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Mindful : February 2017
TIP When an awareness of the pain and suffering of other beings suddenly strikes you with full force. At its core, we can say sadness is the emotion that arises when we realize the unfortunate truths of being alive: we lose things, people are flawed, sometimes life is hard, and, eventually, everything ends. A nd when sadness arrives, we must come to the inevitable conclusion that, “Right now, it’s like this.” I should caution that here we are talking about sad mood and not the unrelenting and persisting disorder of clinical depression. If you experi- ence these feelings consistently over a number of days, notice that you lack energy, have sleep, appetite, or cog- nitive problems as a result, then you may be suffering from depression and should seek appropriate mental health treatment. Inescapable though sadness may be, our crafty human brains like to find It Just Is Loss, disappointment, change—these things that invoke sadness are usually beyond our control. It’s just the way the world works. No matter how hard we may try to steel ourselves, they still happen. And just as certainly we feel sad. We’re sad because our desire was for things, whatever they are, to be otherwise. Because people, moments, even numbers on a scale, matter to us. Because we cared, we hoped, maybe we even dared to dream. Sometimes the roots of sadness are found in shame, which can begin a destructive spiral. When something goes badly, it’s easy to forget the inevitability of change. But if we’re unable to put our experience into some perspective, it’s possible for sadness to run amok. “I don’t like this feeling” becomes “I don’t want this feeling” becomes “I shouldn’t have this feeling” becomes “There’s some- thing wrong with me because I have this feeling” becomes “I’m bad.” → Every so often, when you’re really in a rut, allow yourself to take a “sad” day to feel all of your emotions. Cancel other plans, listen to music that moves you, look through old photos, curl up on the couch, go for a quiet walk in a park or the woods. At the end, acknowledge that you’ve taken the time you needed, and remem- ber tomorrow marks a fresh star t. a way to Houdini out of its bonds, to triumphantly break free. We distract, we avoid, we play the blues to share the common humanity of sadness. We stop ourselves abruptly from crying and too quickly wipe away tears. But what are we resisting, really? If truth and insight lives within sadness (the same way they live within joy, satisfaction, and won- der), what would it be like to simply contemplate this truth—to consider meeting yourself in the midst of melancholy and to see what may be there to be learned or discovered? The practice of mindfulness is about being present to every moment, not just the ones that are pleasant or neutral. In fact, going into the darker, more uncomfortable places—the ones we usually try to avoid—may yield powerful insights, and may sharpen our mindfulness and deepen our com- passion, both toward ourselves and others. Maybe we could let sadness be our companion long enough to hear what it really has to say. Carve Out Some Sad Time PHOTOGRAPHSBYGETTYIMAGES/TIAYRRABRADLEY/EYEEM(LEFT)ANDGETTYIMAGES/TARAMOORE(RIGHT) inner life