How to Turn Numbness into Mindfulness

When you turn on the nightly news, what do you hear about?

Death. Hatred. Mass killings. Threats. Environmental demise. Stupidity. Terrorism.

On our news station, for a 30-minute news program, we see 20-minutes of bad news, 5 minutes of weather, and then, if lucky, the newscast ends with a final segment of ‘goodness’.

Like good news is the crazy stuff that newscasters have to work really hard to find!

We see and hear so much bad news, I fear bad news has become normal. Something that stops us for a brief moment of sadness before we continue on with our busy lives.

We’ve become numb. And numbness has become our normal.

This morning something made me stop and reflect. As I was on my morning numbing browse through Facebook, I saw a link that a friend of mine posted. The link lead to a piece on CNN from Anderson Cooper. In this clip, Anderson reads the names of the 49 victims of the Orlando mass shooting.

The piece is close to 7 minutes long. And the piece is just as it says — a reading of a list of names.

Sad, unfortunately yes. But here’s what struck me — at the 5-minute mark, I felt myself reach for the stop button.

I have seen and heard so much news coverage on the Orlando shooting that I fear I had become numb to the story. A horrible story, a sad story, and a story that has so many humane and political facets to it, we will hear from a deafening number of groups before it’s all over.

But then I stopped myself. Sure, I had a busy day planned. Yes, I had things to get done. But was I too busy to listen for another 2-minutes and truly engage with Anderson in thinking about these people?

Was I that numb to what was happening around me that I could only spare a few minutes in reflection?

I listened to the full 7 minutes of names. I stopped everything I was doing and listened to every name that Anderson read.

Mindfulness is the quality or state of being aware. Of being present. Of just ‘being’. And we spend far too little time being mindful and far too much time numbed out.

Drastic events in life may wake us from our numbness.

Years of apathy toward our health (physical and mental) lead many to a health scare. All of a sudden, we are mindful of our health, eating better, exercising more, sleeping better.

A career of overwork and under appreciation ends with a severance package. With a bit of reflection, we realize we never enjoyed that job anyway and now have the freedom we always desired.

But why should it take a bolt of lightening to awaken us from our numbness — when we can practice mindfulness and revive ourselves more regularly?

Engagement with the people at work, not just work. Small breaks in the day to go for a walk in nature, not more emails. A fresh bowl of strawberries because they are in season, not another bag of chips. Uninterrupted time with your kids/spouse/partner/pet, no smart phones in sight.

A simple moment to Stop. Reflect. Engage. Remember. Love. Enjoy. Be. Breathe. Thank. Smile. Pray. Taste. Smell. Rest. Cry. Hug. Kiss.

Don’t let our daily routines become too routine. Find ways to interrupt your own numbness with a well placed moment of mindfulness every day.

If you do nothing else…

During the very next conversation you have in person, look that person directly in the eyes and engage in the conversation fully. No going through the motions — engage, listen, and respond.

June 18, 2016 Gayle Hilgendorff

Originally published at on June 17, 2016.

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