By Anne McCready Heinen
Try these practices when the dumpster fire has you on edge.
The world is on fire. Sadly, this isn’t debatable. Climate change and the ongoing pandemic alone are enough to drive many of us under the covers as we grapple with anxiety about human-driven catastrophes.
Luckily, meditation techniques can serve as antidotes to overwhelm. The value of any meditation practice shines in times like ours, while in no way denying the very real challenges we face as communities, individually, and as a species. Weaving in specific contemplations can increase meditation’s positive effects, helping us build resiliency and better mental and physical health.
Gratitude. While wildfires rage around the world and hospitals sag under the skyrocketing number of COVID cases, thinking about gratitude might be difficult. But gratefulness is a help in all situations and it nourishes your well-being.
Begin by focusing with gratitude on everyday things in your immediate environment. I’m writing this post on a computer — what a marvel of technology! — with my amazing hands and fingers (how do they do so much?). I’m at a table — what a useful, pleasing piece of furniture! —and have a lovely cup of coffee—delicious! Energizing! — to the side.
Do this for a few minutes before meditating, or jot down five events, things, people, or activities that you’re grateful for. A technique from Bryan Sexton at Duke University suggests that the good mojo is amped if you add how you helped make the thing or event possible. Then contemplate one or more of these while you sit, infusing your being with gratitude. Get curious about where you physically feel the gratitude, and savor the sensations in body, heart and mind.
Lovingkindness is another restorative contemplation. As you sit, send out well wishes to others in the world, including those who are suffering, those who are working to bring solutions to the world, even enemies, and — this is very important — to yourself.
Bring someone, a place, an animal or yourself to mind. Then repeat kind phrases, perhaps those used often for lovingkindness: “May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with peace. May you live with ease.”
Switch up the pronoun (to I, they, etc.) for each individual or group that you’re bringing to mind, lingering for a bit with each, and repeat the phrases at a pace that’s pleasing to you. Bask in the warmth and connection that lovingkindness phrases engender. If you don’t feel warm fuzzies at first, don’t worry—the phrases and intention are doing their work anyway.
Know that by sending these well wishes into the world, you’re creating ripples of goodness and helping balance the overload of the modern world both for yourself and others.
Have a question about a technique? Reach out to any Community Meditation teacher, or others on the Mind Oasis team.