The Mindful Way To Charisma: Practices for Projecting Warmth & Presence

May 29th, 2017 by

Some of us are charismatic. Some of us just aren’t. For a long time, charisma has seemed like a magical gift that only a lucky few were given – but research is now showing that charisma is something that we can learn, and that meditation has a lot to teach us.

Charisma has little to do with how we look – we’ve all known people who are good-looking, but not charismatic, and other people who are charismatic but not good-looking. It’s a matter of behavior. In The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, author Olivia Fox Cabane identifies charismatic behavior as consisting of three essential components: presence, warmth, and power. We express these through our body language, and it’s remarkably difficult to fake them. But the good news is that we can learn to influence our mental state in a positive direction, and our body language naturally follows suit. We too can have charisma.

Mindful Presence
When we’re talking with someone who isn’t present, we can feel disregarded and resentful, as if that person feels something else is more important than their current interaction with us. And if we’re the one who’s distracted, they feel the same.

The mind of the average person wanders almost fifty percent of the time. It’s difficult to be fully present, and even small improvements can have a big effect on those around us. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Mindfulness meditation trains us to focus on the present moment, regardless of whether we’re alone or with someone else – and when we are truly present with someone else, that person can feel our attention. They feel heard, respected, and valued. An added plus is that learning to be more in tune with the present moment also helps us to be happier – the more our minds wander, the more unhappy we are likely to be.

Practice:
The next time you’re speaking with someone, try this exercise from Cabane: feel your toes. Even though I practice meditation regularly, I still get distracted during interpersonal exchanges! Feeling my toes, or the soles of my feet, is a quick fix that gets me right back into my physical body in the present moment, and really helps the other person feel that I’m on the ground with them instead of lost in my head.

Compassionate Warmth
The next component of charisma is warmth. Someone who projects attentiveness and a desire for our happiness and success is someone who is attractive, even magnetic. We want people to like us and wish us well – and the best way to project through body language that we like someone and wish them well is to practice actually doing just that. Metta (loving-kindness) meditation is the Buddhist practice of generating and sending compassion – good wishes for yourself and others. In A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to Be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives, author Thupten Jinpa walks the reader through the Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training course, a program that teaches us how to be more compassionate in everyday life. Sometimes, we fear that being more compassionate means weakness, but compassion doesn’t mean we can’t stand up for ourselves. In fact, it means we can do so more effectively and with greater ease.

Practice:
Cabane shares this exercise: imagine the people around you have angel wings. Smile and silently send them good wishes. When I tried this, I found myself smiling constantly. People seemed nicer, not because they were different, but because I was seeing them differently. And many more people smiled in return.

Grounded Power
Power is the third element of charisma. Power means different things to different people, but it boils down to being able to influence the world around us. It can mean physical strength, social status, wealth, intelligence, expertise, or authority. It can be hard to tell whether someone really is powerful, so people will tend to accept whatever your body language projects.

Because meditation can help us feel more grounded – projecting a sense of ease, confidence, and stability – both mindfulness meditation and metta meditation can increase our sense of power. In addition, anything that helps us realize the potential of our physical body, whether that’s yoga or long walks or weight training, will increase the confidence with which we move. While I’m only 5’5, simply getting stronger made it so that I no longer felt short around others taller than me. This shows up in my body language and posture, and people notice.

Practice:
One of the biggest obstacles to projecting power is the discomfort we feel around uncertainty. Cabane recommends the following visualization: Take several deep breaths, imagining the clean air rinsing away all your concerns. Imagine lifting the weight of everything you are concerned about from your own shoulders, and putting it on the shoulders of a benevolent entity or force – God, the Universe, Life, or anything else that works with your beliefs. Explore the idea of becoming comfortable within the uncertainty, letting go of the need to have an immediate answer.

Putting it Together
According to the research, charisma is the ability to project presence, warmth, and power through our body language and sincere attentiveness. While different people will have different degrees of each, all three elements are necessary. By practicing these mental states, our body language will automatically change to match them and we will be able to project more charisma than we knew we had.

