The Mindfulness Blog

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Under Pressure

I've been thinking about David Bowie and the classic song he sang, and co-wrote with the band, Queen, in 1981. Over 40 years later (and with retirement from the practice of law in my hip pocket), the song still resonates.

Pressure, pushing down on me, pushing down on you-- I don't miss those waves. My all-time favorite meditation quote is credited to Jon Kabat-Zinn (one of the people responsible for bringing the practice of meditation from the Far East to the United States): "We can't stop the waves, but we can learn to surf".

Incoming waves from the outside world are seemingly unending and there is little, if anything, we can do to control them. The one thing we can control, however, is our response. The brilliant Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, once observed (and I will paraphrase) that between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space lies our ability to respond rather than react.

For me, meditation is the functional equivalent of Frankl's "space". It reminds me-- even under pressure-- that there is always a response that is preferable to reaction. And the mental/emotional muscle memory that meditation cultivates, helps me respond to the ups and downs of a typical day in a more rational, reasonable way-- be the ups and downs personal, or professional.

In time, knowing what the world is all about (one of the lines sung by Bowie, in the referenced song) ceases to be a "terror", but rather, a simple truth that is sometimes negative but often wonderfully positive. In either event, the world becomes much more manageable and susceptible of thoughtful response, as opposed to knee-jerk reaction.

The next time pressure starts pushing down on you, remember to respond rather than react. And don't forget: Meditation (and mindfulness) can help you do that!


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