Florence Meleo-Meyer – How to Practice Mindful Communication & Forever Change Your Relationships
I’m really excited to share with you the third masterclass following on from The Mindfulness Summit last year, which is with Florence Meleo-Meyer on mindful communication.
Have you ever noticed that the moments when your ‘buttons are pushed’ or when you’re most reactive is when you’re in communication with other people? It’s certainly true for me. Would you like to be less reactive and more skillful and loving in the way you speak and listen? This is what this masterclass is all about!
During this masterclass Florence teaches us a skill called ‘Insight Dialogue’, which is a form of mindful communication. It’s a skillset that brings the tranquility and insight from meditation directly into our interactions with others – giving us the capacity to be more skillful, kind, loving and authentic in our communication with family, friends, co-workers.
Florence is the Director of the Train-the-Trainer program of the Oasis Institute for Mindfulness-Based Professional Education and Training, and has taught meditation for over 30 years. She is certified as a Siddha Yoga meditation teacher as well as a senior MBSR (Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction) teacher. Florence holds degrees in education and psychotherapy and is a licensed family therapist.
I’m sure you will find this interview with Florence an incredible support in your ongoing journey into mindful living. Enjoy!
Want to change the future of your relationships forever?
I’d like to share with you another powerful tool for more mindful communication. It’s called NVC (non-violent-communication). Sounds true currently has a free online training course on NVC. This course will give you the tools to resolve even the deepest conflicts and transform your relationships, leaving you with a sense of self-fulfilment and with your self-respect intact.
Dr Marshall Rosenberg pioneered the work on Nonviolent Communication and has spent over 40 years traveling the world teaching people how to resolve conflict peacefully and compassionately. I find it amazingly helpful in my own life and I’m sure you’ll love it too.
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Melli: G’day and it’s Melli O’Brien here from The Mindfulness Summit. I’m excited to be bringing you the third masterclass following on from last year’s Mindfulness Summit. These masterclasses are designed to continue to nourish and support you on your unfolding journey into mindful living. And this particular masterclass is something I’m really excited about because this masterclass is about mindful communication.
Now, I have to say for me, this is where the rubber really hits the road because Isn’t it true, right, that the moments when you really get triggered, when your buttons get pushed, when we tend to get most reactive, most of the time it’s when we’re in communication with other people – our friends, our co-workers, our loved ones. And so mindful communication gives us this capacity to be more skilfull, to be more kind, more loving and more authentic in our communication with other people.
The masterclass you are about to watch is with the wonderful Florence Meleo-Meyer. Florence has been teaching meditation for over 30 years. She’s a certified Siddha yoga teacher as well as being a senior MBSR teacher. MBSR, for those of you who don’t know, stands for mindfulness-based stress reduction. She went and studied in India with meditation masters. And she also holds degrees in both education and psychology. And she’s also a licensed family therapist. And since 2003, Florence has been focusing in on something called insight dialogue which is a form of mindful communication. It’s a form of mindful communication that she’s going to teach to you in this masterclass.
I know you’re going to enjoy this interview with Florence and gain so much value from it. Without further ado, here’s the masterclass with the wonderful Florence Meleo-Meyer.
So Florence, actually first of all, I really just wanted to thank you really from the bottom of my heart for your time and your presence and sharing it with myself and the community.
Florence: Thank you for asking me.
Melli: And you know and also for your work because it’s been very influential in my own life and many lives around me. So yeah, been wanting to take a moment of really appreciating you for that.
Florence: Thank you so much Melli.
Melli: So Florence, would you say that when you think back that you were spiritually inclined as a child or was that something that came much later for you?
