Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”
Right now, it may feel impossible to believe that there is hope and that “this too shall pass.” In these curious times, when so much around us seems uncertain and bewildering, like Alice, we have but only our inner world and imagination to cling to – to see us through to a time and place when we are happy, healthy, stable, whole and complete again.
And in times like these, we may feel drawn to focus on the negative aspects of our experiences. Unfortunately, doing so puts the body in a state of distress which among other things, compromises our immune systems and worse, trains our automatic responses to hypervigilance and overreaction. This not only decreases our ability to stay healthy but also depresses our outlook, which in turn decreases our mental and emotional resilience to future stressors.
Mindfulness is a simple means to turn that train around. Mindfulness creates inner resilience, while reducing stress and connecting to healthier positive emotions through any season of our lives. The happy bi-product of engaging in this way of being is a calm healthy body, more flexible responses to our experiences and more wisdom during challenging times.
Easier than meditating and a little more involved than simple breathing, mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose in the present moment without judgement”. [Jon Kabot-Zinn, (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life.] The simple practice allows us to bring our focus back to where we can remember one simple truth – we can actually handle what’s going in this present moment. And engaging your mindful moment is as easy as A, B, C.
A. Pay ATTENTION and AKNOWLEDGE: Emotions and their accompanying body felt sense exist for a reason. They are like punctuation on our perception and they help us make decisions and react to our world. Emotions such as hurt, sadness, fear, worry, anger, guilt and shame hijack the body’s fight ,flight or freeze mechanism and shut down your insight and creativity. And when these emotions appear, (which they will) pay attention. This is the moment when you need wisdom most. Instead of rolling into an automatic reaction, acknowledge what’s coming up ie “this is hurt,” “this is sadness,” “this is fear.” The simple act of naming it will calm the body. Then give some awareness of the thought that is creating that emotion. Once you have awareness of the source, simply….
B. BREATHE and BALANCE the body: When the fight flight or freeze switch is flicked and your heart rate and respiration are hijacked along with your wisdom. And, this process will not shut off until your body perceives you are safe again. So breathe as soon as you have awareness of your body being pinged. Breathe as if you are safe – long and slow through the nose and long and slow out of the mouth 6 to 8 rounds. It only takes between 60 – 90 seconds of breathing for your body to receive the message “Calm down. This is NOT an emergency.” Don’t worry when you feel a little woozy or light headed. That’s just oxygen returning to your brain where you need it most. This simple act will allow the body to return to balance and invite wisdom and insight to return where you can. . .
C. CREATE DISTANCE and CULTIVATE CURIOUSITY: A thought isn’t a permanent thing, it’s a transient thing. And thoughts are also like trains in a train station. Many come in, yet not all of them are taking you to where you need to go in the moment. So, don’t hop on every thought train that comes through your station. Step back, create some distance and let it pass with the same detachment you would have for the train not going to your destination. Thoughts bother us because we give them meaning. The more meaning, the more distress. When you step back from them, you step back from the meaning, you step back from the stress. Be still and let it pass. Don’t try to hug or hold onto it as it is leaving your mental station. Instead, invite curiosity. Elisha Goldstein, author of The Now Effect, advises “Curiosity leads the mindful person to get back in touch with the wonders and possibilities of life.” Let your natural curiosity help you explore new ways of interpreting what’s going on. Change the meaning, change the stress.
Eyes open. Eyes closed. It doesn’t matter. Special place or sitting in your car. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you practice. Practice makes performance. As with any new habit, this skill becomes easier and more automatic with practice. Yet, if you are not practicing this, you are practicing something else. You are training your mind and body to some other process of being in the world that is likely not going to serve you well in crisis. So, starting your daily mindfulness practice now is the best way to ensure this automatic response will engage when you need it most.
Mindfulness will undoubtedly allow for miracles of transformation in our bodies and in our lives, as well as in the lives of those you love and who love you, and in the world. And it just might help make the impossible possible and the unimaginable real.
May you only know perfect peace and the wellness that follows. . .now and always. It’s possible. . .”if only you believe it!”