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This is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Hey, guys, big news today, we were kicking off something big here in an election season characterized by mistrust, misinformation and a howling sea of venom. We hear at the 10 percent happier podcast have decided to serve up some deep counterprogramming.
Unlike the campaign coverage, you're going to get pretty much everywhere else in the universe in this special Election Sanity series which launches today. We won't be having arguments. We won't be talking about the polls. We're going to help you navigate all of the tumult and toxicity in a way that allows you to be both engaged and at least somewhat calm. We're building the series around an ancient Buddhist list, the Buddhists love list goals, as we've discussed on this show many times.
The list in question here is called the four Brahma Vihara. That phrase Brahma varas translates literally into divine abodes. At first blush, the notion of divine abodes or heavenly mind states may sound a little grandiose, but I promise you, this whole thing is actually very much down to earth.
These are basically four mental skills that we can train through meditation. In Buddhist circles, the four skills are commonly referred to as loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, which means taking joy in the happiness of other people and equanimity. I like to make this list a little bit more user friendly by calling the skills, friendliness, giving a crap the opposite of schadenfreude and staying cool. The proposition here is radical. Instead of defaulting to hatred or indifference at this fraught moment in human history, can you cultivate the opposite?
Science suggests the meditation practices designed to help you build these skills have all sorts of physiological and psychological benefits.
So in this special series of episodes, we're going to show you how to practice and also how to operationalize the skills in your life at a time when we and frankly, the world need them most, we'll be dropping new episodes with a different teacher every Monday in October and in the days leading up to the election, we're going to launch a special election sanity meditation challenge on the 10 percent happier app with new videos and guided meditations every day from the teachers you've heard on the podcast to help you get the most out of the series, we're also launching an email guide.
This email will recap the podcast episodes every week. It will include helpful tidbits such as key terms and concepts and highlight the immense wisdom of our guests. It will also link to relevant meditations and talks inside the app. Just like the podcast, the guide is free. You can sign up at 10 percent dotcom guide again. You can get this special newsletter for our Election Sanity podcast series at 10 percent Dotcom Guide. I hope it helps.
Today we're kicking off the podcast series with INSIGHT meditation teacher Joanna Hardy. She's been on the show before. She's also featured quite heavily on the app where she teaches guided meditations and a whole course which we shot in a bar about how meditation can guide us in our ethical decisions.
She also recently co-wrote the handbook Teaching Meditation to Empower Adolescents, and she's a founding member of the meditation coalition. In this conversation, she starts out by giving us a simple overview of the forum of horrors. And then we take a deep dive on the first, which is Metta or lovingkindness or friendliness. And if this concept or the thought of applying friendliness to a person you cannot stand makes you squirm or fear, weakness or passivity, great. Joanna is the perfect person to argue that Meta is in fact an edgy and not at all corny practice.
So here we go, Joanna Hayati. Hello, Joanna, nice to see you. Hi to you, too. Happy to see you. And I'm really glad you agreed to jump on this strange little train where we're going to chug right through the heart of the election season here.
So I feel really, really valuable, like I get it. And I like the challenge. We'll talk about that in a minute because it's challenging and it's a good word for it. Yeah, yeah, yes.
You're going to be participating both in this podcast and also in the challenge. So there's a lot and a lot where we're here to sign you up for a lot of work. Yeah, one of the reasons we wanted you to go first was to just set the framework of the four Brahma varas or the divine abodes, the four immeasurably, as they're sometimes called.
What are we talking about?
So as we know, there are plenty of mindstate that can lead us in the direction of fear and anxiety and worry. And these are mind states that, you know, really help us be more open. It helps clear the deck sometimes. It helps purify, you know, maybe old resentments or baggage or things that are really hindering us from connecting from being in states that I think we all desire, which is lack of separation and lack of othering truly belonging.
So these are qualities of the mind that we either have when a lot of the things that block us aren't present or they're qualities that we cultivate and really work on developing even more. If they're hard to connect with, which they can be, yes, they can.
Speaking only for myself.
So let's walk through each of them, because I know we're going to do a deep dive on what is often the first that has taught the metta or lovingkindness or friendliness. But can you walk through the floor for sure?
So like you said, it is a poly word that is translated into oftentimes it's called loving kindness. I think many people have heard that terminology, Metta or lovingkindness. I really like to phrase it. And how I work with it most deeply is this unconditioned heart and mind, unconditioned love. And I'll talk about that a little bit more, but sometimes easier to palit, you know, care, kindness, friendliness, benevolence, just that, you know, this open, spacious mind that has a level of acceptance.
