“No-Fail” Friday: Swept up

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Fridays are already just about perfect. As if that cake needed any icing, how great is it that the only challenge I’m ever going to pose to you on them is a “no-fail” one? Since mindfulness is more about intention and gentle effort than achieving any particular results or being “good” at it, so are our mindfulness challenges. If you your effort and intention is in the right place, then you’re doing a great job. Simple as that.

Our juicy topic this week was gossip. It’s fun, low effort, and light – sometimes.  For such an easy task, it sure can have a lot of consequences, including making us feel not-so-great in the aftermath. Part of the trouble is that gossip doesn’t always give off a lot of obvious warning signs. One minute, you’re talking about the weekend, and the next, you realize you’ve waded into shady waters. Now, as I said on Wednesday, I’m not here to judge your conversation choices. For one thing, I don’t have much room to, since none of us is perfect. For another, judgment and mindfulness aren’t really compatible concepts. This is more about intention. Did you mean to go there, or did you just sort of end up there, led by someone else or even just momentum? If it’s the latter, then a little mindfulness might be just the ticket for stopping that ride.

This weekend’s mindfulness challenge is about awareness, which as you know by now is a prominent side effect of a regular mindfulness practice. If you find yourself in conversation with someone with whom you often end up on the gossip train, pay attention. Notice when the topic starts to shift from ideas, to events, to people. If it seems like the right move to keep going, that’s ok. But you will have made the choice intentionally to do so.

If this sort of conversation doesn’t find you this weekend, then you may be able to do this exercise by simply listening and observing others. Maybe you choose not to or aren’t invited to participate in a certain conversation at all, but are simply present for it. In that case, even though you may not be externally active in it, you can still notice your internal responses to it. Maybe you feel the urge to join in, but recognize that’s from a place of wanting to belong or have your opinion recognized, and not necessarily wanting to discuss that particular topic. Maybe you judge those who are participating for their choices during it, thinking you would be more judicious in what you shared if you were in their spot. It can be as interesting to notice what we think and feel about others when the spotlight isn’t on us as it is to observe what we actually do when we’re involved.

The goal here is to notice how our internal landscape shifts when we either observe or participate in conversations with others. How do they influence our choices during it, and vice versa? Do we respond from a place of intentionality, or reflex, or even inertia? Mindfulness can help us become more present in these moments, and less likely to be swept up in a tide that leaves us drowning in regret later.

As you take on this challenge, keep in mind the nugget of wisdom below that I also shared at the end of Wednesday’s post. It may be a useful filter for making sure your weekend is fun, productive, relaxing, and also that you are fully present and act deliberately for all of it.

“Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” – Sai Baba

Photo credit: Donald Tong

5 thoughts on ““No-Fail” Friday: Swept up

  1. Just happened to me this week. A new job, in training with 2 trainers. On their smoke break, they began to bellow of another co-worker (whom I do not know), the gossip ensued. I was glad I did not have to be a part of it. I did not want to join in, but I did make judgements of their choices.
    How harmful such seemingly innnocent conversation can become quickly so hurtful.
    So quick for me to judge, yet to remember in my thoughts, to not become what I am so quick to judge. Watch my own behavior if this ever arises my way. Be mindful in how I would respond, is all I can do.

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    • Thank you for this lovely comment, Diana, and taking the time to share your experience! How mindful of you, to have noticed your judgment, as well as your relief at not having to participate in the conversation. I do think it’s valuable to take note of behaviors and traits in others that we would not like to emulate ourselves, as you did. It’s likely that those who were engaged in the gossip were coming from a place of insecurity, fear, frustration, or some other negative feelings brought on by the person they were discussing. They gave themselves an easy route to process those feelings without introspection…it’s a normal, human response, but mindfulness can show us other options. :) Thanks so much for reading!

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      • Never thought of it that way. I would find that difficult to not do. Not recognizing someone else’s behavior that is directly in front of you and there was no way to leave the situation.
        How are you supposed to be mindful in that situation?

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      • I don’t think you necessarily need to leave, unless there is the potential for real harm. But we all encounter people around us all day long who act in ways we don’t think we would ourselves. I think one of the perspectives mindfulness can give you is compassion, and recognizing that people often behave in such ways as a result of their own internal negative feelings — of fear, anxiety, loneliness, needing to belong, etc. It doesn’t always work, but seeing behaviors from that perspective can sometimes help us shift judgment to compassion, and exposure to events that make us uncomfortable gives us interesting insight into ourselves as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ok. I see. Not sure I could feel compassion for them, and I am a very compassionate person, but I certainly find insight into myself, focusing on my own thoughts and behaviors when observing theirs. I will try that next time. :-)

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