Mindfulness in difficult times


As she reads the daily news, journalist Otje van der Lelij sometimes can’t fight a rising sense of concern about the world. How can you stop the whirlwind of thoughts and find some peace?

Through mindfulness you gain a clearer perspective on what troubling messages do to you. You start seeing what happens in the moment from a distance, without judging. You see images, concerns and words pop up in your head and disappear again. And you can feel what kind of impact that has on your body.

When I started practicing mindfulness, that was the biggest eye-opener for me. I knew I had thoughts, but I had no idea what my thoughts looked like in detail — how fleeting, urgent and busy they are, and sometimes as soft as a whisper. I also began noticing it sooner when I was becoming trapped in my own mind. It’s like waking up out of a dream.

Suddenly you’re ‘back’, fully realizing that you’d wandered completely off track. This ‘awakening’ is what mindfulness is all about. It gives you a tool to consciously focus your attention on something else, something more beautiful and pleasant. The realization that you can take control of the focus of your attention at any moment is very liberating, especially in this time when we are witnessing all kinds of gruesome events and stories.


It’s not that I spend all day enjoying myself, being fully attentive to good things now. I wish! But I can find the button to the here-and-now faster, making everything lighter and more beautiful. But all wisdom can melt away in an instant when a scary news item comes in. “At such a moment, it’s a good idea to look around you, and see that your children, house and friends are all okay,” Marisa Garau, who wrote several books about mindfulness, says.

“Often we’re swallowed up by world news that we have no influence on. And at moments like that we forget to pay attention to the people for whom we can actually mean something, also called our circle of influence. I say: keep them close, just be a good person in your own environment. Give conscious, loving attention to the people you care about. Instead of giving off a vibe that ‘I don’t have time for you, because I’m worried about Syria’.”

  • The full article ‘Mindfulness in complex times’ can be found in Issue 25.

Text Otje van der Lelij  Photography Kalisa Veer/Unsplash.com