So that would be Metuh. And then compassion is coming. Sometimes I like to look at it is compassion is metter plus suffering. Right. So it's how that mind of care, kindness, love, friendliness meets the suffering of ourselves or other people. So when we see somebody in pain, when we see somebody, it's all around us right now. So it's not even like we can't avoid suffering right now. But can we meet that with this ability to stay present with it not being afraid of it, not pitying it, not running from it, but what does it look like to hold our hearts with love in the eyes or in the proximity of suffering and pain?
It's really easy to shut down or numb or close off. But what compassion asks is that we stay present for it, we stay awake to it, and then maybe even have action through that. You know, a lot of times compassionate action is what's called for. And then the next one we call Mood detA. Again, that's the Polish word, but which translates into sympathetic or empathetic joy. So it's, you know, very simply delighting in the happiness of another.
So it's not really about our own joy, but it's can we engage with other people when they have something really good and beautiful happening for them?
And sometimes we can't because we have these blocks of maybe jealousy or envy or the why not mes or something like that. Sometimes it's really easy to make somebody wrong. It's really easy to want to protect ourselves through hatred. You know, it's like loving or being tender or being open feel scary. You know, like I said, it's a challenge. It feels like we have learned so well to protect ourselves and to bolster up and to have a, you know, a tough fist.
And that's how we're going to survive. That's how we're actually going to make it. And actually the things that block love, you know, the things that block our ability to love, like fear and anxiety and worry and control, sometimes it's really hard to engage when somebody else has something good happening for them. So this is that pure quality of the mind that says, wow, I am truly happy for you. I am truly happy that this is happening and that you have joy right now.
So that would be Mutata are empathetic, sympathetic joy. So what I want to say and resay something I said earlier is Metuh compassion, Margita. Are not passive experiences, they're not being stepped on or walked over. Actually, there's an incredible fierceness to it, like we have to be pretty confident to come in with loving care, right? If it's unique, if it's authentic, if it's genuine, if we're trying, like I said, to get something from someone like, oh, I'm going to kill them with kindness.
So you get more from sugar than vinegar, like those phrases are true. They're true. But we have to be careful about what we're trying to get from it. Because then that's just mimicking that's just mimicking care and kindness, there's still a lot there's still sort of clinging to outcomes. Is that making sense? It is OK. And then the last one is equanimity and equanimity is the capacity for the mind. And this is going to be an interesting one as we go through it.
The capacity for the mind to find balance or to be OK with experiences as they're arising and happening.
And some people can hear that as well. Wait a minute. That means I have to accept all the terrible stuff that's happening. And that's not what we're saying. But equanimity has this balance, this clarity, this ability to see what is actually happening in an open way. And it often encompasses all other three. It encompasses meeti, it encompasses compassion, it encompasses Mutata.
And then what I've found as we go is they don't need to be compartmentalized. You know, it's not like today. I need to think about Metuh tomorrow. I need to be compassionate or this needs compassion and that needs somebody to it's really sometimes we'll just be sitting in one moment and feeling a lot of sorrow and a lot of grief and really connecting to that and holding it with care. And then suddenly it might tip us over into a memory of something that really brought us or somebody else a lot of joy.
And then so suddenly our mind is inclining towards Mendieta. And then again, another thought might arise that points us in the direction of Meeta, you know, so so the four qualities really can work together.
It's almost like giving the right medicine for the right moment. And so we'll see, you know, even in this conversation you and I are having, we'll probably have moments where compassion is called for and we'll have moments of joy for each other and for our experience. And then we might, you know, actually not agree on something or you'll have a question about something that I'm saying and then equanimity would be called for. Right.
And so it's really kind of beautiful because with this base of meta is what I'm going to say is Mehta's almost the base, then all of these other experiences arise in and without and through it.
OK, you said a lot there was extremely helpful.
And it just what I thought came to my mind when you were when you were holding forth there.
I've been referring to this series of podcasts we're doing and the challenge we're doing on the app as deep counterprogramming against the kind of election coverage that you mostly get in the culture.
But this is also these four Miserables, whatever you want to call them, are counterprogramming against evolution.
I mean, we are so wired for indifference, for selfishness, for antipathy, for being yanked around by our emotions, for the opposite of these qualities and the notion that that actually you can train up staying cool, having the opposite of schadenfreude, giving a crap about other people's problems, having basic friendliness, that is really fascinating to me.
And then just to good it, that it's all backed up by science, that people who do these practices, you see very impressive results. That's really exciting. Yeah, I guess that's not a question. I'm just commenting.
Yeah, no, I'm with you on that. And I beg the question of is that evolution? Because I feel like we would not have survived. We really need to think about how we've been looking at that love, you know, and we're in trouble as we know it. We're in trouble. And so something like the radical possibility of caring about somebody that we don't even agree with, it feels like we don't have anywhere else to go. We've done it all.