Four Things Mindful People Do Differently

July 10th, 2015 by

Research continues to support the many health and quality of life benefits of mindfulness practice: stress reduction, greater physical well-being, and a happier, more stable mental state. Did you know that if you practice mindfulness, you are more likely to be successful in making positive behavior changes in your life (think weight loss, exercise, productivity), and you’re less likely to catch a cold or the flu?  Media personalities are also causing us to take a closer look, including ABC newsman Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Really Works — a True Story. Anchorman Anderson Cooper recently participated in a meditation retreat led by mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn as part of a segment on CBS’ 60 Minutes. Cooper reports that because of the benefits he has experienced, he is now a mindfulness practitioner. They’re getting our attention. But why should you build time into your day for mindfulness practice? How are the daily lives of mindfulness practitioners different from the lives of those who have yet to discover this millennia old form of meditation?

They Don’t Ride the Emotional Rollercoaster

Sure, mindful people have emotions—we all do, we are human! The difference is that mindful people are aware of their emotions in a different way. Their mindfulness practice trains them to be aware of and feel their strong emotions without automatically reacting to them.  When emotions arise, they are able to observe them from the safety of neutral ground rather than being yanked around by the ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster. Over time, and with practice, they have learned from their own experience that even the most intense feelings are impermanent.

They Keep Calm and Carry On

Because people who practice mindfulness have practiced working with their difficult emotions, their reactions, decisions, and sense of self are less influenced by their emotional state when things “go wrong” or don’t turn out as planned.  Practitioners are more able than others to remain calm and effective in stressful situations, actively listening to others, and responding skillfully based on what’s called for in the moment, rather than reacting automatically.

They Pay Attention to Their Bodies

Mindfulness practice is about bringing awareness to the present moment, noticing thoughts and feelings as well as bodily sensations. People who practice this type of awareness have learned that it is OK to “be with” discomfort, knowing from experience that it too is not “fixed” but changeable. Mindfulness invites us to “hold” and attend to  discomfort in the body with kindness rather than resistance —whether it is the racing heart of anxiety, the burning tightness in the chest of anger, or the heartache of grief. By learning to turn toward what’s difficult in the body, and to explore it with curiosity, they have discovered that pain is often blanketed with layers of thought, resistance, and strong emotion. While everyone experiences pain, mindful people have discovered that without these layers of added psychological pain, their true physical pain is actually manageable. And by staying attentive to the body, they know when and how to take care of themselves, for example with a timely yoga stretch, exercise, or rest. Because they are more embodied than others, mindful people experience the fullness, richness, and aliveness of their embodied human experience.

They Practice Compassion

People who practice mindfulness and meditation tend to be less afraid of thoughts and emotions because they have looked at them and discovered that thoughts and feelings are fleeting and illusory. By the same token, they have willingly embraced deeply painful emotions and felt them in their entirety. Consequently, mindful people are more inclined to connect with and reach out to others who are suffering, and offer them empathy and compassion. The late great Tibetan meditation master Chogyam Trungpa referred to the “genuine heart of sadness,” or the tender, open, fearless heart of compassion that is awakened through practicing mindfulness. By knowing our own pain we connect more intimately with the human experience of others.

Tips for Mindfully Working with a Difficult Emotion

Sense into your body with kindness and curiosity. What sensations are associated with this emotion? Where are they located?

Notice what happens as you observe.  Do the sensations stay the same, intensify, diminish, or shift in some way?

Name the emotion. Is what you are feeling anxiety, fear, anger, sadness, loneliness?  Research shows that developing the skill of naming our emotions in the moment they arise helps loosen their grip.

Practice “just being” every day. Give your mind an “anchor” to pay attention to, for example the sensations of your breathing, or the sensations of movement during yoga. Notice when the mind wanders into thinking. Patiently return your attention to your chosen anchor, allowing thoughts to drift through your awareness like clouds in a vast sky.

 

 

On the Job Mindfulness

February 27th, 2015 by

For most of us, working is an unavoidable fact of life, and with jobs comes stress. Even if we’re self-employed or have a flexible schedule, stress is an inevitable part of our workday. Most of us spend most of our time at work. So, how can we work with our stress?

Typically we begin a new job or project with gusto, filled with hope and enthusiasm about the newness and possibility ahead. Promises of a perfect impression or the potential to advance motivate us to perform well and maintain a positive attitude. Eventually, however, smiles may begin to fade, and once-promising prospects become burdensome, when expectations are not met, or old patterns of thinking, feeling, or behavior creep in. The same phenomenon can happen with promotions, management changes, or new spaces; enthusiasm wears off once “reality” sets in. This scenario is so common that we seem doomed to repeat it at work. Fortunately, through mindfulness practice, we can be proactive and reclaim the optimistic mindset we thought we’d lost.

