In our daily life we usually and mostly let our mind stay with the habits that made their home in the driven automatic pilot, navigating ourselves between thoughts about where we are, where we want to be and where we don’t want to be. Our mind and thoughts are traveling in time, comparing, planning and adjusting in this doing mode: action and judgmentally driven. Staying with the thoughts. This strategy in allowing our thoughts to run our minds this way works wonders… when applied to non-internal matters. The effectiveness of mindfulness comes forward when we are trying to deal with our internal experiences and when it comes to accept and let go of our emotional sensations.
Mindfulness invites you to bring your attention to the moment, purposely stepping out of that river of thoughts, and connecting to what is here now and to be non-judgmental about it. This being mode brings you an awareness and receptiveness to information that can connect you to calmness and hopefully lead to wiser decisions. Or in other words staying away from your thoughts and the idea that you can control thoughts. That practicing mindfulness is easier said than done, is a very realistic thought. A thought that we can hold up as an example of the work it takes. The actual hard work you will have to do. Firstly to gain insight in the principles of mindfulness and secondly to cultivate it in your life.
Mindfulness is part of my life for a while and I notice I continue to struggle with noticing when the driven automatic pilot takes over and I get entangled in thoughts and thus emotions with seemingly no way out.
So in my journey to share my experiencing of mind.ful.ness, I also will share my experiences of unmindfulness, or better said a Mind Full. Unfortunately, the stress around the current world crisis COVID-19 offers ample opportunity to take you with me, in my thoughts and fears and the powers of aversion avoidance habits and automatic thinking patterns…. Today I like to share with you the experience of the power of thoughts and a typical path of thoughts and worries that can arise: around and around and down you go… the path of overwhelming downward thinking…
Dealing with (economic) Loss, a rollercoaster of thoughts…
My cousin Hans often says: ‘The soup is never eaten so hot as that it is served…’ This saying usually helps when overthinking my worries. But struggling with the many unknowns, the numbers of sickness, deaths and the economic loss so far with the arrival of Covid-19 to my world, even that comforting saying does not give its usual calming effect. Thoughts jump from one to the other. And it keeps singing in my head: The situation is bad. Just. Real. Bad. And not only here, but in the whole, wide, world.
And of course I try to stay with the most favorable part of this bad situation, the wonders of spending time together, the break for nature in general, the time for new hobbies… but with what our mind does and is attracted towards is clear: my attention swings back to my thoughts and mostly to negative thoughts….click, click, click, further downward, to meet my fears at the bottom of the pit. And I really try. I try again to focus on the positive thoughts while trying to let the saying about the hot soup calm me down. So I try for example to focus on the advantage of the additional time available, when you don’t have to go to work….click…ehhh, when you don’t have to go to work, uhm,….click, because.… There. Is. No. More. Work. And so the focus on positive thoughts starts fading away, and the speed train of negative thoughts starts leaving the station and the hot soup burns in my throat. Because this is the reality of now. This is the reality that too many are facing now or soon, right here on our island, our lovely Sint Maarten. Where the dependency on tourism hits us hard….. again.
Despite the constant worry about our actual health and the health-threat to our loved ones, my thoughts travel towards the economic side of loss too today. And it dawns on me: the economic s..t is going to hit the fan! And this mess from the fan already happened for many that are confronted with immediate loss of income. Which means that you can only can keep going so long as your piggybank with savings can hold you. And so soon after Irma, that can only mean that many can not hold it that long…. or can they? How hot is the soup going to be served?
Good coping thoughts in the doing modus would be to literally ‘tighten the belt around your pants’; cut down on all costs as much as you can. Start that long planned veggie garden (1 square meter can feed a family a whole season, and more if you exchange produce with others). Re-use what you can, stop buying anything new that is not absolutely necessary and … and… uhhmm, this all sounds like a plan while your piggy savings can hold you. But what if not, what if you really can’t? What if you stretched your last dollars to that literal breaking point? What if you reached the point of the broken (piggy) bank? Sayings about the soup will not do much anymore. Overwhelmed sensations arrive and all good intentions are likely fly out of the window. Because this situation is bad.….. Just. Really. Bad!
