Recently, after guiding one of my Mindfulness 2.0 classes, an enthusiastic student asked, “Could you teach this stuff at my office? Everyone’s despondent over what’s happening politically.” (Appropriately, the topic that evening was “Anger, Frustration, and Criticism.”) “Of course!” is always my reaction to sharing what I know about mindfulness. Having benefitted wildly from meditation and mindfulness, I want everyone to have their own keys to “Peaceful Even Though...” But don’t worry if you can’t attend the class, here are some notes you might find helpful.
The first idea I give any class addresses our own responsibility to change the conversation in our heads. If, every day, we consciously superintend those 50,000 to 70,000-ish (same-ish) thoughts routing through our brains, we won’t be buffeted by radios announcing the latest leaky intelligence, and headlines won’t impel us to bang our heads against a wall. What meditation does most immediately, is help us recognize all the subconscious chatter (influenced by news, upbringing, education, etc.), and then gently, kindly release it. Beneath the cacophony, we find our Truth, our Joy, our Peace. Though we usually use a timer to remind us to “come out of it,” the benefits remain inside us, and impressively accrue.
Within just eight short weeks, studies report that 10 daily minutes of sitting still and listening can develop thicker grey matter (a great thing!), while withering our primitive, immature fight-or-flight amygdala (another great thing!). Such changes confer myriad research-documented benefits: better grades, improved immunity, increased lifespan, better-balanced hormones, upgraded sleep, fewer cardiovascular problems, more loving relationships, and heightened self-confidence, to name only a few. No brain-measuring fMRI is necessary, since we can feel our brains change, and know our (who-put-all-those-there?) thoughts no longer unconsciously control us. That’s a major step forward in the feel-good department.
But inward examination and release are only the beginning, they are the chorus of a new song. “Mobile Mindfulness” moves us beyond zafu-sitting and into the world; it consciously wraps the peace from our meditation around our dailynesses. And how that shows up every day is the new verse. Equipped with better brain-power, less fettered by unproductive thoughts, we see the world from a different angle, a higher perspective, and that changes everything for the better.
The second thing I share is my favorite—and speediest—peace hack ever. Students have told me that this short practice helps them find their way to calmness faster than meditations they’ve practiced for years. Try it yourself:
Set your timer for a whopping 3 minutes. Close your eyes and breathe (you do that anyway, so you’re already 96% there!) Breathe consciously, watching air flow in and out. Now, think of something for which you are profoundly grateful, something that brings humongous joy into your life (keep breathing). Bask in the fabulosity. When the bell beckons, if you are like most people, you will have found some of the peace that may have been eluding you lately, or even for decades.(During classes, I get to watch people’s lips curl into smiles, which is thoroughly delightful!) When I practice this mini-med, my energetic direction change is noteworthy, and knowing I can do it to myself, for myself reminds my subconscious that nobody else (not a politician, not the economy, not my teenager…well…) is responsible for my happiness. Talk about liberating!
From our weekly homework (it’s a class: we have homework!), we all look forward to hearing how beautifully mindfulness plays out in the lives of our classmates. Recently, I assigned everyone to send “love” to strangers—in Starbucks, the library, wherever—and watch what happened. I received the following email just one hour after class:
I practiced feeling loving after our class - I went to the frozen yogurt shop next door - the person at the counter and I talked, and he rang me up and then said, “forget it, I should have the frozen yogurt on the ‘house’ b/c he wanted me to have a good night.” How crazy!!! Very new experience for me! --J
So, imagine you give yourself the gift of a new, more Love-filled perspective, not from convincing yourself something/someone is “right” or “wrong,” but from learning to listen to the wisdom within you. Just be still and listen a few minutes daily. Trust me, when you can do that, you create a world that offers you a lot more than free frozen yogurt!