Now to answer the “why now” question. I hear from people everyday how stressed they are, how stressed their children are and so on. We live in a world that is so different from any world any other humans lived in, in the history of man. We have access to most anything we want in a moment, food, clean water, shelter, and knowledge. Yet, we feel so lost and alone. The news blasts doom and gloom 24/7. But in reality this is the safest time to live in history. There is a very good chance you won’t be in danger today.
So why are we so stressed? The answer is evolutionary biology. Our nervous systems are wired to keep us alive. We are alive because our ancestors developed strong attention to signals that something could harm us. So we continue this hyper vigilance even though we don’t really have to. Negativity bias is one of the reasons we feel stress at the level we do. If you want to stay alive you need to be critical of all situations. You need to believe first that something will go wrong or that something about this situation is not quite right. People who dive head first into things without investigation, risk poisonous plants or a predator lurking around a corner. People who don’t conform to the norms of society risk being alienated from the group, cast out of the the protective clan.
So without these issues front and center in our lives anymore we concoct them. We find fault in ourselves and others, being hypercritical over small things. Looking for things to go wrong because negativity bias has such a strong pull in our minds. We spend a lot of time overestimating threats and underestimating our safety and resources.
With this understanding we can in mindfulness become aware of our negativity bias, usually done through self judgement. We can observe how it feels in our body. Then, we can, with the knowledge we are receiving during this time of stillness and reflection, make a choice whether to follow that path of thinking and belief that this is our reality.
Mindfulness is really about how we spend our lives. We are too often lost in thought, worry, anxiety, self criticism or making up various scenarios to ensure against a disaster outcome of a situation, etc. While our minds are wandering we aren’t living this life that is in front of us right now. This moment right here is the only moment you can really live your life, smell, feel emotions, taste, see. Mindfulness teaches us to “just be with whatever” in the present moment and do it with less judgement, more compassion and empathy. We can train our brain to bring attention to the present moment by paying attention to the breath and the body, without criticism. Meditation is a way to do this. Meditation is a way to just slow down, pay attention without trying to make anything happen. Spend time in observing, bring curiosity, find wisdom by learning what is happening in your body and mind when is isn’t distracted by “life”.
Next post will start the journey of “how do I do this?” It’s easier than you think and at the same time, so complex that you can take a lifetime of bringing curiosity to this moment.