In order to undo patterns of negativity, let’s take a look at how they work. While we start a job or project on the right foot, intending to carry that energy throughout the length of our career, the brain has other priorities. It is wired for survival, and part of the brain constantly scans for threats and stresses in our environment.  Its job is to identify patterns and categorize events in order to protect us from actual physical threats to our survival.  We need this protection, but if we aren’t careful, we can easily become run by over-learned patterns of perceived danger and conflict which are much more symbolic than physical. This autopilot mode of fixating on stressors has become a modern hindrance. If we let it, it will cloud our perception and block creativity. By employing mindfulness at work, we can become aware of how the body and mind are “reacting” to a stressor, and we can see our automatic reactive patterns as they emerge. And here is the critical thing: we do this without judging ourselves. We become a neutral observer of the situation, and this helps us to see it more clearly. Even just a moment of presence gives us an opportunity to respond with skill rather than react automatically. To echo the late Tibetan meditation teacher Chogyam Trungpa, there is no problem in the present moment.

The beauty of mindfulness practice is that it allows us to choose accountability. Instead of being victimized by thoughts and circumstances, we can choose not to buy into them. Instead of being run by repetition, we can bring a freshness and new life to our work and attitude. Here are three ways to bring mindfulness into your work:

1. Watch Your Mind
When you start to notice your chest tightening in a heated meeting or your palms beginning to sweat during a presentation, turn inward and notice your thoughts. Is there an internal dialogue going on about how the situation should have gone but isn’t? Are old mental patterns dictating your response before you even have a chance to consider whether they still hold true for you? By bringing awareness to our thoughts, we begin to unravel their hold on our perception.

2. Listen
Do you find yourself formulating a response to a statement from a colleague before she’s even finished talking? This is hearing, but not listening. Try this: before entering into what may be a difficult communication with someone, make a decision not to talk. It can be for 1 minute, 5 minutes, whatever feels appropriate. By spending a meeting just listening, you may discover that there’s a wealth of information you’ve been missing because you were too busy coming up with a response or a defense.

3. Breathe
A good way to de-escalate an automatic reaction, or unplug a negative thought pattern, is to bring attention to the breath. By shifting your focus from the mind’s chatter to the sensations of your breathing, you instantly bring attention to the what’s actually happening rather than rerunning stories and scenarios through the mind.

How can you begin to bring mindfulness into the workplace? What techniques do you already employ?

 

photo credit Ambro via Free Digital Photos

 

Key Components of Your Best Life

October 30th, 2014 by

During my graduate studies in Transpersonal Psychology I became intrigued with the idea of human connection and mindfulness as catalysts for healing and transformation. Something about today’s world of divisiveness and separation seemed fundamentally inconsistent with my own understanding of psychological health.  I wanted to find out just what the key elements of healthy psychological development are. I was surprised to learn that prior to the 1970’s, when women entered the field of psychological research, the primary model of psychological health was based exclusively on research involving only male subjects. As a result, attributes like autonomy, separation, and competition were assumed to be qualities of psychological health, while the urge for connection and relationship (typical of the female experience) was seen as inferior and unhealthy.

Enter the Healing Power of Connection

In the 1970’s, when women entered the field of psychological research, this old and incomplete model was shown to be in error, and a new model of psychological well-being emerged. Based on current research involving male and female subjects, this newer model shows that the urge to connect is our essential human drive – not autonomy and separation. Growth-fostering relationships, those involving active participation in the development of others, are now understood to be the primary vehicle for psychological wellness. It’s easy to see how all of us – men, women, boys and girls – have suffered under the mistaken assumptions of the old model. Mindfulness Opens the Door to Connection

The practice of mindfulness, which is the cultivation of our natural human skill for non-judgmental present moment awareness, is emerging from its ancient roots as a healing and wholesome way to live. Health-care, personal fitness, and wellness models are beginning to incorporate a holistic mind-body-spirit perspective in the services they offer for the prevention and treatment of disease, and mindfulness is the central feature. Unlike the current “find it and fix it” healthcare model, the new integrative model of healthcare reflects elements of relationship, communication, spirituality, mindfulness, wholeness, nutrition, life purpose, personal development, and the mind-body connection.

