Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters

From the Archive :: Best of 2010 :: Mindful Politics

It snowed 30 inches in parts of New Jersey yesterday and I’m enjoying being stranded. An unexpected and welcome extension of the holiday weekend. I’ll be back in Vermont tomorrow and we’ll resume our regular meditation schedule at the Exquisite Mind Psychotherapy and Meditation Studio.

As I’m reading through the Mindfulness Matters posts this post on Mindful Politics was well “liked” at least by Facebook standards. 


As the year draws to a close the lame-duck congress was busy passing legislation on taxes, nuclear arms treaties, and repealing “don’t ask; don’t tell.” Lauding congress for doing its job is a bit like NFL football players (especially on the defense) celebrating after making routine plays. “Isn’t that what you get paid for?” Likewise, it’s a sad state of affairs when what should be routine work in congress stands in such contrast to what is actually business-as-usual.


Here is the post from 2 October 2010

As the mid-term elections approach, political rhetoric is ramping up and along with it the usual fervor, apathy, distortion, and promulgation of hope (mostly false hope, I’m afraid). Here is a mindful perspective on politics from renown  Buddhist author and editor, Melvin McLeod.


Melvin McLeod edits the volume Mindful Politics (Wisdom, 2006). “Politics is really about how we live together as human beings, and all spiritual practices point to one simple but profound truth about human life–that only love leads to peace, hatred never does. This is as true for nations as it is for individuals.”


His proposed political platform: (if The Buddha was a politician and the Brahma Viharas)


  • May all being enjoy happiness and the root of happiness
  • May they be free from suffering and the root of suffering.
  • May the not be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering
  • May they dwell in the great equanimity free of passion, aggression, and ignorance.



Universal in application — all. Politics is emotions gone awry — vengeance, war, intolerance of difference, and so forth. 


As Buddhism (particularly through mindfulness) promotes emotional and social intelligences it might have something to offer the world as an antidote to hostility, inequity, and damage. The dualistic and false sense of “us” versus “them” underlies much of the conflict. 

If we are not in this all together than we are divided one against another. According to McLeod the keys to change are: forgiveness, awareness, kindness, and selflessness. Politics is ultimately about relationships and all relationships brook in power and conflict. 


How will these conflicts be resolved? With mindful awareness or through the perpetuation of the Three Poisons (which seem to be an apt laundry for the world’s problems).

Individual transformation is the prerequisite for societal transformation. The first step is not to save the world, but to save your self. If each individual works to limit or even eliminate hatred, greed, and ignorance the world will be a better place through the aggregation of this absence.


From Buddhist Monk and Vietnam veteran, Claude Anshin


 Thomas in his book At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey from War to Peace.


Peace is not an idea. Peace is not a political movement, not a theory or a dogma. Peace is a way of life: living mindfully in the present moment … It is not a question of politics, but of actions. It is not a matter of improving a political system or even taking care of homeless people alone. These are valuable but will not alone end war and suffering. We must simply stop the endless wars that rage within… Imagine, if everyone stopped the war in themselves –there would be no seeds from which war could grow.” (Quoted in Mindful Politics).

  • Colleen

    Based on our politics of the past, it’s sometimes easy to fall into the trap of criticism. Personally, I like praising congress for their recent work even though it is simply their job, because sometimes we all need kudos. As with small children, praise for good behavior often encourages more of the same:>) I agree with McLeod, that some of the keys to change are forgiveness, awareness, kindness, selflessness. Change takes time, patience and love. What we focus on expands, so if we spend our energy on the small changes, perhaps our political system will evolve into a process that is more beneficial to the whole?
    I also agree that the idea of “us” v. “them” underlies much of the conflict. Who elects “them”? Who supports “them” even through conflict and corruption? Who allows some of “them” to stay in office after obvious, substantiated abuse of the system? Is it “us”? Why do we do that? Are we unaware? Don’t have time? Can’t be bothered? Are we afraid of change?
    “If everyone stopped the war in themselves, there would be no seeds from which war could grow”. Exquisite!!!

  • AlessaHilton

    Great improvement!
    Best regards

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