Guest Post: By Peter Windrem
It’s hard to express exactly what is happening in the world presently. Let it suffice to say, a bit of a “shitshow". What I will add, however, is that no matter what the conditions are, happiness is still possible and is, in fact, already here.
It is when we allow the conditions around us to control us that we become lame ducks and dead in the water. Most of us in the western world have never had to face dire conditions nor severe restrictions on our day to day activities. I'm not saying that this is bad or good, but simply, what is. At this moment, we find ourselves hurtled into what looks like some sort of altered universe and there is not one single person out there who has the answer, no country that "got it right", and no model that can present what the future, heck–what tomorrow–holds.
In every situation in life, we have a choice. Let us take the situation we find ourselves in. Do we wait it out until a vaccine is found and just keep binge-watching series after series in hopes that we wake up and miraculously everything returns to the way it used to be? Or, do we take advantage of this "pause" or "reset", or whatever the hell you want to call it, and accept the reality of what has presented itself, and continue to live our lives fully, grow, make the changes we can, accept the things we cannot, and be happy regardless of conditions? I have no idea what your answer will be but if the answer is the former, feel free to stop reading now and see you on the flip side. If it is the latter, well, let's make this happen! Through the training of our minds, it has been proven that anything is possible. And this is where meditation can help.
I have been practicing mindfulness meditation for over twenty-five years and, oddly, I feel like I have prepared my entire life for this moment. At the heart of mindfulness practice is the noticing and observing of experiences and sensations as they are in this moment, in real-time, and without judgment. It may sound simplistic, even unrealistic, but I am here to say that it can be as simple as it sounds and it is completely realistic. We have been exposed to a new way of seeing things, like it or not, over the past few weeks, in terms of comfort, relating to our fellow humans, getting food on our table, and communicating. And for the most part, aside from some toilet paper and hand sanitizer hoarding, it looks like we, as a species, are pulling together. We are seeing a side of humanity many of us have never seen from our fellow humans that has been as humbling as it is refreshing. What meditation can bring to the table is a deepening of love and compassion for one another and oneself, no matter which direction this crisis takes us in. By gaining a more solid grounding and allowance of what is to just be, we can avoid the traps of getting caught up in stories that may pull us to the past or drag us into the future. Through skills that we already possess, we can sharpen and hone our concentration, sensory clarity, and equanimity, allowing our minds the opportunity to better respond to stimuli rather than simply react based on prior conditioning.
Meditation won't change your behaviour but it will train your mind and give you the tools necessary to re-frame old thought processes and make the changes you might like to see. Like anything, there is effort involved and transformation doesn't happen with one sit (although there is a school of thought where instant enlightenment is possible). But with continued practice, we can find ourselves ready for a new normal that will present itself in whatever form. And we will be ready with open arms and minds.
Peter Windrem is a meditation teacher in Toronto and online, trained in the Unified Mindfulness system. He was an actor and musician who still plays the ukulele and guitar.
He guides meditation on Instagram @peterwindrem daily at 10 am and facilitates a silent "afternoon reset" every day at 5 pm. All are welcome to come join–from beginners to seasoned veterans and all places in between.