This year has been quite tumultuous on the economic and political front. It's easy to get caught in the downward spiral of doom and gloom that almost inevitably takes over at dinner parties. I was at a supper a while before writing this and literally as I was being introduced to a guest, his comment was, 'What do you think of the awful happenings today?' I said, 'Let's not devote what can be a wonderful evening to that stuff,' and changed the topic. Some people get pleasure out of being a doomsday naysayer. Don't play ball with them. That's not denialism, but pragmatism. Negativity can and will mess with your mind.
You won't need to be religious to understand what I'm about to say, but it'll help to have a smidgen of awakened spirituality. Here's the thought: You are in this country and going through whatever you're going through, because it's the perfect script for your optimal spiritual development. Running away isn't going to help.
I had the great privilege of having the wise and compassionate Swami Shivapadananda as my spiritual teacher for twenty three years. That doesn't make me a Hindu or Buddhist, even given my bald head and big ears! He said this: Going to a cave in the Himalayas is not going to bring you peace. Wherever you go, your mind goes with you. What Swamiji was saying is that if you have an agitated or unhappy mind, the physical circumstances around you are not really going to change that. Judaic tradition, through Psalm 46:10 says: 'Be still and know that I am God'. An Islamic Hadith reads: 'True richness is not via much property and belongings but in self-contentment'. So it's your internal state and perception that makes something manageable or not. Shakespeare wrote: 'There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.' - Hamlet, Act II, scene ii. Not meant to be taken literally, but he's implying that we can see 'evil' or a negative in almost any situation if that's our focus.
When we choose to perceive everything that happens – either good or seemingly bad – as optimal for the evolution of ourselves as spiritual beings, we become less fearful. We'll also have a sense that there's some logic and divine purpose in the turbulence of our daily lives, our country's politics or the global economy. That's quite reassuring.
No amount of external 'motivation' is going to make you feel better. But the tiniest amount of internal reflection and acceptance of the perfection of your life-script is going to make you feel a whole lot more balanced and happy. It's genuinely that simple.
Paramahamsa Ramakrishna, a 19th Century Indian saint told of the (true) story of the Musk Deer. It's a little animal, no more than one metre in height. The male spends much of his life wandering around, sniffing the air to track the source of the beautiful fragrance he smells. What he doesn't know is that it comes from a gland near his own belly button. So he's seeking externally what's a natural part of himself. When we spend a bit of time 'inside' ourselves, without fear, and we let go like a child, of anxiety and a need to over-control or maintain rigid order, then a little bit of that 'peace that passeth all understanding' of which St. Paul spoke in the Christian Bible, is able to give off its gentle fragrance.
Try it on a daily basis. Find a quiet place inside your own head and just observe your thoughts. Don't try to direct them. Become the witness and experience the sense of perfection of the moment. In time, you'll be able to go into that little space of tranquillity much more easily and regularly, with calming consequences.