There’s not a lot of magic in life (well actually there is, but that’s another post), but this is a nice trick you can use anytime. Simply ask yourself “am I mindful now?” – answer is always yes. If you weren’t mindful when you asked, you have to become mindful in order to answer the question.
Being mindful is simply directing your attention to your current experience, on purpose, and non-judgmentally What is your sensory experience right now? Check-in with yourself as you are reading. Take a breath and notice how you are feeling – physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Don’t judge it, just notice. For me, it would be that I feel my fingers hitting the keys on this keyboard. I can tell that for me it has too much resistance as I have to effort just a bit more than it seems I should to press each key. There is a hot spot on the bottom of my foot. My hands are cold. I am excited to be writing this and I’m working to do it well.
Ok, so here you are with all this self-awareness that you’ve managed to dredge up, and that someone comes into the room and starts to talk to you. What happens to all this lovely awareness then? For many of us, we simply give it up into the back and forth of the conversation. After all, there is a lot going on in a normal conversation. FAR MORE than we normally realize. Body language, distance (how close or far is the other person), eye contact, speed of speech, choice of words, pacing, intonation, volume – there is so much happening in any interaction it becomes overwhelming if you think about it, which is precisely why you don’t.
But we don’t have to drop our mindfulness altogether to manage a conversation. Just like you can bring a very high quality of attention to your own experience, you could bring the same quality of attention to your conversations with others – and more directly, to your experience of others while you engage. (After all, the real skill here is learning to be in the present. Present with reading this article right now. Present with talking to someone else later.) Extending your mindfulness to include those moments when you are interacting with others requires that you stay mindful, stay present with yourself, and extend your awareness to what goes on for you when you interacting with others.
This is big deal and is the key point of this blog and the resources posted here. When you do this, you honor the other person by “showing up” and paying attention, and yourself by bringing more of you into the “now” This is not a passive action. Doing so, causes a new set of possibilities to be present. Because you are in a different state of being, you are much more effective at “doing”. Instead of reacting to another person, you respond. Instead of being sucked in by someone’s story, you see a real person standing there to relate to – not a story. You can learn to be more present with others simply and directly. Learning to speak about your in the moment experience that includes them without negating or diminishing others is a deeply authentic practice the opens doors for connecting. You can see more clearly, respond more objectively, and at the same time with sincere, often profound compassion. This cannot help but to create moments that would not otherwise exist. Often deeply satisfying moments.
It’s easy to deepen your capacity for mindfulness. That’s the nice part. Just insist on having more mindful moments in your life than you have now. This is especially true for those just starting out. You can see a great deal of benefit with just a little effort. But it does take an effort.
Simply put, if you want to have mindfulness available to you when you need it, you must practice it when you don’t. This is neuroscience, not new age mythology. Like learning to play a C scale on a piano. It doesn’t take that much time, but you have to practice. But unlike laying a C scale, with mindfulness, the benefits can be dramatic and life-changing – even early on. Just a little practice will take you from unable to play it, to having some ability to play it rather easily. It’s easy to make big strides and harder to refine after that.
So when you look outside, notice it makes you feel. When you enter a room. How does it change your state? When you meet someone, hit the pause button and ask “what do I notice”. Simple things, often. Soon enough, you’ll be seeing how you want more of this good stuff, and guess what – it’s free.