any chance. When you are going against the wealthy you are disadvantaged from the start on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the wealthy are at the self-transcendence stage, thinking about the world they want to build, while we are a hungry army worrying about next months light bill and trying to use our free time thinking critically. 

The term mindfulness has a million definitions and we are not qualified to make one, but you likely have a sense of what we are saying. We are talking about self-awareness, empathy, the ability to keep ones cool, watch emotions pass by rather than act on them, situational awareness, etc. A quick example of not being mindful at all and just reacting occurs every day on Facebook, for example attacking Trump over selling arms to the Saudis when Obama did the same thing, you reacted immediately without thinking. When we follow the media and react to everything from our defensive default setting, we pay a huge price. First and foremost we are sacrificing our own peace of mind, getting angry constantly means we are not peaceful and happy. If we can’t let go of our knee-jerk reaction to headlines, they will ruin our life morning by morning, taking away from the family, community, and ruin the chance to help those in need. On a purely strategic side, we look like fools falling into traps that legitimize Trump’s claims about fake news. See we take the bait and start knocking Trump only for a Trump supporter to google and see that Obama did the same thing, reassuring them that Trump is right and we are drones, controlled by the media. The sad truth is, without a strong dose of mindfulness, we are drones of the media, absent-mindedly accepting whatever the DNC puts out there.

The Corporate Dems have mastered the concept of Red Herrings, or better known as the Red Herring Fallacy. Google describes the fallacy as follows- The red herring fallacy is a logical fallacy where someone presents irrelevant information in an attempt to distract others from a topic that’s being discussed, often to avoid a question or shift the discussion in a new direction. A relevant example is the Dems backing the fight for racial injustice publicly, all the while passing bills favoring the ultra-wealthy and hurting the working poor minorities. Or the classic line that Joe Biden was more electable than Bernie Sanders because he’s a moderate, despite his losing record and Hillary’s loss. The trend with Corporate sell-outs like Nancy Pelosi and Pete Buttigieg is their phobia of having an economic agenda. Their owners, whoops I mean donors, will not allow them to have an economic plan that helps the majority of people. This is the core of Bernie’s hatred, he constantly had real plans to make real impacts on worker’s lives. See Pete is an all-star culture warrior, no one can make a conservative look more stupid on tv that Mayor Pete. Scoring sound bites that rally the ultra woke to dropping donor talking points against M4A, Pete embodies everything they want. Pete was a master of dropping Red Herrings, “Why back Bernie’s plan when mine won’t take your insurance but has a public option.” This led so many off the trail and it was so comfortable because he is really saying “if you’re rich and not worried about healthcare at all, nothing changes and you don’t have to feel guilty when Bernie tells you people are dying in the streets and going bankrupt”. 

Perhaps the most critical time to be mindful is in one on one, face to face conversations. In this environment, Red Herrings abound. See people don’t study debate, have you ever been discussing something with someone and by all accounts, you break down their argument on the issue and seem to be at a checkmate only for them to say, “well at least Trump didn’t ……..”. That is the telltale sign you chased a Red Herring, meaning they threw something out there they weren’t really thinking through or even thought was a legitimate argument. So how do you handle these scenarios? Well if you can be mindful and not react to everything they say. See what you can’t realize is you will never argue someone into believing you, no matter how stupid their logic. On top of that, it is a natural law that they would have a higher opinion of you and your opinions if you are being a good listener. See if we just listen and ask questions we will have civil conversations and allow people to open up some common ground. The more you listen you find the personal reasons behind a belief. Imagine Medicare for All right as you meet someone, only to find after a violent discussion that their mother has just died of treatable cancer that she couldn’t afford treatment for. Yes, that is a sad example but we have to respect every human enough to assume they mean well and have a reason for what they believe. And if you have had enough real conversations, you will find that beliefs are rooted in real-life experiences, it is beyond disrespectful to believe presenting some “facts” should change someone’s beliefs. 

Human beings are complex, and they can and usually hold conflicting beliefs. We must find a way to separate humans from their vote. We are letting the behaviors of Donald Trump stand in as the behavior of people we know and love. If the same rigorous standards are applied to anyone they would become hated. Have you ever support an unethical person, watched their show, voted for them? Of course, you have. We must find empathy and understanding if we are going to have the conversations needed to get someone like Bernie in the white house. The media is painting us in a corner as extremist, let’s make sure we turn that idea on its head.

TAR’s guide to stress management

There has perhaps never been a more stressful time than the pandemic. It has been and continues to be a gnarly concoction of economic fear and fear for our health. Some days have been emotionally overwhelming. We would like to share some of the successful tactics we’ve used for handling stress and open an invite for collaboration here.

While there are a million ways of handling stress, most tactics are some deviation of mindfulness. Simply put, being able to disconnect or unhook from emotion, thoughts, and reactions as they fly through your brain. The goal is not to cease thought or stop having mood swings, that is impossible, but you separate from them. Like the new Fleet Foxes song “You are not your season”, the day’s crazy emotion or thought is not who you are. This is easy to write about, in reality if we can “unhook” from our constant thought/daydreaming for mere seconds of every hour, that is game changing. This is hard! Stress wouldn’t exist if we were naturally monks who could never get wrapped up in emotion, but we evolved to survive not be blissful.

