In her book Rising Strong, author and researcher Brené Brown defines generosity as the ability to “extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.” While this sounds simple, it is one of the most challenging tasks of being in relationship with people – friends, family, co-workers and even strangers.
How different would things look if we were able to make the most generous assumption? When that car cuts you off in the morning rush hour traffic – would it feel different to assume they were rushing to an appointment with their oncologist? What if we assumed that our family member’s snide remark came from a place of feeling left out and isolated? Maybe your co-worker isn’t out to get you; but simply feels overwhelmed and helpless in their own life. Regardless of the situation, having a generous assumption or compassionate response is something each of us has a choice about and requires mindfulness.
In order to be generous and compassionate, we must be mindful of the present moment, including how we may feel and think about a particular situation. Each of us is unique, has a different perspective and therefore each of us has a different reality. Even though we lived in the same house with the same family, my sister had a different experience growing up than I did. Mindfulness encourages us to remember that each one of us is faced with unique circumstances. It is up to us to be mindful of our shenpa, the urge or hook to react or shut down. When we step back or take a balcony view and resist the urge to react we are practicing mindfulness. When we are mindful, we can make the generous assumption.
This week, see if you can make a conscious effort to get on the balcony. When you feel pulled and reactive, see if you can take a step back and look at the situation from afar – the balcony.
Consciously, make the generous assumption. What could be some alternative thoughts? There is no harm if you are “wrong” or “right.” With a generous assumption you are simply letting go of your own shenpa or hook. Take a breath, ask yourself if there is another alternative and remember that we are all doing our best.
Mindful moments are short practices to be used throughout your week to relax, integrate and center yourself. Inspired by the wisdom traditions and science, mindful moments are meant to be accessible and simple enough for anyone to practice. Many teachers and leaders in integrative medicine have influenced our approach to mindful moments. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Pema Chodron would say it is “practicing in the gaps.” Look for the weekly mindful moment every Monday. May it support you in finding your center to live life to the fullest.
Join us for Sitting Meditation on Tuesdays at 5 PM or Thursdays at 5:30 PM at Lakeside.