Try to pause and notice the good!
Yesterday morning after I opened my eyes, I rested in bed for a few minutes thinking about what my intention for the day would be. Would I set my intention for ease, thinking about having the patience to pause before reacting so I might choose a more skillful response? Or maybe I would choose to set my intention to notice beauty so that I may take a few moments to let it fill me up and rewire my brain for more happiness and resilience. How would I live this day? I chose a mashup of juicy goodness: try to pause and notice the good!
Then I rolled out of bed and began my morning ritual of closing my eyes and brushing my teeth so that I could get two minutes of mindfulness in daily life under my belt to boost my day. I had a dentist appointment to get to by 9 a.m.
(When I called to make the appointment, the receptionist said, “We haven’t heard from you in a while.” I said, “That’s why I’m calling to make an appointment!” “Have you seen another dentist in the interim?” she inquired. “No, I’m a loyal patient; why would I do that?” I laughed. I’m seriously not going to be ashamed that it’s been a few years.)
Before getting in the car, I glanced at my phone and noticed an email from “Conscious Conversations with Joan and Janet.” These two groovy women have a podcast that talks about all things consciousness and they interviewed me a couple of weeks ago for an hour! I know that’s a long time to listen for people with limited attention spans, but it was so interesting talking with them that I couldn’t wait to hear the show — and I happen to have a long attention span!
I learned that we approach some of this material with different vocabulary words but end up in the same place. I also learned that I want to stay open with playful curiosity and courage to things that I can’t prove. That’s a practice for someone like me who is evidence-based in my teaching!
Listening to the podcast made the drive to the dentist fly by. After the X-rays, I got settled in the dentist chair, popped in my ear buds, and got back to the show. The entire time the hygienist was scraping away at my tooth enamel, I was engrossed listening to Joan, Janet, and Julie. (That’s a lot of Js!) My mood after the appointment was buoyant and open. I made a follow-up appointment for six months out and, while chatting with the receptionist, I had an interesting encounter.
One of the receptionists (I’ll call her Rachel) teared up and shared with me that hearing my voice reminds her of my mom, Ruth, who passed away two years ago. She removed her glasses and wiped her eyes. She asked the other receptionist if she thought I sounded so much like Ruth. Debbie (the other woman behind the counter) said, “Not as much as her sister, Jody. Jody sounds exactly like Ruth.” While this little “convo” was occurring, I had my hand on my
heart, giving myself soothing touch, noting what was coming up in my body, and taking in the love that they felt for my late mother.
A completely different reaction
An hour later, when I shared the conversation with my sisters and Dad at lunch, their reaction was unanimous and 100% negative. Jody said, “They always do that to me. I’m going to tell them to cut it out. Honestly, it makes me want to switch dental offices.” They decided it was not only stupid, but mean. And my Dad and other sister, Jan, commented on how inappropriate it was for the staff to say that stuff to a patient. I pointed out that it wasn’t her intent to be mean, and they said her intent was not relevant. (That is so interesting! A completely different reaction to the same set of facts!)
Humans need help in the common sense department when it comes to things like death and dying
I shared with them an article that I re-read just the day before that was posted on CaringBridge by the daughter of one of my beloved teachers who is losing her battle with cancer. The author of this article explains that you shouldn’t dump your thoughts, feelings, and emotions about how the death of this person is affecting you to someone in a closer relationship to the person who is dying or has died. You can dump out into a further circle, but not in, to a closer circle. It’s a brilliant set of rules. I discussed it with my Dad and sisters and they agreed that these were good rules to live by, but they are surprised people don’t already know by common sense or intuition what is appropriate or inappropriate to say in these situations. I think we humans need help in the common sense department when it comes to things like death and dying, and conversations around those two most natural – yet uncomfortable – topics.
That reminded me of how often people would approach us soon after my mom passed and how awful it made me feel because I was too raw and unsettled to take in their sadness. Jody and my Dad went to an event a few months after my mom’s passing, which was kind of a disaster. My parents were high school sweethearts — together 67 years, married 64 years. A woman came up to them at the event and asked where Ruth was, learning from my Dad that she had died. This woman fell apart. She was visibly distraught, and angry that her husband hadn’t told her of my mom’s passing. She was so beside herself that Jody had to walk up to her, put one hand on each of the woman’s shoulders, and get eye to eye while saying, “You better get your sh*t together right this minute. This is my father’s first time out in public. He is the bereaved.”
Now, when people tell me how fond they were of my mom, I take it in with a sweet melancholy. I miss her, but hearing about her doesn’t shock me and knock me over like it did in the early days of my grief. I used to just try to hang on, as the waves of grief grabbed me like a rip current in the ocean, with a powerful undertow.
Circling back to Joan, Janet, and Conscious Conversations: maybe the reason I can feel the sweet melancholy is that I’ve come to some sort of understanding about my mom’s place in the universe, and my place in relation to her. If you listen to the interview, you’ll hear me sharing a story of feeling my mom’s spirit “whoosh” down my body, and you’ll hear Joan and Janet normalizing that experience. If I try to stay out of a place of fear or cynicism, it’s pretty cool.
May you be safe, happy, healthy and live with ease!
Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course with Rick Hanson. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” For more information, visit www.MindfulMethodsForLife.com.