April 25, 2023

Thank You For Being Here!! Thoughts on Gratitude During COVID-19

[Social Justice]

In my personal mindfulness practice, I often find the sensation of impatience arising in my mind and body. This was certainly truly before COVID-19, and it is perhaps more true now than ever. What with so much of our “to-do’s” being forcibly taken away – having to work from home if we are fortunate (and with kids that we have to figure out how to home school now, no less) – and the general pace of life slowing down as we all do our very best to practice social distancing (PLEASE!!!), I am certain that for many of us, feelings of “when will this all be over?!” might be coming on really strong right now!

These feelings might be intensely unpleasant. You might feel tightness or tension developing in different places in your body just thinking of how long this whole situation might last for. Indeed – I think that part of what brings up anxiety combined with incredible impatience is the total unknown regarding the global impact of what we are all now facing.

You might also be under a great deal of stress right now as you navigate all of the immense changes that have been asked of us as a society – and the loss of so much of what made life convenient, comfortable, or just plain workable to some degree.

I feel you 100 percent!! There is absolutely nothing easy about what we are going through. This is going to require a lot of strength, ingenuity, resilience, and compassion to make it through to the other side.

Whereas this may or may not be reassuring to you – feelings of impatience can be a phenomenal opportunity to practice mindfulness in a way that truly supports resilience and adaptability.

Let me start out with a few quick tips for coping with impatience in this here and now…

1.) When impatient thoughts arise in the mind, ask yourself, “what are the accompanying feelings/sensations in my body?” Trying stopping where you are and taking a few deep breaths. Using the mind to scan the body (as in, imagine that you are literally traveling though every part of your body one section at a time), try to compassionately notice places of tension and tightness.

See if you can, while breathing slowly, allow these places to relax a little bit. As you relax the body, does the intensity of your thoughts or feelings of impatience shift or change?

2.) What is the underlying tone of your thoughts when you are feeling impatient? Is worry, anger, confusion, sadness, or pain also in the background? Whatever you are experiencing, please know that this is a perfectly intelligent response to the times we are living in. You are NOT weak, you are beautifully human.

Whatever your answer, ask yourself, “what is in my control in this moment?” Do you every best in the moment to identify what is totally out of your control…and then once you have identified what IS in your control, acknowledge whatever emotions are coming up. Then ask yourself, “In what way can I respond to my situation, or can I ask for support in responding to what is causing me to feel impatient, that would feel empowering or compassionate right now?”

3.) Remember – impatience itself is not a problem. It is not a weakness. It is not a sign that you are losing it. It is a perfectly normal, intelligent response to the way as humans, we sometimes feel out of control, disoriented, or even just plain bored.

Try watching the feeling of being impatient with an attitude of curiosity, almost like you are watching your thoughts intently like a TV show…and do your best to watch what happens. Remember, you are NOT your thoughts – your thoughts and even your emotions are just like clouds – weather passing by in the sky. If you can practice being the observer of your impatience thoughts, and whatever emotions might accompany them, you may be surprised at the kind of creativity that can arise in these moments!!!

Before my mindfulness practice, the feeling of impatience would arise and it would feel unbearable. It was like something deep inside of me was calling for me to just DO SOMETHING already with the moment at hand. I felt like I had to take action immediately to relieve the haunting feeling of boredom or just plain painful antsiness that was welling up inside of my chest, causing my legs to shake and my temples to throb.

I am here to tell you right now that being impatient is perfectly understandable. I think we all want this to be over far sooner than later. However, we also have to be able to build the capacity to cope with exactly “what is” right now without running away from it in denial.

These feelings can really become exacerbated during times when what is happening around us makes us go into a “scarcity mindset.” The scarcity mindset tells us that there is not going to be enough resources around to help sustain us in living our lives. And that is most certainly endemic to the narrative that is being produced in the media right now…we hear all day every day about what goods and services are running out – who is hoarding what – and who is needlessly suffering because of a lack of what is needed like food and protective gear, and all of that information can make us start to feel helpless…and particularly impatient for this to just be over with!