This week, we definitely took a swim in the deeper end of the mindfulness pool with our conversation on the truth, and its various complexities. If you stuck around for it, I give you credit, as it wasn’t the easiest stuff to digest. But, such is the work of growing into ourselves, right? If you want to live authentically, much less lead others to do the same, you have to do the work, starting with yourself. No one said leadership was easy.
As I said, I wasn’t trying to run an advanced seminar on moral philosophy so much as I was presenting some ways for thinking about how we use what we believe to be the truth. When and how we choose to speak matters, and has as much to do with what we need from ourselves as it does with any kind of external, moral code. This weekend’s mindfulness challenge will give you an excuse to think more about the “you” piece of this equation, which is not usually where our attention goes when we’re locked in battle with the truth.
If you think about a time when you weren’t sure if you should tell someone the truth, the pros and cons you considered likely had to do with 1) what was right or necessary for them, and 2) what was right or necessary in a larger “moral” context. In other words, there was a moral obligation you needed to fulfill, and the questions were about what it was and if you would. Phrases like “lesser of two evils” and “right thing to do,” probably floated through your head pretty frequently, which question marks all around them.
It’s also possible that you didn’t think at all. We sometimes find ourselves in the heat of debate, or argument, and the filter between our brain and mouth disappears. You think you’re right, or at least you think the other person isn’t, and our emotions take over. Before you know it, you’ve said exactly what you were thinking, reflexively instead of intentionally.
The one thing, however, that you probably didn’t do in either case was check in with yourself. You may have thought about how either outcome would effect the other person, or people, (or you didn’t) but you were likely also less aware of the internal calculus underway: what do I think of myself in each of these potential decisions? To what extent are my personal needs fueling my choice here?
Therein lies your “no-fail” challenge for the weekend. This one’s less about meditation, and more about awareness, which you may know by now is a convenient by-product of a regular mindfulness practice. Whether it’s a conversation long overdue, or an in-the-moment response, take a moment to catch your breath. Find that moment “in between stimulus and response” and consider your motivation. Are you about to speak for you, for them, or for some greater purpose, as you see it? There’s no judgment here, so either way is ok. The point is, you’ll know, and when you do proceed, you will have made a choice about how what that looks – and sounds – like.
This isn’t about holding back, or biting your tongue when you have decided to speak your mind, or heart. It’s also most definitely not about encouraging dishonesty. The idea here is simply that you will know why you choose the way you do, and more so, that you will recognize that you do have a choice. If you start there, then no matter what the outcome, you will know you got there with compassion, and most importantly – intention.
Photo credit: Alisa Anton