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Day 7 – I am Grateful for the Gift of Human Connection

I am grateful for the gift of human connection.

Loneliness is an epidemic in today’s world. From kids to teens to adults and the elderly, we are all suffering silently in our private worlds of disconnection. As technology replaces a lot of our human functions, as we are drawn deeper into the world of automated messages and snapchats, we are slowly losing our ability to have a deep face-to-face connection.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I sat side by side for an hour and a half while our toddler slept beside us. Silently. Without uttering a single word. When I managed to look up front the novel I was reading on my iPad, I realized how equally engrossed he was in reading the Times of India on his iPhone. Then a thought occurred to me: If we were locked into a room together for an hour without any gadgets, would we be able to hold a decent conversation? What scared me was that I didn’t know if we could. Where I expected myself to rebut with a resounding yes, my mind came up with a doubtful blank. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband. I get along with him. Those of you who have been with your partner or spouse for a while may be able to relate. The conversations don’t have the sparkle they used to.

Then I got to thinking about other people. Can I find one person I can have a deep, long conversation with? Siblings don’t count, by the way. I tried to think of people in my life I could sit down with one-on-one and proceed to talk about an issue that mattered without giving in to the urge to fidget, check my iPhone or turn on the TV. Yes, there were a few people, but my list came up woefully shorter than I thought was healthy.

Nurturing Human Connections

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ME5priGOWHU[/youtube]

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The other day, I was looking for something to help my preschooler deal with tantrums by teaching the concept of mindfulness. I ended up buying Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh

The book tells many stories – one of these is the story of James, a little boy in Plum Village (France). In a group of children learning mindfulness, James and two of his friends are rebels. They’re always engaging in disruptive activities when the other kids are meditating. Instead of yelling and disciplining them, the spiritual teacher keeps inviting them to join and making them feel welcome time after time. They never join in, but on the last evening of the retreat, James comes tagging along behind his mother, asking the teacher for a hug. As time goes on James becomes attached to the teacher, his spiritual understanding deeper, his hugs warmer.

The power of this story lies in its simple lesson that disconnected though we may be in our human interactions today, there is still hope. In a situation where it feels like your efforts are going to waste, the little things you do may affect the other person in ways that you may not even notice. So instead of getting overwhelmed by the impossibility of forging deep connections in today’s world, get out there and sow your seeds of kindness. You never know which of these can germinate into a tree of genuine love and friendship.

I am grateful for the human ability to forge connections. I am grateful for the close connections I already have – those unconditional relationships where I can do anything, say anything, be anything. I am grateful for the close connections I have yet to form, that are yet to germinate. I am grateful for the ability to think, to listen to respond, I am grateful that despite awkward conversations, difficult circumstances and emotional hardships, many of my important relationships continue to thrive and grow. I am grateful for the redeeming and forgiving nature of these genuine relationships. When your underlying foundation is solid, no matter how big a rift your relationship experiences, there will always be a way to heal, to make amends. I am grateful for the gift of peering into the soul of another human being, and being able to bare mine for another to see.[/message_box]

Today’s Task

There’s a beautiful exercise in Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh called “Building Anew” that can prevent feelings of hurt form building up and diffuses conflicts in order to restore emotional safety in your relationships. Find a friend, partner or a small group to do this activity with. This is also a great family activity to increase bonding and express gratitude.

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  • This simple practice begins with something called ‘flower watering’ where you essentially speak truthfully about the positive qualities of others without any flattery.  You take as much time as you need while the other person practices deep listening, resisting the urge to interrupt.
  • Once you finish, you express regret for anything u have done to hurt others. This requires a reg=cognition of the fact that sometimes, it only takes a small thought, action or word to  hurt someone. Whether you hurt someone consciously or unconsciously, you can undo this damage by acknowledging that the other person has been hurt by your actions, and sharing your regret with the person you have hurt.
  • When you have finished expressing your regret, you can express ways in which others have hurt you. Use loving speech.  Goal is to heal your relationship and not a content for who is right or wrong. As the listener, you would show compassion by listening to another’s pain and showing willingness to relieve their emotional suffering.Even if you disagree with something they are saying, listen deeply. In doing so, you give the other person the gift of freely expressing their pain and allowing them to release the tension within. This is a rare and precious gift – the gift of allowing a free release of pent up emotions. Give it unconditionally.
  • End the practice with a soothing song or mindful breathing together.

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Inspired from Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh

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Mindful productivity- working in the present

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]And what is it to work with love?
It is to weave the cloth with threads drawn from your heart,
even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth.
It is to build a house with affection,
even as if your beloved were to dwell in that house.
It is to sow seeds with tenderness and reap the harvest with joy,
even as if your beloved were to eat the fruit.
It is to charge all things you fashion with a breath of your own spirit,
And to know that all the blessed dead
are standing about you and watching.
– Khalil Gibran[/quote]

In a discussion about productivity, people seldom expect to talk about mindfulness. Sometimes though, mindfulness is exactly what we need in order to stay productive, just like in other aspects of our lives.

