The Art of Deliberate Living – A Single Case Study
We have all seen the great research and studies coming out on mindfulness. We read how being more mindful can reduce our anxiety and stress, improve our health, provide clarity and help our relationships. We understand that being mindful is about bringing in your focus to what is happening right now and giving your brain a rest from multi-tasking. We invite meditation and yoga into our routine to help us ground and seek compassion and gratitude for the people and things around us. In short, mindfulness makes our lives much better. It calls back our focus and energy which we often leave scattered across our errands and interactions of the day, and brings it back home to us.
But the reality is that mindfulness is so much more. It is also a tool that helps us to make different choices and re-record old, broken thought patterns that may no longer serve us, but still play over and over when the right situation or trigger is provided.
As an example, I was recently cooking for the week and cleaning dishes along the way (a shock to some who know me : ). Using mindfulness techniques while cooking, I was focused on chopping the eggplant, zucchini, and squash each individually. I carefully chose spices and just enough coconut oil. While that was cooking, I turned to wash some bowls in the sink, noticing the water temperature and the bits of egg desperately clinging to the sides of the bowl in a final attempt to avoid the drain. Sorry my dear eggs, you are on to bigger and better things. I was doing all of this in a deliberate, and yes, mindful way.
Suddenly, my phone buzzed with a text. It was a difficult client, canceling their session at the last minute, yet again. My “programmed” response or thought pattern when this happens is irritation at the person’s irresponsibility and lack of respect for my time, even bordering on anger. That has been my learned response from years of expectations around a corporate schedule and a “time is money” mentality. However, I have come to believe over the last few years that things happen for a reason and there is always more to the story than we see. In reality, the cancellation is not even about me. This person didn’t wake up this morning and say “I am going to cancel my session today so I can irritate my coach.” At least I hope not. But when this happens, I still often have an “automatic response” built up from years of mental patterns and expectations around how people should act. Today that changed.
Because I was in a more mindful state when I received this text, I was able to recognize the pattern of irritation, anger and blame starting to rise up and realize that this is not who I am nor what I believe. I literally had the ability to observe my thoughts from the outside. This objective observation allowed me to shift from a place of irritation to a place of compassion because I recognized it for what it was, a pattern. And the reality is that this situation needed compassion, not anger. Fear is holding back this client, and that deserves compassion. Don’t get me wrong; I am still charging for the late cancel. However, I am doing so with compassion and the recognition that this client will come back when ready, and that is perfect and fine. It is their journey.
And in the meantime, I managed to keep myself from spinning up negative emotions that will only hurt me in the long run. Getting upset and angry with someone else’s actions does not hurt them. Holding the negative energy, resentment and anger in our space only hurts us. In the end, I was able not only to show compassion for my client, but also gratitude for the opening to do something different with my day. Mindfulness not only helps us to be deliberate in our actions, but also change our old thought patterns to the new ones that serve us well.
Something to contemplate the next time emotion gets the better of you.