#43 Mindful Human Series: Part IV – The Role of the Mindful Human
In Part III of the Mindful Human series, we practiced getting in touch with sound as we played around with Mindful Listening. If you didn’t get the chance to practice or listen to part three, you can check out episode #40 “Part III Mindful Human Series: Your Brain and Mindfulness”. You’ll want to go to shiftforwellness.com/40.
If you’d like to listen to the series in order, pause here and start the series right from the beginning with episode #37 and you can do that by going to Shiftforwellness.com/37.
Today in Part IV of the Mindful Human series, I’m going to be talking about what it takes to walk around in this world mindfully and how to best interact with others so they know you are present and listening to them actively and respectfully.
If you’re just tuning into the series and starting with Part IV first because reading and following in order doesn’t matter to you, you’ll want to know in this four-part four series on being a Mindful Human, I share What Mindfulness Is and what it isn’t; Why It’s Necessary to practice; I talk about neurobiology and the part the brain plays during mindfulness; and finally today, we’ll talk about how to establish The Role of the Mindful Human.
Embedded in each part, you learn the basics for each topic, you begin to establish your own personal practice as you play with exercises that I’ve woven throughout each podcast, and I’m confident that you’ll feel confident enough to share what you’ve learned in each part so you can spread the wellness wealth and help me fill our world up with more mindful humans.
This is the moment people, the prime opportunity – I’ve been saying opportunity a lot during this time in our history – it’s our opportunity for putting what you’ve been learning into play to prevent you from going off the rails. It’s an opportunity to shift your perspective to choose calm. To choose ease. To work toward living with ease. To block out the panic mindset and mob mentality that is happening all around us. It’s an opportunity to practice compassion. To take what you need and leave the rest for someone else.
I’m excited for you to learn about how you can make this practice of paying attention, having compassion, tuning into yourself by becoming aware of your senses, and being without judgment, an easy, simple little slice of your life.
Let’s practice some mindfulness before we go any further and begin with being mindful of our surroundings.
Mindfulness of Surroundings
Please get into your mindful bodies, become still, quiet, relaxed, and upright, and bring your awareness to your breath. If you’re not able to sit up and lying down is your only option, you won’t have to worry about falling asleep because in this exercise, we’ll be keeping our eyes wide open.
Look all around.
Pay attention to what you see Is it bright or dark? Are you alone or with others? Are there windows in the room? Can you see outside? Can you see the sky? Is there light, or sunshine shining in the window? If so, does it light up an area on the floor of the wall? Or if it is dark? outside, can you see lights or the moon?
Look at what is in front of you.
Is there a wall, door, window, curtains, artwork, light switches, furniture, bookshelves? What is beside you? Can you see behind you? Look all the way around you. Observe. When your mind wanders, notice it, accept it, and then bring your attention back to looking around the room again.
Notice the temperature around you.
Is it warm, cold, or just right? Is the air moving or is it still? Do you smell any odors or smells? Are they comforting or distasteful? Are they new smells or are they familiar?
What can you hear?
Is it quiet? If there is noise, what sounds are there? Where are they coming from? Are they loud, soft, sharp, soothing, or annoying? Do you want to keep listening to the sounds or do you want them to stop?
Is anything moving in the room?
What is moving? What is staying still? Are things moving through the room, coming and going?
Pay attention to your body sitting in the chair or wherever you are positioned.
Feel where your bottom is touching the chair. Is the chair hard?, soft, cushiony, or solid? Are you supported? Is the chair too big for you? Do your feet touch the floor? How? Do your feet swing above the floor? Pay attention. Do your knees bend at an edge of the chair? Do you fill the seat or the space you occupy?
Look around and find something that particularly attracts your attention.
Notice what shape it is, where it is located, what color it is, it’s texture, its purpose. Observe why it draws your attention. Does it remind you of something else? Do you know what it is? Is it common, or unusual? When you notice you are not thinking about the room around you and about this present moment, notice these thoughts, accept them, and let them go. Tell them, “Not now”. Bring your awareness back to your surroundings.
Become aware of yourself in this space.
How do you feel? Do you feel safe? Do you want to be here? does this place feel familiar or does everything seem new to you? Have you been someplace else that reminds you of this place? Do you feel good, bad, or neutral here?
Now that you have spent some time completely focused on being in this moment, bring the awareness you have gained back with you as you resume your regular life. Practice this exercise whenever possible to keep yourself present in the moment. You will concentrate better, get more done more quickly, and feel calmer.
