Mindful and in the Pink - Seth Greenland
I step back, take a hard look at the facts, and recognize that while the situation may be annoying today, and – I don’t kid myself – could get worse before it gets better, I know that I have to remain calm in order to deal with it and to get on with the other things that make up my life.
Anyone can be mindful when the sky is blue and soft breezes are blowing. But just try to maintain that posture when storm clouds gather. It can be a challenge for some, an impossibility for others. Oh! The excitable person may exclaim — and who among us never fits that description? — Here comes a storm! What shall I do? I’ll get wet, or worse. My house could float away! My whole world will become irretrievably soggy! I could drown! This is not the mindful reaction. The mindful reaction to a graying sky would be more along the lines of: Well, things aren’t looking so good right now. It may rain, and I could get wet, but I don’t want to think about that because mindfulness is about being in the moment and right now the moment is dry.
But wait a minute (you may point out), does being mindfully in the moment mean we can reasonably ignore the future and eschew the option of planning? If a storm is coming shouldn’t we mindfully batten down the hatches and make sure what could be bad (a hurricane) doesn’t become worse (a hurricane, a flooded basement, and an insurance company that won't pay up)? Of course. The mindfully aware person should never ignore rumbles in the distance, but these rumbles must be assessed with the cool detachment mindfulness allows, not with the Henny Penny attitude of someone who thinks the sky is falling. When what we may think of as doom seems to be hovering beyond the horizon, it is important to try and view it with an objective eye, to see it from the outside of the situation, with perspective. After love, food, and shelter, there are fewer more important things than perspective because without it you will not attain the emotional equilibrium necessary to feign not being crazy.
But what about when a storm does hit, what then Mr. Mindful? To that, I would say this: When a storm hits, do everything you can to keep safe and dry. And keep clearly in mind that the storm will exhaust itself, pass on, and blue skies will return. When in the middle of a giant upset, this is the thing to focus on.
I am currently obsessed with the political situation in a certain country. I won’t mention which one, or bore you with specific details of my obsession other than to say it is the kind of thing that inspires fantasies of taking to the streets wearing a pink knit hat and punching neo-Nazis.
In some people.
Not me, of course, because I try to be mindful. How to remain mindful where someone in a similar situation, someone less mindfully aware than I, someone from somewhere like that place in Game of Thrones, may be tempted to wreak violent havoc? Similar to the storm laden horizon, this situation presents a behavioral challenge. What shall it be then? Chicken Little or Winston Churchill? The first thing I do is look at the situation in a cool and rational fashion. Then I let out an earsplitting scream, internally, of course, so no one hears – because then, God forbid, someone might conclude that I am not mindful. Once the inner primal scream is exhausted, I step back, take a hard look at the facts, and recognize that while the situation may be annoying today, and – I don’t kid myself – could get worse before it gets better, I know that I have to remain calm in order to deal with it and to get on with the other things that make up my life. And how do I do that? By being mindful. Things arise, they depart. Just like us. What abides is chaos. That waxes and wanes each day. We deal with it by observing it.
And by not forgetting to wear a slicker and galoshes. And sometimes a pink knit hat.
Seth Greenland is an American novelist, playwright, and screenwriter. He’s the author of “The Bones,” “Shining City,” “The Angry Buddhist,” and “I Regret Everything.” His new novel “The Hazards of Good Fortune” will be published in 2018. This post is an updated version of a previous one.