Mindfulness provides a pathway through the pandemic minefield


Occasionally, an event occurs that shakes us to our core. The life as we know it changes who we are and how we think. For me, that was three years ago, I was in a serious car accident on the Alaska Highway that left with me with spinal injuries and a Grade 3 concussion.
I was no longer able to bounce out of bed and get to a 6 a.m. yoga class followed by a full day of work. Successfully walking a block felt like a milestone. Suddenly, my world became smaller. I became aware of my fragility. My life as I had experienced it was no longer possible, and I had to embrace my vulnerability and mortality.
Many of us have difficulty talking about death, and some of us may have a hard time being with grief – our own and others.
As this pandemic has demonstrated, we cannot presently live our lives in the way we might have months ago. The stark reality is that we might die alone. We may not be able to be at the bedside of a loved one, even if we previously thought that nothing could keep us away.
The world as we know it has changed, and we might be feeling vulnerable because we are uncertain about what lies ahead. A central question that many of us may be asking is, how can we respond to the tremendous uncertainties we are personally and collectively facing? The quality of our environment, poverty, racism, injustice, financial upheaval, disease and dis-ease and its impact.
I believe developing resilience through a mindfulness lens can help guide us to understand the world by understanding ourselves.
Developing qualities of the mind and heart such as equanimity, compassion and wisdom do not belong to any religion. These qualities are the ones that can serve us as we consider how we might bring more calm, peace and wisdom into our daily lives. Helping us see the big picture as we develop a greater capacity to consider the rigid attachments to a particular view we may hold that so often leads to polarization, divisiveness and “othering.”
The mindfulness journey helps us see that all the forces of good and for harm playing out in the outer world are also present in our minds.  
Mindfulness is simple but not easy to practice because it keeps inviting us back to the present moment without judgment.  
If you would like to try this out – find a comfortable position, feel the soles of your feet and notice the rise and fall of your breath – continue to focus on the breath cycle for one minute. You may become aware that your attention drifts to an image or thoughts arising in the mind: what’s for dinner, the next item on the to do list, etc. Bringing your attention back to your breath without judgment is a moment of mindfulness that can help train your attention. Like any skill, this requires practice.
As we spend more time online, the greatest gift we can offer ourselves and the person we are in connection with is our presence. To listen without being distracted by emails, texts and notifications offers us an opportunity to be our authentic selves. Mindfulness works and offers a practical evidence-backed method to train our attention and be present to this moment – which is the only moment we will ever have.  
I believe it is time to stop living on autopilot and explore the polarities that we each have. Integrating and honouring the wisdom of our polarities, so we may find meaning, fulfilment and contribute as we seek to bring greater harmony in our lives and communities. •
Shakeela Begum (shakeela@boundlesspotential.coach) is a personal development coach, an International Mindfulness and Meditation teacher, a certified HeartMath Resilience Facilitator and a conflict management lawyer.