Welcome to the Mouth of the Tiger

The inauguration has left millions of people feeling upset, enraged and demoralized. Protests are occurring world wide, and people and governments around the world (except probably in Russia) are feeling intense stress and concern. It is not an exaggeration to say that for the majority of people in the country and the world, yesterday’s inauguration was the start of a near state of emergency.

Personally, I have been feeling that. There is certainly a lot to worry about.

My own main focus tends to be health care. Every week I see people who are in desperate straits, including both pain and suffering and being suddenly unable to work, due to severe health problems. Since Obamacare came into effect, fewer of them come to my office suffering — or dying — from untreated medical conditions. Of course, the first thing he (you know who I mean – I can’t write that name) did yesterday was to sign an “executive order” undoing key protections that many of his fans need to be able to keep their own health care. (“Thanks for voting for me. Now die.”)

But on so many fronts, there is of course a lot that may happen about which millions of people are going to feel fear, anger, rage. These mental states of course only make things worse. Your body, emotions, and clarity of though are all compromised by intense feelings of fear, pain and rage.

This is not a good situation. What to do?

I am often comforted by an old saying: “the most important time to meditate is when you are in the mouth of the tiger.” I think that for the foreseeable future, this may be a useful thing to remember.

An earlier, very great president, Franklin Roosevelt, took office during a time of near-chaos, a time when people wondered if America would even be able to survive as a country. In the throes of the Great Depression, a third of the country out of work, protests, violence, national rage and despair mounting daily, he assumed leadership and reminded people in one of the great speeches of all time that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

When things are at their worst, you need to have the calmest spirit, the clearest head. It  of course seems like the thing you are least able to do. But this is where some basic skills in mindfulness meditation can be very useful.

If you are feeling the hot breath and the jaws of the tiger closing in, try this:

Take five minutes and sit down. Get comfortable.

Close your eyes.

Take a breath. Just focus on the breath.

Repeat.

Over the five minutes, try to get your breathing rate down to four to six breaths per minute. Count to six on inhaling, pause, then exhale to a count of eight. Pause and repeat.

(It is important to exhale longer than you inhale — it slows your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure, gives a more peaceful feeling. Basically, if you need to rev up your energy you inhale longer and faster; if you need to calm down, exhale more.)

That’s it. For a start. For some more help with meditation, there is a set of recordings on this UCLA site that you might find helpful. (Click here.) Here is a nice set of meditation bells you might also enjoy:

Meditation gets more effective the more you do it. You are rewiring your brain every time you practice. It is a great daily practice to develop a more constant state of relaxed alertness. Calm. Clarity of thought.

If you are going to help with the resistance, or for facing any challenges in life, you first of all need to stay calm and think clearly.