Transforming Anxiety and Sorrow in These Times
I found myself spending a lot of time this week looking at news and reading every article I could about what’s going on politically. I noticed sadly that I was even more drawn to White House “news” than the local devastating flooding going on. I became aware of my own feelings of vulnerability that I was trying to distance myself from and an undercurrent of anxiety I was trying to somehow soothe by pursuing more information. I felt I needed to listen to the actual parties’ actual words and ways they have of communicating their beliefs, as if that might clarify things for me. I could feel traces of my own frenetic energy becoming more and more ramped up as I clicked on each (negative) news story.
Fortunately, in the middle of my Internet surfing (which was more like being a pinball in a pinball machine, bouncing from one bell to another, and with much less of the grace, balance and mastery true surfers possess), I paid more attention to what was going on internally, listened a little more closely, and “clicked” on three items that spoke to truer means of soothing and cultivating peace within, than the surface news could.
The three deeply soothing sites that made me reflect more inwardly and be more mindfully present to what I really needed, were the following:
1) A couples therapist I listen to reminded me of a story he heard from Jerry Seinfeld who gave advice to a young comedian about how to get better in his field. He told him to get a calendar and mark an ‘x’ each day that he did something/anything related to the enhancement of his craft – and the goal would be to not break the chain of ‘x’s’. This couples therapist tells his clients to do the same, and to do something every day to become a better partner (give a compliment, let partner go first even when it’s inconvenient, ask about how one’s day was and really listen, etc.) or a better parent, or a better friend, coworker, etc., and to have the goal to not break the chain.
This reminded me of the long-term benefit that can come to one’s well-being by practicing simple daily acts of intention, and how helpful that can be especially in the midst of challenging times.
2) I listened to a daily mindfulness practice by Tara Brach who spoke to the act of “transforming the sorrows”, by gently breathing in the pain or suffering of others (or of oneself); allowing oneself to simply touch the vulnerability that’s there and especially what’s underneath it with one’s breath – holding it tenderly for a moment; feel the difficult feelings, and then to breathe out kindness and compassion for that other or for oneself – breathe it out and share it into the vast world out there.
I love the idea of the “transformation of sorrows” suggesting a positive way to live amidst the difficult and painful I am surrounded by, or at times have within myself.
3) I found on the Greater Good Science Center’s website a practice to savor nature and the feelings that it usually evokes. The instructions were to consciously pay attention to nature wherever I find it and to be open to it and notice what I feel when I’m experiencing it. It recommended over the next two weeks, to take a minimum of 10 photos with my phone – of nature sights that are already in my life, and writing 2 to 3 sentences about each one and how I feel when taking the photo. This sounded more meaningful to me than taking a selfie or a picture of the food I eat (which I don’t do anyways), and allows me the opportunity to connect with and strengthen the feelings of awe, connectedness, hope, beauty, reverence that are so important to notice and behold – maybe even more so when seemingly surrounded by ugliness of one sort or another. (See https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/noticing_nature for more instructions to the practice.)
Here are two of the photos I’ve taken so far…
“Good morning Camelia. I am moved to be greeted by you, gently moving in the breeze and peeking in my window. I feel hopeful and inspired about the day ahead. I feel gratitude to have you in my life.”
“Clouds accompanying my morning walk. You take my breath away – so powerful, full, artful, awesome. Wow. Graceful movement. Many different hues dancing together. My heart stirs.”
May you be inclined to “click” on news that moves or inspires you, or touches your soul; and may you be soothed and have your heart warmed by the savoring of nature, positive actions or compassionate breath.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.
Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
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