The fight to end systemic racism is by no means an easy feat. It requires emotional labor, constant education, and untangling implicit biases—all of which takes consistency. Which is why keeping our minds primed and sharp is essential to keeping our collective foot on the gas. Meditation teacher and mbg class instructor Light Watkins certainly agrees, as he tells me on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast just how crucial a regular meditation practice is for everybody right now (for more reasons than you think).
Here's Watkins' take on why you should consider slowing and clearing your mind:
1. It helps you move through grief.
In this time of deep social unrest, people are outraged, anguished, and grieving—and rightfully so. And according to Watkins, meditation can help your body navigate the stages of grief in a healthy way. It's not going to get rid of those stages, no, but it may speed them up. "Meditation puts you on a bit of a fast track as you're moving through the stages of grief," he notes. Think a couple of days for each stage versus a couple of months or years.
That's because meditating creates a sort of release in your body (backed by research, too) that helps you let go of the stress response sooner rather than keeping it tucked inside. "So you can keep moving, progressing, and staying available to opportunities that are before you," Watkins explains.
2. It allows you to see beyond biases.
At a macro level, meditation helps you wind down your mind, allowing you to slow down and see the bigger picture—a top-down point of view, if you will. As we restructure our systematically racist society, a "bigger picture" outlook may be just what we need. Meditating, according to Watkins, clears the mind and gives you internal space to see that bigger picture, leading to better decision-making. "That's what everyone ultimately wants," he tells me. "Is to see beyond your own bias."
3. It reconfigures your way of interacting with the world.
"If you haven't trained yourself to think differently, your mind and body will revert you back to old ways," Watkins explains. On the other hand, meditation can help you truly reconfigure your thinking; research even shows that meditation can enhance learning and memory, improve focus and attention, and enhance empathy and compassion. Needless to say, it's a pretty powerful practice to quite literally alter the brain—and untangling subconscious biases may just require a few brain shifts.
4. It helps you access bliss.
"Bliss is a real thing," Watkins notes. It might not be a constant state of joy, per se, but you can access that perpetual feeling of lightness the more you take the time to clear your mind. And if Watkin's book (titled Bliss More: How To Succeed in Meditation Without Really Trying) has anything to say about it, you don't necessarily need hours upon hours of reflection: Just a few moments to yourself can make all the difference, "if you are being consistent and available to whatever is happening in the moment."
5. It'll equip you to handle whatever is going on in the world.
Here's the thing: The world offers tons of obstacles (looking at you, 2020). But instead of panicking every time we take the hit, a consistent meditation practice can help you cope with whatever is going on in the world before you start to feel the panic start to creep up. Rather than meditating to quell anxiety, make meditation a daily practice, says Watkins; that way, you'll be better equipped to handle said anxiety whenever it crops up
"Meditation should be a daily practice regardless of whatever is happening in the world because things are going to happen," he says. "Give yourself the benefit of regular exposure to the very powerful restorative effect on your nervous system so your body can stay adaptable to ever-changing times."
It's not the only action item we need to end suffering and systemic racism for good, but the inner work certainly doesn't hurt. Plus, a little self-care is imperative during this emotionally taxing time; being kind to your mind and body is essential for keeping up the necessary work.
Words by : Jason Wachob