Regardless of your political persuasion, I think we can all agree that our nation feels very divided and it has felt like a very difficult time for our country. As we navigate through this uncertainty, it is more important than ever to have a mindfulness practice where we can find respite from the constant stream of divisiveness and negativity, as well as compassionately take care of our feelings. I would like to offer the following thoughts for how to mindfully work through this difficult time.
1) Have self-compassion for your difficult emotions – The RAIN practice is a wonderful practice to mindfully be with your difficult emotions: Recognize, Accept, Investigate, Non-identification
The first step to working with a difficult emotion is to recognize when it is present. Recognizing involves pausing and asking yourself, “What am I experiencing right now in my body, thoughts, emotions, and situation?” Brain imaging studies have demonstrated that recognizing and labeling emotions actually reduces activity in the emotionally reactive regions of our brain.
The “A” in RAIN can stand for “accept,” “acknowledge,” and “allow.” Acceptance in this sense means to acknowledge what is present in this moment and to allow what is already here to be here. When practicing acceptance, it may be helpful to say to yourself phrases such as “Ah, this too,” or “allow,” or “let be.”
After working with recognizing and accepting what is present for you, begin to investigate your internal experience. It is crucial to bring an attitude of kindness, curiosity and compassion to your investigation.
Investigate three primary facets of your internal experience:
- Physical sensations – Notice what sensations are present in your body, including their textures, layers, changing nature, and anything else that occurs.
- Emotions – What is the basic feeling tone of your experience (positive, negative, neutral)? What emotions are present? There may be many different emotions present. Ask yourself, “What does this feeling want from me right now? What is it trying to tell me?”
- Thoughts – Notice what thoughts are present for you. Perhaps ask yourself, “What stories am I believing right now?”
It involves not taking emotions personally, and understanding that “your” emotions are not really yours. The emotions you experience are also not unique to you, but instead are shared and experienced by all humans. It can be helpful to label the emotion you are experiencing as something that is present in this moment but not enduring.
EXAMPLE: Instead of saying, “I am an angry person,” you could reframe it more accurately by saying “Anger is present right now,” or “I am experiencing anger right now.”
2) EACH DAY ASK YOURSELF THE QUESTION “WHO DO I WANT TO BE?”
“What do I want to focus on?”
“Do I want to constantly focus on fear?”
“Do I want to foster a sense of peace, love and kindness in the world?”
We have a choice. Personally, I am trying to focus on what I can do to continue my mission of spreading compassion and kindness to myself and the world around me. Not that I don’t sometimes get bogged down by it all, but I’m really trying to start every day with the intention on focusing on what I can do in whatever small way to bring love and kindness into my world. I would invite you to do the same. It feels much better than getting sucked into all of the negativity.
3) Recognize impermanence – One of the key principles of mindfulness is that everything is always changing. Nothing stays the same. If you’re happy with the current direction of our country, guess what, this won’t last forever. If you’re not happy with the current direction of our country, guess what, this won’t last forever. Every changes and nothing lasts forever.
4) Cultivate Joy In Your Life – Go for a hike. Paint a picture. Play an instrument. Dance. Do something to remind yourself that life is still beautiful in so many ways.
I would like to leave you with the quote below:
To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.