Pausefully Magazine

the online magazine about life as a creative process


 

November Fever

By Robert Levine


 
     
 

For those of us in the United States, in less than a year there is going to be another presidential election. I must admit that I am anticipating it with dread, dread at the “options” that will be made available to us, and dread at the possible outcome. In the past, as with so many political junkies, I always looked forward to these elections. It is our version of the Super Bowl, actually more like the World Cup. The anticipation was due to the excitement of the contest, who would be the front runner, who would win. Even when the outcome wasn’t to my liking, there was always the reassurance that there would be another chance the next time as well.

On a more important level, the election would take on a greater significance that went beyond the actual contest or event. There was also an element to it that carried with it a great promise and hope. That promise and hope was due to a utopian impulse that lurked deep inside, the hope that once the election is over, and my side would win, wrongs would be righted and injustices undone. With a loss there was still the promise that even though we didn’t quite make it, victory would be ours the next time making it all the more sweet. But of course it never quite works out that way. Even with victory, the hopes would never be fulfilled and the promises never met. Though the disappointment is expected, it is hard to give up on hope, no matter how misplaced. At the core of this belief, at the core of this hope, is the assurance that somehow the system will work and things will always work out. But I have found over the years, as I have seen the causes that I have advocated and the ideals that I have defended take a beating time and time again, no matter who wins, that faith and belief have become strained and tested. This challenge in my belief and faith in the hope of political redemption is only a small part of the doubts and confusions I am currently facing.

In one of my favorite scenes, in one of my favorite movies, there is a conversation between the two central characters following a moment of conflict in which all of the anger and frustration that had been building up to that point is let out. In a tender, almost pleading voice the younger of the two men tells the other that what the older man believes in has to be more important than what others think of him. Shaking his head, his eyes full of tears, the older man replies that he doesn’t know what he believes in any more.

When I first saw that movie close to twenty years ago I identified more with the rebellious younger man. He was making a stand based on his personal integrity, willing to make whatever sacrifice was necessary in order to stand up for his principles. As I write this almost twenty years later, almost twenty years older, I have begun to identify more and more with the older man’s dilemma, with his crisis of faith. The question becomes: how can you stand up for your principles, for your beliefs, when you are no longer sure what they are. For like the older man in that scene described above, I am also going through a crisis of faith, a crisis of belief. The things I had been so certain of, the basic structures of my worldview, have become uncertain, shaky. My goals, my beliefs, my dreams have all become unclear.

Let me state at the outset that I do not believe that this has anything to do with one’s age. There is no guarantee that one will have such a crisis in one’s forties, or earlier or later. Nor is this an intellectual exercise either. Such a crisis starts out on a physical level. It appears in the body as hollowness in the heart center, fullness in the head, and weakness in the limbs. While a physical examination will show that there is no biological cause, the nagging feeling remains, perhaps at an even deeper level. And you end up having two choices. One is to smother this feeling, to force it down and bury it, hoping that it will go away. But it doesn’t go away – we only end up cutting ourselves off from the parts of ourselves that experiences the fear and discomfort. The other option available to us is to explore what we are experiencing. To let it wash over us, and see what remains after we pass through.

It all seems so vague, so general, this feeling that I am starting to allow myself to experience – this time of doubt, of confusion. To give up the moorings that I have been attached to for so long is so painful, so hard, even though it has been quite some time since the things I believed were important had any relevance.

As I face this personal crisis of faith, I once again turn to the older man in the movie I mentioned above. It was only after he faced his crisis and let go of the beliefs and ideals that he held on to but were no longer true to him, that he found the ideals and beliefs that mattered to him. And maybe that is where the answer lies. The real promise, the real hope, comes with giving up on hope in the first place. To face the void and to be willing to give up on the beliefs and expectations that can not, should not, be held on to. By letting go we can grow, by letting go we can move on.

I am just beginning to figure out what this means in my personal life – though I am resisting and struggling against this. I know this just makes it harder, but maybe when I am through it, it will turn out to be exactly what I had to do. The same thing ends up happening as I begin to confront my political ideals and beliefs. It is not so easy to give up on these certainties, on the labels that I have used to define myself by. These end up being the same labels that others have used to define me as well.

Given my explorations of myself and the world around me, I can’t help wonder what this might mean to our society at large, especially as we approach the upcoming presidential election. As there are events in our own lives that cause us to re-evaluate and question our assumptions, the election of a new president offers us the same opportunity as a country.

 
     
     
 

Robert Levine is a certified yoga instructor at Integral Yoga Institute, and has a Masters degree in Political Science. He has been exploring the link between politics and spirituality for over 20 years.

 
     

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