How Being Mindful Can Change The World

How Being Mindful Can Change The World

“… beyond the immediate message of the person, no matter what that might be, there is the universal.”    –Carl Rogers

An Unexpected Inspiration

One evening my family and I stumbled into Half Price Books in Redmond, WA, after the fabulous happy hour at a local restaurant. We often walk around while slightly “happy” and of course mindful 😉 walk just for fun and to walk off a bit of joy, if you know what I mean.

On the rare occasion I happen to be in a bookstore, I browse through the self-help and psychology books since that’s my interest, looking for tasty bits, inspiration, insights, etc.

On this occasion, I happened upon “A Way of Being” by the founder of humanist psychology “Carl Rogers.” I found something that validated not only my beliefs but also my personal experience in a surprising way. It felt like I had discovered a kindred spirit, actually. All too rare an experience.

Rogers described his experience listening to others in a way that really resonated with me:

There is another peculiar satisfaction in hearing someone: It is like listening to the music of the spheres, because beyond the immediate message of the person, no matter what that might be, there is the universal. Hidden in all of the personal communications which I really hear there seem to be orderly psychological laws, aspects of the same order we find the universe as a whole. So there is both the satisfaction of hearing this person and also the satisfaction of feeling one’s self in touch with what is universally true.

Those who have been with me in groups have heard me say something like “for me, being in a group is like being at a symphony. Each person is their own unique instrument and has a particular sound or “vibe,” and this blends and harmonizes with others, or are perhaps discordant. Each individual is unique and contributes to the overall sense of the group – but the key thing is that it is a very rich and satisfying experience overall. One I enjoy very much.” So I was rather astonished to read a similar sentiment from Rodgers.

Listening to “who” rather than “what”

The key point I’m making is: the story of another person is not as important as you might think. That is my chief objection to “talk” therapy – it is pretty inefficient when you can cut through the crap and get the essence of a person by listening to the “whole.” A good therapist or coach is paying attention not only to the story but the bigger picture. The who. The context of who they are with their problems acting as metaphors for bigger issues they struggle with, rather than problems to solve.

There are, of course, important stories that need to be heard- where telling the story is the work, but that is another matter. In most cases, it’s not the details that matter – it’s the WHO THAT IS SPEAKING. What are they saying about their worldview? what’s important to them? What are they fighting for? What are they crushed by?

They will tell you a thousand ways without words if you look and are present for it. And when you speak to someone coming from that kind of awareness, everything changes.

Seeing Through

The late Ron Kurtz, the creator of the Hakomi method of psychotherapy, used to teach a workshop called Loving Presence. I attended a facilitator training he conducted for this workshop and recall a particularly powerful experience that stays with me to this day.

There was an exercise called “Seeing Through” where you break into small groups. One person is selected to be the actor. The others are observers. Observers are to be present with their experience of the actor and “see” the actor directly and clearly, without judgment. The actor is directed to take a walk a few steps across the room and on the way, pick up any object lying around, take a few more steps, then put it down. Then returning in silence to the small group of observers, sit down in front of them and recite – “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.”

(Keep in mind this exercise occurs after hours of mindful work. We were primed for this kind of exercise. This isn’t something we were asked to do just walking in off the street. It wouldn’t work if so.)

In my group, the actor was a very large, German man who was quiet, and friendly in the group. Did I mention he was large? Pro football defensive-back large. Duck your head at the door large. Yet, he had a gentle voice and delicate demeanor that stood in stark contrast to his stature. A true gentle giant. That had gotten my attention earlier.

The difference in his voice and his physical body was like seeing a woman that could be a supermodel going out of her way to make herself unattractive and small – you KNOW something is going on there. Contrasts stand out if you look for them, and they matter.

The observers took a moment to get mindful and watched him as he gently got up and walked across the room in carefully measured steps. Then very, very carefully, he picked up a glass of water that looked tiny in his hands. He then sat down slowly and in front of us, and in a soft voice, almost like he was talking to his granddaughter, said, “Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.” We were all silent for a few moments pondering this experience.

What stood out to me was how exceedingly careful this big guy was in his movements. He was big, but not graceful. It seemed as if he was aware of every part of his body and afraid he would bump something and have it crash. I thought – of course, he has learned to be this careful. He is a big guy, if he bumps something, it matters.

The phrase “bull in a china shop” came to mind, but imagine a self-aware bull moving through a china shop in a way so as not to disturb anything. That was this guy. And there must be a reason why he was so self-aware of this.

I took a chance, and let my curiosity lead, which, (btw, is one of the coaching tips in is one of my secrets for connecting with people.

I said to him, “I wonder. The way you move so carefully. And you are a big man moving through the world. I don’t know, but it seems like you may be so careful because you know what it’s like to hurt someone and not mean to.”

You could almost hear a depth charge go off deep underwater.

There was silence as he look at me very intently, very still. And gently began to cry as he said simply “Yes.” To be seen like that and have one’s core experience named in such a way can be very moving.

He had learned, “If I am not careful, people will be hurt.” And that was the way he walked through the world. Wow. What would it be like to walk through the world with this hyper-vigilance of how you moved physically, all the time, because if you don’t – someone might get hurt? I could only imagine what it might feel like for such a person to be told “you can relax now” and it actually be true.

This was a powerful experience for all of us in the group.

This experience is a good example of what can happen when you are in the right state of mind (I would say these days, the right state of being). Mindfully observing someone do simple actions can reveal a great deal about them.