Florence: I was exposed in my family to impermanence very young. And there was a death in the family that impacted me strongly. And it really spun me into a lot of wonder about: How could this happen? What is this life? What is it to be alive? What’s the meaning? What happens after you die? Very, very young I had questions around that and ‘Who am I?’. So those questions, actually for many of us, are questions that lead us on a meditation path or spiritual path of some type of what is this about. So, you know, it was just right there for me. Eventually, in my teens, I heard of meditation. And when the first time I heard it, it was like I want to know more about this. And it wasn’t so available. It was, you know, really certainly nothing that would be as accessible as we know MBSR is. But you know I began and in my 20s met a meditation teacher, an Indian teacher and studied in India part of the time and then continued, you know, with this practice. Stayed and came back to the States. Eventually run a meditation center for close to nine years. And all of these were around these questions, really exploring this life, the value of this precious life and how do we know, how do we know ourselves – how do I know myself? So that path, you know, was and it still is extremely valuable to me. But I was teaching meditation and working as a family therapist – so separately. And I was working with a lot of people healing from trauma – and they were adults, children, families. My background says a family therapist but it was, you know, you could work the family with an individual. It’s not like you have to have everyone in the room. But I knew I couldn’t, I knew that I couldn’t, this was not a part of the practice that I just could easily pass to them. It had more ritual and complexity to it. And yet what I knew is that that was a missing link in healing. You can talk, confront. You can do all kinds of layers of recognising your innocence in having been trespassed in your life. But how to offer somebody some practice of coming home to themselves that’s very streamlined, that has the depth and integrity of any real deep practice but also is not flowery.
Florence: It’s so real. I mean it’s not in anyway putting any other practice down, it’s just simply, it’s so accessible – MBSR.
Melli: And was that your first exposure to MBSR, by trying to find a way to integrate the wisdom of, you know, the insights gained through meditation. So you were looking for a way to bridge that gap and that was, was that your first exposure to mindfulness practice or …?
Florence: Yes. Exactly. With all this meditation background but still it was MBSR. So as I came to help my clients and my patients really and help them in very skilfull ways to work with the sufferings. So that’s really what brought me here.
Melli: Ah, interesting. Interesting. And I’ll be curious to know, because my background is actually similar to yours. I know that you started with, it was Siddha yoga wasn’t it? Yeah. And so you found this pathway for your clients but I’m curious to know what unfolded in you in that journey. Because to teach it you really just begin to integrate it so much into life, those principles. So what happened for you when you started to use MBSR and teach MBSR to your clients?
Florence: Well in some ways there were such closeness. It wasn’t like, there was the uniqueness to the practices but familiarity as well. And to me that is if it’s a true path it has to have universal applications. So I would say with the Siddha meditation there was a very strong recognition of wholeness of every human being, of recognizing that in one another – in one’s self and in one another, and that to really wake up to how we perceive. You know, What are the glasses we’re wearing? How are do we see our own lives and the world we live in? So MBSR has the recognition of innate genius, innate wholeness of every human being and the possibility that we can skilfully wake up to this wholeness and capacity that is already here. It’s not like we have to be a more improved model of ourselves but wake up to the brilliance that’s here.
So my first retreat with Insight Meditation, I was holding that question Melli that you’re asking and I kept feeling like it’s the same room. I’m looking through different windows or doorways but it’s the same. And I would say my experience with teaching MBSR has everything to do with love. And that’s a big word to use. I don’t mean that in any kind of, you know, Hallmark card kind of way but fierce love, fierce, to actually choose to be intimate with one’s own life and value.
Melli: You have been teaching through both, you know, I think over 30 years now, through Siddha yoga and then MBSR. And you’ve taught, you know, probably thousands and thousands of people over that time. And I’m assuming that you must be picking up on certain patterns that you see in what unfolds in somebody’s journey when they begin to practice. And so I’m curious if you have noticed when somebody’s beginning to consistently practice, their doing the work, what are the common ah-ha moments that people have, those breakthrough realizations that change them and what are the fruits of those realizations?
Florence: I think one of the first things is to not expect ah-ha moments because…
Melli: Good advice.
Florence: There’s a lot of assumptions and misunderstandings. Like one of them is: I can’t meditate, my mind’s too busy. It’s like saying, I can’t go to the gym. I need to work out first. So it’s already here. So that’s one. Another one is like, and the media often supports this, the kind of being above it all, little ethereal, reaching some perfected state.
