Using Mindfulness as a Superpower in Hard Times
In my work as a mindfulness teacher, I've spent many years supporting people with cancer. I have witnessed firsthand how mindfulness can be a superpower in the lives of those staring death straight in the face, like for a particular woman battling breast cancer.
She was understandably overwhelmed with crippling fear and anxiety when I first met her. But, gradually, as she cultivated mindfulness on her cancer journey, she began to live her life more presently and boldly rather than remain paralyzed by her fear.
She was living her life entirely on her terms for the first time. She shared that she had even become grateful for cancer and had no regrets. With mindfulness as her superpower, she could choose life with cancer. She's my hero.
We're all born with this superpower called mindfulness; we need to cultivate it. We can either mindlessly react or courageously respond, becoming the heroes in our own lives.
A Profoundly Human Power
It may sound like an exaggeration to call mindfulness a superpower, but this is genuinely how it feels in my life and in the lives of those I teach.
When we think of superpowers, we think of abilities that transcend being human, such as walking through walls or flying like a bird. Mindfulness, paradoxically, is the superpower of being profoundly human. It empowers anyone who practices it at any moment when they can be mindfully present.
What does mindfulness mean? It is a balanced, nonreactive, and nonjudgmental quality of awareness that powerfully creates an inner space for choice. This allows us to ask ourselves in any challenging moment: "How can I best respond right now?" I can mindlessly react with anger, fear, worry, judgment, and resistance, which only worsens the situation, or I can mindfully choose to respond with wisdom, calmness, love, courage, compassion, or clarity, which guides my way through more skillfully and powerfully.
Mindfulness is a kind of internal developing "technology" that is essential in hard times. Without it, we get completely caught up in fears and worries and then lose this power. From a mindfulness perspective, it is not what is happening — but how we respond to what is happening — that determines our experience. This is the radical power of mindfulness.
Choosing Your Reaction
Fortunately, it doesn't take a crisis to cultivate this superpower. Whenever you are stressed or struggling, pause with care.
Take a deep breath and feel it. Take as many breaths as you need until you become physically present, just as you are. Don't judge. Connect to life as it is. Things may not be the way you want, but … here you are.
In that sacred space of mindful presence, gently inquire, "How can I best be with this?" Explore how it feels to react with anger, fear, worry, or resistance, and then see how it feels to respond with compassion, love, kindness, and understanding.
Feel the difference and choose wisely.
A great life results from many mindful choices over time. We gain this superpower for a great life through mindfulness, and it can only be discovered in the present, often difficult moments. At any moment, perhaps it all comes down to choosing love over fear. This is the superpower of mindfulness.
Feeling overwhelmed on the go? Try this class Quick Meditation for Inner Peace, by meditation teacher Jay Vidyarthi, to learn how to better cope.
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