We've seen the damage. And here we're really living in the middle of it. And so if we left it up to our own devices, like you're saying, you know, it's really easy to want to blame. But I would ask somebody who's been having any kind of mindfulness practice, like what actually feels better, what feels better in the body. You know, I know what tension feels like and I know what anger feels like. And it's tense.
It's tight, it's rigid. It's blocking joy. Dare I decide to ease myself and let go of some resentments, like, dare I do that it feels like we're going to fall apart.
I want to point out that you very gently disagreed with me, and I agree with your disagreement about evolution. I misspoke a little bit. There you are. Really. I appreciate the ginger correction there that we evolved for all of the difficult, noxious tendencies I listed, like hatred and mistrust and. We also evolved for caring and cooperation and taking pleasure in other people's success, we would not have survived. In fact, there's some evidence that or there's some theorizing by Darwin himself that the tribes that did the best were the ones who were best able to cooperate.
So, of course, these are both in us. But the notion that we're able to train up the more wholesome, elevated states is very exciting, given what you just said, which is that there's an enlightened self-interest at play here. It feels better to live that way. Yeah, it's pretty simple.
And you know what? We tend to reach out to what feels better in external sources, like it feels better to eat ice cream sometimes, you know, it feels better to, I don't know, have sex. It feels better to, you know, binge watch Netflix. It feels better like, you know, I could go on and on about the ways we check out, but then when we're reaching towards an external experience to feel better.
The same thing is true for making us feel lousy. Right? These external things make us feel lousy. You know, people that disagree with us not being seen or heard the way we want to be, certainly we're watching it here in the upheaval of our political situation, our racial situation, all these external things that are making us feel pretty bad right now. Right. That's an understatement for the world. And so what where and how we choose to place our energy is what we're going to become.
You know, what we cultivate, what we grow, you know, in that very typical like you plant the seed and that's what grows. So and I'm not trying to sound like Pollyanna or this isn't like a corny practice by any means. If anything, I actually think it's an edgier practice, dare I say, even then, like straight up mindfulness, you know, and it's edgier because it forces us to see where we might feel like we don't like who we are.
Like I want to fancy myself a really kind, nice, loving person, or I want to fancy myself in a certain way. And then when we're saying something like, you know, May. You be happy. And you're like, yeah, but I only want you to be happy if I only want you to be happy if you give me what I want or if you give me what I need and that this is where that unconditional aspect comes in, like there is conditioned love.
And then what is the idea of unconditional love look like unconditioned care and friendliness look like? And again, it's like I can even feel it in my body over and over again. When I contracted. My belly is tight. I feel shut down. I can't really hear much. And then when I'm open, when I'm spacious. So we could even call Matt, just openness, spaciousness, the ability to want to listen, the ability to want to understand, the ability to want to see somebody or something without the cloudiness of our preconceived judgments or opinions, that is what allows us to sit in a room with somebody that we might disagree with on every level about everything, like where they live, who they are, what they do.
We can still sit in a room with people like that and care about them, even if they don't agree with us.
So I know we're going to do a pretty deep dive here on how to practice and then deploy this quality of metal, especially right now in a tumultuous, to say the least, election season. But let me just back up for a second, back to the list of the four immeasurably, the Brahma vihara, et cetera, et cetera.
You ran through what the qualities were, Metta friendliness or loving kindness, koruna, compassion. Again, these funny words I'm using here are, as Joanna mentioned, from the language of Polli, which is the language purported to have been spoken by the Buddha. And then there's equanimity, which is PECC and detA, which is sympathetic joy, which I like to refer to as the opposite of schadenfreude. You ran through that list. But this isn't just a description of qualities.
It's also a set of practices. Right. And you said they're not corny, but they will, at least to me at first they sounded irretrievably corny.
So. So you just describe how these qualities are generated through practice, what the practice looks like.
Mm hmm. Right. So there's a couple of ways. You know, there's lots of different ways to teach these practices, even within, you know, the tradition that I teach through insight or Vipassana mindfulness tradition, lots of different ways. So one way is that the removal of all forms of greed, hatred or delusion, all forms of what bloks a clear heart and mind is one way to practice Metta. So what that would mean is really paying attention to I'm going to use fear because I think a lot of people are in a lot of fear right now.
Right. So a fear is really, really present in the mind. It's going to block or vaill the ability to have Metta or this unconditional love. So one way would be to practice with through mindfulness, the awareness of the fear. And when we work deeply with something like fear, how we experience it in the body, how we experience it through our sensations, just even knowing it's there, putting down the actions of fear, oftentimes when we start to have clarity, where fear isn't there, the absence of fear that in and of itself could be considered a mind that has meta.
Right. So that's possible. So when we don't have these things, you know, we call them sometimes they're called the enemies of meta, which is aversion and hatred and fear. Sometimes when those aren't there and we are actually paying attention, which sadly, we don't often pay attention when things are going OK, we pay more attention when things are really terrible, when those aren't there. Oftentimes that mind that is very open, that is receptive could be considered a mind of meta.
