How do you stay mindful when there are so many shitty things going on in the world?
I've been asking myself this question a lot over the last few weeks, or really for as long as I can remember.
In our competition to survive and succeed, we've divided ourselves into different cultures, races, religions, orientations, genders, and classes. Most people celebrate that diversity, learn from our differences, and work to break down barriers. Other people use those divisions to judge, profile, hate, fight, and kill.
This has been happening for centuries, but right now it feels like a fever pitch: Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Malaysian Airlines, civil rights violations, extreme poverty, and the silencing of dissent just to name a few internationally. Here in America, we have almost regular mass shootings, child refugees protested at our borders, an intensely divided and confrontational government, marriage inequality for gay and lesbians, innocent people murdered because of racial profiling, and civil unrest and division in Ferguson, New York City, and all across the country as a result.
The digital age amplifies these conflicts. In the past your information was limited to the local paper and the nightly news. Today you can turn on the TV or Facebook to find articles, disturbing videos, opinions, and arguments 24/7.
More information can be a good thing, but it can also be overwhelming, especially when that information is tragic.
With so many problems in the world, some say that mindfulness is a selfish endeavor. Traditional mindfulness meditation can involve cutting yourself off from the world to meditate in solitude, and I agree, that's quite selfish.
Separating yourself from reality is an act of ignorance. We are all trying to survive and find happiness in this world together. That's why an injustice to one person is an injustice to all as a society.
Mindfulness, at least the way I see it, helps us to accept all the good and all the bad that we are feeling. You don't fight negativity by pretending it doesn't exist, you observe it, and that's how you learn to change it.
The same goes for the problems of the world. Negativity exists, violence exists, murder and mayhem and atrocities exist. We're seeing it all over our newsfeeds. Through mindfulness you can choose to get angry about it and carry that as baggage, or you can use your knowledge of those problems to create awareness and change.
When you do that, your personal mindfulness becomes a global mindfulness. You find hope in our collective outrage. You use the same groundedness you find in yourself to create a more grounded world.
It happens with each of us, one interaction, one smile, one click to educate yourself, one act of kindness, one call to your congressmember, one day working in your community at a time.
The collective power of those who care is stronger than the power of those who incite. The battle is ours to lose.