It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. . . and so begins Dickens’ great Tale of Two Cities. He was writing in the nineteenth century about the eighteenth century, but it seems he could have been writing about the twenty first century. It’s a fabulous time of year, the sights are spectacular, the aromas surround us, people are wearing fuzzy hats and furry boots and children are riding brilliantly coloured sledges and toboggans in the snow. In the run up to Christmas the toy stores, grocery stores, and department stores are counting on making half their profits for the whole year. The world of electronics is off the board with gadgets of every kind, toys for every child’s whim and tools that capture our grown-up imagination. It’s become normal, it’s sensational, but it’s out of control. People are struggling financially to make ends meet, and we are still running around trying to have the same kind of holiday season we think everyone expects us to have. The UK newspapers write about the “Big Chill” and how middle class families are among millions of Britons who cannot afford to heat their homes this winter, and the elderly ride on buses all day to stay in the warm. What is wrong with this picture? How can we be mindful of the true suffering of others?
Shine the light of compassion on all that frightens you to find healing and freedom.
Copyright 2010 George Buchanan
In our article last week we discussed how neuroscience has shown us that we are actually rigged to experience anxiety and rapidly remember negative experiences as one way that has helped the human species to survive. The good news here is called neuroplasticity, which is our brain’s ability to change its response to our experiences and alters its structure. Therefore, when fear comes to us like menacing black crows or ravens looming above, we have the ability to not only stand and face them, but to befriend them with loving kindness. We can bring our attention and awareness to our fear and treat it tenderly and gently without judgement, without running away or letting it threaten us. Thich Nhat Hanh states that “loving kindness” is “mindfulness”. What he means is that when anxiety or fears are present, we can also to invite mindfulness to be present as well. He likens it to a mother soothing her frightened baby as long as it takes until the crying subsides. This simple process is transformative. Read more