Most people today are disturbed by the constant change and turmoil of our current events. I find myself turning on cable news after I awaken to see if there are any radically disturbing events. When I see that the world hasn’t blown up, I turn off the TV and go about my day.
That’s a pretty sad sate of affairs.
Our current conditions are unprecedented. There have been times in history when there were daily changes that were unsettling to the entire world. But today we have the news at our fingertips 24/7. We have constant news on cable television and we have smart phones that send us push notifications the instant that the news breaks.
There is much required of us today to stand up for what we believe is right. The resistance to this administration’s erratic actions needs to be sustained and it needs to grow.
I hear from people everywhere I go that they are distressed, their sleep is disturbed, and they feel stressed and worried to the point that it is a affecting their daily lives. We will not be able to stay engaged, and stay healthy, unless we find ways to create some evenness, some steadiness.
There are many things we need to do to keep our inner state steady. The first thing is to do some kind of mind training, or meditation. This kind of repeated focusing in the present moment can interrupt a hyper state of vigilance that can ultimately cause our systems to release excess stress hormones, which is not at all helpful.
But if you don’t meditate daily, there is a simple step we can take that will help bring us to a softer state in the present moment. It is called savoring.
Savoring is the ability to focus on the sheer enjoyment of something that is pleasing to you.
I use chocolate to help people learn to savor. It is simple to learn to drop all other thoughts and focus on enjoying the sweetness of chocolate. (I also offer other sweets or fruits for those who don’t prefer chocolate.)
It’s very simple, and it may be the simplicity that can make it difficult to sustain our attention on one sensation. But simplicity is exactly what we need to take our “emotional rest”. So, in the following exercise, remember that you are keeping it very simple as you focus on the taste in your mouth.
* First, you should do this when no one is going to need your attention for a bit, as you will be allowing yourself to be fully absorbed in the taste in your mouth. Set the alarm on your phone for maybe 15 to 20 seconds so you don’t have to think about time. If you can do it for a minute, even better.
* Secondly, take the chocolate, or whatever you find appealing, into your mouth. It doesn’t have to be the best of the best. Use what you have available, just make sure you enjoy it.
* Now just sit quietly and experience the sensation. No need run a commentary in your mind. When your mind starts to think, gently shift your awareness back to the taste, the sensation on your tongue. Do this as often as needed. Feel the fullness of the taste, allowing it to linger.
* Finally, as you open your eyes, notice your state of mind. Notice any relaxation you might feel. And notice how you can still taste the chocolate. Pleasure sticks around when we make room for it. It is true that all the problems of the world are still out there, but you have spent some time focused on enjoyment.
When you do this exercise about 10 times, it will come more naturally to you as you walk down the street and see a beautiful flower, an interesting building, or a smiling face. You have begun to rewire your brain to engage with an inner response of joy, no matter how fleeting.
This practice of savoring will interrupt the stress responses we have to difficult external events, because you are beginning to build up the response of enjoyment as another option. This doesn’t mean we won’t be stressed by the difficulties we are facing. This means we will be able to momentarily feel joy and ease of heart. We will be able to interrupt the release of the stress hormones.
Life is short, and right now it seems overly taxing. We all need, always, every little bit of joy we can absorb. The more we practice this, the more beauty we see all around us. Just try it.
*P.S. If you did this exercise, you just learned how to meditate. It is that simple.