So the first thing in my teaching, I think, is to just diffuse some of those assumptions. So to see how extraordinarily ordinary and ordinary the extraordinary is right here, right in this moment. And given that, I do hear things too, you know, this insight. And one of them, I remember a woman very clearly saying, and also it’s more than one, she said that there’s patterns that show up. But the recognition that we’re more than our thinking is gigantic. That, you know, if I can know sensation it’s right here. I’m familiar with the motion, I get swept away at times but my, Descartes said it, you know. It’s here’s I’m thinking. I’ve got this kind of a lie and that’s just the way it is. And yet thoughts can be known. So what’s that that can be awake to all the random thoughts, the brilliant thoughts, the complex, confused thoughts? But suddenly thoughts can become like waves in an ocean that rise and fall and the ocean’s that’s holding it. So that’s one that has been heard – a greater sense of clarity. And then very beautiful is appreciation for the small gifts and beauties in any given day. You know, just these moments that are right here like a flower blossoming right in front of us that many people have been too busy to notice. So beginning to claim the life that we are given. I once, I’m thinking right now as I am saying this of a teacher who had taught at a grammar school who was in a class. And she taught there for like 20 or 25 years and she said, “I suddenly saw the tree outside of the school after all these years. I never saw it before. It’s exquisitely beautiful.” It’s like that, you know, that finding. And it’s internal and external. Because I think another very, very powerful experience, and I guess it’s freedom but it’s reclamation too I think that comes through practice, is claiming parts of ourselves that, for whatever conditioned reasons, has to be splintered off and stuffed away. And they were liabilities and don’t you dare show that to anyone. And with practice all that, this can be met and in many places it turns out these are great qualities, you know, they‘re assets to us but they were, somehow we believed they needed to be dismissed.
Melli: I was talking to somebody about this yesterday. They were asking me, you know, what does authenticity have to do with mindfulness because they see me talking about it. And that’s exactly a perfect description to me of why authenticity has so much to do with mindfulness. Because it’s, you know as you say, it’s an invitation really to embrace all that you are and without judgment. And to me, to be able to live like that, in touch with all of it, the whole catastrophe as Jon says, the full catastrophe of it, that’s authenticity to me. Yeah. And that’s a really good way to live.
Florence: Yeah. I agree.
Melli: So besides the authenticity, I’m curious to hear your take on, you know, that realization I am not my thoughts and the clarity that comes with that. What are the fruits of that do you see in people’s lives when they realize, ‘Oh, I’m not my thoughts.”?
Florence: What it gives is a refined relationship to those thoughts or to emotions, to different sensations – especially challenging, unpleasant, painful sensation or emotion. But it’s like you’re saying authenticity is like we’re holding, we’re allowing all of it. We’re not going to act on all of it because that’s a certain kind of discernment that is, that also comes with mindfulness around here it is, now what choice do you want from this being fully with this right now. So that’s what I see and the freedom that can come from, ‘Oh, there’s that thought. I’ve had that thought like thousands of times in my life. Is it true? Is it necessarily true? Maybe, maybe not. Do I need to follow this path again on this thought?’ Or, it really does underscore the possibility that there’s awareness. Intimacy allows the freedom of choice. So there’s that possibility to steer our lives with greater wisdom and with greater compassion from the being present with, as it is, now.
Melli: And from your experience of decades of teaching, something else I’m curious about is, you know, once somebody has a, we know I think, we spoke about it a lot in the summit, really the importance of formal practice. Once we have that, what do you think are the ways that you observed that are the most effective ways of integrating that awareness into our daily lives? Are there things that you’ve noticed that just really worked for people? Little tricks?
