We are in unprecedented times in the modern era. A pandemic with government mandated quarantines, a fallen stock market, a nation on the brink of disaster, and a people scared out of our minds. We are prone to distraction, prey to sensationalism, fear, and anxiety. Many of us have fallen into a cycle of despair that will be hard to break if we don’t course correct.
I have been working at a middle school for girls for the past 8 years. If anyone remembers middle school, it is undoubtedly one of the most stressful times of one’s life. Catastrophizing about everything from tests, to friendships, to every single life choice made is a daily habit. As educators at our school we have been working hard to break that cycle with our students through mindfulness training.
In doing this work, I realized a couple of years ago that while I am offering the tools and practice of mindfulness as our school’s mindfulness coach to our students, it is the adults, the caretakers of these young people, who need to understand the importance of this work more than anyone. Our children absorb everything. We cannot expect them to adapt a practice that the adults around them do not have for themselves. It is because of this that tapping into the power of our minds is of the most importance. And now that we’re all home together, I believe it is more important now than ever.
Why Mindfulness Now More than Ever?
It does not surprise me that the rise of mindfulness in our schools has been preparing us for this moment. The research of Jon Kabat-Zinn at the UMassMemorial Medical Center over 20 years ago on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, along with the teachings of such notables as Kristin Neff and Thich Nhat Hanh has ushered in a wave of efficient techniques to reduce stress for students and give us all an opportunity to adopt new methods of coping in the midst of extreme adversity. From meditation and breathing techniques to yoga and careful observation of our surroundings, the use of mindfulness techniques are being proven scientifically to have enormous benefit to social behaviors and physical well-being. We seem to have reached a breaking point, a tipping of the scales for what we can handle mentally as a society, it’s time to go within to fix it.
According to Kabat-Zinn, “Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” If ever there was a time for transformation and healing, it is today. We are prime for having a deeper understanding of how to heal our minds, and many of us now have a little more space to do that and pass on the ability to others.
Despite the encouraging adjustment to the way that the principles of mindfulness are being integrated into more lives, there is a huge dissonance in who receives resources and education to make personal and societal transformation happen. Just the very notion that all people can be healed through building mental resilience and self-compassion is controversial. In an interview for Mindful Magazine, Angela Rose Black, CEO and Founder of Mindfulness for the People, points out the inequity in a movement that is fast growing but leaving the vast majority of communities of color behind. “Opening my mouth to ask ‘who gets to be well’ is resonant for some and triggering for others. The very breath we are invited to focus on is valued in some bodies while not in others.” (Mindful.org) Introducing mindfulness techniques to the masses of marginalized people who are driven out of the mainstream is crucial to the collective healing that is possible.
If it feels like you’re hearing the word mindfulness everywhere these days it’s for good reason and it isn’t new. Although the secular movement has been in full effect for around 20 years, mindfulness comes from centuries old Buddhist thought and wisdom. As a society, we are ready to allow this movement to pick up full steam.
For more information and resources on Mindfulness check out mindful.org, mindfulnessforthepeople.org, The Mindful Rebel and The Mindful Kind podcasts.
For mindful youth, parenting, and educator workshops, contact Joyful Muse at firstname.lastname@example.org