Every time you're speaking with another person (i.e., interpersonally relating), you want to do your best to understand that person. (In July of 2020 I feel obligated to state that this is an assumption, and for some reason at no other time in my life would I state something so obvious, but here we are . . . )
There are many things you can do to that end, from listening deeply, to asking questions, to noticing biases, to making sense of the person's words and deeds now in comparison to the past. You use all of the tools available to you. Meanwhile, we humans can be complex and also irrational; there's no guarantee that you'll read someone else correctly even with good intel. But we do our level best.
Where Are You In This Equation?
It's lovely that you try to understand others and meet their needs, but what about you and your needs and goals? What's your intrapersonal relationship like? How's it going? Figuring out what others need and improving your communication and listening and empathy are all worthy goals. But what's your self-talk like? Do you listen to your body's wisdom? Do you have self-compassion? Do you think you know what your core values are?
Do you realize that half of what occurs in any conversation between you and someone else occurs in you, and there's more you can do to understand you than anyone else?
Enter Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
You may have heard that MBSR has been demonstrated to:
decrease chronic stress
All of that is fantastic, and I see it in the MBSR classes that I teach. However, a less-raved about benefit, which I would put at the top of the list, is self-awareness.
Self-Awareness and Knowing Your Audience
Self-Awareness has a marketing problem. It's just not that interesting of an idea for most people. And I think that has a lot to do with the reality that most people think they're already self-aware; they don't think it's something to be learned. Therefore, if you lead with self-awareness as a benefit of MBSR, it's not compelling.
Fast forward a few months, though, and you'll likely hear those who took the course to reduce stress report that they didn't realize how self-aware they weren't until they started practicing mindfulness. The truth is that the entire MBSR curriculum is about cultivating self-awareness; all of our responses are skillful or not based on the level of awareness we bring to them and what we then do with that information.
Waking Up To Your Life
It's no fun realizing that you've spent much of your life lost in thought, and that you've created your mind and your habits by accident. And it's also no fun when you learn there's no pill for unlearning your habits of thought and behavior and creating new ones.
On the upside, when you're surrounded by a bunch of people, virtually or in-person, who are all in the same position, the vibe can go from mortified to relieved, and even proud. It's a relief to find out that, just like you, no one taught your fellow MBSR classmates how to focus or self-regulate or even listen. It's a relief to learn that others find it difficult to sit for even five minutes without their minds wandering incessantly. It's a relief to hear that you're not the only one who's wording a perfect retort when you should be listening.
But . . . Pride?
Pride has become synonymous with ego, but it initially does the job as a concept. What I'm really talking about is self-regard for showing up for yourself to do some tough internal work. Once you know the work you need to do and you've begun your journey of waking up, you've done something that cannot be undone. You know what's behind the curtain. Self-regard can travel with a bit of dread, however, as there's a sense of responsibility--of weight--that comes with knowing what needs to be done.
If you think you're up for getting to know yourself on a different level, thereby learning what you could be doing to shift your habit patterns, relationships, and even self-regard, attend an Introduction to MBSR or sign up for the course now! And if you have any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.