Before we get into talking about the role of the mindful human, I want to remind you that I am making no claims to being an expert on mindfulness. I came to the practice because I saw a need for it in my classroom. I educated myself on it and continue to do so by taking courses, I read about it extensively, I continue to work to develop my own practice, and I teach the practice to my students and clients, I encourage them daily to develop their own practices as I’ve been formally trained to do in the mindfulness curriculum through Mindful Schools.
That being said, with the help of my own practice, the courses I’ve taken, and the research that I’ve done, and the books I read, I’ve come up with 4 steps to becoming a mindful human.
4 Steps to Becoming a Mindful Human:
Pay Attention & be present when interacting with others
I want to share a poem with you that was given to me while taking a graduate course fifteen years ago. It speaks to being mindful during communication. As you read these words, pay attention to whose face/ss pop up in your mind’s eye.
by an anonymous writer
When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice,
You have not done what I’ve asked.
When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why
I shouldn’t feel that way, you have trampled on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.
Perhaps that’s why prayer works for some people
because God is mute and he doesn’t offer advice or try to fix things;
He just listens and trusts you to work it out for yourself.
So please, just listen and hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a few minutes for your turn, and I promise I’ll listen to you.
These words sting a little bit because I am guilty of some of the actions mentioned here and that’s why I love this poem so much because it resonates so deeply with me. I continually strive to be the speaker in this poem. And it pains me to know that there have been times that I was the person giving advice, there have been times when I’m the person giving advice and trampling on feelings. Not purposefully, but with the intention to help heal.
This poem teaches me to listen first and listen compassionately with full focus and attention, then ask permission to offer if an offering is even necessary. So when we know better, we do better, right?
At the same time, this poem also validates my feelings of not being heard in some very close relationships I have. And as a result, I’ve stepped away from those relationships. I’ve just made the choice to step back. A person can only take being dismissed, being ignored, or getting interrupted for so long before they feel rejected by the listener, before they feel like they don’t matter. Rejection stinks! Nobody wants to be rejected, especially by those we love and trust with our deepest thoughts and desires.
SO… who popped into your head when YOU read this poem? Did you find yourself anywhere in the lines? You can download a poster version of the poem here and hang it somewhere where it can be a constant reminder for how you can listen mindfully to others.
Transfer of Information
“Non-verbal information” travels in two directions: from speaker to speaker. There is so much more occurring between two people than the simple exchange of information or a quick simple greeting.
Let’s take a look at some ways body language plays into how we present ourselves to a listener, or to the world, and what that means for being a mindful human.
Body Language Expert, Joe Navarro, tells us in his blog post, “Body language basics: The honesty of body language” that body language is the “shortcut to communicating what is most important” because it has been evolutionarily beneficial. Our needs, feelings, thoughts, emotions, and intentions are processed elegantly by what is known as the limbic system of the brain. It doesn’t have to think, it just reacts to the world in real-time and our bodies show how we feel.”
Generally speaking, some body parts that play a prominent role in communicating acceptance and rejection from the listener are the eyes and facial expressions, hands, voice, posture, and even your feet. You can learn more about body language here.
How to listen respectfully and actively
Mindful interactions involve respectful, active listening. Paraphrasing the speaker and asking non-judgemental questions is listening respectfully. It sounds like, “Tell me if I understand you correctly…” “So, you’re saying…” and then ask them a question about why they’ve just shared with you. Do you have a personal connection that has to do with the conversation without taking over the conversation and making it all about you?
When you listen actively, you’re listening for underlying feelings; you’re listening to emotionally understand and support another.
You may respond with:
- You seem…
- You sound…
- You look…
- You must feel…
- It sounds like you’re…
And then add the appropriate feeling.
How do you know when someone is listening to you?
This is how you know if someone is listening and being mindful during your communication. When your words are paraphrased, your feelings are validated, and there is a flow of conversation, of give and take, that’s not intentional debate or argumentative, but easy and natural, that’s a lovely space to be in.
So, before you even say anything to another person, you are first transmitting to them how you’re feeling on the inside. Their “read” on you registers non-verbally first and it registers immediately!
How many times have you just looked at someone and said, “What’s the matter with you?” or “What’s up? What’s going on?”
We get a read on people from their body language and if you’re intuitive enough, meaning your mindfulness practice has built up your instincts and your ability to know what’s true without conscious reasoning, you know when something’s off or something’s being kept secret.
