“Mommy, are you okay?” says my little 8-year old Sophia in a concerned and inquisitive voice.

“Ya, fine,” I say automatically, in a bit of a monotone. Suddenly, I realize I am elsewhere with my attention.

Sophia looks directly into my eyes and continues with, “You don’t seem okay.”

I take a breath, “Hmmm, maybe I’m a bit tired,” I reply as I check in and notice that I am tired from the previous day’s workload and sore from my dance class.

“What do you need?” she inquires with such genuine care that her words land as an elixir warming my heart and bringing me right into the exquisiteness of the here and now.

I pause and take a moment to reflect. “More love,” I finally answer.

She immediately gives me a full body squeeze filled with complete enthusiasm and overflowing tenderness.

My heart melts and I find myself in a very different state than before we began the conversation. We continue to gift each other with love-filled hugs throughout the evening.

In this brief exchange, a world of change has ensued.

Presence and Observation: Cultivating Our Capacity To Notice

In the dialogue above, Sophia is present enough to notice that Mommy doesn’t seem like her usual self.

Have you had moments when the pastels of the sunset blew through you like the wind, igniting your aliveness? Or moments when you feel the music so deeply that it quenches a yearning you didn’t even know you had? Or walked into a home and the aroma of your favorite childhood food evoked a sense of pleasure and delight?

How awake are we to our surroundings, to the people around us, to our environment, to life itself?

Honing our senses to be receptive and attentive to our exchange with the world enlivens us to the present moment.

We are porous beings. Inviting life to come into our being and pass through us enriches who we are. In honing our senses, we can be present to the fullness that arises in each passing moment.

Checking In: Part 1 – Separating Phenomenon from Interpretation

Sophia checks in, “Mommy are you okay?”

When we observe something, we often fuse it with our interpretation. For example, a tear is shed and I give it the interpretation of sadness. Perhaps the shedding of the tear was an expression of gratitude or deep appreciation. Do we have the practice of checking in? Is my interpretation accurate? What would it be like to not assume we know the experience of another, but instead to inquire, to explore and to deeply listen?

Checking In: Part 2 – Using your Introception

Sophia continues, “You don’t seem okay.”

Sophia is listening beyond the words and is listening to her own inner sense.

I had a Chinese herbal teacher, Thea Elijah, who taught us to play a game called The Bullsh*t Detector. The game entailed guessing if what someone was saying was true or false. In short, it was an exercise to strengthen our radar for sincerity; sincerity being the alignment between a person’s inner and outer dialogue. Our knowing if something is off often comes from a deep listening to our bodies, for example, our gut tightens in response to what another is saying.

Somatic Awareness & Relating

Sophia looks directly into my eyes.

We are embodied creatures and as such our presence is entwined with our physiology. We are also relational beings and as such are impacted by our relationships.

In the book A General Theory of Love, the three authors explore how our brain chemistry and nervous system are affected by those we are in relation to. They call this phenomenon ‘limbic resonance.’ Our nervous systems are not self-contained, they actually attune to those around us. So when we look into each other’s eyes, or when one person takes a deep breath and the other person follows, we are bringing each other back into the present moment.

Trust: Eliciting Wisdom

Sophia asks, “What do you need?”

Here we see the practice not of advice giving or assuming one has the answers to another’s challenges, instead we see a deep trust in the wisdom of each individual.

Here there is the generous gift of believing in another, and the generous gift of slowing down, pausing and reflecting.

Practice, Practice, Practice

We continue to gift each other with love-filled hugs throughout the evening.

One of my mentors, Bob Dunham, often says, “We are what we practice.”

There is something so essential about recurrence and repetition. Through it, we give ourselves the opportunity to actually embody something. To experience it over and over again so that it becomes a part of who we are. This is sustained learning.

We must learn something not only theoretically, but also experientially. It is the process of recurrence that lends itself to mastery. In the book, Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell speaks about the 10,000-hour rule. He finds that in order for someone to be masterful in any domain it requires about 10,000 hours of practice.

In every human exchange, we have the opportunity to show up, to listen deeply, to inquire, to recognize that we can assist in our mutual nervous system regulation and to be a gift to each other.

Thank you, Sophia.

 

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PURSUING MASTERY IN HUMAN INTERACTIVITY