Practicing Mindfulness During War
Mindfulness is a type of meditative practice, which helps you focus on being fully present and aware of the contents of your mind, and what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without judgment and reactivity.
There couldn’t be a more challenging time to practice Mindfulness than when there is something upsetting or distressing going on like the war in Israel that is deeply affecting us, making it difficult to maintain equanimity. Because there is tremendous polarization between differing sides — you’re either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian, and even if you’re neutral, you’re viewed as a coward who’s doing nothing to help the problem (as if it is your responsibility to solve it), it’s easy to feel things like judgment and reactivity.
The Israel-Palestinian conflict is extremely nuanced and complex, and anything but black and white. For anyone who knows Israel’s history, and didn’t suddenly learn it on Tic Toc, they are aware that there has been a deep and troubling history between the Israelis and Palestinians that dates back to before Israel declared statehood in 1948. What social media has shown us since the war broke out; even before Israel fought back in defending itself after the terrorist group, Hamas, brutally killed and kidnapped innocent civilians, is that there are people all over the world who think they are experts on the history of Israel, and depending on which side you’ve taken, you can explain who is in the right, and who is wrong, and have no problem defending your position with verbal barbarism.
What we are witnessing on college campuses, for example, are students who are aggressively lashing out at one another, and Jewish students have expressed fear for their safety, even their lives. This is a complete lack of Mindfulness and instead a chaotic display of racism and knee-jerk reactivity. Clearly, there is an absence of a mindful awareness of what one’s thoughts might cause when spoken, which Mindfulness helps you do. Instead of taking a necessary pause before blurting out deeply offensive insults and name-calling, impulsivity takes over rather than allowing for sensitivity and compassion to temper heated emotions.
I have always felt that Mindfulness should be taught in schools, beginning as early as kindergarten to develop strong, healthy behavioral habits, but unfortunately, these types of self-regulating practices that are extremely beneficial in developing something like emotional intelligence, are, for the most part, not valued enough to be integrated into the curriculum, and what we are seeing at this very tumultuous time are very important communication skills that students seem to not have.
Mindfulness teaches us to be, well, mindful. That means we are conscious and aware of our words, deeds, and actions, and instead of impulsively projecting our anger or even hatred onto someone of a different race or religion than us, we pause or take a much-needed breath before we tell them we hate them, or worse, want them to die because of a war they have taken a side to defend. The war in Israel has shown us how unmindful many people are, by not being able to talk things through, or even debate heated issues with level-headedness and civility.
Mindfulness helps us sort out our differences by not letting our emotions run the show, or reacting to what someone is saying to us. We can honor different opinions or ideas than ours and genuinely try to listen without raising our voices in order to be heard. When you commit to mindful communication, you can actually hear one another in ways you might not have imagined because you allowed your judgment to form an opinion about someone before they’ve even had a chance to fully explain themselves, and why they feel the way they do. Maybe their opinion about the war in Israel is influenced by something called “transgenerational trauma”, or “ancestral trauma”, meaning they could have a family member or an ancestor that was hurt or killed in a war because of hate or racism, and they carry that trauma, which triggers anger in them. Trauma needs to be addressed so that it does not become embedded in the psyches of generations to come, and I would hope that those issues can be addressed properly with children and young adults. There is far too much anger being expressed about the war in Israel, and if we don’t learn how to mindfully work with our emotions, we will use things like politics or war to justify anger, and that can be very dangerous.
Here are some ways we can use Mindfulness to enable us to be more civil in our conversations and practice nonjudgment and nonreactivity so that we can achieve mutual respect, even if we have differing opinions or beliefs.
- Take a Pause – Before speaking, check in with your mind, body, and heart. Are there thoughts of hate in your mind? Can you feel it moving through your body? Is there hate in your heart? If you feel any of this in your being, acknowledge it, and consider how expressing that hate to another person might make them feel. A pause can help us think twice before words leave our mouths.
- Be Open to Hearing Someone Else – Even if what someone else is saying to you is the complete opposite of your opinions or beliefs, try and listen to them with an open, non-judgmental mind. Yes, it might be challenging, but give it a try, and be mindful of not interrupting them. Let them speak their truth, and observe what you are feeling in your body without reacting.
- Listen Without Wandering – Be aware of where your attention is going when someone else is talking. Are you already ahead of the moment, and finishing their sentences in your mind as you would want them to be said? Are you thinking bad or nasty things about this person, as if you’re silently name-calling? Keep your focus on being fully present, and listening without judgment and reactivity.
- Speak Your Truth Mindfully – When you speak, remember this is not an opportunity for you to hurt someone, or cause them harm with your words. Think of how your truth might open someone else’s mind, and help them understand you better, or your point of view. Whenever you speak, do it with the intention of causing no one any harm, and coming from a place of respect.
The only way we can behave civilly to one another is if we practice Mindfulness as our form of discourse. We cannot reach someone with anger. All that does is fuel anger in them, and it becomes an endless vicious cycle of not only fighting but warring.
We must remember that wars don’t begin on battlefields. They start with how we speak to one another, and if we don’t view the “other” as someone worthy of our respect and compassion, they can easily turn into our enemy. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is one of viewing each other as the enemy. Until that perception is dismantled with a mindful awareness that every Israeli and Palestinian is a human being who deserves no harm; compassion cannot fill our hearts, and that is exactly what must pour from our hearts at this very volatile time.
Let us think of the innocent civilians on both sides of the war in Israel who have lost their lives so tragically. What would they want us to do?
The answer lies in the depths of our hearts, and it is not fueled by hate.
One of our country’s most important freedoms is that of free speech.
Agree with this essay? Disagree? Join the debate by writing to DailyClout HERE.