Here’s a line I often hear when I’m in a conversation with someone about the benefits of a mindfulness meditation practice: “Of course, I should learn to meditate but my spouse/family member/friend/co-worker is the one who really needs it.”
Sure. We all want to be involved with people who meditate because people who meditate, generally speaking, have more patience, are less easily provoked and possess a calmer demeanor. A meditation practice helps you to wait a beat or two before responding and to be more equanimous. Most people really enjoy interacting with someone who understands that just because you think something doesn’t mean you have to say it out loud.
My family finds it quite convenient for me to have a meditation practice. Sure, I still give my adult children unsolicited and, in my opinion, excellent advice. But I’m often amazed at my ability to withhold my opinions and I think sometimes they are too. My husband and I met about three years after I began a daily meditation practice. He never knew the more anxious, less equanimous version of me. He’s my husband, he’s not perfect and I often get aggravated with him. But I come back to center more quickly than would be possible without a meditation practice.
I understand wanting to be surrounded by people who meditate. Surrounding yourself with people who are less anxious is a great way to become less anxious yourself. While a hostile person can provoke a crowd, a self-possessed non-reactive person can steady them. A calm attitude, like a hostile one, can be contagious.
If I had a magic wand, the first thing I’d do is convince the most powerful and influential people in the universe to adopt a mindfulness meditation practice. My theory is that if our leaders could cultivate mindfulness, then calmness, compassion and empathy just might trickle down.
A couple of administrations ago, I saw an episode of Meet the Press where there was a discussion about replacing Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with then Congressman Tim Ryan. Tim has a daily meditation practice and had already published his book, Mindful Nation. One of the panelists, a writer for the Washington Post, quipped that perhaps Tim’s gifts might be better used if he could just teach everyone to meditate. Laughter ensued.
Underlying the droll throw-away line lies the dull recognition of perhaps the only thing both the left and the right can agree upon- we are an anxious nation.
I dream of a country where we would all take the Washington Post panelist’s silly suggestion seriously.
Maybe then, we’d all be a bit less impulsive and have the ability to take a beat or two before reacting to every perceived threat and transgression.
Imagine an alternative to our boisterous media constantly trying to stir up controversy and ramp up the drama, fishing for likes or views. Imagine a Congress composed of non-reactive legislators who could maintain focus and composure. Imagine a compassionate Senate.
What if all of us, those who govern and those who are governed, learned to meditate? Especially those who govern.