Using Mindfulness to Cope With Fear: The Tenth Anniversary

Everyone has their own personal 9/11 story.  Some are horrific and sad, some anecdotal and removed.  I fall into the second category.  The sky was a solid September blue that day ten years ago.  I was working at my job as an academic counselor at a community college which happened to be located in the same building as an air traffic control tower.  Because of this we were told to leave the building after the first tower was hit.   I left my office and headed home but not before stopping to pick up my one-year old boy on the way.  In a daze of disbelief, I drove with my son to a nearby apple orchard.  It is hard to describe the contrast between the bucolic scene and the terrifying news reports.  A perfect warm, early autumn New Hampshire day, the smell of the first apples of the season, and most notably, the absence of planes in the sky.  I looked at my little boy and thought about the world he would be inheriting.

I can also consider the mindfulness belief that we can each access basis goodness.  After all, for all the horror of that day ten years ago, there are legendary stories of heroic acts, personal sacrifice, loving kindness and compassion that we can celebrate.

As the day progressed and the news footage unfurled, I waited to hear news of someone I knew who was directly affected.  That news never came. I still have a hard time believing that no one close to me, and not even an acquaintance was hurt or killed.  As I write this I feel lucky, guilty, and afraid.

The news reports that have been aired over the last few weeks leading up to this important anniversary warn of retaliation.  As I get ready for the Creating a Mindful Society Conference that will be held in New York City in two weeks, I’m feeling afraid to leave my family, and some hard-core anxiety.  Should I skip it? I ask friends and family on facebook, and get a wide range of responses from “don’t go” to “just live your life,” and one of my favorites:  “just remain mindful, threats will always be there, some are just ‘announced’ beforehand.”

Mindfulness helps us examine our fears and look at the root cause.  It allows me to sit and examine my thoughts, as I do this I see, “I lucked out last time I was in New York, something will happen this time.” “How selfish I am to put my pursuit of mindfulness before my family.”  “This is not worth the stress.”  “Am I being arrogant, thinking I can make a difference.” I can replace these thoughts with those of a more productive quality, like “I am setting a good example for my children.” “I might be able to make small changes in the lives of people I come in contact with using the ideas I gather from this conference,” or “there is some anxiety but I can control it.”

I can also look at some of the beliefs that are core to mindfulness, like trust and acceptance.  I can trust that I have the ability to manage my fear, and I can accept that it exists.  I can also consider the mindfulness belief that we can each access our basis goodness.  After all, for all the horror of that day ten years ago, there are legendary stories of heroic acts, personal sacrifice, loving kindness and compassion that we can celebrate.

I will go to the conference, looking for new ideas to incorporate mindfulness into daily life, family life, and our culture at large in the hope of avoiding a second 9/11.

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Click here to learn more about the Creating a Mindful Society Gathering happening in New York City.

 

 

 

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