Have you noticed how often we all repeat what we say?
Too many people simply begin talking at another person, before having obtained their attention. This happens all the time! Once you start to notice it, it’s everywhere.
Too many people aren’t paying attention. Although, I suspect it’s partly in response to too many people [and computers and phones and our entire culture] clamoring for their attention, that they’ve stopped paying attention as a self-defense mechanism. Withholding attention shifts the default setting of how attention-getting something must be to actually get their attention.
Many years ago we create a house-rule that we would not talk to each other unless we were in the same room. It took a long time until it became the norm in our house. No shouting from one room to another with a question, or an order. How often do things like, “Hey, could you…” travel from room to room in your home? Our rule forces us, when I want your attention, to go to you. This puts some actual effort onto me, exactly where it belongs. No one is permitted to call from the living room, “Hey, can you bring me…” because we both know full well we should get up and get it ourselves.
Settling into that rule was tough. But part two was far harder. Improving the other side of the exchange: that of the person who is being interrupted, even if it is ever so politely, by a demand for attention. Having reached a point where we each travel to the other, (the first part,) we then had to learn to treat the arriving person with respect, (the second part.) For example, when I’m knee-deep in computer work and she arrives, I had to learn to pause from my work and turn my full attention to this person who is vastly more important than anything happening in my computer. Frankly I’m still working on this.
After a few years of all of the above, I noticed my attention was becoming a much sharper tool in my interactions out in the world. Some of this was surely due to years of martial arts training, but much of the change was due to my intentional practice described above.
(Then I realized just how much of my attention my phone was demanding, and I fixed that shit right quick. Then I threw my participation in social networks under the bus.)
Now, I see countless examples of mindlessness any time I venture out into the regular world. But I also see examples of mindfulness! They’re not as common, but some people I encounter are awake. Some people I encounter are interested and interesting. Some people’s presence make the immediate area a better place.
Which are you, mindless or mindful?