Surrounded by political chaos and a crippling healthcare crisis, it is challenging to find focus and feel in control of much of anything these days. And although it may be easier to withdraw completely, that only magnifies feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty. We can always take the dreamer’s path looking forward with hopeful optimism or be the sentimentalist looking in the rear view mirror. Personally, neither of those paths are right for me, but only dial up the emotions I am trying to deflect. For example, when I look back on the days when I was a young mother, at the peak of my career and feeling invincible, I find myself comparing the younger me to the woman I am now, and I feel unsettled and less ambitious. Clearly, comparing where I am today, with where I was two decades ago, doesn’t enable me to take on new challenges and accomplish goals that align with my lived experience.
I’ve often wondered why this natural tendency to anchor ourselves by looking forward or back doesn’t help us find our way out of a difficult time. I have found, however, that being present in the moment, simply by watching a sun set or being in the zone while journaling, is very empowering and up-lifting. This is what is called “mindfulness”, and being mindful is very pertinent and necessary in both awful times as well as the good ones. Mindfulness means focusing your awareness on the here and now. It’s about embracing each moment of the day and not worrying about what tomorrow may bring. This may sound unreasonable or unattainable in times of crisis, but I have learned that living in the present moment supported by meditation and breath work, puts me in a state of emotional preparedness to make those events and associated feelings much more manageable.
There is clinical evidence to prove this out. Research has found that the practice of being in the moment through meditation and mindfulness has an amazing variety of neurological benefits – from changes in grey matter volume to reduced activity in the “me” centers of the brain to enhanced connectivity between brain regions. Neuroscientists have shown evidence that mindfulness helps relieve our subjective levels of anxiety and depression, and improve attention, concentration, and overall psychological well-being.
Translating neuroscience into practice, psychologists will agree that as humans it is natural to have feelings and important to acknowledge and express them, however, it is equally important to have tools to prepare for and manage levels of unwanted emotions triggered by events, and fueled by conscious and underlying thoughts as well as subjective experience.
Through the lens of spiritual leader and best selling author, Eckhart Tolle the path forward in troubled times is about not listening to the “voice in our head,” because we are not that voice, but rather the one who observes it. In other words our negative emotions are subjective and we can chose not to listen to them. Tolle reminds us that we all experience pain and anger, but the key is to not let those emotions define us, and in this way we can more comfortably ride out the influences that stir us in negative ways.
At a time when most of us can’t see a clear path of what the future will bring, I find this Tolle quote most inspirational.
“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.”
So how can we find our way forward in troubling times? Each of us has our own way of coping and navigating negativity and uncertainty. For me it is about staying focused, not replaying disturbing news, not dreaming about tomorrow or looking back, but rather training myself to stay in the moment with gratitude in knowing that no one can step in the way of my perspective, after all “you have to be in it to win it.”
#mindfulness #EckhartTolle #livetowin