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New Beginnings

Ready or not, change is everywhere. Instead of focusing on external events, first consider looking inward to map your course to your new beginning.

I hope you’re well and safe and continuing to practice mindfulness in the midst of a lot of chaos.

I wrote a script for one of our animated shorts a couple of weeks ago stating that stay-at-home mandates were not the most effective way to prevent the spread of a virus. We are still in the midst of a pandemic, by the way, even though it has practically disappeared from the news with all of the news on that other event that we’ll get to in a moment. After reading the results of the UC Berkeley study released this week, I feel a need to revise my original statement to: staying at home may not be the most efficient way to fight a virus, but it has been very effective. According to the study, early April shutdowns prevented 60 million people from infection in the United States and over 500,000,000 worldwide. Staying home to help prevent others from becoming sick is a very mindful act, requiring a great sacrifice of time and money for many. Give yourself a big pat on the back for helping to prevent millions of people from becoming sick or dying!

Unfortunately, we can all probably expect to see an increase in Covid 19 cases in the next couple of weeks due to the re-opening of most countries combined with the large crowds congregating to protest police brutality. George Floyd was laid to rest on Tuesday, but I believe the protests will continue for some time to come. Please take extra precautions to stay well and if you protest in a large crowd, consider getting tested.

My concerns a week ago that nothing would change because of the outcry over George Floyd’s murder have begun to morph into something more like hope and anxiety combined. Hope from the feeling that this civil unrest is different and local governments are responding differently than in the past. Anxiety because the kind of change we’re looking at could be massive. I absolutely want racism to end, but what we’re facing in this moment is a lot of uncertainty, which of course breeds anxiety.

In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell describes a tipping point as “that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.” He states that three characteristics emerge to create that tipping point.

First, a small number of people in a small number of situations in which the police or social forces that have some impact start behaving very differently and that behavior somehow spreads to others. Interestingly, under our current circumstances, he uses the analogy of a virus spreading into an epidemic. Second, is that a small event has a big effect. This is not to say that George Floyd’s tragic murder is a small event at an individual level. But considering the long history and large number of similar incidents in the past, it could be seen as just another example of police brutality, so, small in historical context. The third distinguishing characteristic is that change happens rapidly. So, if we have contagiousness, little causes having big effects and change that happens fast and dramatically, we’ve reached a tipping point. And tipping points tend to result in substantial and sustainable change.

The current protests and global response to George Floyd’s death feels like it might be a tipping point. Now, as we’re in the midst of transition without clear direction and with no idea what the future holds, instead of focusing on external potential problems, blame, frustration and fear, or as we struggle with what we should be doing in the outside world as part of this movement, what if we spent a little time looking inward first?

Most people resist change through avoidance and here we are with everything changing all around us. For many people, change may not be avoidable now. We need to understand our own biases, experiences and values. We need to decide if we want our lives going forward to look like they did in the past, if that’s even possible. But isn’t now a good time to take stock of where we are, where we want to go and what changes we may want to make on an individual level? And can we find the gifts that might be hidden in the unexpected events we’re experiencing?

How can we make changes in our lives under our current circumstances though? I asked today’s guest for some help with this, from a mindful perspective of course. Please note that we conducted this interview before George Floyd’s death.

Alison Canavan is an international motivational speaker, an integrative health coach, author and UCLA-trained Mindfulness Facilitator.

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