Florence: Well, the first part of it is the whole life that the practice, the cultivation of mindfulness and awareness involves every moment of your life. It’s not just time on the cushion. But formal practice is kind of an anchor. So that choice to say this time is just for me to be, just to be and to know this being. And you know there’s enough pulls in all of our lives that that becomes, it’s a discipline, but it’s a refuge as well. And then from there, how does this flow into the mundane unfolding of the day of all life. So one thing I find is that choosing a few routine activities – and we invite people in the MBSR class, as you know, to take a few, showering, brushing your teeth, walking the dog, some simple activity that normally we might just be mindless. It’s like time out instead of time in. To anchor that. Because then that intention and the repetition starts building a deeper growth in one’s day. And it can almost remind us. It can become a time for, one of the times for me that I’ve established is the time that I walk out of my door.
Melli: In the morning?
Florence: Yeah, and I’m facing East and it’s like I’m about to get into the car, I’ve got to drive to work but there’s, it’s like this moment. And I’ve already sat but it’s this. This moment right now. So that intention helps to come back.
Something that I’ve experienced, and I think many people with their meditation practice for a period of time would say this as well, is that the repetition, the discipline of daily practice – even if it’s, in fact small incidents throughout the day, is what builds, it’s like the color and the pattern in the fabric almost. It’s remembrance there with the small moments. But times when I have had very high demand, you know there’s some real crisis I had to deal with, and what I found was that as if my practice that remembered me. I was upset about something but I had this feeling like my practice was right there because it was embodied, because it had been cultivated and it was a natural turning toward.
Florence: Even, even under duress. It was like, wait a minute let me remind you, let me call you very lovingly. So you know, tips I would say is to look through a day and choose certain times. I know a lot of physicians will say, just as they’re picking up the chart or as they’re opening the door and this patient is like a new universe, just this moment. So how can we do that? How can we start new in the tiny moments of our day? But what can happen… are you familiar with the painter Seurat?
Florence: Pointillism. It’s like, if you saw the picture, you probably would recognize it. He created paintings of like dots of color. And then of course when the eyes receives it, it’s a picture. It’s forms and trees, and people, and a lake. But when you look close it’s little dots of color. And that I feel like is what our day can be like – these moments, these moments that start to build greater resilience, greater strength and remembrance.
Melli: I feel like this is such an important thing because there can be, and I know I’ve done this myself, so there can be sometimes a tendency if we’re, so many spiritual practitioners, if you will, we can do a thing where we do our practice and then there’s this real sense of like, Okay, tick. You know, done my meditation practice. Tick. I did some exercise. Done. Now I’ll just go about the rest of my day. You know. And that’s such a shame. Because this is really, because this is what we’re doing it for to be fully awake to our lives, to have more choice, to live authentically. So I really love that idea of just kind of like choosing something like doing the dishes.And whenever I’m doing the dishes, I’m awake for that. Whenever I go to the doorway. Another one that I love is the car. Because we so often rush when we’re getting in the car to go somewhere. There’s often such a sense of I’m going to get somewhere. And then it’s so easy to fall into the mind pattern of this moment’s not important. It’s really just a means to an end for me to get to where I’m going. So I love that.
And on a really practical note on that, a piece of feedback that I received in the past from some people is that when they tried to do too many things, they became overwhelmed and kind of let the whole thing go. So would you recommend just choosing, say if you’ve never done anything like this before, maybe starting with one or two, three activities? What do you think?
Florence: I think it’s up to the person to decide. But you know what I hear in your question is how can we support people to start building and not overwhelm them?
Florence: And what we’re saying, it’s one thing really present is precious right there. So it’s quality. This question, how long should anybody meditate, of course we have 45-minute recordings here and that’s recommended, but the question is what’s the quality of attending. So washing the dishes and really being there with all the sensory experience and the internal-external processes is a gigantic thing to do. And then that, built over time, can become a resource too. It’s like something is known in the physicality and the presence that can extend to without ever having to say ‘got to check another box.’ But it very naturally starts to build. Very much so. Yeah.
