Search

E3: Can Mindfulness Save us from National Crisis and Global Warfare

Updated: Jan 14


Jacob Derossett

Today we're here with Sarah Vallely, mindfulness teacher, coach and author. Sarah has been teaching meditation and mindfulness for the past two decades training and certifying others to teach mindfulness as well. Sarah is the author of four books. Her latest book is titled time to dwell the 55 teachings of ESD mindfulness. Today on the podcast we discuss how mindfulness can heal the world? And can governments and other agencies implement mindfulness into their cultures?


Sarah Vallely

Thanks, Jacob. What we're going to be talking about today is “Can mindfulness save us from national crisis and global warfare?” The question is not “Is mindfulness, the best movement for saving us from political crisis?” There are other movements such as non violent communication and nonviolent resistance. The real question here is “Can mindfulness save us from national crisis and global warfare? Is it a viable option?” What saves us from political crisis? Individuals, movements, culture, religion? How does mindfulness help people in your life practicing mindfulness? And are these people more compassionate? Are they making better decisions? Are they having a positive effect on those around them? Because I think this is how, on an individual level, we could affect change.



Jacob Derossett

What specific parts of mindfulness are uniquely able to have a positive impact in political and global issues?


Sarah Vallely

Mindfulness makes us more compassionate, because we are learning how to have compassion for ourselves. Because sitting and practicing mindfulness is really hard. And we can't get through it unless we say to ourselves, “It's okay, we're not less of a person, because we can't concentrate in this moment.” We have difficult emotions that come up, “It's okay that I'm having this difficult emotion. It doesn't make me any lesser of a person.” And then what happens is, it starts flowing out to other people, and then you continue to have compassion for others. We become less stressed out, which could also be intertwined with having less fear. The national problems, are they rooted in stress and fear?


Jacob Derossett

From what I can see, oh, yeah, anything involving a nuclear weapon would definitely have the word fear written on it somewhere in there.


Sarah Vallely

And all the reasons that we feel like we need to use that nuclear weapon. Of course, these fears are valid, I'm not going be here and say, “We need to get to a place of peace and love. And not to be afraid of any of these things.” But I think that the mindfulness can chip away a little bit at that fear and that stress. If nothing else, it will help us communicate better because that communication piece and collaboration piece between different nations and different political entities is really important. We will communicate better if we have less fear and less stress.

Using mindfulness as a movement to address national crisis and global warfare only works if the movements working. Do you think the mindfulness movement is working?


Jacob Derossett

If it can just stop one person from doom scrolling the internet or arguing with another person online, getting angry at people that seemingly have different viewpoints from them. I imagine all that could only be of benefit to all of us if you scale that up. I don't know why it couldn't have a positive impact.


Sarah Vallely

Yeah, I think it definitely could have a positive impact. Is the mindfulness movement working? We know we're not supposed to evaluate other people in their mindfulness. So I think it's a little hard for us to look around and say, “Is it working? Are people becoming more mindful?” We're really not supposed to evaluate our own level of mindfulness. We're a beginner each time we come to the mat. I had lunch with a Baptist minister a couple months ago. He saw how mindfulness can bring us out of the grips of our culture, because that's something that churches are facing now more than ever--they're losing their congregation to the culture. They're getting distracted with other things besides their religion. And this preacher really saw how mindfulness is a tool for bringing yourself back in and looking at what's important.


The way that I have to process through this question of what would it look like to affect the culture of a city or nation with mindfulness, I have to look at what our cities and nations are already doing to effect a culture. For example, giving out pamphlets, for better or for worse. I think constructing monuments is a way that a government can affect a culture. Creating parks that support us to exercise more, I think can change a culture on a exercise physiological level. I actually read that the Grand Canyon National Park has a park ranger, teaching mindfulness. https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/mindfulness-practice-at-our-national-parks-and-in-life.htm There's actually photos on the internet of this park ranger, teaching mindfulness in his uniform.