There are different categories(arbitrary) of stress management, first there are activities like exercise, meditation, etc. then there are monikers, and finally drills. We did in fact just make up those categories. Activities are typically straightforward, and the most evidence based. Monikers are generally unknown to the general public and never used, sadly being positive is not culturally very cool. Finally there are drills, interestingly humans are running negative drills constantly that undermine their peace of mind and destroy self esteem. 

Let’s start with activities, one of the main reasons why exercise can be so powerful is the concept of little victories. When you are able to push yourself and get that run in or go to yoga before work, you have started the day with a win, giving you a boost chemically and psychologically. You are only as confident as your most recent achievement, and if your brain is dwelling on eating that pizza and skipping a run, you won’t have much confidence. Typically our emotions end up controlling our actions, we feel bad and talk ourselves out of running, luckily for us the process also works in reverse. If we can take action despite our emotions resisting we can change our emotions. If you press on and go for the run anyways, the results feel more rewarding, and you are in a positive mood. 

The second activity is meditation. At the core of meditation, you are “expanding your window of tolerance of the human experience”. Think about the last time you had to pick up to-go food and had to wait in a restaurant. How many seconds did it take once you sat down to pull your phone out? That is your window of tolerance, you could only handle existing without distraction for that many seconds. Don’t feel bad, the largest companies in human history hire the greatest minds on earth to figure out how to make the cell phone more addicting than drugs or gambling. Effectively grinding our window of tolerance down to a nub. We recommend the Waking Up app, but no matter where you start, you can’t go wrong. 

The next category is the use of monikers. Monikers and running mental drills are ways of describing automatic thought processes that already occur. The point is to use these processes to our advantage, as opposed to our detriment. If it has never occurred to you, we do not have control over our thoughts, they run rampant, changing sporadically like a toddler with the TV remote. Since we can’t stop thinking(we wouldn’t want to, thought is a great tool) we need to try and get a grip on this overpowered brain of ours. How? Self-talk. We are constantly thinking negative thoughts in our head and reinforcing negative beliefs. “I’m always late!” “I’m not good with numbers” “I’m super disorganized”. Why we do this comes down to survival, if you were nearly killed by another group, your brain tells you that you “do not fit in with them”. The problem is we are still telling ourselves these narratives in everyday scenarios. It is important to ask yourself the question “When did I start to believe that about myself?”

This biggest challenge with changing the way you talk to and about yourself is that it isn’t cool to be a positive person. Even though everyone hates negative people in particular, being positive is viewed as goofy or uncool. You will be set free when you take out that “cool card” you got at 13 and cut it. This isn’t a childish activity, start noticing the little degrading comments you feed yourself all day and see if you can swap them for something like “I feel healthy and confident” “I always work hard”, “If I work hard and treat people right, I believe thing will work in my favor”.

Next time you are nervous about something coming up, a big meeting, an interview, anything that makes you nervous, and watch how negative your thoughts are. More than likely you are picturing the worst scenario that could happen. This is where the mental drills come into play. Just like self talk, you are currently running mental drills naturally, but mostly negative drills that are causing you to dwell on past shortcomings. In the book Psycho Cybernetics(Tony Robbins inspiration) Dr. Maxwell Maltz puts the human brain and the computer side by side on problem solving. When a computer has a problem to solve, it goes back to its memory to see how it solved past problems and find the right solution. When we have a problem we also search our memories, however we only highlight failures. Imagine a computer that used past failed responses to problems, your computer would crash constantly. Again this is an old survival technique that we no longer need. Before going into an interview, picture it going perfectly. Use the theater of the mind to play through yourself nailing the questions and them responding positively. Research shows our brain responds to imagined scenarios the same as actual scenarios. Yes that’s right, visualizing is as powerful as actual practice. 

While you are imagining the upcoming scenario, you should always have the cookie jar close by. This is a concept pioneered by the GOAT, David Goggins. Goggins is the world’s hardest man, after growing up with an extremely abusive father and getting extremely overweight, he became a Navy Seal and runs the world’s toughest long distance races. The cookie jar is where you keep all of your achievements and all the challenges you have overcome. Anytime a scenario is daunting reach into the cookie jar and remind yourself that you have done things tougher than this and come out on top. This is another reason exercise is so powerful, if going on a run at dawn is 10x more challenging than your upcoming meeting with your boss, you’ve just shrank the size of your anxiety and worry drastically by viewing it at scale. At scale means compared to everything else you’ve been through and overcome. 

In conclusion, remember that while negativity is toxic as hell to others, at the end of the day you are only holding yourself back. Next time you find yourself in a pickle, with a broken down car or job troubles, objectively notice how negativity literally can NOT help the situation in any way, only make it worse.