Be Considerate

I happened to utter that phrase this morning. I was thinking about where to place things and said that I needed to “be considerate” of the things that were already there and where they would go, specifically these were tools that had a purpose for their positioning. As I said it, those two words struck me as a parental phrase offered when trying to teach our kids to be decent human beings. Of course, I was talking about considering the environment, a totally different use of the words, but it still struck me. To “be considerate” is a very mindful thing to do.

To consider something is to think about it, to weigh the outcome. “Consider the consequences” when you are about to make some rash decision. This is very focused on you and the outcome of your actions. “Consider” in this case is to think about and weigh the results of an action. In the case of this adage, mindfulness is necessary to stop and think before you act. If you can “consider the consequences” every time you make a decision then you’ll be living mindfully with regards to yourself and how the choices you make will affect your immediate or even long-term future.

Being considerate of others, that’s still considering an outcome, but in this case, it’s more about walking a mile in their shoes. If you can be considerate of someone else, you can awaken your own empathy and start hopefully save someone else from their negative emotions. By being considerate of someone’s feelings, you’re stopping before being mean. By being considerate of someone else’s actions, you’re allowing that there might be some decision or purpose behind what they’ve done. Again, these are mindful acts. Empathy is one of the most mindful traits you can really embrace and luckily one begets the other. The more you consider how someone else will react to your actions, you give yourself a reason to continue to do that for other people. Especially when you see that your consideration has a positive effect. When you’re considering why someone did something, you can head down the rabbit hole of how it affects YOU or you can see that maybe there’s another side to the story that is completely based on them. By letting THEM have their own reasons, and accepting them at face value, you can save yourself from stress and anger.

There are so many things to consider about consideration. To my original thought, considering where you place thing is an art form? a science? a practice when it comes to interior design. The Chinese concept of Feng Shui is all about considering where things are placed for optimal flow of chi in your house. In my example, where I place a drill press may get in the way of placing boards when I want to use my miter saw. There is a flow, be it something as ephemeral as Chi or as literal as a board, and consideration is again a mindfulness when planning and when doing.

The big consideration, one that I’ve spent much more time considering in my 40s than in any previous decade, Death. Considering that you, your loved ones, your enemies all face that inevitability can sometimes bring consideration for how you treat them now, and how you continue to treat them. Either by considering that someday you may lose them or one day you’ll be gone, either is a heavy weight to let sit. I know it’s a hard one to think about but I’ve found tremendous strength in remembering that ultimate end. Some folks will do anything to avoid thinking about it, leading to different mindless pursuits as a result. By knowing that it’s always out there can hopefully give you some peace instead.

I’m adding some footnotes, a new thing for me, as I thought of examples through my writing and wanted to give some bonus reading.

Anxiety and Depression

Mindfulness at it’s best is bring awareness of the present moment, removing the rumination on the past or dreading the future. Also known as Depression and Anxiety respectively. When we let our monkey brain run wild we run the risk of falling into those two mental diseases, among others. This is much more easily said than done, I’ll state that to begin with, but it is possible and with practice, it becomes easier.

 

In the beginning, it’s helpful to form a habit of checking your mindfulness throughout the day. If you make a habit of seeing if you’re focusing on the past or future too much then you’ll start to see yourself at the beginning of an episode you don’t wish to participate in. Maybe this is a reminder on your computer that pops up or an alarm on your phone or watch. Maybe you have a string tied around your wrist and when you see it, you stop and check where your awareness lies. As you get better at this then you can start use behaviours or thought patterns as the trigger to see where your mindfulness is. I’ve found I’m good at testing this when I start to drive or when I’m walking outside.

 

When you find the time, just take a deep breath or three and ask yourself some questions; How am I feeling? What am I feeling? Can I stop this pattern? Is this healthy? Anything that gets you to step outside of the emotion can help, this is mostly about changing the pattern before it’s too late. I’ve had the greatest success, when answering, to answer the question out loud if possible. I have a hard time doing it, but when I’m brave enough, a primal yell can really release that energy that’s built up.

 

As I continue to focus on the questions I will try to also observe my breath, take as deep a breath as possible and exhale for as long as possible as well. I will also, if safety permits, relax my focus so that I’m not looking at anything. Often this relaxed gaze manifests physically as me relaxing my neck and face and staring straight ahead. I keep breathing and gazing in this manner until I’m not feeling a strong, undesired emotion anymore. While there is definitely some mental dialogue happening in my head as well, mostly observing these behaviours.

 

The real trick for these suggestions is to be ahead of the heavy, strong emotions. If I’m already anxious or depressed it can take a while to turn that off, presuming I’m even able to. For me, these have been most effective when used early and when I can silence the monkey brain who wants to mention how absurd these techniques are… sometimes he likes to call me a hippy or a wacko for trying to use behavior instead of medication to resolve issues, but I’m getting better at turning down his volume if not muting him altogether. If I can turn off the chatterbox then you can too.

Mindfulness and Purpose

Mindfulness is your friend when you get lost, emotional or pulled away from your true nature. It can be there to help if you feel the pull of any negative emotion, giving you the chance to pull yourself back into your vision of what you wish to do in your life. Don’t be confident that it will give you purpose, though it’s certainly possible that it can, rather it’s there as a waypoint to bring you back into focus. This is often the case for me.
In the past few years, I’ve found myself more anxious, worrying about me and my family’s future. At my worst, I’ve become depressed, frustrated and apathetic, generally unmotivated to do more than browse the internet. Consumed by distraction, it’s very easy to just float along without purpose and the further you float, the harder it can seem to get back on track.
Years ago, we’ll say about 20 of them, I was fascinated by, and constantly studying philosophy and religion. I read regularly and had high minded thoughts of making the world a better place. As time passed, I let myself get wrapped up in my 9-5 job and eventually got married, had kids, and didn’t spend much time thinking of those things. It wasn’t until my 40s that I start to look at the future again, but this time with a more concerned eye. I had kids that needed to be educated and fed, the world seemed to be going downhill and I was left employed in a position that didn’t give me purpose. These conditions introduced me to a new feeling, anxiety. (Or it seemed new to me anyway.)
The blessing of anxiety, for me, was that it threw me back into my youthful attempts at meditation, minimalism, mindfulness and generally finding peace in the “right now.” I was reminded that I didn’t need to own more things or take on more bills to accomplish happiness. Anxiety brought into sharp focus the truth that my happiness was always by my own choice and my own actions. This isn’t to say that if I wanted to I could just “get that dream job” but rather that I had the choice to be happy right now. If I couldn’t find joy in myself while working this job, why would it be different with another. If I wasn’t motivated to do things in my free time, how would retirement change that? Rather than dread the future, Mindfulness is teaching me to enjoy right now and remember that it’s my choice to be happy.
As I spend more time being mindful it reminds me of those days in my youth when I wanted to help myself and others to live a more peaceful, blessed life. Oddly enough, getting married and having kids is the BEST reason for me to find peace and learn to encourage it in others so that I could share it with my family. Beyond that, I strongly believe that everyone will stand to benefit from it and use it to strengthen their own purpose. With Mindfulness, it’s easier to step back and remind ourselves WHY we’re doing the things we do, for better or worse.
DISCLAIMER:  My anxiety was definitely a by-product of my lifestyle choices and was very treatable with meditation and mindfulness, that isn’t the case for everyone and I encourage you to do what’s right for YOU. I firmly believe that becoming more mindful can help everyone, but don’t want you to do anything that makes your life harder than it may already be as you struggle with Anxiety. Be an active part of your healing and you’re already well on your way.