January 22, 2017

All the news coming out of the White House makes me insane. But after much gloominess and overeating, my doubts are gone. I believe 1,000% in my mantra. Against the odds, I know that love trumps Trump. The only way to carry on is with love — true love.

While feel-good emotions can be nice, I’m chasing something more practical and as well as more profound. From my life journey, you know about my childhood quest for a lasting hug I can trust. It’s the kind of unconditional bond I want to get from others and give back too. This is my community. We will survive and even thrive under a Donald Trump administration, because he is not our focus.

Our focus is us. Our work. Our dreams. The stuff we’ve been committed to since forever. If anyone takes it away from us, it’s because we let them. So I have my path. With a specific definition for true love as my platinum standard, I am prepared to embrace the next four years (and beyond).

My inspiration in these dark days comes from a beautiful, easy-reading little book: “True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart.” It’s one of many books by Thich Nhat Hanh, a 90-year-old Zen master and peace activist. He goes by the nickname Thay. In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize, which made him famous.

I found Thay’s book after a bad relationship breakup. Once I read about true love, I understood why the romance went wrong. Even more importantly, the book gave me practical advice for self-care and a vision for social justice. I could relate completely, even though I’m not Buddhist. Spiritual truth is spiritual truth, period.

Thay’s key word is “mindfulness,” which, according to my shrink, is getting kind of trendy again in therapy circles. But Thay has been there talking and walking mindfully for more than half a century.

Mindfulness, according to Thay, begins with a simple practice. Breathe. Just breathe, in and out. When I’m really aware of my breath, everything else churning in my brain fades away. Thay describes mindfulness as the ability to stay in the moment without obsessing about the past or future. Staying in the moment is a form of meditation. Whenever I’m stressed, mindfulness gently pulls me back to quiet, which is a form of personal transformation.

What is true love?

Four elements define true love, according to Thay:

#1 — Loving-kindness, which makes the beloved actually happy. In other words, wanting to make someone happy is not enough. If anything, our wanting can actually make loved ones suffer. Thay says that making others truly happy takes “deep looking” to understand who they really are.

#2 — Compassion is a must for true love. Once again, wanting to ease someone’s pain is not enough. To actually relieve another’s suffering takes genuine understanding. “The practice of understanding is the practice of meditation,” Thay writes. “To meditate is to look deeply into the heart of things.”

#3 — True love involves joy. “If there is no joy in love, it is not true love,” Thay explains. “If you are suffering all the time, if you cry all the time, and if you make the person you love cry, this is not really love — it is even the opposite.”

#4 — True love brings freedom.  “You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free, not only outside but also inside,” Thay says. “‘Dear one, do you have enough space in your heart and all around you?’ This is an intelligent question for testing out whether your love is something real.”

A call to action in the Trump era

Here’s a passage from the book that sets my standard for dealing with Trump, our government and politicians. It also rallies me to be my mostest as a citizen, journalist, teacher and creative person.

I am convinced that everybody can practice mindfulness, even politicians, political parties, even Congress. This is a body that holds the responsibility for knowing the nation’s situation well, and knowledge of this kind requires the practice of looking deeply. If our elected officials are not calm enough, do not have enough concentration, how can they see things deeply? If they are not able to listen to the people or to their colleagues in the Congress, if they are not able to speak with loving speech, then there will be much to be desired. It is necessary for poiticans to practice calm, to practice stopping, and to practice looking deeply.

You who are journalists, writers, citizens, you have the right and the duty to say to those you have elected that they must practice mindfulness, calm, deep listening, and loving speech. This is the universal thing, taught by all religions. In Buddhism, we call this samatha — stopping, concentration, calm. When calm is there, we are able to practice deep looking….

If you are a journalist, a teacher, or a filmmaker, you should practice mindfulness — for the sake of your own calm and your own happiness, but also for that of other people as well. Because we need your calm, your compassion, your understanding. So we should be mindful as individuals but also as a community, as a family, as a nation. 

What’s next

The four elements of true love keep me busy on a path where love trumps Trump. They are hard to practice because they take me beyond my comfort zone. Right now, I’m challenged to look more deeply into understanding the electoral process, have compassion for his people, find joy with like-minded souls and give others the freedom to be themselves around me. What about you? If any of the four elements of true love speak to you, please share.