We can’t determine exactly what the future will be, what tomorrow will bring, what the next moment will bring, but we can determine how we will be in our body and mind, whatever may come.
John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at UCLA, used to shock his players with his opening lesson. He gathered them in the locker room before the first practice, not for a pep talk, not for a presentation on defensive strategy or ball-handling skills. He taught them how to put on their socks. If you don’t put on your socks properly, he explained, you get a wrinkle, and when you have a wrinkle, it causes a blister, and when you have a blister, you can’t run and jump properly, and so on.
Paying attention to that simple act of pulling up your socks is mindfulness. If we take our time with the small things, the big things will come along. Mindfulness helps us to be prepared for whatever comes our way.
Celebrating the Ups and Downs of our Country
A bumper sticker on the wall in my office says, “Celebrate Fiercely.” That’s what a mindful nation does. We celebrate the amazing journey of our country. The ups and downs. The tragedies and triumphs. I wrote A Mindful Nation to celebrate the talent and compassion of the people helping others to cultivate their innate mindfulness in so many different spheres. They’ve seen people change before their very eyes. They’ve seen members of the military become more resilient, so they have a better chance of fully reconnecting with their loved ones when they come back from war. They have seen veterans let go of years of pain and suffering, they have seen young kids become more attentive and caring students, they have seen people suffer less because of a health problem. We need to celebrate this work. Today. Now.
This work has just begun, and the interest in a more mindful nation keeps growing. Many of our citizens are realizing that going faster and faster to solve our problems has not worked, and neither has waiting for our outer circumstances to change on their own — through the invisible hand of the market or pure luck. We intuitively know that if we are going to recapture the American spirit, it will be because millions of our citizens will begin to see the power of being connected and moving in the same basic direction, regardless of our inevitable and necessary differences. That’s why it says on the seal of the United States: E Pluribus Unum, “Out of the many, one.”
Creating a Future That Works for Us All
We know we’re stronger when we’re caring about each other and creating a future that works for us all. My grandparents’ generation proved that. A sense of common purpose and love for one another makes it all work. Deep down most Americans want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and the work in mindfulness is an opportunity to do that in every corner of this magnificent land of ours. And once people learn approaches to helping themselves and making their mind and body more resilient — learning to be there for themselves and others — they will inspire other people to do the same.
If you have a dollar bill in your pocket or purse, look at it: on the reverse side, to the left of the word ONE, the phrase Novus Ordo Seclorum appears. It roughly translates as “A New Order for the Ages.” The new order created by our American experiment made the people responsible for making the country work. It’s up to us.
Being Connected to Others & to the Environment That Sustains Us
The values we need to shoulder this responsibility are self-reliance, hard work, and a commitment to a bright and prosperous future for our children. We can’t predict their future, but we can help them to be there fully when they get there — able to work creatively and with resilience no matter what they encounter.
We need to raise our children in a nation that teaches them to be mindful, that teaches them about the importance of kindness and being connected to their fellow human beings and the environment that sustains them. A nation that teaches them to appreciate their basic human goodness and see that goodness in others.
I want that kind of country for my niece and nephews, for the young children in my district, for all of us. And I will join with the heroes and pioneers I’ve talked about in A Mindful Nation to bring about that kind of world for us all. Together, we will continue to promote, encourage, and celebrate this important work. It’s helping us all recapture the spirit of what it means to be an American. Join us.
©2012 by Tim Ryan. All Rights Reserved,
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hay House Inc. www.hayhouse.com
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit by Tim Ryan.
Congressman Tim Ryan presents us with an inspiring and hopeful view of our country’s future — and a roadmap for how to get there. Both inspiring and pragmatic, A Mindful Nation shows how the benefits of mindfulness apply to the current challenges that affect each of us in our own lives and in our communities, and thus have implications for our society as a whole. With a hard-nosed understanding of politics, government budgets, and what it takes to get something done, Tim Ryan connects a practical approach with a hopeful vision for how mindfulness can reinvigorate our core American values and transform and revitalize our communities.
About the Author
Tim Ryan was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2002, at the age of 29, and is currently serving in his fifth term representing Ohio's 17th Congressional District. Congressman Ryan has a daily mindfulness meditation practice. He has been an outspoken advocate for promoting mindfulness practice as an aid to dealing with the variety of complex problems facing the nation. He maintains a strong commitment to the economic and social well-being of his constituents in northeast Ohio. He serves as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as its Subcommittees on Readiness and on Emerging Threats and Capabilities. He also serves as a member of the House Budget Committee and co-chairman of the Congressional Manufacturing Caucus. During his tenure in the House, he has helped to get mindfulness and social and emotional learning programs established in several schools in his district. He also spearheaded a conference at a medical school in his district on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. For more info, visit www.amindfulnation.org