Click…In my thoughts money problems become so closely connected to mental problems… stress and lack of finances combined are a lethal combination for society and for its mental health. Click.. My thoughts continue their journey and arrive at the station of the concern. Specific with the concern of unbalanced (economical) society of St. Maarten, whereby many are living below or on minimum wage level. High numbers of single parent families with multiple children where moms or dads are working multiple jobs to make end meet in normal times.
The other and relative smaller part is the group that has a nice, reasonably paying job or a small business that does reasonably well on the sunny days and when the ships come alongside the peer and the planes land on the airstrip in Simpson Bay and the hustle and the bustle goes as planned. And then there is the relative few, that just have no economic worry and enough meat and fat on the bones to lockdown for a 1000’s Covid-19 or more.
All will have to worry now, as the world’s economy comes tumbling down. And it’s the large part of society that will run into a loss that will cause an effect that no one can run away from. Not being skilled in economics, but assessment based on gut feelings will give a good start: stress about money makes you worry, worries make you stressed out and stressed out you can become dis-functional… Add it up. Hot soup to better stay away from all together. click. And what to do? Thoughts going in control mode and still try to control what is out of my control. It is Government that will step in. And again a rollercoaster of thoughts…..Tax relief or better temporary freeze will help businesses to get through this period, financial payroll help and low interest loans for individuals and business alike, while financial support for loss of jobs is offered. The measurements of lockdown to guarantee our health and safety for COVID-19, surely are inextricably linked to support packages as described above? The train of thoughts is hard to stop, how comforting it is to think in solutions on what to do or easier, what should be done. click..
Is it Government alone that can help and put a bandage on the bleeding economy, whichever way that economic experts can advise to protect the weak and the vulnerable and the business community parallel to the health measurements currently made? The semi-private GEBE that probably provides more water and electricity to households ordered to stay put at home. The many families challenged to meet the surcharge let alone the bill for actual use might create space? Waive the surcharge? Or better waive the bill altogether? Thoughts and more thoughts..
How wonderful if Sint Maarten can make itself exceptional and all in charge really put friendly into the friendly island legacy. Because what outlook does it offer to think of how the current bills become added up to impossible heights at the end of this Covid-19 crisis? click. click…Bills… banks…click. The banks can possibly do their share as well. This thought definitely deserve some attention by the financial experts with heart for the greater good. Introduction of sliding scales for bank fees suddenly does not seem so far fetched anymore.
Click ,click ,click and There is also the moment, or is it tiredness, where my stressful non-economic awareness stops coming with solutions. Sensations of worries and concern come right back.
How to go about the stress on a personal level, let alone on a society level, island level and region level, ultimately part of a world-wide level and wonder if loosing your money can make you loose your mind? Loosing what you have, suffering loss… my mind reacts with strong aversion and my thoughts want to stay away from this edge. Drift away from the psychological knowledge about breaking points, for individuals and societies alike. The things we usually can hold on to, are going up in thin air..click. Everything under pressure becomes fluid.
At this point in time, there doesn’t seem to be a choice: you literally want to keep your society healthy. And the rest will have to come after. Because if you’re sick, you usually don’t worry about economics but the will to get better takes over and you simply eat the soup as hot as it is served. But when you are part of a crumbling system and not actually sick, this soup might burn you or you throw out the soup all together….
So that. is. how. bad. it. really. can. get….And motivates me to embrace the following: And thoughts come like mantra’s: Now is the time to step in, with all mighty force that real unity can offer. To assess in which way you can actually contribute. To turn on your creativity. To feel, right here and now that the soup is hot and to bring awareness to the new possibilities that will arise, no. matter. what. To connect to all mighty power that love and compassion for each other can generate. To let go of what you know and to re-invent the principles of human beings: go back to basics and let go. Live like a herd of horses. Cuddle up and weather the storm as ONE. You thought that Irma was bad? I am motivated to show COVID-19 what SXM can do and to turn on the strong and heat proof ability to beat this and eat the soup so hot we surprise ourselves. By looking for that renewed balance and CONNECT. Your strength might be my weakness and vice versa. If we work together we can support and create balance in our existence. To open up the will to help.
Click, click, click time to meditate and step out of this wild river of thoughts. And make some soup. And call my cousin.
Next week: The cultivating of mindfulness and what it can do, especially dealing with COVID-19.
MCA Coach, Alexandra van Luijken