I don’t know about you, but it’s been a long week over here. I’m more than ready to greet this beautiful Friday and the weekend ahead. On the other hand, it’s been a week full of gratitude for the things that make life a happy place, and clarity around the importance of prioritizing them. We’re all better off when surrounded by the people, things and activities that make us feel loved and valued. Of course, if you read this week’s earlier post, you know it isn’t always possible to be in that state, and in fact, it’s important to push ourselves into the “discomfort zone” of disagreement now and then. Like all of our mindfulness challenges, it’s a “no-fail” proposition because your effort and intention is the key. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but if you want to live in a better world like I do, it is absolutely necessary.
One of the benefits of mindfulness is learning tools to help manage discomfort. Disagreement is uncomfortable. But just as discomfort in ourselves is often a precursor to growth, tough conversations are often the pathway to change, and growth on a larger scale. Learning to have them takes practice, and patience, though, especially without escalating them into exasperation or anger. It takes being able to recognize your emotions as passing, and your counterpart as a person having a similar experience as you, simply from a different place.
I know that last part sounds impossible, but it’s not. As you develop the ability to face your own frustration and anger, you see it’s roots in anxiety and fear, and slowly, eventually, you see those things in others. Speak to that in the same compassionate tone you have been mindfully cultivating for yourself, and there’s a chance that you might actually be heard.
This weekend, you may have the chance to flex these new mindfulness muscles in real life. There may be a challenging interaction right around the corner, waiting for you. If not, then our media-dense world is full of opportunities for you to encounter opposing viewpoints.
We’ve all heard about the “echo chamber” that our social media networks create for us, where we self-select into mostly hearing our opinions reinforced for us. I’m not suggesting that you over-correct and fall down a rabbit hole of negativity and lies (which abound) this weekend, but just that you seek out a well-articulated perspective that somehow differs from one you hold, and using your breath to center yourself, give it space to be heard. Consider it fully. You may not change your mind, and I’m not suggesting you should, but the act of giving it your full attention will ensure your viewpoints are informed, and that your actions (including your speech) are fueled by information and a whole-hearted interest in resolution.
As they love to say in the volatile world of politics, there is more that unites us than divides us. We are each just trying to create the world we want to live in. If we would stop and truly listen, we might realize that we want the same things: to be safe, to be valued, and to be loved. Try mindfully offering those things in your interactions with others through your interest and your attention, and you may be pleasantly surprised by what comes back.
Now that’s an echo chamber I’d happily sign in for.
Photo credit: cam adams
This post originally appeared on MindfulMBA on June 17, 2016.