April 29, 2019


Last night on television, American Idol alumnus and current lead singer for the legendary band "Queen," Adam Lambert, gave advice to some of this season's hopeful contestants on the same show.  Youthful prospect Laci Kaye Booth said that she envied Lambert's seeming comfort on the stage, admitting that she often has difficulty feeling comfortable while performing.  The mentor told her:

"I guess you just learn how to hide it when you're nervous... But also there's a point where you can harness (adrenaline and nerves) and make them work for you. Something about that phrenetic energy, it can create magic. If you were telling someone something really sensitive and personal, like in this song (you'll be singing), you may get a little butterfly in your stomach. So use it. It's the same emotion." 

Booth said she listened and tried to incorporate Lambert's advice and then went on to do a moving musical performance. 

This notion of harnessing seemingly negative feelings for good is a truly unique way of approaching anxiety and likely has applications in a variety of life settings.  Too many today try to ignore the negative and think positively.  But, according to Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh, the solution is far simpler.  He calls it mindfulness.  He teaches:

"The function of mindfulness is, first, to recognize the suffering and then to take care of the suffering. The work of mindfulness is first to recognize the suffering and second to embrace it. A mother taking care of a crying baby naturally will take the child into her arms without suppressing, judging it, or ignoring the crying. Mindfulness is like that mother, recognizing and embracing suffering without judgement.

"So the practice is not to fight or suppress the feeling, but rather to cradle it with a lot of tenderness. When a mother embraces her child, that energy of tenderness begins to penetrate into the body of the child. Even if the mother doesn’t understand at first why the child is suffering and she needs some time to find out what the difficulty is, just her act of taking the child into her arms with tenderness can already bring relief. If we can recognize and cradle the suffering while we breathe mindfully, there is relief already.”

Consider those times you have a difference of opinion or some conflict that erupts with a coworker, friend or your spouse.  Ignoring or trying to eliminate the negative often means it "festers in the background," only to erupt at some point in the future.  Instead, Thich suggests perspective:

“When we are angry, what do we usually do? We shout, scream, and try to blame someone else for our problems. But looking at anger with the eyes of impermanence, we can stop and breathe. Angry at each other in the ultimate dimension, we close our eyes and look deeply. We try to see three hundred years into the future. What will you be like? What will I be like? Where will you be? Where will I be? We need only to breathe in and out, look at our future and at the other person’s future.

"Looking at the future, we see that the other person is very precious to us. When we know we can lose them at any moment, we are no longer angry. We want to embrace her or him and say: “How wonderful, you are still alive. I am so happy. How could I be angry with you? Both of us have to die someday, and while we are still alive and together it is foolish to be angry at each other.”

"The reason we are foolish enough to make ourselves suffer and make the other person suffer is that we forget that we and the other person are impermanent. Someday when we die we will lose all our possessions, our power, our family, everything. Our freedom, peace, and joy in the present moment is the most important thing we have.”

Practicing mindfulness, then, is a useful tool for reaching common ground.

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