Meditation and self care are extremely personal and counterculture. In this society that wants us to bury our emotions and buy quick fixes, I can’t think of anything more rebellious and powerful. (TL;DR)
Serious question for you. What comes to mind when you hear things like “self-care,” or “meditation,” or “mindfulness?”
Is it something real, or something cheesy?
Is it a stereotype, a cliché, or does it sound like a damn good idea?
Or do you think, sure, but who has the time?
I’m picking up on some serious backlash against the growing mindfulness movement. Have you read this one yet — Life Hacks of the Poor and Aimless?
Then she crafts a strangely political argument against the ideology of well-being that I find kinda whatever.
… then she says “Secondly, it prevents us from even considering a broader, more collective reaction to the crises of work, poverty, and injustice.”
I’d like to fervently argue against this notion by the end of this post.
This sentiment is echoed in another piece I came across — The Myth of Mindfulness.
“If the Buddha were alive today, he probably wouldn’t say: go meditate. He’d say: go fix your societies so there’s less suffering in them.”
Now I understand what this author is trying to get at — there’s this belief that meditation is a way to escape.
That you’re numbing the pain of everyday life by retreating into your mind palace or fortress of solitude.
But that is actually the real myth of mindfulness. Because that’s not what meditation does.
Anyone who claims meditation is a way to numb yourself and escape has never really meditated.
You don’t become numb and escape. You’ve lived your whole life being numb and escaping from the reality of what’s going on around us.
We’ve all been hurt in our past. We’ve all worked dull and mindless jobs. We’ve all had hard times.
We get up the next day and do it again because we have this amazing innate ability to ignore our feelings, bury them deep down inside, and throw away the key.
Meditation, yoga, and self-care brings us to a place where those buried emotions start bubbling back up out of our subconscious.
Where, it turns out, they’ve been percolating, causing trouble, influencing our decisions, our relationships, making us walk a certain path without our even realizing it.
We gradually get those icky feelings and memories out and back into our consciousness where we can process them and deal with them, and in doing so we can finally move on.
We become unburdened. Lighter.
We get our energy back.
We get clear.
We start seeing the world around us as it truly is.
Suddenly, it becomes a lot harder to walk past those homeless people on the sidewalk without noticing or reacting that they’re there. Without our heart starting to truly hurt behind our ribs. We can’t escape our feelings.
Our mind becomes more aware of everything. Not just when we’re meditating, but all the time.
It changes our brains.
We start making connections we never would have made before in our narrow tunnel vision world before we started meditating.
Making more connections sparks new ideas.
We think more creatively.
And guess what that allows us to do? Solve complex problems. Like the ones facing our society today.
It turns us into the superhuman people we need to be to get ourselves out of the mess we’ve made of our world.
My favorite part about the Laurie Penny article is at the end when she says “It is at this point that I confess to you that I’ve been doing yoga for two years and it’s changed my life to an extent that I almost resent.”
I love that because the same thing happened to cynical old me.
Now here I am preaching about meditation instead of mindlessly continuing to work my stressful job that nearly killed me… and made me turn to yoga & meditation as a desperate last resort.
Yes, there is a ridiculous side-economy and political agenda around the growing trend of self-care and mindfulness.
Yes, the new-age hippie aura around it all makes a lot of us want to vomit.
Yes, you must constantly tear apart the real from the cliché, the truth from the marketing.
We live in a society that wants to boil everything down to a tagline, but we live in a reality that is way more complex.
Laurie Penny ends her piece with this: “If hope is too hard to manage, the least we can do is take basic care of ourselves. On my greyest days, I remind myself of the words of the poet and activist Audre Lorde, who knew a thing or two about survival in an inhuman world, and wrote that self care ‘is not self-indulgence—it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.’”
I’d like to end my rant with this:
There are three things that I know to be true and that I am wholly dedicated to in all of my work:
- Our society has created huge complex problems that need solving and fast.
- These problems will take hard work, wildly creative thinking, and collaboration like the human race has never before accomplished.
- In order to do what we need to do, we all have to be functioning at our maximum potential, mentally, physically and emotionally.
Here’s the TL;DR —
How to fix the world:
- Make yourself strong through personal practice.
- Learn to lead through creativity and collaboration.
(Learn design thinking)
- Put those powers to use solving society’s biggest problems in your work.
(Pick a problem you’re passionate about, or work to support/serve/educate/heal/inspire/feed someone who is working on one.)
So now I ask again, what comes to mind when you think of self-care or meditation?
Do you think it’s something cheesy or cliché? Or do you think it’s something rich people do who can afford to spend their days meditating on beaches?
For me? Exactly the opposite. It is extremely personal and counterculture. In this society that wants us to bury our emotions and buy quick fixes, I can’t think of anything more rebellious and powerful.