In my experience as a mindfulness teacher, I’ve observed that as practitioners develop the qualities of mindfulness they typically experience a decline in their reactivity to stress, and an improvement in their relationships and interactions with others. “I’m more patient and show more kindness to others,” says one local mindfulness graduate. “I’m a more attentive listener, and I feel more love and kindness toward myself and others,” says another. By utilizing their mindfulness skills as they engage with others, practitioners realize first hand that their way of “being” has a significant influence on their experiences with other people. This influence upon others has a scientific basis. Known as limbic resonance, researchers are examining the interrelationship between the activity of the brain’s limbic system, the non-verbal transmission of emotion, feelings of empathy and relatedness, and the methods by which we, as human beings, become attuned to the inner states of others with whom we are in close contact.  Connection is more than an idea!  It is a powerful dynamic exchange which arises in the present. With mindfulness we learn to tap into the immediacy and power of connection in the very moment we engage with another. We come out of our heads and into relationship.

Take Away Practice: The 3-Minute Breathing Space

This simple practice, takes only 3 minutes (or less), and has three components:

1. AWARENESS
Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture. If possible, close your eyes. Then ask: “What is my experience right now…in thoughts…in feelings…and in body sensations?”  Acknowledge and register your experience, even if it is unwanted.

2. GATHERING
Then, gently redirect full attention to breathing, to each in breath and to each out breath as they follow, one after the other. Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

3. EXPANDING
Expand the field of your awareness around your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression. The breathing space provides a way to step out of automatic pilot mode and reconnect with the present moment. The key skill in using mindfulness is to maintain awareness in the moment. Nothing else.

Adapted from the book Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Depression, Segal, Williams, and Teasdale (2002).

 

Mindful Communication – A Key to Better Relationships

October 10th, 2014 by

One of the significant characteristics of mindfulness training is that once you begin to feel confident in your practice, and start to notice the benefits of mindfulness in your daily life, you begin to see relationships evolve and change. Mindfulness “ripples out” from the practitioner and affects those around her. Several times I’ve heard the question from new students – “How can I get my spouse to do this too?”  My response is always the same – the key is to work on yourself, and only yourself. You are one half of an interconnected “system” called a relationship. By changing yourself, the relationship will, of necessity, change. I often tell the story of how I tried “for 20 years” to “change” my husband  – and it never worked. It wasn’t until I started to change myself that he began to change. Interesting huh?

Your Mindfulness Ripples Out to Others

Each of our relationships –  with our significant other, our kids, friends, and co-workers – is a dynamic system. Systems naturally tend toward a state of equilibrium or a “steady state”. Each relationship is a unique mixture of what each person brings to it. However, our “steady state” relationship with our spouse may be the result of unconscious and habitual patterns of behavior each of us automatically relies on when we interact. Examples are patterns like reactivity, defensiveness, and blame. These patterns are sure to kick in when we try to “change” someone else. The interesting thing is that when you begin to change yourself  – by cultivating your own mindfulness – you bring a new and transformed way of being, and relating, to the relationship. Because the system will naturally seek to regain equilibrium, the other half must change in some way. This is how your mindfulness “ripples out” and affects others.

Did You Hear Me?

The practice of mindful communication, especially mindful listening, can make a world of difference in potentially every interaction you have. David Rome and Hope Martin, creators of “Embodied Listening” workshops note, “Unsatisfying communication is rampant in our society.” It seems that most of us are talking, but no one is listening! “Poor listeners” they point out, “are frequently unable to separate their own needs and interests from those of others. Everything they hear comes with an automatic bias: How does this affect me? What can I say next to get things my way? Poor listeners are more likely to interrupt: either they have already jumped to conclusions about what you are saying, or it is just of no interest to them. They attend to the surface of the words rather than listening for what is “between the lines.” If this describes you, you’re not alone. Many of us are poor listeners, but we’re seldom aware of it. How can we become more aware of our communication patterns? By paying attention. This is where mindfulness – the skill of paying attention, on purpose and nonjudgmentally –  can work wonders!