Right. So that's one way of practicing with it is noticing it noticing a mind that is free of its opposite. Like I said, oftentimes we don't. We wait until something huge are bad or catastrophic comes along or something great and temporarily pleasurable comes along. But oftentimes the mind that's free of those things is a mind of matter. Another way to work with it as a formal practice is to use phrases. So phrases that are typically used as something like May I be happy?
May I be at peace and at ease? May I feel safe and protected from harm? May I be free? Right. And then we then move from the self, working with self, working with somebody who's easy to send love to send Metta to. So it's not about an outcome. Right. I have a million more questions about Metta, especially in the current context in which we're living in the what's going on in the news, et cetera, et cetera.
But let me just close the loop on the overarching framework here of the four beeves. That's what we call them behind the scenes here, 10 percent happier, the forum of ours and how one practices them. So you described the practice, the meta practice, your take your position, close your eyes if you want. And then you the way I was taught by a teacher named Spring Washam who's been on the show several times, is a phenomenal human being, in my opinion, that if she was the first person to teach me this practice, I was rebelling against it.
But she exhorted us to, you know, start with yourself and try to bring to mind an image of yourself or felt a sense of yourself. And to repeat four phrases, may you be happy, may be safe, may be healthy, may live with these, and then to move, as you described from yourself to an easy person, the way I was taught by her was an easy person, then a benefactor, then a neutral person.
And then a difficult person and then all beings everywhere and each time you're bringing to mind the image of the people or a sense of them and then. Hurling these phrases at them the way Oprah hands out cars, so anyway, just to wrap up the framework here, is all of that accurate?
Yes, all of it's accurate. And I also want to leave space for what we actually need. Right. This is your practice. This is our practice. This is my practice. I like to set people up for success versus failure. So, you know, sometimes sending love to self can actually be the most difficult thing to do, even more difficult than the difficult person. And I've had many students say to me, you know what, Joanna, I can't do this, so I'm not going to write.
And so instead of maybe going in in that way. Allowing ourselves to amend the practice to what's most useful for us and so in terms of setting people up for success, you know, if a puppy, a puppy that you don't even know is one way that we can approximate this feeling of care and kindness, then let's do that so that we can start to get a feel for it. I want to continue on that. But I also just had a bit of a digression.
I want to sort of debunk the myth of Metuh in a way that, you know, I know for me personally and many people I work with, we don't often feel like this big loving feeling in our hearts. You know, it's not like this, like, oh, it's so juicy. And I have tears and I'm so, you know, and it's supposed to land somewhere right in this area that we call the heart or the chest. And, you know, that may never, ever, ever happen.
And that does not mean that we're not doing that to. Right. It does not mean we're not a loving person. It does not mean we're unable to love or care by any means.
When you're doing this practice, you can fall into the I have many times fallen into the pit of despair around like I'm not feeling any love here. But what you're feeling in the moment is not the measure. It's the this is an exercise where you're boosting your muscle over time to feel this. You may never feel it in the actual practice, but it may show up in your life and really important ways or you're feeling a ton of it in practice.
And that's great. But that's not the correct measure. You know, am I gushing with white beams of love like coming out of my heart chakra is not the way to measure it. You got to look at this like exercise. That's right.
Absolutely. And if anything, you know, I know a lot of very caring, loving, kind, tender show up kind of people who may never actually have that gushing, oozing feeling in the heart, but they know how to show up. And so, yeah, just the encouragement to really not undervalue what love looks like for you, for us, for each of us as individuals, like everything else, every other way we compare ourselves to others.
Good enough, not good enough. Bad. You know, this is another way that we can judge ourselves and that's really not the point of the practice. And we might come up against it. And that's OK. You we'll come up against it and say, OK, I see you. You know, I'm afraid of this. It's different. There's this one James Baldwin quote, I hope you don't mind if I, I say it, but it's really been a valuable part of my medicine practice.
And it kind of exemplifies what we're talking about is that love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and no, we cannot live within. I use the word love here, not merely in the personal sense, but as a state of being or a state of grace, not in the infantile American sense of being made happy, but with tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth. I love that will you send that to me?
Yeah, for sure. So it's this like I feel like you, Dan, would not be doing the work you do if you didn't have a whole lot of love for the people that you come into contact with right now. Do you feel that in your chest area every day when you get up to go to work? Maybe not. That to me is love.
There's something in that Baldwin quote that really reminded me of an incredibly powerful point that's been made by several researchers in happiness and well-being who've come on this show, which is the barrier.
