Responding to Crisis

Mindfulness is about tuning in to what’s wisest, moment by moment.

Like many of you, I’m sure, I have been deeply touched of late by the various calls to action, in response to the urgency of the Climate Crisis - David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, and Extinction Rebellion with its audacity, tenacity, imagination and sheer volume. Greta’s steely-eyed demeanour and the simplicity of her speeches, pierce me.

“You lied to us. The house is on fire” .

Attenborough’s “Climate Change - the Facts” leaves me bewildered. The Extinction Rebels’ energy and willingness to sacrifice their own liberty challenge me.

Like many, I think of dear young ones in my own life, and of families afar, who, if the predictions are correct, will suffer hardships in their lifetime, easily. Weather extremes, food shortages, social breakdown.

It’s natural that the enormity of it triggers that age-old coping response-trio of fight, flight or freeze. We can find ourselves privileging one of those responses, or cycling through all three. Some jump on every activist opportunity with gusto, only to burn out in a short time. Some shelve the mental distress of hearing the facts, and carry on as usual, until the facts invade again from left-of-field. Some attempt to neutralise their guilt with what they know to be tiny gestures, criticising themselves that this is pitifully inadequate. I must admit, I’ve done it all.

Mindfulness opens up the possibility of tuning in to our own courage, wisdom and compassion in the face of overwhelm and potential shut-down.

The Three-Step Breathing Space is a meditation that can last three minutes or three hours. Practised regularly, it can become an unconscious habit that fosters presence of mind, and it's bedfellow, wisdom.

The first step involves getting the scope of our interior world, noticing how we are this moment, beginning to unfreeze, in the presence of our own friendly self-regard, embracing whatever is here, whether anxiety, boredom or blankness. In step two, we allow ourselves moments to be grounded in the now, using the sensations of the breath, or the sound of birdsong or the whirr of a computer or whatever, or the feeling of our own feet in contact with the ground. In the third step we open up again to notice our bodies, ourselves, in the space we inhabit.

Then we can notice what bubbles up from the calmer, more creative recesses of our brain. We can plan and act from a position of wisdom, presence of mind and groundedness, rather than from frantic or numbed-out fear. Furthermore, this can be a radical act of savouring this precious moment of our lives, joyfully even, rather than being stuck in some future catastrophe-land.

The science has been done. History tells us how to precipitate urgent change collectively. The invitation is for each us to seek and to find, mindfully and heartfully, our unique place in the world at this critical point in the planet’s history, this moment.