It’s not easy to ignore the news. It’s in every newspaper. Even if you don’t buy a newspaper, you get a glimpse of the headlines on newsstands and in shops. Every time you switch on the television – it’s there. Overheard conversations amongst family, friends and strangers – opinions are shared about what’s happening in the news. In Heather’s blog she mentions how the UK is going through a difficult time at the moment. It’s not even been for a short while. It’s been building gradually to a crescendo over many months. The crux of the matter is, in this country, we, all of us, are afraid of what is going to happen to us, and how decisions made are going to affect our lives. You can feel it like a cloud hanging in the air. An unseen but felt mood. Increasingly, I have become very mindful of stories in the news.
Being mindful of the external environment
Being mindful of the news is more about being mindful of my reaction to the news and how it is making me feel. Equally, I have observed how it has made others feel and react. I have to admit, I am not someone who follows the news. I don’t have to. One way or another the key points of the news find their way to me. Whether I like it or not, opinions about the news are shared with me. How others have been reacting have had an impact on me. Underneath it all, there is fear. There is fear of the unknown and we all have different opinions and feelings. We are telling ourselves our own unique stories without the real facts.
Being mindful of the internal environment
In my daily mindfulness practice, I check in with how I am feeling. This includes body, emotions, thoughts popping up in my undercurrent, sensations, processes running and my overall mood. It’s a bit like checking in with my internal weather system. Recently, my own personal weather has been mixed. Sunshine with some dark clouds, some showers, fluctuations in temperature. On a scale, warmth and sunshine are associated with the positive end of the wellbeing scale. Clouds, cold and rain represent negative feelings. I have been getting a sense of the weather surrounding others too. When there are major events in the news you can feel it in the air. I observe mass emotion. A prevailing mood which presides over us all, like a cloud.
On a daily basis I am reminded how important my practice is. It prepares me for the daily bombardment of external influences. My Mindfulness practice enables me to check in how I am feeling and reacting at any given moment.
I can’t be certain whether what I read or hear is true. However, what I am certain of is how I feel, and the stories I have created which invoke these feelings. Early on in the Mindfulness Association’s Level 1 training – Being Present, we learn how we have a tendency to make up stories. In turn we react to these stories with thoughts, emotions and body sensations. We don’t even know whether these stories are true. In our training we learn the definition of mindfulness – how to notice what is happening while it is happening so that we can choose how to respond.
A good example of this is where we are expecting someone to arrive at a certain time. When they do not arrive at that time and we haven’t heard why, we may start making up stories. Often the stories are fear based with the worst-case scenario playing full blast on our silver movie screen of life. Personally, in these circumstances I immediately imagine the worst, that something has gone terribly wrong. Feelings of anxiety and fear of the unknown manifest and begin to take root in my being. Rick Hanson (2009) informs us of the predisposition of the brain to have a negativity bias which causes us to naturally focus on negative experiences which causes undue stress, anxiety, and fear.
Byron Katie (2008) uses a self-help method to help with suffering which invites us to question whether what we are thinking, and feeling is true. I use this in my mindfulness practice to challenge whether the story I am telling myself is true. Also, to notice how negative thinking is having a detrimental impact on my mood, emotions and body. By bringing myself back to the present moment and noticing what is going on I am able to go through the process of allowing and accepting. From this point I can choose how I respond. And then I have compassion for myself for being so human and subject to my brain’s hardwiring.
Whatever happens in our external environment, we can choose to allow and accept without judgment and be where we are, in the moment. Not allowing stories in the news or moods of others to impact us negatively and to shadow the good things in life. Not making up our own stories. Making sure we keep a balance. For every story, internal and external, has an impact on how we are feeling and responding.
To stay present and not be influenced I am saying yes to everything. Allowing it all in, without preference or judgement. Just noticing what is happening while it is happening.
This week’s challenge is to notice how external influences impact on you. How the news and how the moods of others make you feel. Which mindfulness practice helps you to remain in the moment and notice any stories you are creating? How can we ensure that we are living mindfully?
I wish you well this coming week.
Katie, B. and Mitchell, S., 2008. Loving What Is: How Four Questions Can Change Your Life. Random House.
Hanson, R., 2009. Buddha’s brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom. New Harbinger Publications.