Two, you can call love, you can call it authenticity, you can call it spontaneity, you can call it happiness, connection, vulnerability, all these gooey words, the primary barrier I have heard time and again from our expert guests is the armor that we put on somewhere in our childhood to survive in this often deeply suboptimal world. And I heard that come up in my mind when you were talking about the masks. Yeah, absolutely.
And that's why I say like it is a challenge.
This is a courageous practice to take on. And you know why it's not often the most popular and for many reasons. So one reason, if we are looking at the categories again, if we're working on metaphor self, again, like I've already said, you know, it's an opportunity for us to see all of the things we might not like about ourselves. If we're doing for a strange or like a neutral person, somebody we don't know at all, it really shines a light on how maybe we don't pay attention to most people, you know, how we pretty much ignore everybody that's neutral to us.
And what's that about? You know, like can I show up a little more fully even for them and the pain that they might be in or the experiences their lives are having, you know, working in the grocery store or the post office or the person that walks their dog by my house, whatever the person we could so easily ignore is kind of a loss. You know, we miss out on that. Certainly we learn a lot from working with the difficult person.
Because the question that I always get is, well, does that mean that I condone their actions or does that mean that I need to have dinner with them? And it's absolutely not it does not mean that we need to let them in our house and be stepped all over. What it means. Like I was saying again, is that it allows us the freedom to not have to walk around with them all the time. You know, it's sort of like I don't want to walk around with my ex-husband all the time in my heart just because I'm mad at him.
Like I would rather be free of that. So I'd rather send him some meat to be, you know, lighten the load in my life, lighten the tension in my life. I actually like my ex-husband now, by the way. So it's all good. But, you know, what I'm saying is, like, there's so many ways that we carry around the burden of the difficult person and there's far better places to put our energy. So if we're on obsessive mind looping about somebody we hate or something we hate, something that we're seeing that we hate, OK, it has its place.
We can acknowledge it. We can see the truth in the bad behavior or whatever's going on. And is there the possibility? To see another human being in their fallibility and we don't need to like them, right, we don't need to like I like to kind of divide it between the action and the actor. All right, so we might not like what they're doing, but can we have an availability in our own minds to at least recognize much more of my conversation with Joanna Hardy right after this.
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Get started today at better help. Dotcom slash happier. That's better. H e l.p dotcom shapir. So let me get topical, picking up on what you just said, how can we apply on the ocean or off matter in this dumpster fire of a presidential election? We're watching right now in the immortal words of Tina Turner, what's love got to do with it?
Right, right, right. She also said, who needs a heart when a heart can be broken?
So Tina Turner today, right? It's 40 minutes after we got to figure it. I'm not mad at that. So what, again, is being careful about how we're defining love? Oftentimes when we hear that, we immediately go to a romantic space. I can't say where Tina Turner or I quote that song from. But a lot of the love songs are about romantic love. So this again, there's so much when I picture it, when I visualize what Metta is it so much more expansive?
It's bigger than all of us.
You know, it's bigger than and again, I'm not trying to be corny, but I feel like if I didn't have this practice of Metta in my life, I would just be an angry, icky person.
So in the realm of what we're experiencing, where all that's being thrown at us is fear and anxiety and worry and future thinking, which I'm sure there's been many amazing teachers on here that have talked about fear and worry and anxiety and how to work with it in our mindfulness practice. But one of the biggest antidotes, you know, they're called meta is called an antidote to fear and worry and anxiety.
So in somebodies day, right, when I'm assuming most people turning, the second we wake up, we turn on the news. You know where we are. We look at our phones. We look at some kind of information stream. We look at, you know, we check out what happened the last eight hours while we were sleeping. And for the most part, it's like, yeah, every once in a while, something really big, a new happens.
And for the most part, it's just like re digesting and retelling more of what brings us more fear and anxiety and worry. So in practicing.
You know, one of the things I'm hugely recommending for people right now is to take breaks. Sorry, sorry, Dan, but to take breaks from the news. Right. I agree with those who take breaks from social media to take breaks, from information, to take breaks from all the things that are triggering constantly. Like we don't have a break. Our minds are so overwhelmed, so overtaxed that there's not even space for the idea of love. Right.
So to take breaks for a little while, but then also watch where does the mind incline? And so we're really good at being in the bad habit of hating someone. When we can hate somebody or blame somebody, it allows us to deflect. The very uncomfortable feelings that we're having and never have to come into contact with our grief, our sadness meter offers us the opportunity to be held in our grief and our sadness when we're being bombarded by information and talking points.
And again, we don't know what's true anymore. We don't know what's real anymore. We don't know who to listen to anymore. We don't know any you know, we're just in this constant state of confusion for the most part. And I say we if those of you out there don't feel that way, that's great. I'm happy for you. And it's not constant, hopefully. But what working with the heart qualities does is it gives us an opportunity, well, one for hope.