Creating a holiday can be a way a government can affect a culture. PSAs, “You could learn a lot from a dummy.” That was the PSA about wearing seatbelts. “This is your brain on drugs?” “Friends, don't let friends drive drunk.” Another way that a government can change a culture at a city level is to aspire to be the national leader at something. To be the best, most vibrant art center in the state, for example. And the other thing that can change a culture in a local state national level is signage. Have you seen these positive signs of love around Asheville? https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=895857314563637


Jacob Derossett

Yeah, I think it's one of the best things I've ever seen. I think that we're very fortunate to live where we live, and to drive around a city where I just see a lot of people that are acknowledging that they need to spread positivity. And I've lived other places where I don't think anybody felt like it was necessary to do that. And here, I drive around and I'll see just a random sign “You got this” on the side of the road. And it's incredible how connected I feel to the community when I see that because everybody drives by and sees that. And I don't think anybody sees that and says, “Well, that's stupid. Why would anybody post that.” That, to me is bringing connection to people.


Sarah Vallely

I think it works. I think that signage is definitely a way that government could affect the culture of a town or a city or a state, in this situation that we're talking about these signs, say we win with love, or just simply love or peace or unity. And they're in these bright colors. And they're on painted pieces of wood that are nailed to telephone poles and different places around town. And there's enough that we've all seen them. This is not a government taking action and putting up signs. But this is a group of people that are deciding to do this. But I think it's working like I think that it is having an effect on our culture here in Asheville, everybody's seen them, everybody knows them. And for me, when I drive by one of these signs, I feel a little warm fuzzy in my heart, because I feel like I really love where I live. Similar to what you were saying, Jacob, I just love living in a place where it's cool to put out signs about love, and nobody tears them down.


I got a text from a friend the other day that had a photo of a sign in Dayton, Ohio. The sign said “Mindfulness Walks, Take Five.” And they have four of these signs in different areas in the city. Let me read to you what the sign says, “Slowly breathe in 1-2-3. And slowly breathe out 1-2-3, close your eyes for a few seconds.” So they give some direction on how to practice mindfulness. It also says, This is a great activity to feel calm and peaceful. You can do this activity anytime in any place for a quick break. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, anxious, mad or upset, remember to take five.” Like how awesome is that? That this city of Dayton has created these signs and posted them. I looked up “mindfulness walks”. There's a few different places that do this. This is also mentioned on the National Park Service webpage.


Jacob Derossett

Have you been to the meditation labyrinth in the River Arts District? It gives you instructions similar to what you just read about mindfully walking through the labyrinth. But it's essentially like a little maze. It's maybe the size of like a single bed apartment. And you walk and then if you get stuck, you turn around and when you get to the middle, it has a list of things that you process. It’s a guided walking meditation basically.


Sarah Vallely

I think this is where we're at right now. I think this is how government/cities are trying to do what we're talking about here, save us from national crisis and global world warfare on a local level. So maybe saving themselves locally from local crisis and maybe local violence on this city level. I think this is happening. I think this is probably happening in several different cities across the US creating these spaces with signs about mindfulness. If the US government created some type of monument or some type of landmark dedicated to mindfulness, would that give US citizens on some level more permission to take more time out of their day to simply be mindful?


Jacob Derossett

I read that Sweden was the happiest country in the world, at least a few years in a row. And I think most recently, they are still considered to be the happiest country in the world. It basically said, the general consensus is, why they're so happy, is “It feels like my neighbor cares for me and looks out for me. And it feels like my government cares about me and looks after me.” That's loving kindness straight up--the understanding that we're in this together and connected. You affect me, I affect you.


To me, anything that draws attention to the fact that we're experiencing this together, we share this consciousness and experience, is helpful. Oh, yeah, there's this multi century old practice that's been around, that helps one to realize these things. So anything that points people in that direction--I don't know how it wouldn’t flip our brains. If you read a lot of what the Founding Fathers said, there's a lot of things about unity. Yet, when I was in school, all that fell through, it just never stuck to me. To me, it seemed like that was in a time and place when they had it figured out. But now it's different. And I don't think it was different, I think they were setting an example. I'm from Kentucky, and on the Kentucky flag, it says “United We Stand Divided We Fall.” And I always took that to heart growing up, I really did. And I always got nervous when I could feel the culture pulling apart. And to me, it was always like, “Y'all look at that sign over there. That's it. That's what we need to do.” And then when I started meditating, I was like, Oh, this is what that is. I have to examine myself and be aware of moments that I am going against others. And that's what the other part of the practice is--the internal part of the practice pointed towards me that I examine myself. I just wish that we could have these big blanket sayings and things that say “Go do this right now.” Because that's what all this other stuff is saying, it's all drawing towards that.


