The United States is in need of a mindful minute


Photo by Katelyn O'Callaghan

A representation of the two main political parties taking a mindful minute.

Whether it’s breathing exercises, listening to a ringing bell, or simply sitting still, students at AHS have most likely participated in a “mindful minute.” These minutes are exercises in mindfulness, designed to train one’s mind to observe one’s thoughts and feelings without judgement or criticism. During said minutes, students are encouraged to simply acknowledge the thoughts that pass through their heads, accept the validity of these thoughts, then move on, supposedly moving on towards inner positivity and productivity. 

In this time of extreme national polarization and lack of unity, could this same practice of observing thoughts and deeming them valid be applied to the entire nation? Imagine the entire US sitting down and beginning to acknowledge each other’s perspectives with no judgment, as a mindful minute allows. A true understanding of one’s peers is crucial to the success of democracy and is the only way that the partisan polarization of the US can decrease. A less polarized America means a more productive democracy. 

Politicians are out of touch with those they represent. Don’t believe me? Ask the 43% of eligible voters who did not vote in the 2016 Election if they felt there was a candidate whose ideas excited them. Candidates may spend months on the election trail, talking to constituents about their needs and spreading their ideas, but these needs are not making it to Washington. The discontinuation of the CARES Act is one example of the needs of Americans not being met by those elected to serve them. The inability of all parties to reach across the aisle, even to provide assistance to Americans who have lost their jobs and loved ones to a global pandemic, shows that the United States is more in need of a mindful minute than ever. The polarization of politics is harming Americans because their needs can not be met due to partisan disagreements. 

The divide created by the party one supports is also harming Americans. While disagreeing on issues of civil rights may be a valid reason to stop interacting with a peer or neighbor, political ideologies may not be. It is up to the individual to determine what issues are political and which are a matter of human rights; however, it is important that one is open to the discussion of both. Relationships are becoming strained on the basis of politics, driving the nation further apart. A mindful minute to help people understand why their peers vote the way they do could help bring the American people back together. 

A nationwide mindful minute will help those who are making policies truly listen to their constituents and inspire more unity within the population of the United States. This minute would start by truly listening to one’s fellow Americans and really working to understand them, without passing any judgment. This, coupled with asking questions to validate other’s experiences in your own brain, will allow for more unity within the United States, as understanding is the basis for all compassion.     

Unfortunately, we cannot have a nationwide mindful minute. We can, however, take smaller steps within our community to decrease the national polarization that is occurring. These steps begin with setting aside time to have productive conversations with those around you whose experiences may be different from your own. Simply listen and attempt to understand how their life has shaped their opinions. Then take this understanding and move into larger circles, perhaps a neighborhood or city. Social change is driven by large groups with compassion for one another. This compassion stemmed from a mindful minute is the answer to lessening the polarization of the United States. And to think this could all start from sitting quietly in English class for one minute…