When Donald Trump was elected President, I vowed never to look at a video or photo of him for the next four years. I couldn’t stand to see the visual that went with the arrogant bulldozing bully. I kept to that intention until the inauguration, when I actually did see a photograph of him and Melania and the Obamas together, in which he looked like a terribly unhappy and disturbed man (she looked “absent” entirely). The Obamas, on the other hand, looked joyful, alive. I felt real sadness looking at that picture—that some people could live such miserable lives, and make others miserable in the process. Still, the fear and depression I experienced as he began to implement his destructive campaign promises grew ever stronger. I knew I had to come to terms with my reaction to him. I had no idea the form it would take, however.
Background: In some Buddhist traditions, the monks take part in a practice that would appear odd and repulsive to many: meditation on a corpse. The reasons behind what may seem like macabre behavior are two-fold: 1) to overcome one’s aversion to death and the loss of the physical body; and 2) to realize that the external aspects of the physical form are not who we truly are. It apparently has a powerful affect on the monks who practice it.
At the end of January, I flew cross-country for a spiritual gathering in California. On the six-hour flight, for some reason I suddenly remembered that Buddhist practice and thought that perhaps my strong aversion to Donald Trump would make a good focus for a similar meditation (picturing him alive, not dead!). I closed my eyes and began. I didn’t feel much of anything for a while, but then slowly a softening began to occur within me as I pictured his face—a movement to a greater non-reactiveness. A remembrance that beneath every physical form there is a soul. These weren’t conscious insights—more like an opening of a closed door within.
At some point, I was moved to open my eyes and look out the plane window. I gasped audibly when I saw the entire snow-covered expanse of the Rocky Mountains spread out below in majestic splendor. What more stunningly vivid reminder of the “greater picture” could I have possibly been given? I began to cry at the extraordinary beauty of the morning sunlight on the sparkling snow and earth formations. The patterns were magnificent and ever-changing: ripples and folds, flowers and sea stars. I was gazing at infinity stretching out into the mountain ridges in the distance. From my vantage point at 30,000 feet, there was only interconnectedness, a seamless planetary landscape that was part of an infinite cosmic landscape, of which we all are microscopic but integral parts. No separation.
Meditating on Trump, “face to face,” brought me back to that precious experience of oneness with everything—the soul’s perspective. I realized that if you don’t face what or who is right in front of you with courage, honesty, and inclusiveness, life eludes you, and on a larger scale, change and possibility elude us all. The light that shone on Earth as far as my eyes could see in the Rockies is the same light that will bring us to clarity of vision and connection in the days ahead. We don’t need to constantly be caught in fear and anger as we move forward toward a more balanced and compassionate world. In fact, it may block us from seeing that what connects us (love) is more powerful than what divides us (fear). In spite of the illusion of separation that locks us into aversion to those we see as “other,” we can step away from that perception and choose kindness and compassion for all beings instead. That one small act can help to shift the collective consciousness. Deep within our hearts and souls, oneness always prevails.