Election Season in Hell: How to deal

In my relatively nascent understanding of Buddhism as a Westerner, this is hell. We’re living in a hell realm. The United States is in utter chaos and its residents live in fear and disharmony. You never realize how good you had it until it’s very obviously not good. What’s more: the biennial national agony is upon us — election season. And I happen to be working — and moderating social media — for a political campaign.

This hits my own special snowflake self in at a particularly brutal angle because I’m an empath (a person who is sensitive to others’ energy to the point that it feels like their own). An empath who has degrees in political science, international relations and works in journalism. Color me livid. I’m reminded of the week in 2008 when I was working as a financial journalist in New York City and a major bank failed overnight every day for a week. People were still hurrying along the sidewalks to work, ordering coffee and typing furiously into their Blackberries. Do they not understand? I wondered, with my mid-20s mind. Shit is falling apart and the general public is barely responding!? Before too long, I realized that macroeconomics and fiscal policy were beyond the grasp of most Americans, especially those in the legislature trying to create emergency policy around it.

But this time around, things are different. People understand. It’s hitting home. We’re seeing — literally — our loved ones attacked for simply being who or where they are. We’re seeing years and decades of institutional protection for marginalized groups and the environment disbanded for little to no conscienable purpose. And we’re all connected in a digital world where voices and opinions outnumber original, useful thoughts and ideas. In addition, this digital world can function as a distraction from the real, tangible world in front of us.

For me, self care is vital. After the Supreme Court hearings and the brave testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, I had to tune out for my health. I felt myself slipping down that dark slope of depression in light of the ongoing dehumanization of women. It felt like a loved one had died, when it was actually the expiration of my illusion. Still, I clocked out of news and social media for a few weeks — a luxury, I’m well aware — until this week, when I heard 45 was attacking trans people. So I tiptoed back into social media, largely to show my support for trans folks and reach out to my trans/non-gender-conforming/non-binary friends. I also caught part of a news brief on the car radio yesterday and after about 15 seconds, changed the channel because the sound of 45’s voice and the evil drivel it emitted sent a wave of dread through my being. I still feel a little sick from it. It can’t be just me. So, here are some self-care thoughts and tips for navigating this hell realm. They’re nothing new, but a little reminder can go a long way.

Also! If you’re not inspired to do this on your own behalf, maybe doing it for the benefit of others will motivate you. Sometimes, that’s what it takes for me to be good to myself. Bad vibes spread easily, so keeping yourself in a good state is a contribution to your community and the world. Hugs!

Even for awhile. Like a day, a week, etc. We’re so connected to this never-ending news cycle of shit and badness that our psyches start to crave it. This is not healthy. Please step away from the screen in general. You’ll feel the difference.

Be around trees and birds and squirrels, if you can. Walk, run, jog, bike. Gaze at the leaves on that tree and the flowers in those gardens.

You stink! Well, maybe. Stink vibes? A warm (not hot!) bath with 2 cups of Epsom salts (which is actually magnesium, which relaxes your muscles), 1 cup of baking soda and a few drops of a relaxing essential oil like lavender can be very helpful. I like to listen to a guided meditation or practice mindful breathing in the tub. If I’m not too distracted by my gushing bathroom radiator.

You don’t have to sit in lotus position and chant OM to meditate. You can sit or lie down and simply notice your breath and your body as it breathes. Following this action rather than your normal, crazy monkey brain is super relaxing for your mind and body. Do it for one minute, 10 minutes or an hour. But definitely don’t stress about it. Your mind’s function is to wander. To be mindful is to notice it wondering and say, “Hey buddy, wanna come back here and hang out with me?”

Maybe you need more than a few deep breaths. Someone guiding your mind to a chiller space can go a long way. I like the Insight Meditation App. There are meditations for any outcome your heart desires. Insight also has talks and cool, chill music. The variety is astounding.

