A Lack of Mindfulness on Mindfulness

As a stubborn, hot-tempered white American man, the initial thoughts that come to my mind when talking about meditations and mindfulness amount to sheer irritation. What a waste of time. Who has time for mindfulness? I need to go to Wal-Mart! I need to get gas! I need to study! I need to go to work and pretend like I’m happy to be there! But, upon further reflection and actual attempts at meditation and mindfulness, perhaps my blood pressure and stress levels in general, could stand to benefit. For example, in our class when we are asked to join the professor in meditation and mindfulness, I would be a bit hesitant. But after a few classes, I have to admit how much better I would feel and how much more focused I could be at the subject at hand. In western society, especially in these United States, the essence of mindfulness could be easily dismissed in one way or another, either as a “liberal notion,” or any number of other accusations that amount to a practice that is entirely un-American. Perhaps we should open our eyes further to the benefits mindfulness could bring us, in our own immediate lives, and in summary in the world around us. In this culture, we’re so trained and entrenched in constantly thinking about the future, about our goals and ambitions, and that wherever we are in life, is not good enough. What’s the next step? It’s never ending. The hedonic treadmill spins faster and faster with every passing moment. I am no different in this approach to life. But the essence of mindfulness appears to be to shut up, sit down, and breathe for a minute. Just be present in this moment and absorb it. I still have a very, very hard time with mindfulness and meditation in general. I really love, and identify with, Chambers’ thoughts on mindfulness that “mindfulness meditation involves a systematic retraining of awareness and nonreactivity, leading to defusion from whatever is experienced, and allowing the individual to more consciously choose those thoughts, emotions, and sensations they will identify with, rather than habitually reacting to them.” Defusion – that’s the key word for me, and I am certain it must be for other people, too. I’m one of the most reactive people I know. We bottle up all this tension that ends up exploding in other areas of our lives in one way or another, and if zeroed in on mindfulness in a more exact way, perhaps we could defuse a lot of our tension and stressors in life. I think Marc Cohen’s point about over-abundance in the world is exactly relevant to this point. We’re obsessed with accumulating and grasping endlessly at our materialism, that it’s killing us in far greater numbers than any lack of resources anywhere on the planet. “One child every 3.6 seconds dies from malnutrition…every .9 seconds four times as many people die from over-consumption.” If we could just stop, press pause, breathe and really step back and take a look at our lives. Even just for a minute a day, maybe we as individuals and we as a global society could alter those figures a bit. In my learning group in class, we were assigned to the “no” argument, which is perfectly fine with me because I find it to be entirely true that global growth and development are inherently unstable and unsustainable. It doesn’t matter what is being developed or accomplished, something has to give somewhere in the way of unsustainability. Be that as it may, we must have growth and development if we’re going to prosper as a society. What is the answer? I think to begin with, as horrifyingly controversial as it may sound, we really must seriously look at methods of population control. How can we do that, though, diplomatically and constitutionally here in America? Perhaps a mass voluntary movement could come into the forefront of our political lives, in which people voluntarily choose to only have one or two children, or to not reproduce at all. Perhaps tax incentives could be offered to those who choose to not reproduce. It sounds insane, but we’re living in insane times, facing global issues the likes of which this planet has never intelligently faced before. This issue leads me to reflect on our assignment with responsibility mapping and the wildest thing. Though it was a fun assignment, I think it proved the point that we are required to think outside the box, to come up with the most outlandish solutions to these issues, then work our way backwards back down to ground-level reality. It’s the only kind of thinking that will save us. If we as a society can bring mindfulness into our schools, workplaces, and lives in general, then we could create a shift in our beliefs, approaches to life, and overall health. This could create a paradigm shift, one resulting in markets and societies with sustainable business models, and sustainable environmental models as well. Industries would become better focused on planetary health, as well as profits and jobs. We wouldn’t suffer as much from “Titanic Syndrome,” which I find to be a perfect description of the Oklahoma economy in general. “Don’t stop drilling, we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, anyway! Let’s make some money!” We have to get away from this kind of thinking.

While I’m deeply passionate about the fact that we have to remove the fossil fuel industry in its entirety from every corner of our lives, the issues I am focusing in on for my Activity Two and investigative report surround global warming, particularly where deforestation and reforestation are concerned. What gives me hope and what I am exploring further, are these brave nations and peoples standing up to say ENOUGH. They’re planting and re-planting forests in record numbers, and record timeframes, they’re employing tons of new workers to ensure these forests are planted and survive, and they’re pledging to reduce emissions. Above all, they’re participating. Where is America in all this? Pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Constantly encroaching on our national parks and wildlife reservations, endlessly threatening tribal sovereignty to make a buck or two in oil and gas, while irreparably damaging our most precious assets. I could talk forever about the failures of the American and various state governments in fighting climate change, but for my own sanity I focus on the hope being brought to the world in the forests being planted by nations such as Indian, Pakistan, China, and others. The United Nations’ efforts to reduce emissions and restore forests, all while creating initiatives to curb deforestation are also re-assuring. Although, this can only be the tip of the iceberg glaring down at us. We have a lot more work to do, an entire generational and global shift to induce, if we’re going to continue to enjoy life on this planet. And maybe it all starts with a little mindfulness.

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