You know, we need to have hope to move forward if we. Are sitting in the despair and the pain and the tragedy all the time, it's not useful. And so when we even have, like, a little glimmer of, oh, there's a possibility for change. So this is where I would say to really use our meta and mindfulness practice together. Because we need that constant check in what's actually going on for me right now, what's going on for me right now when I hear that what's going on for me right now, when I'm in deep fear of the outcome of the election.
And we're putting a whole lot of weight on this one particular election. And I'm hoping that people are also really paying attention to all the other smaller elections, because there are places that we can really put our energy and excitement, you know, if we're applying our metta practice to somebody we live with. Or for applying it to. Our global crisis, we can still utilize it in the same way. It would still be the same practice and there are times when sometimes just saying the phrase is, may I be happy?
May I find ease? You know, it's a wish. It's a wish for our self. Like I said, it's not a magic pill. It's not like suddenly we're bypassing all of our uncomfortable experiences and everything's better. Like, that's not what we're looking at, but it's a wish for ease, you know, a wish for freedom from suffering, a wish for safety. Like, is that guaranteed? Absolutely not. Can I wish for that?
For myself and others?
And within that wish lies an opportunity to really care. Then why not?
You know, sort of like why not like what have you got to lose? You know, we have a lot to lose if we only move into to fear and hatred. We have a lot to lose. And even if it just comes down to our own mental health and wellbeing, I want to just I'm going to harp on the difficult person. And it's not to be morbid, but it's just that I have a sense that this is going to be where a lot of the questions will come up in the minds of the audience.
I know we've covered this a little bit, but I think bears going back to because I have this suspicion that people are going to be thinking, well. The stakes in this election are so high, existential. That if I'm sending unconditional love to the people with whom I disagree, that could render me passive, which is exactly what I don't want to be when the stakes are so high.
Mm hmm. How would you answer that?
Yeah, so I would say. One. Send the unconditional love to ourselves, so practice with that for our sanity. For our ability to cope, for our ability to. You know, because my plan is not to not exist anymore after the election, my plan is to exist and to continue to do whatever I need to do to bring joy and longevity and peace to my family, my friends, my communities and all the people that are surrounding me.
So I'm hoping it's not a demarcation point for people whether they're going to keep loving or stop loving. I don't want people to mistake Metuh love, kindness, care for passivity, it's absolutely not, if anything, again, like I said, I think it's probably one of the fiercer practices, you know, because if walking down the street with your fists clench and an angry face. And all that's going through your mind is the ways that that political party did it wrong, and I hate them and it sucks and I'm never going to be happy again.
Right. It's just not going to served humans. It's not going to serve greater humanity and our evolution. If these things come in and I have a lot of sadness and grief and worry and I acknowledge that, so I'm not saying not acknowledging that, I'm not saying it doesn't exist, acknowledging it and saying, all right, Joanna, let's put the pedal to the metal now, because I care about and I love and I am friendly towards this planet and the people on it.
All I can really share about this is my view of it. You know, I don't really have an answer for everybody and how everybody is going to hold it. But what I am going to say is we need your love. We need your fierce love to get through this and fierce hatred. Is going to destroy us further. So it's not passive at all, it's actually quite strong, so I want to encourage that for people, it's not about being stepped on, you know, it's really about showing up fully.
Showing up with anger or fear is a contracted, not as useful way of creating change. So you can strongly disagree. But also have a basic benevolence for the people with whom you disagree, because we've talked about how to practice this in the mind in our formal practice, how to the rest of us who may have a family member or friends on Facebook or whatever, with whom we disagree, how do we take our practice off the coast and into the real world to interact with these people when most of us, unlike you, haven't been practicing for decades?
How do we actually bring some smidge of meta into these interactions during this fraught period of time? Yeah, yeah.
Well, you know, this is also where deep wisdom needs to step in, and that is an aspect of the mindfulness practice that a lot of, you know, your listeners and people that like this podcast are already doing. So wisdom tells us when and how to show up. Right. So, for example, you know, I needed to write a letter back to somebody that kind of offended me and pretty much dissed me. And I needed to send a letter back to them.
And every time I started to write it, there was so much vitriol in it, you know, and I just really wanted to take them down. And what my wisdom said was, you know, maybe have somebody else write this with you, somebody else that has a little more space from it and somebody that can help me de-escalate. And so that's what I did. And so I got to put in my pieces, but they kind of took the stab off of it.
They took the real, like, harmful pieces off of it. So really checking into why you're doing what you're doing. And this is where the mindfulness practice, like I said, comes in real handy, is like what's going on right now? What's really going on right now?
Do I even have the capacity to be in the same room with this family member? Or maybe we should avoid certain conversations for right now. There are certain people I just don't have certain conversations with because I'm not interested in fighting all the time. You know, what do I have to prove? You know, that old thing of do I want to be right or do I want to? I forgot the second part, do I want to leave or do I want to be right?
