Finding Clarity and Meaning Through the Lens of Mindfulness
Existential angst, often triggered by the awareness of our own mortality, is like an invisible storm that rages within. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and a sense of futility; and also — it can be used at a catalyst for self-reflection and personal growth.
Before we explore how mindfulness can help us deal with existential angst, let’s take a closer look at where existential angst originates.
Existential angst, that deep sense of unease and questioning about the meaning of life, is a feeling that has been the subject of introspection for centuries.
Often regarded as one of the founding fathers of existentialism, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard delved deeply into the human psyche.
Kierkegaard believed that existential angst arises from the confrontation with our own freedom and the choices we must make.
Kierkegaard suggested that individuals experience this angst when they face the enormity of their existence and the responsibility that comes with it. For him, this feeling of despair could only be alleviated through a deep commitment to one’s own choices and values.
Consider Viktor Frankl, who found meaning and resilience in the midst of the Holocaust, showcasing the power of mindfulness in the face of existential despair. He believed that individuals could find meaning even in the most extreme suffering, and the lack of meaning was a significant source of despair and existential anguish.
How Mindfulness Can Help:
Mindfulness, a practice rooted in Eastern traditions and increasingly embraced in the Western world, offers a powerful approach to alleviate existential angst.
Here’s how it can help:
1. Grounding in the Present: Mindfulness encourages individuals to focus on the present moment. This practice can help mitigate existential angst by redirecting attention away from future anxieties and past regrets, allowing individuals to find solace in the “here and now.”
2. Acceptance of Impermanence: Mindfulness fosters an understanding and acceptance of the impermanence of all things. By embracing the transient nature of existence, individuals can reduce the distress caused by the fear of mortality.
3. Embracing Freedom and Responsibility: Mindfulness can assist in clarifying one’s values and priorities, aiding in responsible decision-making. It empowers individuals to acknowledge their freedom and take responsibility for their choices, reducing the existential angst stemming from uncertainty and doubt.
4. Cultivating Connection: Mindfulness can help individuals feel more connected to themselves, others, and the world. This sense of connection can alleviate feelings of isolation and alienation, key factors in existential angst.
5. Finding Meaning in the Moment: Mindfulness emphasizes finding meaning in everyday experiences. By doing so, individuals can discover purpose and fulfillment in the mundane, reducing the existential angst rooted in the search for profound meaning.
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.
Existential angst has its origins in the fundamental aspects of human existence, including mortality, freedom, and isolation. Many philosophers have delved into this concept, offering diverse perspectives.
Mindfulness, with its emphasis on presence, acceptance, and connection, can be a transformative tool in addressing existential angst by helping individuals navigate these philosophical complexities and find a sense of calm and meaning in their lives.
Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more intensely the mind of thought is drawn to them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.
— Immanuel Kant
Mindfulness provides a practical and accessible path toward easing the existential burdens that weigh on our minds. In conclusion, the art of calm through mindfulness can be our guiding light in the darkest existential tunnels.