Sarah Vallely

We don't have any data on the results of mindfulness on a city/national/global level. But we do have data on a school level. Mindful Schools https://www.mindfulschools.org have been around for several years, a school will hire Mindful Schools and they will go in train the teachers, train the staff, teachers will train the students, they will have dedicated mindfulness practice sessions at these schools thT become mindful schools. And they have tracked the data. Truancy rates dropped, suspension rates dropped, and fighting rates dropped. Actually the data shows that mindfulness affects schools on more of a social emotional level than on an academic level. It does affect schools on academic level, but it's more the social emotional impacts, such as less fighting. That's why school counselors love mindfulness.


Could Mindful Schools be a prototype for the world? Could we look at what Mindful Schools is doing within inner city schools and speculate how that might affect our culture, our citizens on more of a local, state and global level? They attribute those drops in fighting, at those schools, to the students becoming more mindful of their thoughts and their actions.


If a culture is defined as shared everyday habits, then the way you change the culture is by changing the habits. I read this in a Forbes article, “The Fastest Way to Change a Culture.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidrock/2019/05/24/fastest-way-to-change-culture/?sh=27f0f4bf3d50 Eighteen percen of people feel they can change. So if the way we change a culture is to have people change, and only 18% of people feel like they can change, then that's a challenge.


Jacob Derossett

There's a book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, it talks about growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Literally comes down to you either think you can get better or you don't. That's really the whole book. But there's case study after case study after case study. It really changed my life. It was hugely responsible for me growing and developing as a person because I believed I could. So yeah, I think that should be mandatory reading for all people. It's incredible.


Sarah Vallely

The other statistic they had in there is that 37% of change initiatives succeed. I think these are more on a corporate level. So 37%, that's not too bad. Insight is one of the biggest catalysts for change in individuals. An example of that would be, you're sitting in a professional development session and you make a connection--like an aha moment. They said that the best way to facilitate people to have insights is to use anecdotal stories, which is so interesting, because if you think back to a lot of the religions and how religion has been passed through stories--those stories have been creating people to have insights and inspiring all these thousands of years.


Jacob Derossett

That's how this all passes, right? The teacher is really just a remember of the lessons of his teacher, and then it just keeps going. So in a way, I'm just a receiver of stories.


Sarah Vallely

I have consulted with schools on implementing mindfulness programs within their schools. Either on a classroom level or on a grade level or school wide level. And some of the things that schools use to implement these programs are signs--posting signs of mindfulness bells, or mindfulness quotes. And of course, educating the students. Repetition of concepts is really important, especially vocabulary. Teaching children the vocabulary to use to talk about mindfulness is important because the culture really starts changing when the people in the school/culture are talking about mindfulness with each other. What about creating an organization that consults with local governments, cities, towns, and makes them mindful cities, mindful towns. We could call the organization “Mindful Cities.” We go in and train government officials, train corporate leaders, train social workers. We work with the Parks and Recreation Department to create mindful spaces with signage, where the citizens can take a mindful break. I'm sure there's grant money out there somewhere for something like this. Who out there today is in a position who could start something like this? I volunteered to be on your board of directors.


Getting back to the original question, “Can mindfulness save us from national crisis and global warfare?” I think that it's possible that we can affect a culture. And so I think that we could have people learn mindfulness on this level. I think it would work because of what we talked about--people becoming more compassionate, having less stress and fear so they can communicate better and collaborate better. But I also think there's probably a lot of other movements that could have similar positive effects on national crisis and global warfare.

7 views0 comments