The day after the second Presidential debate, I sat at my kitchen counter listening to cable pundits in a lather over the bitter, accusational nature of the second debate…and then—during each program—the host would stumble over themselves, interrupting their own reporting— to read the latest tweet from one of the candidates.
At that moment a wave of nausea washed over me. I turned the television off. I’d had enough.
The swirling coverage of tweets, videotapes, accusations, denunciations and threats just sickened me.
Thus, I sat wondering: how can I bear this for 28 more days?
And then I heard that still, small voice rise up in me and say:
“Vote early…and so should many others.”
That utterance of the Holy Spirit made perfect sense as a wave of relief wash over me as I began think about the very act of VOTING EARLY AS A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE.
So, as I reflecting on my exposure to Contemplative Studies and Benedictine spirituality, a few ideas came to mind that might offer others an opportunity to vote mindfully regardless of whom they select:
Find out where your early voting locations are in your community.
Ballotpedia, The Encyclopedia of American Politics, is a great resource that can offer assistance in reviewing your sample ballot and early voting locations in your community:
Set aside some time to review your local candidates and ballot initiatives in advance.
Turn off the television, put on some music/sound that may calm or relax you, take a few moments to settle yourself and clear your mind.
Then, weigh the issues and determine which candidates and ballot initiatives BEST SUIT your values, your lived experiences, your hopes and priorities for your community.
Record your findings on your sample ballot, a sheet of paper or in one of your devices.
Before closing your session, reflect on your choices. Pray for all of the people and initiatives being decided on that ballot.
Pray that the people who are best suited to address your hopes and priorities for your community are elected.
And then pray that those who are not elected will work with those elected in the service of improving your community.
Vote as soon as your schedule allows.
If there is a line while waiting to vote, continue to reflect on your choices and silently send good will and positive prayers to all those who voting, all those working with voters at this location and throughout your community and across the United States.
Barring any difficulties and in spite of any that may arise, VOTE JOYFULLY and TAKE PRIDE IN the relief of VOTING EARLY, VOTING MINDFULLY and VOTING IN A SPIRIT OF GENUINE LOVE AND SERVICE for your community and the nation.
After you finish voting, take a moment to pray for all other voting locally, nationally and internationally in this election.
Pray that they vote conscientiously for the candidates and initiatives that best support their communities.
Also pray that no harm come to candidates, their staffers, their offices, their workers and that no harm come to fellow voters in the remaining days of this election or afterwards.***
Shortly after completing MY MINDFUL EARLY VOTING CHECKLIST ABOVE, I came across this passage from Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister’s text “A Spirituality For The 21st Century” that might have some resonance for our times.
In chapter 64, “The Election Of A Prioress Or Abbot” within the monastic order, Chittister writes:
Once in office, the abbot and prioress
Must keep constantly in mind
The nature of the burden they have received,
And remember to whom they will have
“To give an account of their stewardship (Luke 16:2).
Let them recognize that the goal
Must be profit for community members,
Not preeminence for themselves….
…The abbot and prioress must be
Chaste, temperate and merciful,
Always letting “mercy triumph over judgment”
( James 2:13)
…So that they too may win mercy.
They must hate the faults but love the members.
When they must punish them,
They should use prudence and avoid extremes;
Otherwise, rubbing too hard to remove the rust,
They may break the vessel….
…Let them strive to be loved rather than feared.
Therefore, for a campaign that has been soul crushing in it’s cruelty at times, I BELIEVE THAT MINDFUL, PRAYERFUL EARLY VOTING IN LARGE NUMBERS CAN BE HEALING FOR OUR ENTIRE NATION.
Mindful early voting can send a message to our candidates and elected officials that our collective souls are weary of the politics of mutual destruction.
…Can send a message that we are tired of the bodies and spirits of women, Mexicans, African Americans, Muslims, the disabled, PTSD survivors, survivors of sexual trauma and others being trampled like astroturf in this political superbowl.
…Can send a message that we refuse to let another moment of bullying, name-calling, threats or unseemly revelations of candidate misbehavior inform our vote.
So let us VOTE EARLY, MINDFULLY AND PRAYERFULLY IN LARGE NUMBERS when and where we can to move our nation— beyond the cruelty and pain of the present moment— forward.