As the shockwaves of the attack here in Manchester continue to ripple out across the world, I am aware of an undercurrent of fear that is trying to settle within me. Tomorrow is a friend’s birthday and we have arranged to meet in Manchester, and I have to admit that I am scared. This is exactly what terror attacks are meant to do of course: to terrorise us. So how can I respond in a way that offers a peaceful resistance, and how can I transform my fear into something positive? Mindfulness is ultimately a method of healing and transformation, so what can mindfulness do for fear?
Personally I always turn towards my fear with compassion in order to understand it, then use gratitude and appreciation to help transform it. I metaphorically give myself a hug and acknowledge that my fear is a reasonable response to what has happened. Then I focus on the reassuring pattern of my breathing to calm my body and mind, so that I can think more clearly. I realise that I am watering the seeds of fear that lie within me by dwelling on the horror of what has happened, and so instead I focus on watering the seeds of inner strength that I feel I need at the moment. By this I mean that I focus my attention on the sensations of feeling strong and secure: so that then I can look at my fear from a safe place. There is a particular meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh that I use for this purpose called the Pebble Meditation.
Suddenly I realise that my fear is directed towards other people. Who are these strangers that I will be surrounded by tomorrow? Does one or more of them wish me harm? Is somebody, somewhere, plotting to kill me? As my thoughts follow this path I am immediately back to watering those seeds of fear in myself. My stomach tightens and my breathing becomes shallower. I pause, bring my thoughts back to my breathing and again water those seeds of safety, security and inner strength whilst I wait for the fear to subside, like a wave that peaks and gently drops away.
This mindful exercise has brought me the insight that I need in order to transform that fear: instead of being scared of other people, what can I find to appreciate about them? So here is what I have so far, much of which is inspired by the actions of those around me over the last few days.
What do I appreciate about other people, particularly at the moment?
- Their kindness
- Their compassion
- The way they are reaching out in practical ways to help those in need
- The strength and unity that they display
- The peaceful gatherings and messages of support
- Their determination to draw together instead of apart
- The creative ways people are finding to help each other and move forwards
…… and already, within just a few minutes, instead of being frightened I am looking forward to going into the city and experiencing these aspects of the atmosphere for myself. I will not stay at home, feeling frightened. I appreciate the fact that I live in Manchester, a multicultural city with an open heart and an open mind: and I’m looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow.
I wish you every happiness.
Katie has created a one hour online course called ‘Mindfulness for Anxiety’: it consists of multiple short videos that you can watch, pause, rewind and revisit whenever you need them. There are also short text sections of practical suggestions and activities, plus some printed downloads. You can discover more, access 10 minutes of free video previews, and enjoy a 50% discount by clicking here….