Here's a post for the New Year. Personally I like to remember to renew my resolutions every time I wake up in the morning, not just once a year!
When was the last time you said to a friend, “Let’s go to a café and gossip about all our other friends and ridicule the people we work with. That way we can cultivate an attitude of mistrust, superiority and ultimately make ourselves even more unhappy.”? OK, well maybe not that often. But I’m sure we have all been involved, at some time or other, in conversations which have involved disparaging comments about other people, criticisms, complaints about their shortcomings, mockery of one sort or another and opinions about what they “should” be doing. I encounter conversations like this every day of my life especially, unfortunately, at work. Mindfulness practice allows us to come up close to our present moment experience and to see what creates discontent in our lives. What we discover is that it is not our experience that causes our unhappiness, it is our *relationship* with our experience. If we follow a path that is reactive, unconsidered and uncompassionate, we find that we suffer. If we learn to respond wisely, wakefully and with kindness, we find contentment. There are actions that create separateness and actions that create connection; when we retreat into a narrow sense of our “selves” we may feel safe and even superior but ultimately, what we want is to feel part of a larger world, one in which we are no longer alone.
So, although our toxic words create an illusion of self-esteem, they also help to engineer our feelings of isolation and aloneness. Here's my invitation; watch your tendency to use careless, unkind or judgemental language. As with all these practices, the important aspect is learning about ourselves, recognising how often we behave automatically and bringing this into awareness, so permitting us to make wiser choices. We also learn about what happens when we make the effort to act in an alternative way, how it makes us feel and how it changes our relationships with the people around us. This is a practice that requires patience, vigilance and kindness because inevitably, we will fail from time to time. But that’s fine; if we notice that we have failed we have become aware and that’s the important thing.