Mindful Citizen

It is hard to look at the news and social media without seeing that the level of civility in our public discourse needs to be substantially elevated. How political leaders and other public figures speak in 2017 can be needlessly aggressive and intentionally incendiary. It is even more challenging to comment on any of it without fearing our words might be perceived as politically charged. All too often, there is someone waiting in the wings and ready to say hurtful things in response to perceived aggression.

I am deeply concerned that we are overlooking the toll that the simple act of observing the events highlighted in the news is taking on us individually, not to mention its impact on the collective consciousness of our society. Merely observing an adverse event on the news or in social media evokes a physiological response in our bodies that mimics the same response we would have had if we had been there ourselves, albeit to a lesser degree. Over time, this can result in compassion fatigue, also known as secondary PTSD.

I believe that if we want things around us to start getting better, we can take effective action now by tending to ourselves and our own response to what is happening in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in our nation and around the globe. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” is a value we hold in my family. Sometimes it seems like humanity is engaging in a war of each against the other. I have found that I actually can self-regulate my reactions to this while contributing positively to the collective consciousness through some simple steps.

When I read about the tragic effects of a natural disaster, read a politically charged tweet, view a racially incendiary Facebook post, or view footage from a mass and/or unjust shooting, I transition away from it responsibly by responding like this:

-Sense my two feet on the ground

-Take a deep 4-second inhale followed by an even 6-second exhale at least three times

-Say to myself: “May I be safe, may I be happy, may I be healthy, may I live with ease.” Then, thinking of the people impacted by the events, I say, “May you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy, may you live with ease.” Finally, with the truth in mind that we are all one humanity and the light in me sees and honors the light inside of all living beings, say, “May we all be safe, may we all be happy, may we all be healthy, may we all live with ease.” (Add one more deep breath here if you wish.)

We can elevate the place of civil discourse in our society one autonomic nervous system at a time. Mindfulness provides a great foundation within ourselves for what it means to be a citizen of democracy. The world is constantly changing, and so are our cells. Please join me in contributing to the right side of humanity by starting with our own positive, personal mindfulness practice. This is urgently nonpartisan, and it truly does not matter what side of the aisle you are on. We can all have a positive impact.

Jennifer Vondracek

Mindfulness Coach