These are difficult times: frightening, painful, groundless. There are plenty of reasons to feel stressed and scared right now.
Still, speaking for myself, I know that I still want to find ways to be kind, helpful, and maybe even joyful at times. But how do we stay kind and connected when it seems like the whole world is falling apart? Here are three simple steps that have been keeping me imperfectly stable over the past weeks.
1. Sit with your feelings
First, there is tremendous power in just sitting down and feeling that you are feeling. I often do this in a 3-step process.
Firstly, I sit down and close my eyes. To be completely honest, this simple gesture often registers as a courageous step, a wild leap into the chaotic unknown. It takes chutzpah to close the laptop, turn off the TV, put down the phone, stop talking, stop texting and just…be for awhile. Especially not knowing what you are going to find.
Secondly, I feel my body. Of course, if you’ve ever tried to do this when you’re really scared, or really angry, or really sad, you’ll know what a tall order this instruction truly is. But I find that, if I can feel my body, if I can bring a warm awareness to this sensations of breathe and heartbeat and blood in my veins-even if they are painful or uncomfortable-i can sometimes find a moment of calmness.
Thirdly, I open my awareness to the coursing river fo thoughts and emotions., I don’t try to stop my thoughts or have better thoughts, I don’t ask my emotions to be kinder or gentler or calmer or wiser. I just allow whatever’s here to be here, as a living expression of this organism in this situation. And again, I do this with as much warmth and patience for my own experience as I can muster.
Of course, at times you may feel overwhelmed by the third step; it can feel as though the difficult feelings are becoming intense. Use your innate wisdom to know when you need to re-ground in the body, and be sure not to magnify the challenging thoughts and emotions: you’re there to be aware of them, not make them worse.
2. Imagine kindness
Once I’ve run through the 3-steps and found some modicum of calm, I then imagine kindness. Simply, you could just imagine someone you love, someone close to you, and imagine giving them the things that bring them joy. This could be an adult you love, or a child or a pet. Whoever it is, see if you can take a moment and just imagine giving them whatever lights them up. This could be a material thing, like ice cream or a new car, or it could be a more subtle act, like words of praise, or a long, sweet embrace.
As yo imagine giving to this person you love, ou could also imagine them getting happier and happier, filing up with joy. If you are a visual person, you might even think of them filling up with light and radiating light. Stay with this for a few minutes and see if you can notice feelings of loving kindness and even joy arising with yourself.
3. Finally, I do something.
We can keep things very small and manageable, such as send a single text, or say one kind thing to a person. But I make sure I do it. I find this step essential, a way of bringing the good intentions I’m building on the meditation fusion into my real life with my real friendships, work relationships and world.
In my experience, taking these three steps (Sit with your feelings, Imagine kindness, and Act) has enabled me to shift my perspective, boost my mood, and get me heading in a good direction. And while they certainly won’t solve all the very big and real and terrifying problems we’re seeing in the world right now, they do allow me to stay a little kinder and a little more connected right in the midst of the storm.
I hope they’ll help you do the same.