In particular, being mindful of our internal dialogue, limiting beliefs and personal strengths can be helpful in identifying the style of work that is most productive for us.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life. ― John Lennon[/quote]

In her best-selling book Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, author identifies that human beings have two primal responses to stimuli- fear and pleasure. Those of us that are governed by fear are preoccupied with protecting ourselves and seeking safety. Those of us who are governed by pleasure seek excitement and novelty and new situations. Obviously both temperaments in excess can be harmful. The fear brain can lead you down a path of worry, nervousness, suspicion and negativity. The pleasure brain can cause u to seek out excesses, hush-risk activities, and even substance abuse in order to feel that thrill of doing something unique.

The body, like the mind, also has two responses to any situation – yes and no. The next time someone asks you a question or proposes an idea, observe your body closely for its internal answer. When your internal answer is yes while thinking of an idea, a question or a situation, you are relaxed, and positive. Your breath is even, the tone of your voice is level.  When it is no, you scrunch up and tense. Your shoulders pull up to your neck, your breath quickens, your body tightens.

 

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Jot down two or three questions that have been on your mind lately.

Keep these questions in mind as you proceed through the exercise.

Sit down on the flow or in a yoga mat. Cross your legs put your palms on our thighs. Imagine a thick gnarled root coming out of your spine, grounding you into the earth below. Think of your head sending out a million shoots and leaves reaching high towards the sky.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Notice the tension in your shoulders, let it go. Notice the tension in your abdomen, let it go.

Notice what is going on in your body. Breathe like a baby – with abandon and trust.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Ask your first question.

Suspend your conscious thinking. Do not try to think logically or drive the answer into a certain direction. Restrain your rational and logical responses.

Listen instead to your body. Is your body tightening up, grabbing on to your roots? Are you holding tightness in a particulate part of your body as you ask this question? Just observe the reaction of your body as you hold his question in your mind.

When you’re satisfied with the answer, breathe, and let this question go.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Ask your second question

Repeat the thought process above for the first question.

Maybe you’re feeling free and peaceful as you think of this question. Is there a sighing, a release, a sense of relief as you hold this question in your mind. What is your body telling you?

When you’re ready, breathe and let go of this question.

Repeat the whole thing if you have a third question.

Breathe.

When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and reflect upon the wisdom your body has just shared with you.

With practice, you will learn to respect and recognize the powerful decision making of your body. The silence that this bodily awareness creates in your mind will be more valuable, restorative and productivity-inducing than any expensive vacation you will ever take.

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Often people think of meditation, inner peace and achieving a state of “flow” as some esoteric mumbo jumbo. But these things can be applied in your everyday working life too.

Here are some ways you can infuse awareness into your everyday work activities:

  • Being present in the moment. Wherever you are, truly engaging in conversations and making meaningful connections with those physically around you will create a special bond and magical memories more than conversations online ever will. Remember there will always be time to write on someone’s facebook wall, or send your crush a text message.
  • Focusing only on the current task. Eliminate any negative feelings that keep you from being productive. Attempting to achieve multiple goals all at the same time is not only an inefficient venture but also a counterproductive one. Remember that grasping new concepts and getting a project done properly is a big responsibility and requires all the attention you can give it.
  • Not worrying about the past or the future. This is similar to being in the present moment, but cultivating mindfulness can help reduce anxiety, nervousness and agitation which stems from negative experiences or feelings of the past, and anticipation of what is to come.

 
The ability to identify both fear and pleasure stressors in our lives, create a quiet space to rejuvenate and work free of your everyday tensions can create an avalanche of productivity in your everyday productivity as you learn to let go and ease into the activity at hand.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor. ― Thích Nhất Hạnh[/quote]

 

Working in fear

Fear is a manifestation of misplaced hope. When you are constantly hoping for an external miracle to solve all your problems,  you’re also in constant conflict with reality. Leaving behind your fantasies about life to fully embrace the reality that is present here and now is the key to unlocking your happiness and creativity.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Every time we choose safety, we reinforce fear. ― Cheri Huber[/quote]

Contrary though it may seem, giving up your rigid notions of the world, can set you free. There is no limiting beliefs or castles in the air interfering with your fluid perception of reality. And when these limiting beliefs are gone, you can really work with yourself and get into the elusive “flow”. Speaking about the state of “flow”, working in the “zone” isn’t really different from mindfulness when you think about it. When you work in the “zone” you are present, fully focused on what is in front of you. No past and no future limiting, obscuring or altering your present reality.

 

Working with pleasure

[quote align=”center” color=”#4bac58″]Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more. ― Mother Teresa[/quote]

Joy is the pervasive happiness that stays constant regardless of the internal and external circumstances pressing upon us. Unlike the superficial notions of happiness, living in a state of joy simply means focusing solely on the present. It means living in the present moment with intensity, experiencing the world around us with a heightened sense of attention.

Working with joy doesn’t mean that you’re not aware of the negativity around you. Instead, working with joy means that you’re constantly living the present moment with a pervasive awareness of the grand perspective of things. Working with joy means stepping back from our fear and pleasure stressors and working in a “zone” that is neither altered by the situation nor the actions of totters around us.