In less reflective moments, I find myself musing wistfully about actual physical harm befalling this obviously wounded man, and that is also entirely unfamiliar. And frankly quite jarring and unsettling to boot.

I find myself mirroring the name-calling, ridicule and disparagement and simultaneously not wanting to be stooping to that level.

When I see the way all sides in the political debate retreat into divisive tribalism, name-calling, blaming and bigotry, there is a very deep part of me that does not want to be swept up in it as well. I know my strong opinions play a role here, but how do I find a way to bob on the surface of this tidal wave of hatred and fear and be able to truly look deeply inside and know that I have met difficulty with a truly open heart? This practice can’t only “work” on the easy, the mundane, the routine and the familiar. It has to hold us up and carry us through when the stakes are truly life-altering, if not outright life-threatening. How do I find my feet in this tsunami of reactivity and find a way to navigate forward with some sense of clarity, wisdom and most of all, compassion?

And once my feet have been located, the big question for me is about the way forward. Is there an action that can rise above my reaction? There is the practice of “fierce compassion” that calls us to mobilize when there are wrongs that need to be righted, as Sharon Salzberg says “to feel outrage when it arises . . . and to cultivate power and clarity in response to difficult situations” but it’s that clarity that that seems remote and inaccessible at this pivotal moment in history. I find myself mirroring the name-calling, ridicule and disparagement and simultaneously not wanting to be stooping to that level. I have to admit that I’m a bit ashamed that I find myself doing this and that has my head spinning. My options feel narrow and mostly insignificant. I am overcome by fear and easily seduced by the fleeting pleasure inherent in schoolyard taunts and snide Facebook posts.

I don’t know what to do except to breathe, to give myself compassion for the fear and terror that rises in me for the future, for myself, for my friends, for my children and for this planet

I have to say I was inspired by what appeared to be a throwaway line in President Obama’s convention speech: “Don’t boo. Vote” That sums it up but I’m left asking if this is enough. Just silently voting seems so incredibly small, which is how I actually feel, when I think about it. And I want to be bigger. Bigger than this small self of mine, bigger than the rhetoric and the bigotry, big enough to hold myself tenderly and soothe my trembling heart.

I don’t know what to do except to breathe, to give myself compassion for the fear and terror that rises in me for the future, for myself, for my friends, for my children and for this planet. Maybe this is enough, to collectively take a moment (and a breath) to pause and let the visceral reaction to this predicament run its course, so that collectively we can breathe out together and do what needs to be done. I take some small comfort in knowing that many of us across this country and around the world are also feeling some version of this dread and that we share the common humanity of that experience. But somehow that isn’t enough to sustain me. What is a person to do? I really don’t know.