Mindfulness in the Time of Economic Meltdown

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET
  • Amy Spies Writer, teacher, activist - Film, Television, New Media.

No doubt about it, these are scary times. It's everywhere. Read it online and on people's stressed faces. See it in empty storefronts, lighter daytime street commuter traffic, thinner mail (businesses don't have money to market themselves; it's great not to have all the junk mail but still...). Hear it in the collective roar of outrage over the greedy fat cats that keep getting away with their money-grabbing bonuses and Ponzi schemes. Feel it in the zeitgeist, in the ozone, at the market, in your gut. It's hard for me to wrap my brain around how this economic tsunami swelled up and crashed down on us. Sure, there were signs and bubble speak; but it still feels like we suddenly stumbled into the middle of a disaster movie.

So, here we've landed, rattled but aware, some more than others. People on the frontlines crash in motels, cars, or tent cities, people who have been laid off ride the riptide, struggling to stay afloat.

I know people who can't stop talking about their evaporated retirement accounts; others who have decided to opt out of the 24/7 newsfeed and self-medicate. None seem at peace.

It is tricky to walk the current tightrope, balancing being present in the reality of what is occurring without letting it ruin your ability to be present and enjoy the blessings that are there in your day to day life.

But just as waiting for the results of a medical test can lead you to prioritize and appreciate what you've taken for granted, so can these uncertain times generate a mindful mesh with being present. There may be a bit of eat, drink, be merry because the future is uncertain and out of control. I've seen people congregating, seeking community, but also observed a reckless blowing off of all kinds of diets and abstinences; as I indulged in cheese and chips, others smoked cigarettes and indulged their individual urges. Sadly, I have noticed increasing articles about people going on shooting rampages.

These chaotic times do invite out-of-control behavior, but they do offer an opportunity to approach the present and be present in a more mindful way. On a personal level, I do feel more grateful for what I do have. I do more strongly want to reach out to people in economic peril. I do try to be conscious of, motivated but not overwhelmed by the economic chaos. And finally, as a mother, I do so strongly hope to help my two daughters approach their futures without paralyzing panic, but with an appreciation of their possibilities to effect change, open seemingly shut doors, and crack the toughest shatter-proof glass ceilings.