We’ve been asking our sangha to share stories of how mindfulness, meditation, and practising in conscious community have changed them. Here, Maureen Smith shares how her conversations and relationships have become more conscious.
There are times, while talking with my friend, that I feel like we are on different planets.
For example, he says something that sounds a bit ridiculous to me, but I answer it anyway. Meanwhile, in my head I’m wondering, ‘what is he thinking!?!?’
Because of my internal dialogue, my answer then has a tone to it, which he picks up on. And, because I am busy guessing and trying to intuit what he’s talking about, I feel a thousand miles away from what he was saying.
You might have guessed that the conversation spirals downward from there.
At this point, neither of us is having any fun. We can’t see a way out of it, and our sense of separation from one another gets larger and larger. For my part, my sense of frustration is turning into anger and I am becoming more and more judgemental about everything he says.
Whoa! Hold on a minute. Rewind.
Does the above conversation resonate with you at all? Well, let’s try that differently this time, applying some mindfulness of what’s going on with me.
With the steps below, I’m offering some practical guidance based on how I tend to deal with things now, after years of practice because I have some space around my interactions.
First of all, if I can be honest with myself then I can be honest with him. So,
1. Be honest – ‘I don’t understand what you just said.’ If I say this, sure, I risk feeling stupid and being seen by my friend as a fool, but it’s more important to me to honour our relationship and build my communication skills than hide behind my fear of screwing up.
Gulp. OK here goes. I am already choosing to get into this so I may as well continue.
2. Clarify – The next time I feel lost, I say, ‘I’m still not sure what you mean. Can you say that in another way?’
3. Be mindful and ruthlessly self-honest. Those negative emotions won’t build up so much if you stop and own them. Admit to yourself, ‘Wow, I don’t know why, but I am getting really frustrated.’ When you name it internally, try to remember to pause briefly and be mindful of your inner state. “What is really going on for me here?” It may be a bodily sensation or an emotion or a thought. This helps you own it as something that’s going on for you and not project it onto the other person.
Now it gets really risky. It might feel like you’re getting into conflict, and yet you’re actually diffusing the situation.
4. Share where you are at – “I am getting really frustrated. I want to understand you and I don’t. Can I check in to make sure I understand what you are saying?”
5. Clarify with questions – “Did you say that you like raw tomatoes but you don’t like cooked tomatoes? Did I get that right?” (Yes, sometimes it’s something as simple as this.)
Pause and really listen to what they say even if your heart is pounding and you don’t know what is going to happen next. It helps to remember that you don’t have to know what will happen next and you aren’t supposed to know. Each interaction is a completely new event. Each moment is like a birth of unknowing coming into being, and you’re not meant to be in control of it.
And then the final stretch:
6. Appreciation & Gratitude – These moments aren’t easy. How can you honor your stretch, your moments of quality time together trying to really see and hear each other?
Doing this acknowledges how much you care and also lets your depth know that this is really how you want to show up in the world: authentic, in integrity, clear and open.
“I appreciate that we are willing to take the time to understand each other. I think our relationship is worth it! I value this important work and want to become a better communicator so that in any moment I can be present for you and myself.”
Edited by Andy Rogers and Geoff Haynes