Teaching mindfulness to older children or adults can be a challenge – but if we remember to use it, mindfulness can help us deal with difficult situations — from ordinary every day difficulties like losing a cell phone to more extreme difficulties like failing a class, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, having a friend go to jail or maybe even going to jail yourself, getting pregnant or grieving a death in your family or community.
Mindfulness is much more than just watching the breath. For me, it is a super-power that provides me with insights into beauty and compassion and it helps me when things are most difficult.
Here we will use the PEACE acronym for our practice. It can be used in any difficult situation. Perhaps you can begin by practicing with small daily irritations. Those of you dealing with more extreme circumstances may need to repeat the practice many times a day, and you may also want to get additional help from a friend, a parent, a counselor, or a doctor. The practice goes like this.
P- P is for pause. When you become aware that things are difficult, pause.
E- E is for exhale. When you exhale you may want to let out a sigh, or a groan, or even weep. And after you exhale you want to…Inhale. Just keep breathing.
A- A is for acknowledging, accept, allow. As you continue to breathe, acknowledge the situation as it is. Your backpack with all your stuff is gone, your parents are getting divorced, your best friend is now dating the person who just became your ex… Acknowledging a situation doesn’t mean you are happy about it. It just means that you recognize the situation is as it is, whether you like it or not. Accept the situation and your reaction to it. You are furious, devastated, heartbroken, jealous, or all of the above.
Allow your experience. Do your best to rest in the Still Quiet Place and watch the thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. Notice when you are tempted to suppress your experience by pretending you are fine, or to create additional drama by rehashing things in your head or with friends. And allow this, too. See if you can discover a middle way: having your thoughts and feelings, without your thoughts and feelings having you and making you act in ways you may regret.
C- C is for choose. When you are ready, and this may take a few moments, days, weeks or even months, choose how you will respond. At its best, responding involves some additional Cs.
- Calm – being calm, by calming the body with a big breath.
- Clear – gaining clarity for what you want, what your limits are, what you are responsible for.
- Connected: connected to what matters, your values, your meaning for being
- Courage: the courage to speak your truth, and to hear the truth of others.
- Compassion: compassion for yourself, for others, and for how incredibly difficult it sometimes is to be a human being, and
- Comedy: (Actually, I prefer the word humor, but it doesn’t start with C.) It is amazing what a sense of humor and a willingness to not take ourselves too seriously can do.
E- E is for engaging. After you have paused, exhaled, allowed, and chosen your response, you are ready to engage with people, with the situation, with life.
Remember, if it is possible, practice with small upsets first. For extreme circumstances, you may have to repeat this process over and over and receive additional support. The more you practice, the more PEACE you will have.