Updated: Jul 21, 2019
I had the opportunity to live abroad in a third-world country, the Philippines, for three years; from 2005-2008. It was a great experience and I love the people and the place. One of the many benefits was that it also helped me appreciate, on a deep level, what we have at home here in America. When I would come back to visit and listen to the news or the radio it troubled me quite a bit how critical we were of our self as a country. If we believe we are that “bad” of a society then, eventually, why would we fight for or defend it?
We are so blessed and I feel we live in a remarkable nation that is full of heroes and the one thing love the most is the way we value every human life. We aren’t perfect at it, but it is an obvious goal. The things we see in the media that don’t represent this value stand out and lead to outcries for change. Whether it be in the arena of safety (airbags, car seats, bike helmets), inclusivity (LGBTQ, race) or every voice being heard (#metoo, etc.). That is why when we see these types of atrocities in the media, they are not in any way acceptable, and there is an outcry for what we want to see changed about our society. This is rare and beautiful and amazing in this world! Just this aspect alone is so worth defending!
So what does this have to do with mindfulness? Everything! Jon Kabat-Zinn has said more than once: “As long as we are breathing, there is more right with us than wrong.” Our negativity bias (that stems from our survival mechanism in our brain) leads us to naturally see what is wrong in society, in our country, in our body, in our life. It takes a deliberate and mindful effort to notice the infinite number of things that have gone and are going right on this planet to sustain life and society. When we see it clearly, it is every bit worth defending.
The same can happen with our personal life. We see the bad in our self and our situation to the point where we can lose hope and believe we can never change or improve. In most cases, we do not give our self enough credit for what we have done right and this can lead to discouragement, harmful labels due to past mistakes, and a severe lack of self-efficacy.
What we believe, especially about our own abilities, is incredibly powerful. In most cases we need to give ourselves more credit for what we have done right, what has gone right in our life, and in our country as well. Yes, we have all made mistakes and we will continue to, but in addition we do many things right. We truly only have this moment on to recommit to being better anyway, there is no use in punishing our self for the past. There is a beautiful song by Joshua Radin that says in part:
"It's a brand new day. The sun is shining. It's a brand new day. For the first time in such a long, long time, I know I'll be okay.
"Most kinds of stories save the best part for last. Most stories have a hero who finds, you make your past your past…
"This cycle never ends—you gotta fall in order to mend, and it's a brand new day. It's a brand new day, for the first time in such a long, long time I know I'll be okay."
Knowing is believing we will be okay (we have made it this far haven’t we?) to overcome past mistakes. We are still here and breathing, and billions of things are going right, we are so worth fighting for! Believe it, know it and give yourself, your life, your past, much more credit than you have been.
Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” What light has entered you due to the many crappy things that have happened in your life? Whether it be your own past mistakes, others hurtful actions, or just life? What has it taught you, and how do you turn it into light?! Let go of resentment and frustration - towards yourself for regrets of the past, towards those who may have knowingly or unknowingly harmed you, towards what life has dealt you - and put energy into filling your soul with light!!! Rising up!! So high above all the negativity that so naturally is part of our perspective.
In true mindfulness form, don’t just change your mind, use your body to change your mind! Try this: Did you know if you stand in Wonder Woman stance (wide stance, fists on hips, chin up) for three minutes you can improve your confidence? Do it! “Move a muscle, change a thought” is an older less-known AA saying - but this concept is proven to be extremely accurate. This mind/body connection is “super” powerful –so be your own super hero and use this idea to make your own Personal Independence Day today! Knowing that it doesn’t even matter what others think—at the end of your life it won’t be the tragedy of others not valuing you, but you not discovering and valuing yourself for all the "wonder" you are. Find your independence and see the good in you ...and all around!!!