This last year, due to the startling political scene in the USA, I've found it difficult to be as mindful as I'd like to be. And this has had me feeling a bit guilty.
It's made me wonder how others have found it possible to be mindful when surrounded by such concerning issues. Especially since even newscasters haven't been able to help but roll their eyes at times.
So when I heard that Anderson Cooper would be hosting the first-ever Mindfulness in America Summit in New York City to discuss such things, and that Jewel would be performing, I knew I had to go.
Held at The Town Hall, a vintage NYC venue with a history of handling difficult discussions, the setting was cozy and beautiful.
JEWEL WAS EXTRAORDINARY
Jewel opened the event. In need of a little more time for the glue to dry on her fingertips, she asked us to close our eyes, and to notice what we feel, while she sang a cappella.
Her exquisite rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" sent tears rolling down many faces.
Jewel spent the evening revealing the range of her musical talents plus tender details from her young life that I'd never heard before. And how she has used mindfulness to transform challenges.
I had no idea how much I would relate to what she shared, until those teardrops rolling down my face wouldn't stop.
IT CAN FEEL OVERWHELMING (IN A GOOD WAY) WHEN ONE CAN SEE THAT THEY'VE NOT BEEN ALONE IN...
—discovering the full impact of abuse
—learning to depend on oneself, since a young age, for the sense of security needed
—protecting oneself the best way one knows how
—desiring calm solutions when everything seems crazy
—using similar coping skills, now supported by science, back before there was a word to describe them
—seeing oneself, and loved ones, grow and heal
—holding out hope for others, too
—witnessing a lifetime of hard work...being worth every effort
Jon Kabat-Zinn shared supportive words about how helpful it can be to remain aware, compassionate, and to respond lovingly. His work is legendary. He created an environment of thoughtful respect and connection with the audience. I think it was Jon who also reminded us that those practicing/sharing mindfulness were not there to be anyone's guru—because you are your own guru.
Anderson Cooper was adored (by many), humorous, and kind. He shared how he's chosen to work on that which feels meaningful and why vacations are not his thing (only taking one weekend off a month, he says his normal life feels a bit boring). It was endearing to hear him describe why social parties and entertainment circles could be especially challenging.
Eileen Fisher was a complete gem. Gentle. Kind. Thoughtful. Concerned. Funny.
Arianna Huffington was genuinely welcoming and is doing great things—her free Thrive Global newsletter is superb!
David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation, shared touching stories. It was an immense treat to feel his energy.
THERE WERE SO MANY MORE INCREDIBLE PARTICIPANTS
We learned of the vital mindfulness work being done in the legal, brain health (aka mental health), youth, online, corporate, research, community, training, sports, and criminal justice fields. We heard vulnerable stories. We saw incredible efforts.
BUT WHAT ABOUT DISCUSSING POLITICS?
I've voted/been loyal to every side of the aisle. Depending on the issue. But this event wasn't about political party affiliations.
I fantasized ahead of time that I'd get to witness each presenter at this event stand up on stage, share a challenging political reality they were faced with, then share how they mindfully handled it.
But this wasn't that kind of event.
Although Anderson Cooper came the closest to doing so, when asked how he's coping on-air when faced with this topic. He joked that most people don't realize he's actually heavily medicated—a much needed joke, indeed!
But this event wasn't about politics.
SO WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
—how can one possibly just remain aware of what's happening, be compassionate, and respond lovingly...when abuse is involved?
—especially when abuse prevention training teaches one to acknowledge abuse, to protect others from abuse, and to speak up about never tolerating abuse?
WELL, IMPORTANTLY, ABUSE PREVENTION ALSO TEACHES...
—never attempt to have a rational conversation with an abuser (they will escalate the abuse)
—never tell an abuser when you are going to take action they will not like (they will escalate the abuse)
—never reveal to the abuser any fear/ultimatums/plans to leave them (they will escalate the abuse)
BUT TO INSTEAD...
—remain aware, when interacting with an abuser (to help chances of safety)
—remain compassionate, when interacting with an abuser (to help chances of safety)
—respond lovingly, when interacting with an abuser (to help chances of safety)
WHILE AT THE SAME TIME...
—confidentially work with authorities
—(who should be the ones to investigate and take action against the abuser)
—always support the victim, confidentially whenever necessary
SO THIS HAPPENED...
I attended this event with the hope that someone would tell me how to be mindful, when faced with an abuser. I came home still wondering how I could possibly be mindful, when faced with an abuser.
It wasn't until I reached the end of writing this post that I could actually see...how beautifully mindfulness and abuse prevention skills already work together. One just has to practice them.