Mindfulness for Challenging Times: the ZOOM Exercise
11 Aug 2020 | Shamash Alidina
Lots of us are going through hard times at the
moment. Maybe you've lost your job. Perhaps you're
struggling in your personal relationships. Loneliness or loss may
be a challenge for you, or maybe you're feeling deeply overwhelmed
by all the changes that surround you.
Firstly, remember you're not alone. Whatever
challenge you're facing, I hope the words here will offer you some
peace. These certainly are challenging times for millions of
people, and although not everyone is suffering, many people are. So
first of all, do remember, you're not alone in your suffering.
Taking some time to reflect that we are all in this together can
Secondly, appreciate the difference between pain and
suffering. Your challenges may be causing you pain right
now. And we all experience pain at some time. It can be the
physical pain of an injury or illness, or the emotional pain of a
loss or change. But in mindfulness, we distinguish between pain and
Pain is inevitable. But suffering is what arises when you
struggle to accept what can't be changed. Acceptance is simple, but
not easy. Mindfulness offers many ways to accept what's happening
in your life. Not an acceptance that's giving up or tolerating. But
an acceptance that's empowering, life-affirming and calming. An
acceptance that makes you feel like you're rising to your
Whether you've tried mindfulness before, or considering trying
it for the first time, begin with short, simple exercises. Start
with some everyday mindfulness - being conscious of your day to day
activities. Then try the short guided mindfulness meditation at the
end of this blog post. There are many 3 minute guided audio
exercises to get you going available online too. And try the longer
meditations when you're ready to dive in - but no rush.
There are many misconceptions about mindfulness. They can lead
to unnecessary struggles. Mindfulness is not trying to relax. It's
not about thinking positively. And it's not about making your mind
blank. Then what is? It's about simply being present with
what is. Being open to your moment to moment experience
with acceptance, kindness and curiosity. No silent mind required.
So you can do it, and you can bring your crazy mind along with you
- it's very welcome. You can be mindful in this way right now, and
you can also do mindful meditations to deepen that experience.
Whatever happens, please don't feel you're doing anything wrong
in your response to your challenges. It's really hard when the
whole of society is turned upside down. Everyone's response is
different, and your response isn't bad or wrong. Maybe you don't
feel like doing anything. Or perhaps you're going into work
overdrive. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the sorrows in the
Begin by acknowledging these are really hard times. The toughest
society has faced in half a century. So, of course, your body and
mind are going to struggle and respond in ways that seem wrong.
That's ok. Being kind to yourself and accepting yourself as you are
in very much part of the spirit of being mindful. Imperfection
isn't our enemy - it's what makes us human.
Mindfulness doesn't offer any quick fixes. But a moment of
presence can help you to see your challenge in a totally different
way - and that can sometimes change everything.
But mostly, mindfulness offers you another option. Another way
to relate to the difficulties you're encountering. Right now,
perhaps when you feel overwhelmed or stressed, you may overeat,
shout in frustration or reach for a drink. We're all susceptible to
making choices that don't help. But you may not have the skills or
capacity to do anything differently. However, the short mindfulness
exercise below may be an alternative you choose, both practised in
moments of calm or when facing the really tough moments.
It's my hope that this post inspires you to take just one deep,
mindful in and out breath. Or one long, much-needed stretch of your
body. Or just to be a little bit nicer to yourself. No pressure to
do any more than that.
A ZOOM in and out Mindful
Here's a practice I've created and find helpful in challenging
times. It's a way to ZOOM out of difficulties and zoom back in from
a potentially different state of mind.
Z - Zoom out of the situation. See things
from a bigger picture. Breathe. Is it really as bad as you think
and feel right now? What's going well? Imagine Zooming into a wise
and kind person you know - what advice would they give you right
O - Observe your thoughts as just thoughts. Are
these thoughts helpful? Will they lead to a resolution or just more
suffering for them and you? Say 'I notice I'm having the thought
xxx'. This helps to zoom out of your head and create some space
between you and your thoughts. Remember, you are not your
O - Open up to your feelings. Notice the
feelings like anger, sadness or fear...and any other feelings
coming up. Maybe anxiety, frustration, a sense of hurt. Where do
you feel it in your body? Can you make some room to feel it, to let
it be? It can be healthier to notice your feelings rather than
suppress or deny them.
M - Meaningful action. What do you want to
stand for in the world? What kind of person do you want to be? What
action can you take, that is in line with your values, right now?
This could be anything from an act of care for yourself, to sending
a message to a friend.
There is also an audio track version of this
exercise for you to try whenever you're
About the Book
Mindfulness for Challenging Times
is a book written by 26 Mindfulness Teachers I've trained, as
well as myself. It has 26 Chapters designed for the current changes
we face in society and includes 40 free guided meditations too.
It's available in paperback and on Kindle.
About Shamash Alidina
Shamash is author of 7 books including Mindfulness
for Dummies. He started one of the world's first online Mindfulness
Teacher Training Programs back in 2013. Find out more at ShamashAlidina.com