Today we’ll work on your awareness, your focus and your listening. Raising your awareness will get you out of your head and taking more into account. Increasing your focus will keep your attention off you and on someone else, and by doing both of those other things you will be able to listen much better and thereby take in far more actionable information.
For your awareness we’ll get you to choose one specific co-worker or classmate or other person you see regularly. Someone you have opinions about, good or bad. Rather than think of yourself you’ll think about them for the day. So you have to understand them. This might lead to observations or questions, but again–it’s all focusing on them not you, so it’s all helpful.
For focus you just want to make sure that you really do consider that person’s life instead of your own. Instead of complaining about your office chair, wonder how uncomfortable someone heavier or taller than you manages to sit on the same one. Think about how others treat the person, think about their food choices, their schedule, their budget, their family commitments or lack of friends or whatever–them not you.
For listening, if you’ve managed to do the first two things then you’re clear-headed enough that you might just pick up details you’ve never noticed before. Maybe they use a lot of nautical references and it turns out they’ve always wanted to live on a boat again, the way they grew up. Or maybe you hear them talking about a dream they have that you’ve never noticed before. In short, pay attention.
You should be able to talk to a person you see regularly and yet still notice something entirely new. If you can’t then you’re still talking to yourself about them–that’s not the same thing as simply taking them in. You’re interacting with your judgmental thoughts about them and not with the actual person. This is what egos do. This is the thing we want to prevent you from doing.
Stop filtering the world through your own personal thinking. Have a perspective but don’t take it so seriously. If you can do that then you have flexibility in all sorts of aspects of life. You can see your opinion as just an opinion rather than the way it is.
“The way it is” is always open to interpretation. Maintain that flexibility and you will always find yourself in a position to create a positive mindset. If you believe what you’re seeing is how it is then you’re doomed to live inside your ego, inside your judgments, inside your limited perceptions. Instead, throw the doors and windows open wide and be with the world with a silent, non-judgmental mind. What it will reveal to you from that perspective will explain to you why so many people are able to love life, and why you can too.
Listen. Feel fortunate. Get out of your head. Study the challenges of another soul. Quiet your mind by listening. This is the path to inner peace. This is the path to understanding.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.