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November 27th, 2018
“Sorry, couldn’t hear you. What did you say?”
Upon hearing this, how many times do we say something different than what came out the first time?
The chance occurrence of our sound vibrations failing to zip across space and light up another person’s brain in just the right way offers a common and unusually ripe situation which elicits a rare case when we are impelled to pause and think for just a moment longer about how we want to impact our surroundings and the people we wish to connect with.
Normally we don’t feel the urge to slow down and think carefully before saying something. We just say it. But just like the phenomenon of walking away from some discussion or altercation and only later thinking of the brilliant thing that we could have said, this circumstance gives us a similar perspective. Our lack of impulse to pause before speaking, and our obsession with rethinking what we’ve said after the fact clearly indicates that we usually only have an opinion about what we say after it’s been said. It’s almost as though what we hear ourselves say is a bit of a surprise. A surprise that is often underwhelming and seems somewhat disconnected from what we originally felt we were thinking.
What can we infer from this about all future things we will say? Chances are good we’ll wish we’d considered our words just a little bit longer before speaking (or tweeting).
It may seem ridiculous to screen every word before utterance, but this would not be the remedy. A brain practiced in mindfulness develops an ability to notice thoughts as they happen. It’s almost as though there is a second mind, or second sight on what happens in real time. With steady practice, this makes our words feel like a second shot instead of the trigger-happy first.
Mindfulness is merely a different relationship to thoughts and anything that arises in consciousness.
To put this into perspective, we can couch the matter in a more approachable question:
Would you like it if all of your relationships with family, friends and strangers were better than they currently are?
Only the deluded narcissist would say ‘no’.
Can you imagine any benefit to having a better relationship with your own thoughts and feelings?
Like most anything, how can we expect progress without a dedicated, consistent focus towards that end?
Just as consistent discussions around the dinner table improve our family relationships, and bonfire talks strengthen friendships, meditation is an example of that time needed to improve our relationship to our own thoughts and feelings.
Time spent with a loved one helps our ability to notice their hopes, their needs, and the ways which we might add to their life. Time spent in concentrated effort with our thoughts and feelings, likewise helps us notice their flow, course and aim. Developing this ability to consistently and potentially constantly notice such internal workings enables us to guide them, change them, or downright leave them be. Such mindfulness does not erase the ability to feel anger, but it does give one the ability to watch the anger happen without acting on it.
How often do we look back and wish we hadn’t said something? Wouldn’t it be better to look back and think “I’m glad I didn’t act on that anger.”
Those second shots we get when someone fails to hear what we say, may be one of the best ways for someone to glimpse of what life is like with a meditation practice.
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