THE BLESSINGS OF BEING MINDFUL
Since writing about mindfulness a few weeks ago, I've been trying to practice a deeper awareness of the people around me, my actions and the words I speak. Being mindful is hard work. I've been paying more attention to what people say, their likes and dislikes for example, so that I can be a better friend when it comes to knowing who they really are. Knowing someone's likes and dislikes is important because it gives me an opportunity to show that I truly listen to them and I care enough to cater to their individual tastes.
For example, I have a friend who hates onions. Every month we get together with four other friends and share a home-cooked meal. I can't say with complete certainty that I haven't added onions to the meals I've made when it was my turn to cook. We've been getting together like this for two years and only recently have I made a mental note to remember that onions are a bad choice for our girl's night menu. In fact, I'm just now remembering that I made potato soup last time and I'm sure I added onions. Had I been mindful of my friends aversion to onions, I could have chosen another recipe and made her feel more important.
Gift giving is another example of the benefits of mindfulness. My same friend who hates onions also has an allergy to certain types of jewelry. Her skin gets itchy and red when she wears it. So imagine if I gave her a lovely piece of costume jewelry as a gift and she opened it knowing that she will never wear it, then has to pretend that she likes it to avoid hurting my feelings. By being mindful, I could avoid such an awkward moment and instead give her a gift that she would truly appreciate and actually use, a gift that would say, "I know you, I listen, and I care."
People long to be known and loved for who they are, and choosing the right gift is a powerful way to make someone feel extra special and loved. I admire people who put so much effort into gift giving. They pay attention to what others like. They listen to conversations and make mental notes of future gift ideas based on the person's needs and wants. Receiving a gift from someone who really knows me is such a joy. I don't have to pretend to like a gift that's chosen especially for me. Part of the joy is knowing that someone has listened to the deepest desires of my heart. Someone has taken the time to know me.
Sometimes the greatest gift we can give someone is what we choose to say. Being mindful of my words is something else I'm working on. There are so many ways we can offend people with words. We can use a poor choice of words, we can say the words in the wrong tone, and sometimes it's the timing of our words that causes hurt. Written words can be particularly offensive because we don't hear the person's tone of voice and we can easily misunderstand the meaning. I'm sure that many relationships have been destroyed by misinterpreted letters and e-mails. I'm trying to be more mindful of the words I speak and write so that what I say brings life to the relationship, and there's no room for misunderstanding.
Mindfulness isn't just for the sake of others. Being mindful is to our own advantage as well. I know a woman who lost her husband several months ago. She recently said something that made a big impact on me. She said, "Pay attention to the things your husband does. How he pays bills, how he maintains the house, all the things he does to keep the household running, you should know how and when to do it." Since she told me that, I've started what I call an independence journal. It's a list of things I'll need to know if I were to become a widow. My last entry was a step-by-step explanation of how to change the water filter and UV light on our water system. I also made a note of when the septic was last pumped, when the real estate taxes come and how much I can expect to pay, who to call if the water pump breaks and what it costs to replace it, etc, etc. We need to prepare for life's unexpected turns and the only way we can is by being mindful today.
Mindfulness is definitely something worth pursuing. No it's not easy, it's work. It takes a daily awareness and effort to live mindfully. But by paying attention to the details of our lives and the lives of others, we can be a blessing to those we love and we can bear the burden when they leave us behind.