By Natalia Chambers, M.S.Ed.
To say that these times are interesting, is a gross understatement. A collective experience with every person on the planet right now is not only an opportunity to fear together but an opportunity for growth, closeness, and connection. I keep wondering, “What am I going to do?” I doubt that I’m alone. “We are all in this together”, is a quote that no longer sounds cliche. The world is dealing with something that is challenging our internal guidance systems. What can we do? We can start by noticing, being mindful, and honoring what we can control.
As a mindfulness meditation teacher, I teach others how to pay attention. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, known as the father of present day mindfulness, defines mindfulness as the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s not about what isn’t happening, rather what is. Here are a few ways we can practice mindfulness right now.
1.Noticing What We Take In
It is important to stay informed, but we do have a choice about how much information we allow to pass through our senses. I noticed yesterday while talking to a friend about the numbers of sickness and deaths resulting from Covid 19, that my chest felt tight and my breathing became shallow. The conversation was bringing up my anxiety. By noticing: I took a breath into that space in my chest and allowed the feelings and sensations to be what they were.
Although we are physically distant, our hearts may be yearning for connection. Ask yourself: Who could benefit from hearing my voice right now? Whose voice do I need to hear right now. Is there someone whom I wish to connect with?
Even if you are not your “best self” right now, how you are feeling is exactly how you are feeling. Tempers might be short with so much time spent at home with loved ones. There are biological processes at play here, stress-induced responses which may cause us to react in uncomfortable of unintentional ways. Talk to yourself: This is really difficult right now. How can I give myself some comfort and care in this moment? This is a moment of suffering and it’s hard.”
I will leave you with the words of Kristin Neff, Ph.D, an American professor known for her groundbreaking work on self-compassion: “Painful feelings are, by their very nature, temporary. They will weaken over time as long as we don’t prolong or amplify them through resistance or avoidance. The only way to eventually free ourselves from debilitating pain, therefore, is to be with it as it is. The only way out is through.”