Finding Sanity in an Insane World

Winter 2018, Living Well Magazine

by Kimberly Poppe

Each morning when I wake up and look at the news, it feels like the world has gone insane and that we are in some apocalyptic horror movie with a script so badly written that no one would believe it is actually real. At times like these, what can we do? It all seems so huge, so impossible, so paralysing, so beyond our control. Perhaps the most radical action that we can take amidst such insanity is: to be sane. To be the sanity.

This is exactly what meditation can help bring us—sanity. Meditation is not about blissing out or spacing out in some disconnected airy-fairy, navel-gazing way. It is about becoming more aware—of ourselves, of others, of the world—and developing a more sane relationship to our thoughts, our emotions and whoever and whatever we might experience.

Like anything new, it might feel a bit strange and difficult at first. We are so used to “doing” that just “being” and seemingly doing nothing can seem like an uncomfortable, boring and colossal waste of time. In fact, there was a recent scientific study where people were asked to sit alone in a room and do nothing for between 6 and 15 minutes. Most people said that it was incredibly unpleasant. In addition, when they were given the choice to either sit quietly or to self-administer an electric shock many of them actually chose to deliberately shock themselves! (“Shocking but True” The Guardian, 3 July 2014)

Most people seem to prefer to be doing something rather than nothing—even if that something is negative. The French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, already knew this back in in the 1600’s when he said, “All of man’s difficulties come from his inability to sit quietly in a room by himself.” (Of course, this includes women’s difficulties!) This is even more true today with the intense distractions that we face by being “plugged in” all the time. However, this compulsion to constantly “do” is just a habit, it is not inherently part of who or what we are.

We can change. Neuroscience has proven this over the last 50 years through the discovery of neuroplasticity. While we once thought our brains and our neural pathways became unchangeable, static, and fixed after childhood, we now know that the brain remains changeable or “plastic” throughout our adult lives. There also have been multiple scientific studies over the past decade showing the benefits of meditation and that it can actually change or “re-wire” our brain. It can reduce stress improve health, support creative thinking, promote focus, reduce anxiety, improve communication and on and on.

However, I’ve found that the most powerful testimonies come from ordinary meditators like you and me when asked: “Why on earth do you do such a thing!?”

Many people said that it gives them a sense of peace, of calm, of clarity, of stability with an increased sense of awareness, perspective and wisdom, as well as a sense of rest.

Here are more of their inspiring answers:

Daily Hygiene for the Mind and Heart.

Of course I would prefer not having to meditate and spend time doing all these attractive things on my computer, but sitting meditation is like mental hygiene. If I stop doing it for a while, I notice that I become more agitated and restless, false stories and concepts develop in my mind about myself and others and I am less present for my colleagues and my family members.

To Create Space

I meditate to have a little more space around my intensity, so that I can have a healthy perspective and less gripping relationship with my emotions, physical sensations, and circumstances.

To Be More Present for Myself and those I Love.

It’s my time to be completely present with myself, no matter how I am. I do it because of the tranquillity it instils in me each day. Even during the last month of my wife’s life, when she was at home, meditating enabled me to be fully present for her, and that made a huge difference for her in her passing. Anything that comes up after that is piddling in comparison and daily meditation keeps me beyond reach of the daily insults and stresses of modern life, or able to very quickly recover.

To Better Cope with Daily Challenges with More Flexibility and Less Reactivity. 

Everything in life goes better when I do it. Even when meditation, itself, isn’t going better.

To Connect with Myself and Find Self Acceptance, Self Love and Self Compassion & Acceptance, Love and Compassion for Others.

I meditate to find out who I am.

When I meditate, I can accept what IS – whatever feelings, thoughts reactions, are flowing in or through me. Without meditation, I self-criticize those same feelings, thoughts, etc. With meditation, I am more able to process inner realities with self-compassion. As a result, I find more compassion within myself to give to others.

Simple! I meditate because I like myself a whole lot better when I do! Also, it eases the enormous physical pain I endure daily and I am a more present mother for my precious daughter. I am more spacious, present and have more compassion when I meditate.

I always found meditation useless and boring, being more an action person rather than thinking person (to my great despair). Until not so long ago I realized how much meditation is a way for me to stop and breathe, to try to be in touch with who I really am, with who others are, and to contemplate and develop myself as a spiritual being. On a more concrete/relative level it helps me to develop good discernment, and in result joy, love and compassion towards others (and a bit for myself too, which is more difficult!).

To Develop a Different Relationship with My Thoughts and Emotions.

Meditation is a reminder that I don’t have to believe all my thoughts.

I meditate not so much to take control but more to loosen the control that everything else has over my thoughts and emotions.

To get back the power to decide which way I want to go.

To Feel Truly Alive.

Lately when I’ve finished a formal session I am totally energized, like all the thoughts that were weighing me down just lifted. I’ve also been practicing meditation/awareness a bit during the day, for example when drinking a cup of tea. To really be in that moment is so fresh and liberating. It’s like the power pack to charge the rest of my day. Life didn’t make sense before finding these practices.

To Connect with What is Truly Real. 

I started meditation because I felt that the answers given in books were not the ones. I felt that in the quiet of inner silence, a different kind of answer would arise. And it did. Since then meditation is the necessary place where things can be approached in a different way. I find there a respect and searching space necessary for my survival.

So, why not give it more of a place in your life!

Kimberly Poppe leads meditation workshops and retreats around the world. Deeply respected by thousands of students for her commitment, clarity and warmth, she has studied with some of greatest pioneers and teachers of mindfulness, loving kindness and self-compassion in the world. Kimberly has been immersed in Buddhist study and practice for the last 20 years with some of the greatest Tibetan teachers of our time who personally trained and authorised her to teach.