Mindfulness for Stressful Times

Floods, fires, nuclear weapons, mass shootings … the ominous threat of world war III! The President casually warning, “It’s the calm before the storm.” Even without having lived through a recent disaster, it’s hard not to feel vulnerable and uncertain. These are stressful times. Earlier this week, I was heartened to hear the perspective of news anchor Anderson Cooper, host of the Mindfulness in America summit. Mr. Cooper pointed out that although this may seem like the most degenerate time in human history, conditions have actually been far worse. Overall, we’ve made great progress in human rights and equality, decreased nuclear weaponry and increased environmental protection. It hasn’t been a steady upward trajectory – more like a jagged line – but upward nonetheless. It’s helpful to look at the bigger picture historically. And to keep the faith. Meanwhile though, we must find a way to “be with” the stress and discomfort of the present moment, making space for dis-ease while caring for our frayed nervous system. Anderson Cooper, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Eileen Fischer, Sharon Salzberg and others at the Summit pointed to mindfulness as a powerful means to heal in these turbulent times. Through my personal experience and by seeing students make radical transformations during mindfulness courses, I too can attest to the healing potential of mindfulness and compassion. Our nervous systems need care during these anxious times. Practicing consistently and nurturing the innate qualities of peacefulness, kindness and compassion not only benefits us personally, but will also bring these qualities to the world. We can change the energy in our families and communities. We can let the power of love and unity crowd out fear and divisiveness.