It’s been said that the people who irritate us the most are our best teachers, and that reacting to to them diminishes our level of consciousness. I was thinking about this on a global scale this morning.

I thought about extraordinary people like Martin Luther King Jr., who lead a civil rights movement with grace. Was he angry about how things were? Of course he was, but look at what he did with his anger. He took all that bigotry, ignorance and cruelty and went deep—very deep inside himself—for answers. Instead of reacting, he acted. He remained dignified and became a leader.

Or there’s Viktor E. Frankl, who found meaning in the most brutal form of existence while surviving a German concentration camp. He went on to help millions of people with his 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning. Had he let his anger towards Hitler consume him, Frankl’s words, wisdom and insight would never have reached the world. Instead, he found inspiration in hell.

“You need to have suffering to be awakened,” Thich Nhat Hanh has written. “You have to look for enlightenment in the suffering. This is why we have the expression, ‘suffering is enlightenment’.”

We all have triggers

fist going through glass President Donald Trump has made me very angry. I got angry when he talked about arming teachers in schools. I got angry at the immigration situation that separated children from their parents.

Government policies that affect children really touch a nerve with me. It’s hard not to react. We all have our triggers, both Democrats and Republicans alike. And no matter who you are, when you get angry, you believe you’re right. That’s why there’s such insanity in the world, and why there are wars.

I’m certainly not enlightened enough to never react or get angry at times. But throughout the 50 years of my life, I’ve learned to reflect after I’ve reacted. That’s a start.

Lately, I’ve been trying to find a way for the politics of this president to help me search for greater meaning in my life. I hope that instead of allowing this political situation to make me into a mirror image of him, I can actually learn something from the influence of his unjust and unconscious behaviour.

The quality of your consciousness 

face looking into a glowThis reflection has lead me back to more education, with my decision to enroll in an online university program that will enable me to become certified in Stress Management.

I learned about many aspects of coping and stress in my thirties that I wish I’d been taught as a child, or at the very least, in high school. Fortunately, this summer-study is helping me develop a community program to specifically help teens cope with stress.

We aren’t all political activists, but that doesn’t mean we can’t inspire change in other ways. I believe in the words of spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, who said,

We will change our nations, our governments and the world for the better by a slow but steady process. The agent of this change is consciousness itself. Your consciousness. Improving the quality of your consciousness, by living more and more in the present moment, is the most powerful act of social activism you can offer to your community, your country, to humanity.

Developing consciousness is an ongoing life journey. Learning ways to cope with the stressors of everyday life is both a stepping stone and a continuous part of that journey.

So instead of wasting my time and energy reacting to the ego of President Donald Trump, and decreasing my own consciousness in the process, I’ve chosen to try to remain dignified—and be open to letting his actions inspire something in me that, in the long run, may make me a better person.

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Patricia Kelly is the author of The Freedom of Contentment: Letting Go of Unwanted Habits and Managing Everyday Worries. She’s a certified hypnotherapist and works as a public service assistant at her town’s public library. Hiking, Yoga and all things tomato are just a few of her favorite things. She lives with her husband and son in Ferndale, Washington (U.S.).

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