(PLUS THREE SIMPLE WAYS TO BRING CALM AND COMPASSION TO YOUR LIFE)
My wife Susan and I have been having a small disagreement. For nearly all of our marriage years we have been at odds about the best way to load the dishwasher. Awkward silences have set in like unexpected September heat waves. I’m not proud of it, but we have actually argued about this. Voices have been raised. Eyes have rolled. It’s not a very complicated problem really. She puts the mugs where I think the plates should go. Thankfully after almost two decades together, we mostly laugh about our differing approaches to life and dishwasher loading. She worries; I relax. She plans; I take a walk. She’s organized; I’ve searched for my glasses while wearing them. Her well of compassion is endlessly deep; mine often feels like a pothole.
Aikido teacher Koichi Tohei says, “The mountain does not laugh at the river because it is lowly, nor does the river speak ill of the mountain because it cannot move.”
Mindfulness practice gives us some practical tools for loving one another amid the differences of life. Mindfulness has not changed our differences, but it has helped us to be much more compassionate toward one another. Rather than convincing another person to agree, mindfulness makes compassion and connection a greater priority than ‘being right’. And sometimes, let’s be honest—the seduction to be right is just so strong.
My ten years of mindfulness practice, like the slow effects of river erosion over rock, has carved a space in me to realize that there is actually more than one way to load a dishwasher. (Yes, it took ten years.)
My approach to life, however superior it may seem to me in the moment, is only one way. I now see that our difference is our strength.
Here are three simple ways to breathe space into your differences:
- Stop, breathe, and remember it’s only a dishwasher. Sometimes we can make small problems bigger than they really are. Ask yourself: do I want to be right or do I want to feel connected?
- Choose one daily task to do with complete attention. So often when we are doing something, we are already focused on the next thing. In an age of multi-tasking, give your full awareness once a day to one activity such as brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, putting on your shoes, or drinking coffee. Mindful awareness is the foundation of our compassion for others.
- Really listen. Are you listening or waiting to walk? Instead of formulating your response before the other person is finished speaking, practice deep listening. While listening doesn’t eliminate differences, it can help foster the deep connection between people that make working with difference more graceful.
We know that daily life is not always easy. There are small differences, heart-breaking estrangements, and many levels of connection and disconnection in between. As we begin our exciting season of meditation groups, retreats, mindfulness courses, and day retreats, please know that the Copper Beech Institute has been founded to foster connection, forgiveness, and compassion in your life and in our world.
We look forward to welcoming you and learning about what unexpected moments in your life have led to the greatest insights about acceptance, living, and loving.
Founder and Executive Director
Copper Beech Institute