“We don't meditate to become good meditators. We meditate to be more awake in our lives.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Our global community has become incredibly fragile. Between COVID-19, and the growing number of injustices againstpeople of coloracross the globe, the cracks in the foundation of human life have become too many to ignore.
Supporting one another has always, and will continue to be one of the most important parts of the human experience; yet, it’s possible that it has never been more important than it is now.
Let’s take some time to unpack the practice of being mindful.
So, what is mindfulness?
Well… this can certainly vary, but let’s start by having a look at what’s consideredtraditional mindfulness.
Traditional mindfulness encourages us to be present while paying attention to everything around us: our personal experiences, what’s going on with other people - including the smaller communities we are a part of, as well as the largertribewe belong to.
What’s the difference? Traditional Mindfulness vs. Mindfulness in the West.
One of the criticisms of how mindfulness is treated in theWest is that it tends to place all of the importance on the individual and how being mindful will help us to find our own happiness. The trouble with this is, focusing on ourselves too much can actually be a pretty ineffective way of building happiness in our own lives.
Unfortunately, we’ve built a way of living that makes being mindful pretty difficult. We are obsessed with technology, social media, and in many cases… with ourselves.
It also doesn’t help that for teens/adults, devices like cell phones have become an accessory forself-soothing- much like pacifiers used by babies.
When we open ourselves up to the possibility of being present, of being mindful and aware of others, both thewonderful andnot so pleasant sides of life become much clearer to us.
This can make the practice oftraditional mindfulness intimidating and difficult to maintain at times... but also, more rewarding.
Our joy and our pain are both filled with positive opportunities. Whether it’s the discovery of new love for a partner, a feeling of being more connected to those less fortunate than ourselves, or the guilt surrounding our silence in the face of injustice, mindfulness allows us to see what we might be ignoring in our lives.
Why should we be mindful in 2020?
Okay, let’s have a look at why this is so important right now, and how we can start to include mindfulness in our lives without feeling too overwhelmed.
One of the most common complaints/obstacles you hear about when it comes tomindful meditation is the difficulty around sitting still.
Whether that’s because of an itch on your leg, or afeeling you’d like to avoid, there’s no shortage of reasons to step away from, or sometimes never begin your practice.
When it comes to the issue(s) of inequality in the world, so many of us avoid making changes in our thinking/behaviors because not unlike the itch on our leg during meditation, it can be uncomfortable to sit with.
No one wants to discover that their words, actions, or beliefs may be a part of the problem. And so, we dodge taking accountability at all costs.
See where we’re headed with this?
Just like in meditation when we choose to sit and observe the itch on our leg rather than run from it, we can also learn to sit with our own shortcomings. These moments are rich with so much to benefit from.
We have to learn that we can benefit just as much from making a habit of leaning towards what makes us uncomfortable, as we do from moments of happiness and fulfillment!
If we can make space in our lives for anger, fear, guilt, and everything in between, we can then truly learn to appreciate another person/people’s perspective(s).
Slow and steady wins the race.
Now don’t make the mistake of biting off more than you can chew. Practices likemindfulness should be treated like a muscle - if you’ve never been to the gym, you’re not about to start chucking around the 100lb dumbbells. Start with smaller meditations - 10-15 minutes is the sweet spot for beginners.
People tend to think about how regular meditation will improve their lives. The truth? It will… a lot. But, what’s missed a lot of the time is how it will also benefit others.
By taking the time to explore meditation, you’re choosing to be more present with the people you walk this earth with. You’re saying yes to being mindful, and with practice, you’ll be more available for friends, family, and even strangers.
Check out Sam Harris’ app - “Waking up With Sam Harris”. This is an amazing tool for beginner, intermediate, and advanced meditators.CLICK that link below and explore getting mindful.
What’s the science saying?
“People naturally tend to empathize with others…” report C. Daryl Cameron and Barbara Fredrickson in theJanuary issue of the journal Mindfulness- Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
In a study conducted atUC Berkeley, researchers discovered that mindfulness plays a significant role when it comes to thescience behindfeeling good about helping others.
In fact, whether or not we are able to manage the emotions that we might experience when helping someone can have a big impact on our decision to help out in the first place.
Sometimes we might avoid listening to someone share their upset with us because we’re not equipped to deal with the emotions that might come up for us.
The study examined two mindful traits—a focus on the present moment (aka, “present-focused attention”) and a non-judgmental acceptance of thoughts and experiences (“non-judgmental acceptance”) - Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
Pretty cool right? By practicing mindfulness, not only were people more likely to be of service to others, but the chances of them feeling good about helping others were greater as well.
The practice of being mindful is one that lasts a lifetime. There is no plateau, and we are constantly learning more about the science behind the benefits of a regular practice. The world is in a strange place at the moment. In order for us to continue thriving while making the changes needed to create and maintain true equality, we all need to step up. Practicing mindfulness is one way that we can make shifts in our own lives, and ultimately the lives of others.Be kind to yourselves as you explore a practice of your own. Small steps and consistency go a long way. Be curious while you explore thisnew muscle.