You know, I always want to be right, so I forgot the second part. But just that way of, you know, what do you want your life to look like? I feel like it very simply comes down to that. So, yes, with those family members, with that friend, with those people that you want to just block or whatever on social media, somebody is going to disagree with you at some point in life. And if, you know, if not one time, multiple, multiple, multiple times.
And so how do we hold that? OK. Well, I care about myself so much. I'm talking about me, but I'm also using it for us. I care about myself so much that I'd rather not walk around with that toxicity in my system. So maybe I won't bring that up today. Maybe we won't talk about that today, maybe I don't need to change you so that I feel better today. And, you know, I've watched Van Jones like one of the things that he does that I liked as he went into the households of people that were voting in a different direction just to listen to what they had to say.
You know, and a lot of the conversations were like, these are loving family members. These are people that really care about each other. These are people that go grocery shopping and cook food and go to work. And, you know, we can really, like I said, categorize somebody and put like a demon mask on them pretty rapidly.
And so where are the places that we still care for each other? Where are the places that we can meet? Where are the places that we can agree or have a conversation? And maybe wisdom right now is telling me not to go there.
That's a really it's a combination of better for yourself, better for the other person and mindfulness of what's appropriate at any given moment. And so, yes, it goes back to what I was saying before picking up on. You're pointing to the self-interest here, the the kind of enlightened self-interest here, how do you want to live? So let me just pick up on this difficult person or there's a category in the practice where you picture somebody difficult and and send them the phrases may be happy.
May you live with these whatever phrases you choose or whatever you're being taught. How do we treat this? Because, I mean, sometimes I hear teachers give the advice like you don't want to pick Stalin, Hitler, you know, you don't want to go super difficult bane from Batman, whatever it is, you don't want to go like to like the comic book villain, or is that what you would recommend in like in the in the would you say in this political context, if we're going to try to use Medda to keep ourselves sane or that we picture people we disagree with on the political stage or our uncle who has obnoxious opinions, or how do we do that?
Start again with setting yourself up for success? Start with somebody who pushes an edge a little bit but doesn't inspire more hatred. So for me, I remember who I started with. I started with the difficult parts of myself. Hmm. Right. So I started with the parts of myself that. You know, I wish you weren't there because we know if we could just make something disappear, everything would be better, right? That's our deluded thinking. So I started with the parts of myself and wished those parts of myself happiness and ease and freedom.
So starting there helped me then move on to somebody. More difficult and again, keeping in mind, it's not about us thinking that we're going to suddenly change how they feel, right, because it gets very easy to say, well, I don't want them to be happy.
I just don't even want them to find peace and ease. Why should they? You know, they're terrible. They're hurting all kinds of people. Why do I want peace and peace for them? You know, Nelson Mandela always said if I had stayed angry with my captors, I would still be in prison. And so when we're freeing ourselves, when we're sending better, you know, and even the term sending gives a false sense. But when we're practicing metaphor, a difficult person, it's a really again, check it out.
Like you'll feel resistance, you'll feel resentment's, you'll feel blatant like tension, pain, shutting down. These are all things to pay attention to. These are things to get close to and know and not judge yourself for. So so it's very it's often also called the purification practice because it brings everything to the surface. Right. It allows us so sometimes when we have a lot of hatred for a difficult person or there's a difficult person in our lives, oftentimes we just want to shut it down and not think about it.
We'll just be like not they're not going to think about it. They're out of my life. What this does, again, a courageous practices that brings that front and center. You know, I love the phrase grass can grow up through a crack in the sidewalk. Right. So we might think that we're over this person because we don't attend to the relationship. We might think that I'm fine. But then something comes out sideways, right? Like anger comes out sideways somewhere towards somebody who actually do care about because this person has a hold on you.
So let's say you've had a really bad news day and there's all kinds of information that's making you just feel outraged and you come home and your wife and child are the recipients of said Wrage. Right, that happens, that's that's what happens because it's living in us, but it's misplaced, it's not well placed. So the Metta Practice is helping our minds, our hearts be free from that rage or that outrage so that we can live in a space that has a lot more equity, a lot more peace, a lot more, you know, gentleness and ease.
It allows us to live in that way, and once we're living in that way, again, it's it's known by the people we come into contact with, it's just it's a felt thing. People feel safe with us. People feel heard by us. People feel more alive with us when.
This is what we share, so if we are allowing somebody that we hate or somebody that is difficult to control how we are throughout the rest of our lives, then that's problematic and it's definitely not liberation. So this type of meta practice allows us freedom from having to carry the burden of that distaste or hatred or aversion for this difficult person on a technical front. You mentioned that some people ask you. You know, I don't I don't want to send this person maybe or generate the wish that this person be happy or live with these or be safe or be healthy.