Rogers said,

“…because beyond the immediate message of the person, no matter what that might be, there is the universal.”

How to Change the World

When you are mindful and present with another person, you can hear and see the universal speaking and moving through them, and talking to the universal in you. When you are in touch with and respond from a place of being connected to such a unifying force – it changes you. It changes them. It changes everything.

In this way, the world can be changed. From such a simple act as just being present and really listening – while it may seem like something very passive – it is quite the opposite. Engage presence is extremely active and connecting. A unifying force in a divisive age. This is the very heart of compassionate, mindful communication. It will change you. It will change others. It will change the world. There is no other way home.

Developing Intuition as a Personal Resource

Developing Intuition as a Personal Resource

Did you know there are ways of developing intuition at any point in your life?

We process a lot of information every day, the vast majority of which we are not aware of. This is because most of what our brains are doing is filtering out unwanted details to allow us to focus on the most important ones.

Often, stuff that we’re not paying direct attention to is still influencing us. This can radically change notions of self-determination and “free will” in our heads.

There are techniques that can help us develop intuition, including body sensing and meditation.
In fact, almost any type of mindfulness practice can help us understand what the brain is doing, and help us pay attention to information around us.

A mindfulness coach can help you with the process of developing intuition.

Developing Intuition Through Body Sensing

Does intuition actually exist, or is it just a generalized, vague sense based on some neural processes just below the level of conscious awareness?

I studied with a spiritual teacher who taught us long and hard about “body sensing.” So, what exactly does this mean?

Simply put, it means paying close attention to what you are feeling in your body—your moment-to-moment experience.

Often, we’re too busy thinking our way through life to pay attention to what we are feeling. And if we do notice, we then often jump to judgment, “That’s bad,” “that’s good,” “I’m not doing this right,” “I bet they don’t like me,” or whatever instant reflex you have in that voice in your head that keeps you down.

Using your body as a means to connect to your experience opens a world of experience and information that we all had at one time as infants but have learned over time to ignore.

Continued practice of body sensing yields a great deal of “intuitive” information that is beyond the conscious mind to name or identify.

Developing intuition is to seek understanding, not through a rational thought process—intuition is more direct and less thought-bound.

Practicing Presence

Body sensing is a practice of presence.

When you take time to check in with what you’re feeling in your body, you are immediately placed in the “now.” By actively taking your attention to notice your bodily sensations, you take yourself out of thoughts and put yourself into the immediate moment.

This is where intuition dwells.

Meditation practices advise focusing on your breach, your nose, your posture, or other body sensation. Becoming aware of your body sensations is the doorway to mindfulness, and mindfulness is the door to awakening.

To benefit from body sense, you must slow down. There’s a rule here from neuropsychology, the mind is slower than the body.

This may not seem obvious, but if you listen to those who are masters of their bodies, they will never say that the path to mastery involves thinking about what they are doing.

Perhaps in a pre-visioning way thinking may be effective, but during the execution of some complicated stunt or action, the mind must get out of the way.

There are plenty of examples from people who are far more body-centered than I am, but from my own experience, I know this to be true.

Learning to “Take” the Fall

Here’s a story about my process of developing intuition.

When I was younger, I studied Taekwondo, Judo and some Aikido. I had a knack for it but was not an expert. Just reasonably well-informed.

These skills still serve me today as I learned a lot about the mechanics of a body in motion, balance, and how to create big forces by using your whole body to create an impact, rather than just throwing an arm or a leg.

A big part of this training is learning to take falls and rolls.

Years later, I lived in Boulder, Colorado and was the proud father of a six-month-old baby boy.

One day, I was out on a walk on a popular path by Boulder Creek with my son Zeke. I had him carefully secured in one of those baby carriers that mount in front of the body where the baby faces out.

As I walked, my foot hit an obstacle that I did not see on the path below (obstructed by the carrier with the baby) as my center of gravity was a bit more forward than I began to fall forward.

I have not fallen down more than two or three times unintentionally in my adult life, and here I was going down, but with Zeke strapped on me in such a way that he would receive the brunt of the force if things continue as they were set in motion.

Suddenly, without thought and effortlessly, I tucked my head down and committed to landing on the back of my shoulders. It worked!

Much to my surprise, from a standing position, I tucked, rolled and wound up back on my feet with Zeke gleefully along for the ride.

Onlookers witnessed a disaster had been avoided. Relief, concern, wonder, surprise, all of that was expressed by the strangers around me that came over to the scene. No one was more surprised than me.

Thank God for that Judo training.

The Body Knows

I once took a class on the Aikido movement by the great Aikido master Hiroshi in Boulder.

We were practicing a movement, and he took my forearm and placed it on his, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “body knows.”

This phrase was often repeated in his class and is meant to say that when you touch another person, skin to skin, your body knows how to respond.

Why am I telling you these stories? I want to illustrate that there is useful information to be had by someplace other than your thinking mind—in other words, the “body knows.”

The body knows what to do and when to do it. You don’t need to think about it. Trust your body.

In this case, we are talking about martial arts, but it could just as well be dancing, healthcare, making love or dodging basketballs. This “body knowledge” is one of the key contributors to developing intuition.

This is one part of a multi-part article on intuition. To get the next delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter.

If you want to discover your power of intuition and start building a more meaningful, joyful life, I can help. Contact me to learn more.

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