Everything is workable.
As someone who practices and teaches mindfulness, that’s an important principle to remember. Everything, no matter how challenging it is, becomes an opportunity to practice mindfulness skills. So in the midst of the craziness of current world events, surprisingly Donald Trump actually becomes a powerful way to learn how to be more mindful.
Yes, even Donald Trump.
Or more to the point, especially Donald Trump.
In the past few months Trump has said and done things that have caused a visceral reaction in many people. Now that he is in office, there is a daily stream of pronouncements and executive orders that continue to feed the frenzy on both sides of the political debate.
Whether it’s on social media or around the water cooler or kitchen table, so called “discussions” often become way out of control. That happens in large part because people simply react to what others are saying. There’s no think time, there’s no processing time, there’s only the instantaneous blurting out of the next emotional thought that has entered one’s mind.
There are 2 ways that Trump, or any other challenging experience, can help you be more mindful.
Pause before responding
Mindfulness helps us build the skill of expanding the gap between a thought and an action. Instead of being reactive to something someone has said or done, we can create a pause that allows us to be more mindful of our response.
Without that pause, we say and do things that don’t further the conversation or that we might later regret. That’s how arguments escalate.
Here’s the important thing to remember:
Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to speak it.Just because you have a thought doesn’t mean you have to speak it. #mindfulness Click To Tweet
That’s because thoughts are not facts or instructions. They are just thoughts passing through your mind.
Training yourself to pause and breathe before you speak, especially in emotionally charged conversations, gives you a chance to choose your words more carefully. I’d venture to say that in most Trump inspired debates, there aren’t too many pauses happening before people spew out the disrespectful and inflammatory statements that seem to be everywhere.
Pay attention to your body
When something irritates, frustrates, angers or scares us, our bodies have a reaction. They let us know that a button is being pushed. Some people grit their teeth or tense their muscles. Other people feel their face flushing or their chest tightening. We each have a physical response that we can become more aware of – a kind of early warning system that left unchecked will explode or implode in some fashion.
You probably can recall a time when you suddenly became aware of your body’s response to an emotionally charged event.
Here’s another important thing to remember:
Your body was sending you messages long before you started paying attention.Your body was sending you messages long before you started paying attention. #mindfulness Click To Tweet
If you tune into your body a bit more, you will be able to feel that response much sooner.
Learning to pay attention to the heads up our bodies are sending to our heads can help us slow down long enough to perhaps make a more reasoned response. Naming the emotion – “that make me angry” and where it is showing up in your body – “I feel my stomach churning” can actually help diffuse what’s happening.
There’s a mindfulness principle that says:
When you name it, you tame it.
When you don’t, you are setting the stage for a full blown fight or flight experience.
I absolutely understand that people have very strong opinions on Donald Trump – for and against. I have a strong opinion and so does pretty much everyone who crosses my path. I simply suggest that if the stakes are that high, then it serves people to be mindful in the way they express those opinions.
What seems to be happening instead is that people are intensely committed to defending their opinion and not really having dialogue about the situation. When that happens it doesn’t take much for everyone’s buttons to get pushed, tempers to flare and arguments to erupt.
We find ourselves in challenging times right now. If your intent is to get over-agitated and rant and rave, carry on. But if you are seriously interested in participating in proactive conversations and solutions, then let Donald Trump be your classroom for building some mindfulness skills.
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What mindfulness lessons are you learning these days?