Get Out of the Gloom
Updated: Mar 20, 2020
The world is in a gloomy place. Everywhere people are obsessing about the pandemic. I'm not even going to say the words because I'm heartily sick of them... C... V.... or C...19.
This stuff is real and it's having an impact everywhere. BUT we are multiplying the negative impact by practicing unwise attention.
Our minds take the shape of what we rest them on.
What are you resting yours on? How many times a day are you reading about the pandemic? How many times a day are you talking about it? How many podcasts are you listening to? How many editions of the news? How many chat sites or Facebook posts or Youtube vidoes?
If we want to get out of the gloom, we need to stop this!
This is not about putting our heads in the sand or pretending it's not happening. By all means, it's important to educate ourselves, play our role in 'flattening the curve", and help those who need it.
However on most days of our lives, there are many more positive events than negative ones. Even now. One reason that a gratitude diary helps is that it focuses our attention on good fortune. Rick Hanson describes it this way: our minds are Teflon for the positive and Velcro for the negative.
This tendency is in our DNA. So in order to have a balanced mind that reflects the true nature of our lives, we need to deliberately focus it on the positive - even OVER focus it, because we know it's Teflon for the good.
So here are four suggestions for specific practices to balance your mind in this crazy time:
1) Give yourself no more than 15 minutes a day to update yourself on the pandemic. Limit it to facts only. No feel-pinions, no Facebook rants, no Youtube videos, preferably no news channel. Just the facts. Government sites are a good option.
2) When seeing/ speaking with friends or family, agree to limit your updates on the effect of the pandemic to a few minutes each and to just the impact on you. Set a timer on your watch to manage this. Seriously! If you spend any more time on the topic it must be about positive action to help someone.
3) Print out a frame such as the one here (or find one you like on the internet) and put it on your fridge. Fill it over the coming days with positive and true experiences or facts from your day. Consider keeping it in your bag to look at during the day.
4) Have a brainstorming session with someone in your life, on how you can turn the current circumstances to the positive. You might have extra time on your hands. List all the things you never get to do because you don't have the time; books you want to read; nature walks; a day at the beach, picnics, go camping, play with your kids in the park and top it off with a bbq dinner. Even if you have less money coming in for a while, there are plenty of joyous things to do that don't cost much.
Think of your attentional space as a frame. What you fill that frame with determines how you feel.
This is not about denying reality. But there are many true facts. The ones in this frame above are no less true than the fearful ones in the media. Ignoring the positive is more one-sided than ignoring the negative, and yet everyone's on that bandwagon of lop-sidedness!
The question is: how do you want to experience this time? Cultivating a healthy mind is a good thing at any time, and especially now.
Do you want to fan the flames of fear which is so easy to do? Or do you want to calm the body-mind and make the most of this pause in the normal, relentless forward march of daily life?
We may not have much choice about our circumstances right now. But we have a lot of choice about our experience. Practicing wise attention is the key.
Let me leave you with this poem by Kitty O'Meara.
“And the people stayed home.
And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being,
and were still.
And listened more deeply.
Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.
Some met their shadows.
And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,
the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses,
and made new choices,
and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully,
as they had been healed."