Sometimes our expectations don’t line up with reality. When that happens, we can be in for a rude awakening. Meditation and mindfulness has helped me curb that expectation to lessen the blow when reality doesn’t turn out the way I hoped.
To state it briefly, mindfulness is about being present. Being aware of what is happening and what you are feeling in the moment here and now. When you are taking a walk outside, what are you usually doing? Are you looking at the trees? Smelling the fresh air of flowers and grass? Or are you looking at your phone? Scrolling through facebook? Checking how many likes your latest instagram picture got? Browsing snapchat to see what everyone else is up to?
There’s a time and place for everything. Mindfulness is about making the present moment front and center. There is nothing wrong with checking your social media accounts. I am not saying that if you have an instagram you are a bad human being. But I can admit that in the past, I, myself, have gotten too absorbed into how many likes or views or reposts I was getting. That wasn’t healthy for me.
Practicing mindfulness helped me become more aware of my surroundings. If I am with family or friends, I am talking with them, conversing and enjoying their company. I do my best not to pull my phone out and distract myself—that can wait until later when I get home and am winding down.
In my experience, being aware of reality is similar to practicing mindfulness. Many times in my life, I have envisioned how a certain event or how a day will go, before it even happens. Now, in some cases that can be good. If I have a presentation or interview to do, it doesn’t hurt to envision how I will go about it, as that can increase my confidence and result in a better outcome for myself.
But I am talking about other certain types of expectations. There are two specific examples that I will write about.
The first example will be about relationships. Whether it is with a significant other, a friend or a family member, relationships are a two-way street. If I expect a relationship to add value to my life, then I should be adding value to the other person’s life as well; it would be selfish not to. I shouldn’t always be looking out for myself.
If I am always venting to a friend about my problems at work, but in return I never listen to that friend about their problems, how is that fair? I expect my friend to be there to listen to me. If this unfair balance in the relationship persists, then that friend may eventually realize they’re only being used, and will stop listening to me vent. Reality will then set in, and I’ll be sadly out of luck.
To the above example, mindfulness has assisted me by becoming a better listener. And I don’t just mean by nodding my head more and adding plenty of “uh huh’s.” That’s how I used to listen, and I thought that because I could sit there and not say anything for a long time, then that makes me a great listener. But I was wrong.
Mindfulness has helped me become an active listener.
I am more in tune to what the other person is saying. I am being present, understanding their emotions through the words they are saying and the body language they are portraying. Figuring out what they need from the conversation—whether it is support, advice, or just someone to hear about what they’re going through, without casting judgment.
I will give a more personal anecdote of how I comprehended just how important mindfulness and being an active listener is. If you’ve read my breakup blog post, you’ll know I was in a long-term relationship that ended a few months ago. One of the reasons we broke up was because I used to be a terrible listener. I didn’t practice mindfulness or meditation until the last several months of our relationship, so there was a long stretch of our relationship where I nodded my head and said “uh huh,” trying to escape our conversations as swiftly as I could.
I expected our relationship to flourish, even though I wasn’t holding my end of the deal. I made her feel alone and isolated. I wasn’t listening to her problems. Looking back, I recall many times I was watching a basketball or football game while she was trying to tell me about a problem at work, and I would just get frustrated with her. I would ask if she could tell me about it later when I’m not busy, but then I would never give her a chance to continue telling me about it once the game was over.
I wasn’t being mindful of what was in front of me. A human being was attempting to open up to me, yet I was worried about something on a television screen. To no surprise, she had had enough; reality set in and we are no longer together.
Once I started meditating, I could see the error of my ways. I noticed in my other relationships as well, that I wasn’t being as mindful as I could have been. So now I’m working on it every day. At times, I forget. But each time I remember to be mindful, and re-center myself to the present moment, I know I am making small improvements to become the person I want to be.
To receive new posts automatically, enter your email and subscribe. For more information about myself or my blog, click About Meditating Millennial.