The Mindfulness Potion: A cure for Mankind
It is often profound that when we hear the word cancer or AIDS or even the Covid 19, we shiver at the horrific images of ourselves in ICUs, coffins or even the mortuary. It is also likely that when words like mental illnesses or mental health are blurted out on social media or on your friend or colleague’s WhatsApp status update, the image that often comes to mind is the mad man in the Mathare National Hospital in Kenya having a brief idea of his identity. Perhaps the picture is that of a disturbed man or woman, dressed up in white with their hands tied because they are a hazard to themselves. We like to think that the mental health pandemic is far away but not as near as behind the eyes reading this article perhaps about to get offended by my insinuation that your mental health is as essential to you as the cup of coffee, tea, water, wine or whiskey that you may consider necessary to your daily survival.
Along with painting this reality, my aim here is to pique your interest in an interesting point to consider. A sort of business proposal where the only thing you may accept at the end is that today’s mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can be combated by one simply profound solution – mindfulness.
Firstly, I understand that you may want an explanation of the what and the why of mindfulness. However, I may need to lay out the problems combating today’s society and how such a seemingly elusive solution can lead to great results. Secondly, we will be exploring the societal issues facing the Kenyan population to spin the intricate fabric within which mindfulness can exist within the Kenyan society. This will be a deep dive and an exploratory piece about how a society can make profound leaps and changes within its culture. Since you may be getting anxious – ironically – to understand this narrative, let’s dive into it.
What is mindfulness?
According to one of the most excellent mindfulness experts, John Kabat-Zinn (2017), mindfulness is the “awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally“. This then brings me to ask you just how much time do you worry about the future and the past that you forget to embrace precisely what is around and within you? If you have time to read through this text carefully and meaningfully, I believe that no bombs are flying across and above you. Simple realization, right? Then again, how about your breathing right now. Do you feel it permeating your nostrils, passing through your nasal cavity, down your throat and eventually all the way down to your rib cage? Better yet, can you feel. It. Giving. You. Life? Mindfulness encompasses this simple exercise and practices like meditation and yoga. Better yet, think about why Eckhart Tolle’s Book The Power of Now is now an international bestseller. I would summarize it this way: people are simply too busy caught up in their minds to notice the beautiful moments surrounding them. I think it is a profound realization that our thoughts can be progressive or detrimental to our progress as individuals and society. We are plagued by cases of depression and anxiety, walking around every day wearing smiles like the outfits we choose.
So what’s up with Kenya?
It was once quoted by a Kenyan author in 2017:
“What is this depression thing? I accept it when a man hangs himself because his wife has left him, or he is jobless …or he is caught red-handed kissing his mother-in-law. But committing suicide because you are suffering from depression is simply not African. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that depression is an illness. We are stressed and depressed all the time! In fact, it is such a non-issue that African languages never bothered to create a word for it. Anybody who knows what they call depression in their mother tongue, please step forward… some diseases only strike wazungu (white people) or the middle class. Around here, when you are bereaved, you wail your head off, blame a neighbour, slaughter a cow for mourners, get inherited or replace the departed spouse and move on” (ilakenya.org, 2016)
You have got to wonder. Are we human or blinded, capitalistic muppets? I’m sorry. Have I offended you? Well, that’s the point.
My Land is Kenya
Kenya is a beautiful land. It is a mix of the type of country life from which you would like to escape to and take some quiet time off and the vibrant city life with today’s hustle justifying tomorrow’s success. It would then be a lie to say that Kenya’s political history and climate has not influenced the citizens’ motivations. You see, Kenya is one of those countries whose leaders pretend to be like the mother swearing to her children that when Santa comes for Christmas, he will go to the affluent suburbs and splurge presents then by the time he reaches them, his bag will still be full of goodies. We pretend to be a melting bowl of the common good, yet the news outlets reflect the different types of fruits struggling to take over a giant salad bowl. As a country, Kenyans are politically divided but together according to ethnicity and shared interests. It really all depends. Do you want a corrupt, ethnic or powerful salad? Take your pick. It goes without saying that, indeed, not all eggs in a basket are horrendously rotten or self-interested. Suppose I asked you today to put on your open-minded sunglasses and imagine a world where your president and his government woke up every morning with the Buddhist monks of Timbaktu to practice a loving, kindness meditation. Would you be able to picture the myriad of different possibilities? Indeed, with the heightened ability to consider the consequences of their actions in Kenya’s political structure and minor disputes, Kenyan leaders would yield the power to make better decisions
I still don’t Get It, Joy…
Okay. Here’s the thing. Think about social justice. With the struggle for economic leverage and the current Covid 19 crises looming above it, it seems like an unrealistic expectation that we would pause to consider the direction our country is going in. Is it an upward or downward spiral? Is it adding benefit to the common good, or are we simply gathering our harvests until the next farming season when we will inevitably need each other? To cultivate intrinsic moral values, it is crucial to understand what they are. To realize our faults and get a more profound sense of meaning with what is happening around us, it is vital to take the time to recognize them. This is what mindfulness allows us to do. It calls us to question our lives. In a world where death is a reality that is as close as ever, we have got to wonder whether we are only puppets in many of the unjust systems that our forefathers left us to propel into the future. Mindfulness is a call to cultivate deeper meaning and a sense of value within ourselves to reflect in the economic choices we make. To witness money, not as a sense of value but as an expression of how we hope to help society.
Take this Scenario:
One day, you decide to sit down and meditate on the blessings that life has offered you. You probably decide. Hmm, today I will be thankful for the food, clean water and house I have to sleep in. You manage to understand that these did not come to you out of the goodness of your heart but within the blessings that the Universe, God, Allah or the higher being you choose to believe in has made possible for you. Now, you decide that it is unjust for the woman or man with their children are dying while much of today’s wealth is scattered and shared among the rich. It then becomes profound because such a realization would have the ability to change you for life.
Then again, let’s be honest. Many of us are resistant to change. Question is: Are you?
Today, it is often believed that the power to heal ourselves and cultivate the changes needed within society is nowhere to be found except outside of ourselves. It is also mighty crazy to believe that a world that seems barren and fruitless has fantastic things to offer you. Here is the catch; it is already within you.
Join the nearest meditational yoga class around you to realize the power of mindfulness. We are blessed to have the Africa Yoga Project, Bikram Yoga and Hot yoga Nairobi as places we can go to practice yoga and kick up our mindful, healing selves.
AYP Shine Center – Africa Yoga Project. (2021). Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://www.africayogaproject.org/pages/ayp-shine-center
Beautiful Free Images & Pictures | Unsplash. (2021). Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://unsplash.com/
Borges, A. (2020). 15 Meditation Apps to Get Your 2021 Off to a Peaceful Start. Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://www.self.com/story/best-meditation-apps
Bikram Yoga Nairobi. (2021). Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://bikramyoganairobi.com/
Hot Yoga Nairobi — Evolation Yoga. (2021). Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://www.evolationyoga.com/hot-yoga-nairobi
Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness – Mindful. (2017). Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/
The Mindful Movement (2021). Loving Kindness meditation. Retrieved 28 March 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY3NnodM3Ww