And, if you are not present when speaking or spending time with someone because you’re stressed or resistant to a situation, that registers especially in people who are highly sensitive and anxious by nature. It doesn’t matter whether you’re face to face or on the phone. These are people who are assessing their environment at all times because mindless adults have been their norm. That’s what they’ve become accustomed to.
Summary: Step 1 to being a mindful human is Pay Attention & Be Present when interacting with others
Strengthen Your Intuition
Your ability to sense what’s going on with other people is directly proportional to your ability to sense or access your own feelings. Intuition is a trainable skill, but you first have to ask yourself if you are willing to get down and dirty and honest with what you’re feeling.
Through the development of mindfulness, you are able to more quickly and intuitively assess the mood and energy of the room when you’re in a social situation.
Through practice, a sense of what is appropriate in each situation emerges. When you’re tuned in as a mindful human, you’re better suited to deal with what spontaneously occurs in any situation.
Your imagination is the bridge to the intuitive self. In order to strengthen your intuition, you need to give the analytic adult side of you a break. You need to connect with your child-self and be playful. When we talk about intuition, we’re talking about energy, and by nature, energy is effortless.
As children we’re smack in the middle of our intuitive self. Then we hit 8 and 9 years old and we become more external and a part of the analytical world. My teacher calls it spiritual amnesia, and I think that’s so sad. We forget we are spiritual beings. We’re spiritual beings having a human experience with an incredible library of knowledge inside of us. Every one of our cells has consciousness in it.
The key to working with your energy is to have fun! We can make energy come and go when we want. It’s spontaneous. We already have everything inside of us to do this. Practice and commitment is the key. As with any practice, you get out of it what you put into it.
Allow yourself to be still and get quiet. Maybe run through your favorite breathwork technique and if you’re looking for one that will quickly put you in touch with your intuition, listen to the 7-minute healing breathwork technique on the “Services” page of this website. Once you begin to tune in to your body and its senses, ask your inner wisdom what it wants you to know.
Then, get ready to hear some answers, because they’re going to come. Be playful. Don’t analyze. What you see in your mind’s eye is your answer or what you hear or sense is your answer. If you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Trust that the information you’re receiving is what your body wants you to know. Our bodies are very intelligent and we need to trust that we already have the answers we are seeking from the outside world.
Summary: Step 2 is Strengthen Your Intuition
Cultivate Attitudes and Qualities for Yourself
The Mindful Schools curriculum that I’ve been trained in has taught me there are qualities and attitudes we need to cultivate to keep our personal mindfulness practice fresh and interesting. These attitudes and qualities revolve around basic communication skills and if you’re living in the same world I am, we’re sharing this space with some humans whose communication skills could use some work.
Mindful relationships can grow organically from the empathic presence of being a mindful human. Short moments of mindfulness, repeated many times, integrated with the attitudes and qualities discussed here, help to produce the culture you create for yourself.
#1 – Sensitivity: Through mindfulness of the body, the amount of “kinesthetic information” we have access to greatly expands. You can begin your path to being a mindful human by paying attention to how the mood of people, places, and things registers kinesthetically in your physical body.
#2 – Mindful Speech: This is more than just choosing words carefully. As a mindful human, you want to notice how speaking with awareness creates a sense of relaxation where pauses and natural silence are seamlessly integrated with what you’re saying.
#3 – Authenticity: There’s a fine line between taking what works from different sources like people and writings, and putting on an act by being someone you are not. Powerful and purposeful exploration is the result of finding and refining your own unique voice & style. I love the saying: Imitate, integrate, and innovate. Mirror someone or something you admire, practice, and play with it until it merges with your own voice and style and becomes something of your own authentic creation.
#4 – Disclosure: Our culture has become a culture of exposure. Not a whole lot is kept private anymore. I think it’s a good idea to personally keep that in check by being discerning with what you share, where you share, and with whom you share.
Disclosing information works toward forming a bond and builds connections. I disclose when I feel like I’m in a safe space. Past experiences have proven to me that perhaps I wasn’t in as safe a place as I thought, so I offer this advice: How well do you know those with whom you are ready to share information? How well do they know you? If your company, family, friends, colleagues truly know who you are and your true intention, you can trust that what you are about to disclose will be received compassionately.
You’ll quickly know when you are misunderstood when there is upheaval, especially when causing upset or disruption was not what was intended. A mindful human would do no such thing on purpose.
