Last week sucked. And I know I am not alone in my experience. The Kavanaugh hearing had an upsetting ripple effect on most everyone I know. Several friends shared their PTSD experience from revisiting their histories of sexual trauma after watching the heroic testimony of Dr. Ford. One of the many boards on which I serve is dealing with a very sticky, upsetting issue that’s consuming time and attention and triggering divisiveness. Worst of all, I attended a celebration of life for a sweet friend whose life ended far too early, leaving behind questions which can never be answered, children who no longer have a mother, and a hole in many people’s hearts.
My response? Feeling helplessness, anger and despair. I’m reacting with an urge to run and hide, and a powerful desire to continue ingesting a ton of sugar. And I mean a ton. Furthermore, I am resisting going to an upcoming meditation retreat because I don’t want to “sit” with my feelings and lack of control, even though it would be the best thing for me.
Hardly sounds like a plug for mindfulness, but it is. How on earth can it help with these challenges? It won’t affect the Kavanaugh outcome, it won’t change my friends’ histories, it won’t resolve the board issue and it certainly won’t bring back my friend. But mindful practice can certainly help me deal with these challenges in a more graceful, skillful manner.
Mindful presence means bringing a nonjudgmental awareness to whatever is happening. Mindfulness is the ability to remain open and present to all the sensations and feelings that come with challenging situations. This capacity enables us to avoid obsessing with the unpleasant thoughts and keep the mind and heart out of being trapped.
Mindful presence is staying conscious of the feelings you’re feeling while still remaining open to the rest of your life. And there’s so much life to be open to. In fact, just moments ago, it begin to rain. Nola, my four-month-old puppy, started barking at the falling rain. I stopped writing, opened the door for her, and we went outside together to play in the rain – Nola barking and biting at the falling water and me thoroughly entertained by her antics. A beautiful rainbow followed suit. Those few minutes of mindful presence to nature’s beuuty and Nola’s puppy antics were awesome.
Life doesn’t happen between challenging situations. Challenging situations are part of life. The good and the difficult co-exist. We just tend forget about the beauty and love and gifts all around us during rough times.
So the next time you find yourself upset, reacting, or going down a dark mental worm hole, stop and focus on your breath. This simple mindful practice can open you up again. Take a deep breath in for the count of six seconds, and then exhale for another six seconds. Do this for three breaths. If nothing else, you gifted yourself with about a minute of mindful presence and choice.