More perhaps than ever before, our world feels unstable. We are faced with many challenges and uncertainties, as the ground continually shifts beneath our feet.
Within this turbulence, information and narratives come at us from all angles. Among these are a number of conspiracy theories. Adding to the feeling of chaos, these theories can shake our sense of security and wellbeing. Through their lens the world seems a sinister place, full of shadowy forces conspiring against us or others. As a result, we can become drawn into sensations of fear and disturbance.
Fearful thoughts create a chain response in the body, taking us into fight-or-flight mode and impairing our ability to think clearly. Experiencing this state for prolonged periods has a detrimental effect on both our mental and physical wellbeing.
Finding inner balance
At times like these, meditation can help us to regain balance.
The more we become entangled with external events, the more we need to be able to come back within. Meditation helps us to find a calmer internal state and return to our centre. From here, we are able to approach the outer world with greater clarity and awareness.
If we’re feeling fearful or overwhelmed, the first step is to pause. Fearful thoughts often become stuck in repetitive loops that reinforce their potency. In order to find equilibrium, we first need to still the mind. Refocusing our attention through meditation creates a break in unhelpful thought patterns that allows us to process more effectively.
To practice this, try finding a quiet place to sit and bringing your attention inwards. Repeating a mantra or following the breath gives the mind a focus away from distracting thoughts. If you find your attention wandering, gently yet firmly return it to the mantra or the breath.
Another great resource for navigating out of mental loops is to immerse in nature. Spend some time outside in a natural space and tune your awareness to the sights, scents and sensations. This helps us to ground into our physical reality and be present in the here and now, rather than in projected scenarios that cause anxiety. It also reconnects us to the beauty and wonder that exist all around us, uplifting our mood and easing stress.
Both of these techniques help us to access a feeling of greater peacefulness within. With regular practice, we build a feeling of internal security that can support us to trust and let go of fear, no matter what is happening around us.
A mindful response
Once we have restored inner balance, we are able to respond mindfully to the information we encounter.
Right now, we don’t have all the answers. But from a centred place we can perceive things more clearly, free from the distortions caused by anxiety and overwhelm. This allows us to better hold with the uncertainties that surround us and to act with discernment.
One of the best meditative practices to support this process is that of observing thoughts. While sitting quietly, notice the thoughts that pass through your mind without engaging with them. Simply allow them to be present, then let them go. You can also label the thought before it passes, for instance as ‘helpful’ or ‘unhelpful’, or as a type of thought, such as ‘fearful’, ‘uncertain’, ‘judgemental’ and so on.
Over time, this practice helps us to become aware of the workings of our minds. As a result, we are able to view our thoughts, and those of others, with greater detachment, rather than identifying with them. It also reminds us that we have control over our thoughts. We can choose to let go of thoughts that are coloured by fear and drama and cause us suffering. And we can choose to actively instil thoughts that support and empower us.
Cultivating objectivity through this practice also allows us to better weigh external information. With a balanced mindset, we can choose our media and companions well. And we are more equipped to examine sources with sound judgement in order to sort fact from fiction.
As our world continues to shift, it is important to commit to the things that sustain us. Regular practice of meditation supports us to feel grounded and safe in our bodies and calmer in our minds. Through cultivating this inner stability, we are able to navigate our outer circumstances in a wiser way, responding to all that we encounter with courage, insight and integrity.