A Dozen Things No Election Will Change

  1. If our candidate needed to win in order for us to be happy, we signed up for the ultimate in misery––attaching our happiness to something we cannot control.
  2. If our candidate did win and we think that’s the reason we’re happy, we’re mistaken. Same if we think our crankiness is due to our person’s loss. Don’t be concerned. It takes most of us lifetimes to realize how impossible either scenario is.
  3. The most important thing to know about Trump is that he is not responsible for our feelings about him––whatever those feeling are.
  4. The same can be said about everyone else we’ve ever known.
  5. How we define our world creates our world. This principle is the root of our every judgment, our every opinion, our every resentment, our every joy.
  6. The human family’s addiction to drugs is nowhere near as harmful as our addiction to beliefs. And maybe our most malicious belief is that people and events cause how we feel, and thus how we respond.
  7. Saying “This makes me angry,” is another thing we do a million times until we realize that it’s impossible, and that we’re just trying to avoid taking responsibility for our fear and pain.
  8. Many things are harmful and call to be changed. But only we make them a burden.
  9. And when we do, we deny ourselves the gift inherent in every experience: the opportunity to grow our ability to respond with kindness and wisdom to whatever comes our way.
  10. With enthusiasm, even ferocity, we can fight for or against whatever our heart impels us to address without resentment, condescension, or hatred. Dr. King said one Christmas, “If we don’t have goodwill toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves.”
  11. In fact, we needn’t fight “against” anything, but instead align our heart and mind with honoring and creating that which we hold sacred.
  12. To cultivate lasting happiness, even in the face of perpetual heartbreak, a useful mantra is the question: What am I trying to accomplish that I can control? Discovering and acting on our answers is pretty much all there is to a healthy life: one that doesn’t attach itself to the outcome of an election or any other endeavor, but rather focuses solely on the energy and integrity we invest in a noble aspiration, one that serves the entire human family. Having a peaceful heart, for instance.

Steve Roberts


My son Eric sent a link to On Being, an interview with James Doty, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at Stanford University and founding director of CCARE, the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

Swirl and blend, if you can, what Steve is sharing above with the observations by Doty below, and apply this to the ever-present challenge called parenting or relationship. And consider that the noise created by technology has filled the 80% Doty describes below with more and more – things to regret about the past and anxiety about the future. It is, perhaps, harder to be sane today than ever before. That is our challenge – modeling sanity, compassion, wonder and joy in an increasingly insane world. How are our children going to learn this?


Dr. Doty: There was a study that was done that showed that the average person, almost 80 percent of the time, they’re not focused on the present, they’re focused on exactly that: regret about the past or anxiety about the future. When your attention is in those places, you can’t give your full attention to even what’s happening to you at that moment. It limits what you can accomplish in that moment. Unfortunately, it’s a horrible distraction, and it, again, limits us to the connections we are able to make and actually even who we are. It’s the techniques that she taught me and my own experience since then have shown me the difference, because it’s like, suddenly, you realize that you have been wearing glasses that have been fogged up. You take them off, and there’s a vibrancy. The colors are different. The interaction is different. That’s what being present offers you.

Dr. Doty: In the process of that study — and he was actually trying to examine compassion, and he had them (Monks) wear this EEG hat, or cranial cap, and he told these monks that he was going to be studying compassion, and they all started laughing at him. It was this understanding that deep emotions are expressed in the heart, and that there is this, if you will, mind-heart connection that’s extraordinarily powerful. We now know through anatomy and a variety of studies that there’s immense amount of neural innovation that comes from the brain, the brain stem into the heart. It’s a two-way street, and they can have powerful effects on each other. (Joe Pearce has been writing about this for 25 years.)

Dr. Doty: As a species, we fundamentally evolved to care and nurture, initially, our nuclear family, but ultimately, our hunter-gatherer tribe. That has imbued us with certain neural connections. What I mean by that is that, to have what we call theory of mind, to have abstract thinking and complex language, which, really, are what, in many ways, define us as a species — it ultimately required that our offspring be cared for for a decade and a half, maybe even two, after gestation, unlike other species where the offspring just run off into the forest.

As a result, there had to be these very powerful pathways that bonded us with our offspring. These neuropathways result in us feeling good when we connect and making our physiology work better. In fact, a number of studies have been done where people have been put in isolation or have been alone for periods of time, and their world completely falls apart. I give a talk about the difference between what I call “transformation,” which oftentimes we get with just a mindfulness practice of attention and focus —but you cannot have “transcendence,” which is this sense of meaning in your life, unless you take this journey outward. This is a journey of connection to others, because when you connect with others, and you have an open heart, and you embrace the other as you, your physiology works at its best.