COAL → diamond → CURE

Dear President Trump,

When we teach veterans mindfulness skills so they can better cope with stress, pain, depression, and PTSD we address both specific strategies (e.g., mindfully attending to one’s in-breath and out-breath and corralling one’s attention back to the breath over and over) and the cultivation of certain attitudes towards oneself and one’s experience. Really, the specific strategies, whether breathing or repeating a loving-kindness phrase, are mostly tools to step out of our usual frenzied or stupefied thought processes. They give the mind something to focus on while we do the work of shifting our usual way of being to something a little less guarded, angry, despairing, and frightened.

We don’t usually lay it all out this baldly but rather prop open a series of doors with the invitation to maybe sit outside the door, put one’s toe on the threshold, and after a while venture inside for a bit to check it out. With the door metaphor I’m talking about learning how to poke around in one’s own mind, how to be curious about and open to whatever one finds there and practice approaching it with acceptance and love. Mindfulness teachers sometimes use the acronym COAL to represent this process of greeting whatever happens to be present with curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love. They may point out how, under the right conditions, coal eventually turns into diamond, that we can transform the hot coals of anger so many of us hold onto with a death grip into something beautiful and powerful if we diligently practice being open to and kind.

It’s occurred to me as I’ve tried to use my mindfulness practice to cope with the current state of affairs that perhaps we need another acronym to complement COAL. The one I’ve landed on for now is CURE, which stands for Courage, Understanding, Respect, and Engagement. COAL can be applied to both oneself and to other people and situations but my sense is that the emphasis is generally on making peace with oneself. This is a critically important place to start, and I think it’s important to take all that curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love and refract it towards strong, nonviolent social action that aspires to CURE the suffering stemming from rage, greed, fear, and despair.

May we be safe to be curious and open.
May we be happy to be accepting and loving.
May we be courageous in caring for everyone’s well-being.
May we be understanding, respectful, and engaged in support of the common good.

Tracy Simpson

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