Despite our best efforts and much to our utter dismay, there are very few things we can actually control. When it comes right down to it, while we can mostly choose what we do, we can choose how we respond. That’s about it for control.
It is often said that what we attend to becomes our life. If you think about that, you’ll realize it’s quite true. All we really have is right this moment, and now that’s gone, too! So whatever you are noticing, taking in, giving your attention to right now is your life. Everything that’s already happened has happened. Everything that is yet to be is yet to be. The past is gone and the future is imaginary. All we can experience right now is right now. Of course we can experience feelings that come from past events, but the events themselves are gone.
Have you ever found yourself watching a spectacular sunset and had the thought “I should really watch the sunset more often,” instead of simply allowing yourself to be immersed in the experience? There’s a well-known Zen expression, “When doing the dishes, do the dishes. When eating, just eat. When walking, just walk.” The point is that the quality of our attention determines our experience, and our experience influences our actions.
And life is so fleeting. If we go through our days at work and home just going through the motions, we’ll miss the reflected light on the morning dew, the bursting buds on the rhododendrons, the way that one co-worker never has a harsh word for or about anyone and makes a point of saying “thank-you” to the custodians, and the dog who sleeps beside us wherever we are just to be close and let us know we’re loved. Whether we choose to watch TV, cook a meal, plant a garden, play the piano or hold our partner’s hand, when we do it deliberately we are truly present for our lives.
What we attend to, being present, living our lives on purpose takes a lot of awareness. Here are a couple of mindfulness practices you might enjoy.
Mindfulness in Conversations:
Wherever we are, either at work or home, we all have the common desire for clear and kind communication so we know we’ve been heard and recognized. The language and the tone of voice we use, choosing good timing, telling the truth in a useful way, being clear about our intentions, and listening with curiosity and patience are vital components of effective communication. It takes a lot of attention and a lot of practice to get it right. A few ways of working with this are:
- Keep your intentions and motivations in mind. What is the purpose of the conversation? You might use the acronym WAIT: Why Am I Talking?
- Listen completely. Notice if you’re rehearsing your response before the other person has finished speaking. If so, you’ve stopped listening.
- Tune into the needs of the other person. Ask yourself what this person needs. When you do this, your responses will be more accurate and effective. It’s a great way to develop empathy.
- Think kind thoughts and use kind words. This really works! It changes the tone of the conversation, even when it’s difficult.
- Notice if you’re making assumptions. Ask yourself “Am I sure? Is it true?”
- With conflict and stressful situations allow yourself to pause. Practice the acronym STOP: Stop, Take a Breath, Observe and Proceed
Cultivating Well-Being Especially at Work:
At the beginning of the day, set an intention for how you’d like your day to go and what you can do to enjoy yourself. At the end of the day, think about the best moment of the day. Let it be something that made you feel happy, something that gave you real satisfaction. Think about it for a few minutes, visualize it. Maybe even tell someone about it. Try doing this and writing it down every day for a week. At the end, you’ll have seven days of satisfying moments at work and tangible reminders of your well-being.