America and mindfulness do not belong in the same sentence, in the way that Seth Meyers and funny don’t belong in the same sentence. Like conversate and literate; Obama and president; Drake and amazing; genitalia and grenades; totes and, well… pretty much any other word. And now that I have that out of my system, let’s talk about this thing that, unless you’re in California, you probably don’t practice on a daily basis.
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
Living in such a constantly evolving, market-based, and technological society, it is no surprise that people are losing touch with their own reality. When we lose our inner awareness, our stress levels increase. Cortisol and adrenaline — the hormones responsible for the body’s stress response — surge through our bloodstream, activating an emergency mechanism known as the fight-or-flight response.
This fight-or-flight response is a wonderful gift from evolution wired into our nervous system in order to help us flee from harmful situations that can occur suddenly, and it was this reaction that helped our ancestors survive animal ambushes while hunting and gathering food. Unfortunately, the same response occurs when our wives scream at us for not cleaning our dinner dish. That’s right, your body thinks that getting scolded by your wife is just as bad as getting your arm ripped off by a tiger. But the good news is that this sudden onset of panic can be controlled if you’re mindful.
The thing is, we don’t all need another article explaining the science behind stress related disease and its prevalence in Western society. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress time and time again. You know that. I know that. We all know about the countless benefits of mindfully practicing a stress-free lifestyle, yet we choose to remain apathetic about it. Why else would we get distracted by Kanye’s latest bitchy sulk face? Between cat memes and celebrity sex tapes, there’s no time left to be stress free.
Thich Nhat Hanh told us, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” Here in America, the only time we kiss the Earth is when we have blacked out after a hard night out on the town, or when we have finally croaked from a clogged coronary after decades of student loans and marriage stress and Burger King binges. Young couples can’t go out on a date without one or both of them compulsively checking their Instagram feed.
We cannot deny the fact that there is a better quality of life and inner peace waiting for us somewhere deep inside — that is, if we just choose to nurture it. You don’t have to meditate everyday if you don’t want to. You don’t have to sit on a mountaintop fasting for three weeks. Next time you’re at the beach reading some shit magazine, set it aside for a moment. Close your eyes. Listen to the waves crash onto the shore ahead. Be there. That’s all.
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