Mindfulness may have been considered a ‘nice to have’ in the past, but I believe it is essential for creating solutions to some of the problems we face today. Whether on a personal level or as a society, our relationships with other people matter greatly. Bringing mindfulness to our interactions is critical for we impact one another whether we mean to or not.
As if the intensity of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic with its health and economic implications wasn’t enough, we now find ourselves in the midst of rising racial and political tension. It seems as though our sanity and our humanity are at risk.
During my mindfulness teacher development training program, I remember Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn telling us, “We come to our meditation practice as though our life depended upon it. Because guess what? It does.
In my book, Thriving When Your Cosmic Egg Is Cracked: A Mindful Journey, I share my personal story about how my mindfulness practice enabled me to navigate the most turbulent time of my life. “Cosmic egg” simply means: the world as we know it. I believe our nation’s cosmic egg has been cracked. The pathway to healing will be one moment, one breath, one conversation at a time. Mindfulness can help us to lean in, connect, and communicate from a more balanced place.
Mindfulness is a particular way of engaging in life. It’s about being present in the moments of our lives. This involves noticing what is happening within us and around us with curiosity and openness. We strengthen this capacity for awareness through mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness is a practice, but it is also a skill we can use in difficult conversations. When one person changes the way in which they engage in a conversation, the conversation changes. In order to create healthy, productive discussions, we must first stop reacting to each other.
When someone is saying something that we don’t like or agree with, we often react making things even worse. Why? Because the body perceives this as a threat, and we go into what’s known as fight-or-flight mode.
When this happens, we experience all kinds of physical sensations. We may feel the heart racing or the face getting flushed as stress hormones pump through the bloodstream. We may notice judgmental thoughts rushing through the mind or we might get carried away by strong feelings.
Having a mindfulness practice helps us to maintain equanimity in emotionally charged moments. We discover that it is possible to be aware of what is happening within us and work with our experience skillfully. We can even learn to do this while we listen to the other person with openness and curiosity.
During these moments, we rest our attention on the breath moving in and out of the body. With our breath as an anchor to the present moment, we soften our attachment to our opinions and beliefs. We become able to respond rather than react.
It requires courage and compassion to stay engaged in an uncomfortable conversation. When we do speak, we consciously choose our words with the intention to help. With mindful awareness we discover that we can better articulate thoughts and ideas honestly, clearly, and calmly.
While mindfulness helps us to be awake and aware in the moment, it can also have powerful long terms benefits. With regular meditation, we get to know ourselves better, and over time broaden our perspectives.
We become more able to see the bigger picture. Instead of focusing only on what is broken, we see what is wrong along with what is right—in our bodies, within our families, in our communities, and as a nation. We identify what is working well and we build upon that. This ability to view problems in the context of a greater whole helps us to move forward with hope and creates a sense of interconnectedness.
The end game for mindfulness has never been to achieve some blissful state. While there are many benefits at the individual level, the grander gift of mindfulness is to create homes, neighborhoods, systems, and a world where all people can grow and thrive.
Developing a simple mindfulness practice is critical because it informs how we show up in critical conversations around the dinner table or a round table. I’d like to invite you to join me for LIVE virtual mindfulness meditation classes.
Hope to see you there.