Calming a Rush of Reactivity with Compassion

During moments (or days) when everything seems impossibly complicated, we can still return to one place of simplicity: our innate capacity for presence and kindness.

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What could be simpler than paying attention? It sounds so ridiculously simple when one tries to explain what mindfulness is. It’s the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

But practicing a simple thing in difficult circumstances is, well, no longer simple. Carefully folding the sails and coiling the rope while on the deck of a storm-tossed sailboat, with screaming winds and crashing waves, is decidedly difficult. And it’s a bit like practicing mindfulness in the midst of a global pandemic, raging environmental disasters, and an unprecedented political maelstrom. How do we, as Rudyard Kipling once said, “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you”? How do we find equanimity and self-compassion when we feel overwhelmed at every turn?

On a completely average day, you might: 

Gaze in the mirror and feel the despair of realization that much of your destiny is determined by how you (or your ancestors) look, rather than…