Privilege

I’ve been pondering lately on privilege. I am grateful for the level of needs I have met on Maslow’s hierarchy in order to be free enough to explore things like mindfulness and contentment.

That’s the one big problem that I see with so many of the self-help and mindfulness gurus that are out there. They spout their beliefs and say that ANYONE can be happy with what they have and where they are. They just have to chose to be happy.

But that simply isn’t true.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

There are other, more basic needs that must be met before we can stop and truly focus on our happiness. Who wants to be mindful of the sensations of their body, when their body is starving and in desperate need of food? Or when their body is shivering from wont of proper clothing and shelter? Should I person who must live in an environment of violence and hate be content with not being hurt or killed everyday?

Can you tell these people who are homeless, sick, famished, or fearful that they should look at all they have to be grateful for? Sure, they have things in their lives that I’m sure that give them some source of pleasure, but their focus must be on fulfilling those more basic needs of food, shelter, and safety before they can start fathoming a journey towards love, belonging, and esteem? not to mention gaining the privilege that is mindfulness.

Some people can check off those basic needs so easily, and for others it’s a constant struggle. Through struggle, there is growth, of course, but it’s never as simple as “stop to smell the roses” or “meditate daily.”

And my argument here doesn’t even begin to brush the surface of serious mental health issues like depression.

So yes, I do encourage folks to be mindful and focus on their self-care as much as possible, but I also understand that not everyone can accomplish that at any given time in their lives. I am white, financially stable, and relatively healthy (… relatively). I come at the practice of mindfulness with all that my upbringing and environment allows me, and I strive for more growth all the time. But that’s just it. It’s a journey, and people start at so many different beginnings and there is no set destination. You just keep moving forward, fulfulling each level of need until your time on this earth ends.

So take care of yourselves, my friends, whatever that means to you, wherever you’re starting from. Never stop striving for better.

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My (Current) Mantra

Mantras are statements that you say to yourself to focus and empower yourself. Mantras can be simple “I am…” statements (I am important, I am valued, I am strong, etc), or can be multiple sentences — whatever you need, personally, to fill empowered.

I’ve posted my current mantra on here before, in my Fighting an Unknown Enemy post.

I am strong.

I am wise.

I know my body.

I will overcome.

I will persevere.

And I will be better for it.

I repeat this to myself several times while I’m meditating. I breath in deep and then say each short piece on the out breath. I also write these words down every morning into my journal when I first get to work.

And I mentally repeat it as I sit in the waiting room of the doctor’s office.

This is not a mantra that applies to my life as a whole. Right now, it’s something that I find strength and focus in while I’m struggling with this mystery illness. It’s what I need right now. When my body is well again, I will change my mantra to something more appropriate.

In fact, one of my mantras that I constantly find myself reverting back to in times of health and happiness is:

Think Lean. I am fit and productive.

I repeat this one to myself all the time, especially at work. It’s a constant reminder to stay on task and to avoid the snack stand. Cut the fluff, cut the fat. And for goodness’ sake, stay off Facebook.

 

 

 

On Meditation: Part One

Meditation is the art of reaching a state where you are free from thoughts, emotions, and stresses —

Yeah, right.

That, my friends, is not meditation. That is nirvana, enlightenment, or whatever you want to call the ultimate phase of the human soul. Very few have ever reached this state.

No, meditation is a journey or an exercise. Meditation is simply acknowledging that for a few moments, you can let go of all the stressors in your life. You can detach yourself, and in doing so, can allow yourself to observe the now. We spend so much of our lives worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, that we don’t allow ourselves to feel the present.

Meditation has great benefits, both mental and physical, that I won’t go into here. Just know that every once in a while, you need to stop and just be. It’s kind of like when you work out–you don’t actually build muscle until you allow yourself to rest. It’s the healing of those torn muscle fibers that allow your to gain form and strength. The same is true for your emotional well-being. We can’t learn or grow as a person unless we give ourselves time to rest and and heal from the little tears that happen everyday to our non-physical being.

Even if it’s just for five minutes a day. Stop, take a few moments to observe your breath, observe how your body feels right now. Allow yourself to be quiet. And if your brain or your heart starts screwing with you, tell those pesky organs to calm down. Label the intrusions as thoughts or emotions – or be more descriptive. The more specific you can be with your labeling, the easier it is to push those interruptions aside and you can refocus on the here and now.

My meditation hammock

You can meditate anywhere at anytime. There’s no strict rules. Personally, my favorite time to meditate is in the evenings around dusk. I love to go outside and listen to the sounds of nature – crickets, treefrogs, the distant ducks and geese. I meditate in my hammock, on my porch swing (which is where I am now), or on the deck adjoining my bedroom while I sit on a pillow. I meditation anywhere from 5-15 minutes usually. From the time I close my eyes until I take that last deep breath and reopen them, the change in the sky and my surroundings is drastic and inspiring.

So I encourage you, find a place where you are peaceful and comfortable – a room in your house, on the bus on your commute, on a cushy bed of moss under a willow tree (beware of chiggers!)-and give meditation a shot.