The wounding of our collective psyches from the nasty political debates can begin today with lovingkindness practices. Recently, Rabbi Rami Shapiro lead participants in our School for Contemplative Living through an exercise in drawing the image of God on each other symbolically. This is a way to remember that every being is made in the image of God.
Practice seeing every person you meet today, including the person in the mirror, as an image of God. Envision them and yourself as having that image drawn over the body.
Sure that can seem impossible when a crazy person going 90 mph races into the tiny space between your car and the next car on the Interstate. This practice comes after you call him a jerk and your blood pressure settles down.
Or maybe you would rather start simply, by imagining the image of God on the one you love most easily. Picture that person in your mind, open your heart, and send them some love as you remember they are made in the image of God. Say to yourself: “U R N her/him,” (“You are in her/him”).
Practice: Now try the hard one: look at yourself and see the image of God drawn onto you. Perhaps you could see the Hebrew letters for Yahweh, YHWH, drawn onto your face or whole body. Or remind yourself of the inner Presence by saying within your heart-mind: “U N me.” (In case that got confusing, it is “You in me.”) You could even say a little chant to yourself throughout the day on the hour: “U R N me,” (“You are in me.”) This is not just some sugar sweet imagination by the way. It is a theological truth.
How would any of this help us heal from being over-exposed to the nastiness? The mind wants to focus on something. It jumps around the globe looking for a next focus of attention. The mind left to its own devices can also get fixated on traumatic or terrible images/words/stories, like it is trying to process and assimilate what it is exposed to. The mind and heart need relief. And if we provide relief in the heart-mind, the body will benefit also. The harmful chemistry will diminish and the helpful chemistry will grow inside us. Don’t just accept this because I said so. Google the research!
Now for a final practice in these last few weeks of political nastiness: diet. No, I don’t mean food. Set your intention now to diet from the nastiness in any public forum or social media. Take in as little as you possibly can. Limit your intake from the moment you awaken. If you usually check the latest news on your phone, iPad, or television, resist the temptation as often as you can. Become friends with the delete button. If friends start talking politics, walk away. If the mind starts replaying what you have seen or heard, turn your attention to the image of God practice. This diet can help you through this last month.
Let’s review. How do you heal from nastiness (especially in the political arena)? Practice seeing the image of God on others, and yourself. Say, “You are in her/him/me” to yourself as often as you can throughout your day. Diet from further exposure to nastiness as much as you can. Your heart/mind/body will be grateful.
For further suggestions see previous blogs on “A Contemplative Path,” read Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic Culture, and join or form a local contemplative group to share ways to practice the presence of God with others each week if possible.