As you sit on your sofa, scrolling through your feed you might come across all sorts of tips, tricks, and suggestions on what to do during your social isolation because of the coronavirus. I've seen tons of posts on no equipment workouts, ways to boost your immune system (more on that later), and how to manage or reduce feelings of anxiety. One of the most common suggestions I've come across is to engage in mindfulness meditation. While mindfulness meditation is a wonderful and powerful practice, it is not always the most helpful and can actually bring up a lot more unexpected, sometimes negative, emotions. When asking yourself if you should engage in meditation, here are some considerations:
1) If You Are New To Mindfulness
If you are feeling inspired to try out some mindfulness, that is wonderful! Keep in mind that mindfulness is a practice or a lifestyle and isn't always about sitting down to meditate. Mindfulness can be as simple as taking your time sipping your tea or coffee, noticing the sensations of the hot liquid and smelling the nuttyness of the dark roast. The practice of directing your attention outward and focusing on an object (e.g. your coffee) using your senses is a great way to train our brain and is a big skill of mindfulness. This can be a good alternative or addition to meditation.
2) If Your Goal Is To Change Your Emotions
You probably heard over and over again that mindfulness is good for reducing stress, anxiety etc... You are probably being told right now to engage in mindfulness to reduce your panic because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, mindfulness is NOT about changing your emotions. Let me repeat this- mindfulness. is. not. about. changing. your. emotions. Mindfulness is about becoming aware of your moment to moment responses, reactions, feelings, and sensations. We do this with non-judgement and compassion. The goal of mindfulness is not to change negative emotions into good ones or even reduce the experience of negative emotions. It's about sitting with wherever you are in the moment. If you are feeling extremely anxious, depressed and are looking for something to help turn those feelings around try other things like physical activity, music, art, or a distraction like T.V. or a podcast.
3) If You Tend To Get Stuck In Your Emotions
The goal of mindfulness is to bring awareness to our moment to moment experiences and is (say it with me) not about changing emotions. Whatever emotions come up during our practice, our intention is to sit with them. Sometimes we get very unexpected emotions, sometimes very nasty emotions, sometimes very heavy emotions. These kinds of experiences tend to happen most often when we engage in mindful meditation where our attention is focused on ourselves. While it is true, that a possible by-product of mindfulness is experiencing less intense negative emotions, without building the practice and having someone to guide you, one can get stuck in the unexpected negative experiences that come up. This is especially true if you experience anxiety, depression, trauma, etc...
Right now during the pandemic, my mindfulness practice is centered around my attention being focused outward to something else. For example, yoga can be a very strong mindful practice in connecting the mind and body. My attention is centered around connecting my breath and drawing awareness of my body in space. I am also engaging in guided meditation practice using imagery because it gives my mind a focus. Below is a clip of one of my favorite guided meditations. This post is simply to say that it's ok if you are not in the place to sit with yourself and whatever emotions come up. Listen to yourself. Pace yourself.