On the other hand, we all know someone who holds nothing sacred and divulges way too much. If this is you or if you have these tendencies, check your intention and ask yourself if you’re sharing because it will benefit the conversation or the person or people you’re speaking with in any way. If yes, then continue to share.
But if you’re disclosing to get approval, to be liked, or to mask fear, then what you intend to disclose is probably going to create more disclosure than necessary and create an awkward situation for everyone.
#5 – Non-Identification: People behave the way they do for lots of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with you. Begin to see resistance in this larger context. Pull back from the tendency to personalize everything. If people resist you in some way, it may have absolutely nothing to do with you. Stay connected to your sense of humor and consider that their resistance may have everything to do with someone else or with something else they haven’t dealt with yet.
#6 – Curiosity: The development of mindful awareness makes us genuinely curious about inner and outer reality. The more we develop our mindfulness practice the more curious we become about our senses and the world around us. Ground yourself as a human being in an active curiosity about the other person’s experience while communicating with them.
#7 – Success: Revel in the simplicity of small successes. Celebrate 30 seconds of practice. Allow these moments to fully make an imprint on you. Monitor your expectations closely; stay connected with what mindfulness is and why we practice it. And watch out for ideals that can creep in like: Mindfulness will save everyone and solve all problems. Remember, it’s not a cure-all. It’s a lifestyle, which makes it a practice and you have to be easy with your practice.
Summary: Step 3 is to Cultivate Attitudes and Qualities for Yourself
Consciously Practice Making Mindfulness Work
- Like every other skill and strategy that’s new to us, practice, play, and practice some more is the best approach. Sharing your experience also helps to build your practice as you connect with others and teach the practice of mindfulness to them.
- Emphasize the breath. In the practice of yoga, the inhale is an expansion of the breath; the life force of the body. Accompanying the inhale is the symbolic gesture of bringing in elements that best serve you: life, light, love, confidence, courage, trust, ease, calm, all things that serve us well. In contrast, the exhale is a contraction of the respiratory system; the squeezing out of stale breath from the lungs and elements that no longer serve the body and the brain: nervousness, worry, fear, anxiety, guilt, grief, all sorts of limiting beliefs.
- Start slowly. Release any pressure to be perfect. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being easy with the practice.
- Practice. There is no right or wrong here. The practice of mindfulness is about tuning in to the body, brain, and breath and noticing what you notice. It’s about honing in on your senses and experiencing them to the fullest.
- Set a goal. Two, three, five, ten minutes throughout the day. Thirty seconds will serve you in a way you’ll never be able to comprehend! Transitions from one task to another are wonderful opportunities to practice mindfulness. Purposeful pauses in the middle of tasks are my favorite and the ones I benefit most from.
- Have fun! – Keep it simple so it’s sustainable and long term. Allow it to become your norm.
Here are some suggested times throughout the day to consider practicing:
- Before getting out of bed
- When you get out of bed
- Brushing your teeth
- Transitions between daily tasks
- When you shift locations
- Mid meeting
- Coffee break
- After lunch
- When you’re tired/drained
- When you need to alleviate negativity
- While waiting inline
- When focus and attention begin to diminish
- End of the day – Great time to practice gratitude!
To practice Mindful Movement and enjoy a walking meditation click the link to the podcast above or below!
**SHIFT Work 🙂
The SHIFT work I have for you today has two parts: Part one is to find time in your day to practice listening actively and respectfully. Part two is to begin to make the principles of SHIFT a part of your lifestyle: SMILE to yourself and at everyone you meet, really get HONEST with yourself and how you communicate with others, INTENTIONALLY move through your day paying attention to the needs of your body, mind, and soul, as well as the needs of others, have FAITH that all will be well, and above all, be THANKFUL for this very moment and every other one you’re blessed to receive.
Where else can you be SHIFTing?
Have you downloaded the Shift for Wellness workbook yet? It’s waiting for you at the bottom of this page!! Within those pages you’ll work with 5 steps that will help you to feel safe and at home inside yourself so you can be better equipped to face challenges and tragedies with courage and resilience. You deserve to be well! You deserve to be whole!
I’d love to hear about your experiences with the practice so if anything resonated with you here in Part IV or if you have any questions, feel free to post them on the Shift for Wellness Facebook group page.
There you will be able to connect with and learn from other like-minded individuals who are purposefully practicing with the intention of bringing more ease into their lives.
Please rate and review the show while you’re there. And remember, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about being easy with the practice.