Mindfulness Meditation Makes Us Better Listeners

In mindfulness meditation practice, “we learn to settle, returning over and over again to the present moment, and allowing our thoughts to come and go without acting on them.” This practice shows us how our focus on “self” keeps us from experiencing the world directly. “Letting go of the “web of me” is the first step toward seeing and hearing others more fully,” advise Rome and Martin. By building our self-awareness through the practice of mindfulness, we begin to befriend ourselves, based on an attitude of kindness, gentleness, and non-reactive noticing of our own impulses and patterns. Rome and Martin identify mindful self-awareness as “the ground for listening and communicating well with others.”

Better listening skills through self-awareness are the natural outgrowth of a regular formal mindfulness practice, like meditation. However, the informal practice of mindful listening is something you can do anytime – and the more you practice, the better you get. There’s nothing quite like observing the face of someone as they discover you’re actually listening to them. Typically their face will begin to light up, their voice and stance will soften, a scowl may turn into a smile! Even the most unpleasant conversation can be improved by the practice of mindful listening.

Try It, You’ll Like It

Chad Meng-Tan, in his book Search Inside Yourself, describes the practice of mindful listening as giving the gift of your full attention – the gift of “air time” – to the speaker, while at the same time maintaining some mindfulness on your body. While this practice isn’t appropriate for every conversation, it can be wonderful and effective when the time is right – which is more often than you think. As the other person speaks, notice whether you’re really listening or instead planning what you will say in response at the first opportunity. Try to just listen openly and non-judgmentally. “Don’t try to remember everything,” he says, “If you really listen, you’ll hear.” Notice your own impulses to interrupt and, as best you can, let them go and return to just listening. You may “acknowledge” what the speaker is saying – for example by nodding, or saying “I see” or “I understand”, but don’t “over-acknowledge.”  When the speaker is finished, practice closing the loop of communication by saying something like, “What I heard you say was  . . . .” and then reciting back the essence of the speaker’s message as accurately as possible, without your own embellishment or interpretation.  Observe closely how these communications go, and polish your skills by practicing often.

photo credit photostock via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Be In Your Body – 10 Tips

April 26th, 2012 by

© Andres Rodriguez

Everything happens in the body: thought, emotion, sensation. It’s all in there. Are you? Here’s a great article by Dr. Lissa Rankin on how to do just that!

Mindfulness & Connection: Key Components of Your Best Life

March 17th, 2012 by

During my graduate studies in Transpersonal Psychology I became intrigued with the idea of human connection and mindfulness as catalysts for healing and transformation. Something about today’s world of divisiveness and separation seemed fundamentally inconsistent with my own understanding of psychological health.  I wanted to find out just what are the key elements of healthy psychological development. I was surprised to learn that prior to the 1970’s, when women entered the field of psychological research, the primary model of psychological health was based exclusively on research involving only male subjects. As a result, attributes like autonomy, separation, and competition were assumed to be qualities of healthy psychological development, while the urge for connection and relationship (typical of the female experience) was seen as inferior and unhealthy.

Enter the Healing Power of Connection

In the 1970’s, when women entered the field of psychological research, this old and incomplete model was shown to be in error, and a new model of psychological well-being emerged. This new model, based on decades of current research involving male and female subjects, shows that the urge to connect is our essential human drive – not autonomy and separation. Growth-fostering relationships, those involving active participation in the development of others, are now understood to be the primary vehicle for psychological wellness. It’s easy to see how all of us – men, women, boys and girls – have suffered under the mistaken assumptions of the old model. In fact, it seems to me our world as a whole is suffering from a failure to comprehend the critical importance of connection, interdependence, and the healing power found in a network of relationships.

Mindfulness Opens the Door to Connection

The practice of mindfulness, which is the cultivation of our natural human skill for non-judgmental present moment awareness, is emerging from its ancient roots as a healing and wholesome way to live. Health-care, personal fitness, and wellness models are beginning to incorporate a holistic mind-body-spirit perspective in the services they offer for the prevention and treatment of disease, and mindfulness is the central feature. Unlike the “find it and fix it” healthcare model currently in existence, the new integrative model of healthcare, as practiced at many major academic medical centers, reflects elements of relationship, communication, spirituality, mindfulness, wholeness, nutrition, life meaning and purpose, personal development, and the mind-body connection. These elements correspond to what appears to be the public’s increased demand for holistic treatment, the trends toward a unified approach toward life, health, and personal/spiritual growth, and hopefully an indication of a larger pattern being reflected in the world at large.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is an eight-week educational program, taught throughout the US and worldwide, which originated in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and was initially developed as a way to teach mindfulness practices to patients with chronic pain. During the thirty years since, this intensive program in mindfulness has been the subject of extensive research demonstrating significant benefits for people with chronic pain, anxiety, panic, psoriasis, prostate cancer, immune function, hot flashes, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure, diabetes, and psychological distress. The number of scholarly studies on mindfulness has increased dramatically in the past 10 years. Recent studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between mindfulness and emotional well-being, improvements in sleep quality, mood, and fatigue.

