– Jon Kabat-Zinn
In February, this month of Valentine’s Day, we may gift those we love with cards, flowers or chocolates. But the greatest gift we can give our relationships is mindfulness. The practice of mindfulness slows us down and increases our awareness, allowing us to pay attention without judgment, which benefits our relationships – both personal and business – in two important ways:
- It gives us the ability to delay our emotional responses. How to do it: Stay aware, so you are able to notice when an emotional sensation arises. Become conscious of your breath. This pause gets you out of autopilot and creates a moment to discern whether your speech or action would be harmful or beneficial. Then you can respond, rather than react, and not be yanked around by your emotions.
- It gives us the ability to be better listeners and develop empathy. How to do it: Disregard your electronic device and give the speaker your full attention. Use eye contact so you can see what’s not being said. Listen only for the sake of allowing the speaker to fully express themselves and be heard. Listen without judgment, even if you disagree or disapprove of what is being said. Keep your mind open and receptive.
While experts say to pursue mindfulness just for the sake of the journey – not for the purpose of a goal or self-improvement – most of us need a little incentive to motivate us to give it a try. Personally, I have experienced the difference mindfulness has made in my life and in my interactions with others. Although it’s a continual work in progress, it’s well worth the effort.
A common pitfall of mindfulness is thinking you need to be perfect at it all the time. No one is capable of being mindful all the time – so accept that you, too, will not be perfect. When you notice you’ve reacted – you’ve let your emotions rule – be glad you noticed and next time you may be able to respond in a wiser way. Remember: Sometimes we need to leave the center in order to find the center. The insight we receive from not practicing can be a wise teacher.
We all wish to live in greater harmony and peace with one another. Why not try gifting your relationships with a little mindfulness this month?
Follow my monthly blogs & nature photography or read my book: “Twelve Mindful Months: Cultivating a Balanced & Fit Body, Mind & Spirit,” by Carol Tibbetts