I’ve decided to stick to my theme of the week: mindfulness.
This is one of the most challenging times of the past few decades, so the value of mindfulness has become more pronounced than ever. As I said in my post earlier in the week – life is hectic. Mindfulness makes it less so.
I’d like to share an interview from the New York Times with Jack Kornfield, one of my favourite meditation teachers.
(If you’d like to read the full article, click here.)
I thought I’d share some of my favourite quotes from the article, and add some thoughts of my own.
In his typical loving wisdom, Jack highlights the choice we all have in the way we approach the COVID situation:
“The choice is how we respond. With greed and hatred and fear and ignorance? Or with generosity, clarity, steadiness and love?”
In life we only have power over ourselves. This can be a scary thought, but also an empowering one. When we stop trying to control the external, we can focus our energy on managing our own emotional situation, our daily actions, and how we respond to the things going on around us.
“You don’t have to sit and do some formal meditation. In that moment when you’re about to snap, take a breath, turn away. Bring that quality of loving awareness, and name the feeling gently — upset, worried, frightened or whatever it might be — and then, almost as if you could put your hand on your heart, say: “Thank you for trying to protect me. I’m OK.”
Your feelings serve a purpose. Anger, fear, judgment – they’re all there for a reason. Throughout time they’ve been crucial for survival, but they don’t always necessarily serve us.
We may become frustrated with how our loved ones are acting. They may not be respecting the lockdown the way you think they should, or spending this time in constructive ways. The people around you may be struggling to manage their own mental health, and you may feel the impulse to bear the burden with them.
“Let’s get real, baby. You have enough trouble managing your own damn feelings, and now you want to manage the feelings of others?”
As Jack says, is this realistic? It’s a full-time job to maintain our own mental health, never mind that of others. When you feel yourself outsourcing that personal power:
“You can breathe a bit and acknowledge what you’re feeling and what your judgment of others is: “I wish they weren’t so anxious” or “I wish they weren’t so blasé.” And you can feel all that with some kindness and say, “I’m just trying to protect myself and others the best I can, and they are doing the best they can.”
We’re all doing our best. Life is confusing, tiring, challenging and at times overwhelming. But we’re doing great. The human race is actually pretty awesome when you zoom out and think about it. The number of people who live in extreme poverty has plummeted, literacy is at an all-time high, murder and deaths from war are the lowest they’ve ever been, life expectancies are higher and clean energy is (hopefully) just around the corner. Humans are smart, and we’re good at solving problems.
“in the generations of scientists and physicians who have held us through epidemics in the past and say to ourselves: “We’ve been through this before. We know how to do this.”
This isn’t the first virus humanity’s faced and it won’t be the last. As Jack says, we have a choice. A choice to board up the windows and live in fear, or to be a ray of light in the world.
“Because it’s time to become the lamp in the darkness, David. Where others hoard, you help. Where others deceive, you stand up for truth. Where others are uncaring, you become kind and respectful. This is what’s possible for us as human beings in this moment.”
As I said earlier, you can’t control what other people do. You can’t stop others from being anxious or reactive, but you can control yourself. You can be friendly, you can be helpful, you can be kind.
“In a similar way, with this pandemic, we have to accept where we are, the uncertainty of it, and then say, “All right, I’m going to steady my own heart and see how I can contribute.”… “ you can either spend your time worrying, which you just noted doesn’t actually help, or you can say: “I don’t know how long it will be, but let me do the most magnificent work I can do.”
Who knows when life will be back to normal. Normality may never be what we were used to before. But that’s ok. In times of struggle, we learn who we are. We learn what we’re made of, we learn just how tough we can be.
Manage your reactions. Be kind to the people around you. Be a lamp in the darkness.
Thanks for reading, and if you’re interested in gaining more of Jack’s wisdom, check out his website.
Have a great weekend everyone. And stay safe.