                  In my experience as a teacher of MBSR, I’ve observed that as practitioners develop the qualities of mindfulness  through meditative practice, they typically experience a decline in their reactivity to stress, and an improvement in their attentive communication skills. These developments are ideal catalysts for the creation and improvement of relationships. The qualities of mindfulness, which MBSR practitioners learn to cultivate, include trust, patience, acceptance, non-judgment, non-striving, letting go, and curiosity. Mindfulness practice initiates a ripple effect  – from the practitioner outward toward others. This ripple effect has a scientific basis which has gained attention in the fields of psychology and organizational management in the last decade. Known as limbic resonance, researchers in this field are examining the interrelationship between the activity of the brain’s limbic system, the non-verbal transmission of emotion, feelings of empathy and relatedness, and the methods by which we, as human beings, become attuned to the inner states of others with whom we are in close contact.

I’ve seen first hand  how the ripple effect transmits these qualities from practitioners  to others, and weaves a web of healthy connections. It is this web that supports the conditions for healing, growth, mutual support, engagement, and transformation. This, combined with the extensive body of research demonstrating the importance of social connections for health and longevity, demonstrates the immense value of mindfulness practice for our health and well-being.

References: 

Gilligan, C. (1982/1993). In a different voice. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.

Gilligan, C. (1995). Hearing the difference: Theorizing connection. Hypatia, 10(2).

Miller, J. B., & Stiver, I. P. (1997). The healing connection: How women form connections in both therapy and in life. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Holiday Mindfulness: Tips for a Season with Less Stress

November 29th, 2011 by

This article originally appeared in the December, 2011 issue of Natural Awakenings, Southwest Florida Edition.

Mindfulness is the skill of paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment on purpose and without judgment. While we’re practicing mindfulness, we engage with life as an interested, curious observer, without any pre-formed views, and opinions about what we’re experiencing. Mindfulness is a skill everyone has, and it can be strengthened through regular formal and informal practice. Here are a few tips for strengthening your mindfulness skills during the holiday season:

More Being, Less Doing

The mindset of constantly rushing to finish one thing, in order to tackle the next thing, is exhausting and stressful. Set an intention to “pause” your activity during the day and to notice your immediate experience. Identify a few special objects around your home, in your car, and in your outdoor space. Make these objects “mindfulness reminders”. When you notice one, let it remind you to stop what you’re doing or thinking so that mind and body can fully experience the next few moments. Notice your surroundings, the smells, the sounds, the textures, the temperature, how you’re your body feels, what you were just thinking. Take a few slow conscious breaths, fully attending to each one. Explore bringing this present-moment focus with you as you proceed about your day.

Listen Up: The holidays often involve engaging with large groups of friends, family, and others we may not know well. It’s challenging and not part of our normal routine. There can be “issues” attached to relational dynamics within families, and these may pre-occupy our attention and how we encounter others. This year, experiment with bringing an open-minded, genuinely curious attention to others. Try being present, alert, and aware when others speak to you, without interrupting. Sometimes, when someone is speaking to us, our habitual tendency is to be preoccupied with our own views and opinions, and with what we will say in response, that we totally miss important information in what they actually said! Notice how others react when they realize you are giving them your full, non-judgmental attention.

Practice Noticing: What would happen if you brought the full attention of your senses and awareness to as many “moments” as possible during this holiday season? What would you notice? The smell of cinnamon and evergreen? The brisk outdoor air? The laughter of people that you love? The soft smoothness of a warm sweater?  Be sure to allow yourself many experiences like this during the holidays, and make it your practice to intentionally build this skill of mindfulness, so it becomes “second nature”. You may find yourself more fully connected with your holiday experiences and your life!

~ Madeline Ebelini

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