If we remember to use it, mindfulness can help us deal with difficult situations- from ordinary every day difficulties like losing your cell phone, to more extreme difficulties like failing a class, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, having a friend go 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, part of the power and beauty of mindfulness is that using it helps me when things are most difficult.
PEACE is an acronym for a practice that can be used in any difficult situation. Perhaps you can begin by practicing with small daily irritations. If you are dealing with more extreme circumstances you 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 realize 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 acknowledge, 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- accept the situation, and your reaction to it. You are furious, devastated, heartbroken, jealous, or E all of the above.
Allow your experience—do you 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 to (smile). See if you can discover a middle way- of having your thoughts and feelings, without your thoughts and feelings having you, and making you act in ways you may regret.
C is for choose. When you are ready, and this may take a few moments, days, weeks or even months depending on the situation, choose how you will respond. At its best responding involves some additional Cs.
Clarity: being clear about what you want, what your limits are, what you are responsible for.
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.
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 is for engage. After you have paused, exhaled, allowed, and chosen your response, you are ready to engage with people, the situation, with life.
Remember, if it is possible, practice with small upsets first, and for extreme circumstances you may have to repeat this process over and over, and receive additional support. And the more you practice, the more PEACE you will have.
An audio version of this practice is available on itunes; search Still Quiet Place: Mindfulness for Teens.
Copyright. All rights reserved Amy Saltzman 2010