On Thursday, Dec. 6th, Hugh Byrne, Ph.D. presented a four-hour workshop on mindfulness and disappointingly not directly on customer service but connections could definitely be made. Plus, it opens up the possibility of having a "part two" workshop in the future in which the focus would be directly on applying mindfulness to our interactions with colleagues, friends, library patrons, family, our neighbors in the check-out line, etc.
The following post includes the most poignant takeaways that resonated strongest with me.
Mindfulness is about producing an appropriate response.
When we're mindful we're fully in the present moment. I interpret this as meaning when we're having an interaction with someone, let's say a library patron, we're experiencing that person as brand new and novel, and without the stories we tell ourselves about that person (i.e. "Oh, here comes that guy again. I bet he's going to say he didn't deserve his fines, again, like he always does..."). And without the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves (i.e. "I never know what to say to this guy. I won't be able to handle him." Instead, we great him and ourselves with kindness and presence and we take the interaction moment by moment. In other words, we produce an appropriate response - as opposed to a cookie-cutter type of response. If we bring positive, pleasant energy to a situation then we have a greater chance of eliciting the same kind of response from whomever we are interacting with.
This got me wondering if our collective (human) weakness in mindfulness is why policies exist. I think maybe well-written policies exist in an attempt to capture the most cookie-cutter type response that is also on some level generally appropriate in most situations. It makes my head hurt trying to understand the sentence I just wrote but, there it is. The situations that don't fit into or go beyond the cookie-cutter response are good times to dip our toes into the water that is mindfulness.
What would be left if I stopped doing ________ ?
At one point during the workshop Dr. Bryne was talking about how unmindfulness (is that a word?) manifests itself by the things we do to excess: eat, watch tv, sleep, consume alcohol, gossip, etc. And he said something to the effect of if you're mindful, even for a moment when you're scarfing down a stack of those Lofthouse sugar cookies with the 1" of icing on them, ask yourself, "what would I be left with if I stopped eating these cookies?" Essentially we need to ask, what need is trying to be fulfilled - ineffectively - by eating cookies/watching tv/drinking/sleeping/smoking/gossiping, etc? Then we have something we can work with, something that can then become the focus of our mindfulness, even if it's just for a moment. If we can interrupt ourselves by asking that question when we're caught in those cycles of unconsciousness (I'm going to use that word instead of unmindfulness because at least it's a real word) then eventually we can break the cycle all together. But it takes time and energy and dedication and mindfulness.
If you're interested in getting small doses of mindfulness during your day, I highly recommend the free podcasts from the Insight Meditation Community of Washington as well as those available from Hugh. They're both available in the iTunes store or from their respective websites.