I used to think of social gatherings as the last places to practice mindfulness. So noisy, so much stimulation, so much mindlessness all around . . .
Inspired by U Tejaniya's teachings, I have come around to another point of view. Yesterday's Thanksgiving became another opportunity for practice. More than twenty people gathered, many of whom I only get to see once a year. Some I have more connections with than others. And each new encounter, a chance to observe the mind at work.
How much do I really listen? How active is the 'commentator', the judge? How quickly do 'I' decide, "I like this conversation", or "This person is boring"? How many stories from the past do I bring into each interaction? What she said to me five years ago, and I still have not forgiven? Or the memory of a heartfelt conversation that brought the two of us close once? Who do I choose to speak to, and who do I ignore? How does it feel right in the core of my body? Tensing? Or relaxing? What is the emotion? So much to process in a matter of seconds.
I found that practicing in this way gave the evening a whole different flavor. First, I learned much about the many ways in which the mind can create wedges between one self and others. The trick is to catch the thoughts before they have a chance to get acted out into words, or behaviors. Besides insight, much joy is to be had as well. Joy from being more present, and more kind. Right now, there is only me and him, this almost stranger whom I will probably not see until same time, next year. It is not about 'me', it's about him and what he is saying, and watching the impurities of my own mind wash away, leaving my heart free to meet him.
How do you bring mindfulness to your social interactions? What do you notice?