Our days are busy, filled with a variety of work, family, community and societal issues. We are bombarded with texts, tweets, and emails from friends and family…with news of terrorism threats dotting the globe, political campaign speeches/debates/town hall meetings, police shootings, climate change scenarios, Zika virus updates, refugees of war, battles about this group’s rights or that group’s rights, human trafficking, the rise of heroin addiction across the U.S. and Facebook postings of pets behaving badly.
And then there’s Trump.
How can we cope with it all? How can we grasp shreds of sanity each day within the churning chaos of life in today’s society? In two words: mindfulness meditation. Karen Kissel Wegela’s blog post on psychologytoday.com explains what mindfulness mediation is and how to practice it.
In her blog post “How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation, Dr. Wegela writes, “Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is.” Well, who wouldn’t benefit from that?
Gratitude for bringing mindfulness practice to the lives of millions goes to Dr. John Kabat Zinn, Professor of Medicine emeritus and creator of The Stress Reduction Clinic and The Center for Mindfulness in Medicine. His 1994 book, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, was instrumental in bringing the definition and practice of mindfulness meditation to the world.
Mindfulness meditation is everywhere now… books, magazines, websites, work places, hospitals, medical clinics, schools, prisons, mindfulness eating programs, health insurance programs, sports training, leadership training…so why not Walmart?
A mindfulness meditation group at each and every Walmart? No. Taking the opportunity to practice mindfulness meditation when we visit a Walmart or any public place in the universe? Yes. It can help us latch on to those much needed shreds of sanity as we go about the extraordinary busyness of living and just.getting.through.each.day.
So here’s a hypothetical scenario:
You’ve neglected to obtain some needed necessities and goodies at Walmart. It’s now Saturday afternoon and this is the only free time you’ll have to stock up. Three thousand other individuals are also attempting to maneuver their way around the store. You once again vow never to shop here on a Saturday afternoon.
You’re tired from the previous work week with all its inane tasks and workplace politics. You’re concerned about the well-being of a friend or family member recently diagnosed with a terminal disease. Your six-year-old won’t stop nagging that she needs her own cell phone. Your 12-year-old holds daily briefings at breakfast and dinner on why he should be allowed to own and breed Pitt Bulls.
ISIS is planning to attack Cleveland, millions are planning to immigrate to Canada if Trump gets elected, your heart aches for all the senseless shootings at schools, theaters, and other public place…like Walmart. Your in-laws are always critical, your neighbors are thoughtless morons, there are days you hate your life, and last Thursday you felt like killing the client/customer/colleague who was profoundly rude to you. For a split second, you think how wonderful it would be to just lay down right here in the Walmart parking lot and have a break down tizzy fit.
Voila! This is where mindfulness meditation can help. It is the simple act of taking a moment—just a moment– to be aware of what is happening, observing what is happening and your reactions to it, and letting it go with a sense of compassion toward yourself and others.
Opportunities for Mindfulness Practice at Walmart…or Anywhere
The Walmart Greeter
You walk in with head up and eyes wide open. You greet the greeter with a smile and direct eye contact. This person’s life is most likely far different from yours. Your lives are two universes of tragedies, happiness, mistakes, opportunities taken, opportunities lost…all the complexities of being human, and here you are. You greet each other. You might even ask the greeter, “How’s your day going?” You have this mission to accomplish here, but you pause for just a moment and intentionally connect with another person and you share genuine kindness.
“Poem: Container of Compassion” by Sister Steadiness and published on mindfulnessbell.org illustrates the simple compassion when strangers pass:
with each person i pass,
i allow my heart to open lightly
some look easily, friendly
we say, “hi”
Try letting your heart open lightly. You’ll feel lifted.
Aisles Crowded with Noisy Kids and Shuffling Elderly
With list in hand and an eagerness to get this trip finished, you steer your cart down the cereal aisle and are blocked. Kiddos loudly and eagerly campaign for their favorite cereals. A few babies are fussy and one is screaming. These families block the traffic as they attempt to reason and resolve issues. A few elderly folks…feeble in gait, frail in vision, with a trembling hand or a deaf ear to the chaos around them…slowly…almost in slow motion…make their way down the aisle.
You have an opportunity to be really ticked off and annoyed. You’re trying to get your stuff and get out of here ASAP. You also have an opportunity to be mindful…to look at the traffic jam, acknowledge that you are ticked off, and then you can stop and take a long slow breath. Just one. And while you take that breath, you may recall that once, you, too, were an eager an energetic young one…a baby who cried in public. You frame your mouth into a slight smile. Take another breath.
Then you look at the elderly ahead of you. You see a slow grace in how they move. And isn’t it a wonder? They are still here. They are still moving. Will you still be here when you are their age? Will you still be moving? Take another breath. Be thankful that you are here now…temporarily stuck in a traffic jam in the cereal aisle at Walmart…and that’s fine. It won’t last long and it made you pause for a moment.
It is wonderful to have moments in which to pause.
You Picked the Wrong Check-Out Line – Again
All the checkout lines are crowded. Carts are overflowing with stuff. It’s going to be a while. You try to gauge which line will move along the fastest. You pick one. It’s the wrong one.
The person at the register has three items that need to be price checked. All the other lines are just as full and you now have four people behind you. This is a perfect time for mindfulness meditation. This is a perfect time to just be.
Instead of shifting from one foot to the other in agitation…instead of checking messages on your cell phone…instead of sneaking a peek at the stories behind the tabloid headlines, just be and breathe. Focus your attention on something simple—the floor a bit ahead of you, the back of the person in front of you, the handle of your cart. Then take a gentle, deep breath and slowly count to five as you inhale. Do the same as you exhale. Don’t think about anything else; just follow your breath. Do this five times. Then smile gently.
William Wordsworth once wrote a poem titled “The World Is Too Much With Us.” It was true then and it is certainly true now. Mindfulness meditation gives us a simple and effective tool for making life more meaningful…even at Walmart.