This is a big one for me. When I get anxious, I notice that a lot of energy is swirling around in my head and my brain goes into overdrive. When I notice this happening, I try to take a few deep breaths with my hands over my heart. This is where I want my energy to be centered — in love. When I think and act from my heart, I know I’m coming from the right place.

“Free your ass and your mind will follow” is a quote I’ve heard attributed to George Clinton himself. And I concur. Shake your groove thing in your kitchen, living room, local club, park or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, local ecstatic dance group.

If you’re super stressed, check out some yin yoga practice, which is meant to calm the parasympathetic nervous system that’s responsible for the fight-flight-or-freeze response. Find some on YouTube, at a local studio or on subscription yoga-streaming services like YogaGlo.

You know you wanna pull out some scissors and magazines and create a collage! Or dust off that easel and paint it up. Art puts your brain in a different state. Try to do it for at least 45 minutes for max results. You’re an artiste!

I know all to well the realness of the temptation to just blare Pantera’s “The Great Southern Trendkill” and rage out at this bullshit going on. (And now, I’m questioning the counter-ideological implications of that record choice.) But guess what? That’s just a feedback look of aggression. Try some chill, ambient vibes or nature sounds. Spotify has a ton of cool “Mood” channels to fit your fancy, even it’s just old Weezer or something upbeat. I like Ambient Chill. *Avoid excessive minor keys and distortion* I know it can be hard, but your brain will thank you.

Madison shouldn’t welcome back men like Aziz Ansari so easily

A few weeks ago, I checked my email and got instantly psyched. The Comedy Club on State announced that Aziz Ansari was playing a few shows the next night, August 19. The cute, clever man who gave us Tom Haverford from Parks And Rec, created and starred in Master Of None, and wrote Modern Romance (which I didn’t read because I had it on good advice that it wasn’t worth it)!

Then I remembered the gross news from awhile back that he coerced a woman into some sexual contact that she says she was not 100 percent into. Which was Alanis Morissette ironic, because Ansari actively promotes himself pretty hard as a feminist.

I internally shuddered and deleted the email. Read more at Tone Madison.

Unequal displays of public nudity

When you bike nude around Madison, people are overjoyed to see you. They stop to smile, wave, laugh, cheer and take photos and videos. The mid-June World Naked Bike Ride, a 400-strong parade of merry pranksters, smeared with sunscreen and body paint, rang bike bells and shouted body-positive encouragement like “You’re beautiful!” to stunned and delighted bystanders. Do note that this cycle gang was 75 percent male and 98 percent white.

Madison’s political forays into public nudity are growing. The pro-body positivity, anti-oil-dependence fun cruise of Madison’s ninth edition of the World Naked Bike Ride this year presented a noticeable contrast to the experiences women in Madison have had participating in annual nipple-equality events like the upcoming Nipple Empowerment 2018-Rally For RCC. The former is not technically legal, while the latter is 100% on the books in Madison. In the gap between the two events is a lot of what we need to change about how society treats people who aren’t white men. Read more at Tone Madison.

Women take center stage

Music-LunArt-UgrcicIva-06282018The founder of LunART Festival opens up about her mission

Discrimination and sexism often prevent women from thriving in the arts, but not for much longer, if Iva Ugrćič (OO-gurr-cheech) has anything to say about it. The Serbian-born flutist has launched the inaugural LunART Festival, June 28-30, partly in response to the negative experiences she faced while beginning a music career in Europe. Read more at Isthmus.com.

Mindful resistance

Books-Chapman-Mare-02162017Mare Chapman’s “Unshakeable Confidence” lays out a plan for female empowerment

Madison psychotherapist and meditation instructor Mare Chapman believes mindfulness is an important step toward empowerment.

Chapman has distilled the nine-week course she’s taught for 20 years into a new self-published book, Unshakeable Confidence: The Freedom to Be Our Authentic Selves. Chapman’s class teaches women how to dismantle the damaging thought patterns instilled by a male-dominated society while helping them learn to be at home in their own skin. Read the article at http://isthmus.com/arts/books/mare-chapman-unshakeable-confidence/