That upside-down feeling? The perpetual sense of impending doom? If the Age of Trump has fried your circuits, Lodro Rinzler — author of The Buddha Walks Into a Bar and other spiritual practice guides and co-founder of the Greenwich Village meditation studio MNDFL — wants you to know you’re not alone. “We have a lot of people come here motivated by fear, anxiety around this particular issue,” says Rinzler, who’s been a meditation teacher for sixteen years. As if in response, MNDFL has just opened an Upper East Side location, with a Williamsburg spot soon to follow. If you’re one of the stressed-out New Yorkers Rinzler calls “medi-curious,” dropping in for a first class costs just $10.
People woke up on November 9 with a grinding anxiety, like they were trapped in an endless Black Sabbath song.
People really feel heartbroken, essentially. Heartbroken, for lack of a better explanation, is when you have an expectation of how things are going to go and then reality steps in and says no, and your expectations are dashed to the wind. Now you’re heartbroken — and that includes feeling depressed and angry and frustrated and betrayed and the myriad emotions that I was certainly feeling and I think other people were feeling.
What’s the simplest thing someone can do to calm those feelings?
When we get stuck in worry, sometimes the simplest thing is to just stop, raise your gaze or close your eyes, and take three deep breaths in through the nose, then out through the mouth. Just pausing and doing that actually calms the nervous system and allows us to come back to a point where we may be able to think of things a little bit more differently.
The millionth time we’re playing out a potential situation we might ask ourselves: “Is this useful? Is me sitting here on my own worrying about something that may or may not come to reality useful?” The Tibetan Buddhist teacher Dilgo Khyentse once said that he never understood why us Westerners worry so much. If we worry about something and it doesn’t happen, we spent all of the mental energy for something that wasn’t reality. And if it does happen, what was the point in worrying? Because you didn’t do anything, and it still happened.
We get so lost in worry as opposed to saying, “OK, I can drop the storyline for a moment to come into my body and just notice what’s coming up.” Just feel the emotions for what they are. We can say, “Oh, there’s heartbreak. It feels like a sinking in the pit of my stomach and tightness in my shoulders and deep lethargy.” Starting to become familiar with the underlying emotions, we might actually see action that we want to take. But it’s not based in worry and neurosis. It’s based on our own wisdom, because we’re actually a little bit more embodied.
So meditation can help people move to action?
A lot of people come to a place like MNDFL with the idea that they’re suffering. The more familiar that they get with their own suffering, neurosis, pain, strong emotions, the more they start to see that in everyone else around them. So it’s no longer, “I’m a really angry or upset person and I’m in a bubble.” It’s, “I’m going about my day and I notice my co-worker is really upset and angry.” And all of a sudden it’s not me versus him, it’s an empathetic thing. It’s we.
Then step one is get grounded, take a breath, get in touch with me. Step two is get to we.
Exactly. People need to find out their own skillful means for how they would like to show up in what seems like a radically altered societal norm. That’s going to look different for everyone. It might mean giving to charities. It might mean donating your time. It might mean quitting your job and sitting in front of the White House and protesting for the next year. So long as it comes from a place of self-awareness it’s all super helpful. But when we’re talking about coming to the point of “we” it’s like: What’s our intention? If our intention is to force anyone into our point of view we may end up disappointed. But if our intention is to actually connect and understand others and try to effect change from a place of wholeness and compassion, then we might have a shot at changing minds and hearts.
MNDFL, 10 East 8th Street; 239 East 60th Street; mndflmeditation.com
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 11, 2017