We live in a world filled with distressing events. Tornadoes, mass shootings, and political scandals are all over our newsfeeds. Our daily lives often consist of responding to demands that make us feel drained and overwhelmed. It’s easy to be discouraged and depressed.
It would be lovely if taking a vacation or adding a self-care activity into our schedules could eliminate the stress of living in this crazy world. Or possibly help us recover from these situations, if one has been directly impacted.
Unfortunately, nothing is ever that simple, is it?
Practicing mindfulness might not change the world we live in (although if everyone did it, it might!). What it can do is change how you perceive the world and your place in it.
When you live in a mindful way, you learn to live in the moment. Sometimes that moment includes being unhappy and allowing yourself to fully experience that unhappiness. It might include feeling the pain of painful world events.
The good news is that living mindfully also teaches you that these uncomfortable or distressing moments are passing. Mindfulness teaches us that all emotions and sensations are passing. While there will be times when you experience unhappiness, that will pass. There will also be moments where you can experience happiness and enjoy the daily gifts life brings, like a really nice evening with a friend. Or taking the time to be fully present with your children. Life will bring moments when you can fully immerse yourself in delight.
Meditation as a Radical Act
One of many ways to be mindful is meditation. Meditation may include concepts around loving kindness, self-compassion, or tranquility. Any meditation usually incorporates mindfulness concepts of living in the present moment. Many people think of meditation as sitting quietly in an uncomfortable position on the floor trying to empty one’s mind. They try this, fail, and then feel frustrated and worse than before.
There are, in fact, many, many other ways to meditate. My current favorite is to simply stop, sit down, and take five deep breaths. While doing this, I ask myself, “What do I need right now?” My yoga instructor has encouraged me to do this as a way to bring attention to how I am feeling in the current moment, and it works.
Meditation is a radical act, because it shifts your attention to yourself, the present moment, and what YOU can do. Instead of focusing on the negative, it allows you to focus on what is positive. How you react to the world around you is what will make a difference, and meditation can help you present yourself fully and authentically to the world. And to the people in your own daily life, like your family and coworkers, this will be everything.
To learn from the source, I always go back to Jon Kabat-Zinn. The focus of his book, Full Catastrophe Living, is how we can live mindfully in these crazy days. He explores how we can participate in this radical act of love and sanity (his words!) and encourages readers in what seems like a daunting process. You can also find videos of his meditations on YouTube.
My challenge for you this week, should you choose to accept it, is: try to explore a way to make meditation part of your life for one week. Try different activities or videos. Explore different breathing exercises. Choose a mantra. Engage in mindful movement like yoga or tai chi. Eat mindfully. Meditate on a favorite piece of music. Or an audio recording of a favorite poem. Install a meditation app on your phone. Perhaps just sit down and take five breaths.
Whatever you do, do it with intention.