Friday, November 25, 2011

Be Social, Be Mindful

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?


  1. I think this is a great way to practice. I work in a restaurant so it's like being at Thanksgiving dinner every day. Lots of opportunities to practice! One trick I use when I notice that my mind is wandering while I'm talking to someone I'm serving is to remind myself to make eye contact. I find that this naturally brings me into the present moment and more deeply into the conversation. I don't always remember to do this of course but when I do I feel so much closer the the people I'm talking to, even when they're complete strangers.

  2. To slow myself down, I watch my breath. Sometimes imagine the person talking to me as they must have looked like when in Junior High School and imagine listening enthusiastically to an inspired child. Usually the baud rates are low enough and content easy enough that running these co-processors does not interfere with a conversation.

  3. Chris, Sabio, thank you for sharing your tips. For me, the main impetus to ongoing mindfulness is the accumulated wisdom from time practicing formal mindfulness and seeing the benefits from such practice. Realizing mindfulness is one of the greatest gifts one can bring to one's life and to others.

  4. This is a great post. I'm just at the beginning of my mindfulness jounery, but I will definitely be trying this out this holiday season -and hopefully I'll make a habit of it for life. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Marguerite. Namaste.