And the way I've kind of.
Because I sometimes do experiment with sending because I've been doing the practice for a little while, experiments sometimes with sending Medad to even political figures with whom I deeply disagree and I kind of just reframe in my mind the happiness.
I'm not sending the wish for total victory. I'm saying they'd be happier if they weren't creating harm.
So the happiness I wish for them is a is a more constructive role on the planet. Yeah, that's fair.
And there's still a little subtlety to that that's conditioned, you know, so they're still like, oh, I could maybe do this if they stopped doing that thing that they do.
It's not quite I mean, I agree with your point. Just to clarify, in my mind, I'm not thinking, you know, if they change X or Y policy, it's more just like that. A happier person.
Would if they were happier, they would show up in a different way. I'm not thinking about specific policies, it's just that if they were actually happy, as I understand happiness and I don't mean like a victory dance in the end zone after you've owned the other side, I mean more just like you're really coming from a place of your cup is full so that you can be helpful. That's really what I'm coming out. Yeah, absolutely. But I agree with you.
I don't I you it shouldn't be like an asterisk attached. May you be happy as long as you support Senate Bill five ninety. Right.
Right, right. Or and, you know, we have to also be careful about and I'm not saying you said this, but one of the things that's popping into my mind is careful about what we think happiness looks like or is for somebody else. And this is one of the huge divides, obviously, right now is this side's version of happiness and this side's version of happiness or this side's version of violence or this side's version of violence. And the sad thing about putting each other in on team or, you know, the sort of confirmation bias that we like to use a lot like, oh, you agree with me so I can like you.
Like you can be on my team, you know, because we all agree and think the same. But at some point, that person or those people are going to have a different view about something else, you know, and then they're going to be off the team and then a new person is going to be on the team. And so it's always changing. We're pretty much seeing it all shift to the surface and so much division.
We can't do it anymore. We can't do it anymore. We're extinguishing ourselves and our possibilities.
This is the deep self reflection matter, a deep self reflection on, you know, and again, not one to criticize ourselves for, not one to then beat ourselves down further.
But it really does ask us to look at what's still there for me that I haven't processed or what do I what am I afraid of?
So the next episode we're going to be talking to the Reverend Angel Kyoto Williams about the another of the four of the horrors, which is compassion. So as you hand off the baton here, any words of wisdom?
Yeah, well, hi, Angel, for one and the other. You know, I've been thinking about this. You know, there's that phrase that's always thrown out. You can't hate people into love. But then I also need to ask myself, what can I really love somebody into love?
And that's just an interesting sort of koan for me right now, because sometimes you're really loving somebody and we still can't change outcomes or control them.
And that becomes a very painful and useful need for compassion.
Right. Are those times when people are still suffering, no matter how much we love them, no matter how much love we show them, there's still going to be suffering. So maybe that can be answered for me, not necessarily answered, but discussed so that I can listen.
Yeah, well, it's been a pleasure to listen to you and thank you for doing this. Really appreciate it. Yeah. Thank you so much for inviting me. Big thanks to Joanna for kicking off this series with me. As I mentioned, up top, we're going to be dropping new episodes in this Election Sanity series every Monday during the month of October and on Wednesdays will be up to our usual Michigan, a mix of deep drama, science and the odd celebrity.
Next week, we're going to speak to the Reverend Angel Keota Williams about compassion. She's going to build on Joanna's thoughts on loving kindness and then describe how compassion is different and eminently doable, she says. And, by the way, eminently useful at this difficult time. And we'll have more information about how to sign up for the election sanity meditation challenge on the 10 percent happier app soon.
A special thanks this week to the team who work so incredibly hard to put the show together. Samuel Johns is our senior producer, Marisa Shneiderman, who came up with this whole idea. Big shout out to Marissa. She's our producer.
Our sound designers are Matt Boynton and Anya Ashik of Ultraviolet Audio. Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. And we derive a lot of wisdom from colleagues such as Ben Rubin, Jen Point Matoba and Liz Levin. While I'm on the tip, I want to add some new names in this week, because these are the folks who are helping us put together this special podcast series and then the coming challenge, the meditation challenge, the election sanity meditation challenge in the app.
So some names, Jade West and Jessica Goldberg, Crystal Isaac, Matthew Hepburn, Julia Wu, Niko Johnson, Allison Bryant, Josh Berkowitz, Alias Dignity. Lizzie Hulk. Zuleika Hassan. Connor Donahue. Derek Caswell. Eva Breitenbach. And many more lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't think my comrades from ABC News, Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen, we'll see you all on Wednesday for an episode on, quote unquote screen life balance. And once you've achieved screen life balance and you have a little bit more free time, how to actually find things to do that are genuinely fun for you.
Our guest is Catherine Price. It's a great episode. That's on Wednesday.