Toward a More Mindful and Resilient Country

A friend recommended the book A Mindful Nation, by U.S. Congressman Tim Ryan, and I’ve just begun to browse through it. As a student of mindfulness practices, I’m curious how a politician applies these precepts to our national life. Here’s a powerful passage from the first chapter:

Let’s get rid of the phony concept of an America based on materialism, consumerism, and looking out for number one, where financial chicanery is our proudest accomplishment to show the world…

There is no dignity in the idea that anything worthwhile has to be purchased.

It shouldn’t be all that difficult to get us to move beyond this ethos, given how unhappy Americans have become.

If we slow down and find some space away from the daily chatter that tells us how to think, who to be, and what to buy, we can discover our capacity for resilience.

Ryan equates resilience with values like:

  • self-reliance
  • diligence
  • frugality
  • pragmatism
  • hard work
  • innovation
  • community
Pioneer Days. Photo from US National Archives

Pioneer Days. Photo from US National Archives

He calls these, somewhat nostalgically, “the values that made this country great.”

I tend to think more in terms of global citizenry myself, but I think his patriotic slant will have wide appeal, and he does have a point about the hollowness of much of our current national character. Why, he asks, do we collectively rise to the occasion of caring and compassion only in moments of great crisis, such as during and immediately after 9/11? Can we bring this generosity of spirit to our everyday lives?

Ryan believes that a good starting point lies in each of us addressing our personal fears and doubts through the simple practice of paying attention.

I’m curious about this. So let me ask: What place does mindfulness have in your life and work? What place should it have in our national life? And do you think individually bringing kindness to the present moment can change a nation for the better?