This is the first in what I plan to be a weekly blog about mindfulness. I had one ready to post today, but, waking up this morning and feeling my own sadness and fear about the events all around us, I wanted to offer something more direct.
Mindfulness may seem almost trite in this context, something for the privileged or the daft who think misfortune won’t come their way. But really all it means is being awake to our lives, neither avoiding basic reality nor indulging in all sorts of hopes, fears, fantasies, and freakouts. More importantly, it means being aware of our hopes, fears, fantasies, and freakouts, appreciating the ordinary humanness of these emotions and caring for ourselves with empathy and attention.
So I'm offering this contemplation called L.O.V.E., which is a way to relax the struggle with physical or emotional pain and relate more directly and lovingly with how we’re feeling. (I’ve edited the version below to work specifically with emotions.) When all else fails, you can just rest your mind on your breathing, in and out, gentle and slow. If your breathing is compromised, you can use the sounds around you as an alternative to your physical and mental distress. Remember that pain is natural, but when we can reduce our struggle with it, we're able to reduce our suffering. And we can be more calm and available to help others.
Note: This doesn't mean that you 'should' be able to deal with all of your feelings on your own. Please make sure to stay connected to other people, virtually or by phone; take walks outside, or sit and enjoy the fresh air; and seek the help of a counselor when you need more support. We're all in this together.
CONTEMPLATION: The Practice of Loving Abiding
L.O.V.E. = Locate - Observe - Validate - Embrace
Begin by settling yourself comfortably, sitting or lying down. Rest for a few moments, or as long as you like, as you bring your attention to your own natural breathing. Then, follow these steps, as slowly or briefly as you like:
Locate: Reflect on how you’re feeling at the moment, and choose an emotion to focus on for this practice. For example, you may feel anxious, sad, fearful, angry, exhausted, tender, hopeful. See if there’s a place in your body where you feel this, and if so, you can focus on that area. If not, just keep the feeling of the emotion in mind. This may take a little time as you begin to slow down and tune in to yourself. Choose one.
Observe: Then, observe this feeling/sensation without attaching names or judgments to it. Just notice how it feels, how small or large it seems to be, how strong it is, whether it feels sharp, dull, pulsating, intermittent or constant, if it feels hot, warm, cool, and so on. This kind of observation has the mindful qualities of being curious, interested, and caring, as well as nonjudgmental.
Validate: Accept this feeling, as it is. Accept that you are experiencing it, as only you can. It is happening; you feel it. No one else can tell you how to experience it; there are no “should’s.”
Embrace: Rest with this feeling, just as you are experiencing it, directly and personally. Notice if you start thinking about it, talking to yourself, rather than just being with it. As you breathe in, imagine you are breathing into the feeling, embracing it and accepting it; and as you breathe out, rest in your awareness of the feeling and relax into the space around you. You are breathing healing oxygen into the sensation, and breathing out tension, fear, and thoughts about the sensation. You are embracing it as you would an injured child you are holding and comforting. Continue with this for as long as you like. When your mind wanders, just gently come back to it.
Then, let go of this practice and rest in an overall awareness of your body and breath, for as long as you like. When you're ready, get up gently and go forward into your day.
© Patricia Ullman 2019
(Visit https://www.laurencefrancqueville.com/lamour-en-cette-periode-de-corona/ to read the French translation of this article.)