Melli: You also teach something that I’m really excited to talk about, this insight dialogue. And I’m just going to read out a little printout that I printed from the Internet about what this is so that our viewers can really get a sense of this. So “Insight dialogue is a way of bringing the tranquility and insight attained in meditation directly into interactions with others. It’s a practice that involves interacting with a partner, maybe in a retreat setting or on your own, as a way of accessing a kind of profound insight and then you take that insight into the grind of everyday human interactions.”
Now, I’m excited about this because I’m just gong to, this is how it is for me, I can get on the cushion and just, oh it is obviously it’s not always easy. You know what meditation is like. It’s different everyday but generally speaking, I feel a really deep sense of belonging, a sense of being at home within myself, you know, really it’s quite nourishing for me. It’s a joy. It’s not a chore for me to get on my cushion. I love it. So, but I can get off my cushion come in and have a cup of tea with my partner and like that I’m triggered. So this for me is where the rubber hits the road. This for me is like the toughest thing. How can I be more awake in my communication with other people? – that is a juicy question.
So the first thing I would love to explore is, I personally would love to try a formal practice of insight dialogue, you know, at home. And I’m wondering if you could give us guidelines. Is that possible that you could give us some guidelines to have a try if we want to try it like after this video, what do we do? My partner’s going to wake up soon.
Florence: You know team with your partner and start insight dialogue. You Melli, what you’re doing is awareness in dialogue. What’s happening now, while we’ve been talking have you been aware of your body?
Melli: Partially. I know it’s sitting here. I mean, I’m not, because I’m focused, I’m peripherally away, aware of the bird’s song outside, my breathing, my body.
Florence: Yes. Yes. So our practice of mindfulness is like every moment of our day, right?
Florence: Exactly. But I’m not in the perfection thing but just that it’s universal, it’s not a technique. So any moment we can be awake. So that’s all true. And then there are times and practices that can hone very specifically on different aspects of practice. The relational has always been fascinating to me. And I think family systems and relationships, I mean as a family therapist. I mean so many, what happens there. So insight dialogue is insight practice that was founded by Gregory Kramer and I’ve studied with him and I’ve taught somewhat with him. But I also, you know this was mostly on retreats, that is at least predominantly, insight dialogue, in retreat. And sitting at the CFM, feeling the power of this practice, which I’ll say more about, I wanted to find a way, and Gregory Kramer did too and also some other MBSR teachers, to bring this to people and to what we thought were people that finished, that completed the 8-week MBSR class would be a good, like what we call a peer graduate class. I, you’re not alone with this sense. It’s like so many of us could and people here are like: “Relationship? Okay I’m in.” You know like that. I could use that. So why? What is it? So we are such sensitive creatures. We’re really tuned. You just said you heard, you know, peripherally you heard a bird outside. Our receptivity of this moment of being, of contacting our world, it’s not like there us and our world, but this moment of touch, moment to moment – the hearing, the eyes, the scent – all the senses. There’s touching and then the knowing from that moment of contact. All well and good. The birds and the flowers, the sky. It’s all lovely. The cushion, lovely. And then we come to the beauty of being with another human being. And here the possibility is heightened, I feel, because we have a lot of conditioning. We are social, relational creatures and to survive we had to be seen. This is part, you know, we needed that campfire. We need our groups to support us in some way. And then the communication becomes not just words, and we now this that words are just a small percentage of our communication. What’s the body doing? With the flip of the eye, a slight twist of the head, meaning is being made. We’re like our antenna are out: Do they like me? Is this okay? Are they judging? What about what am I feeling in this exchange? There’s a me and a you.
And then in our families, of course, there are layers to that. Oh you’re the one who… And we can solidify that around our concepts of this me as, ‘Oh I’m the shy one. I’m the wallflower. I’m the life of the party.’ But they’re simply more ideas about what’s possible here with two people choosing to be awake, moment to moment to be in the not knowing but choosing to be in the space of awakening together. And that’s what can happen with the practice that comes from insight dialogue.
And as I started saying, so this 8-week class the interpersonal mindfulness class and I’ve done some trainings for teachers as well to teach that class. It feels so important to me in our world there’s so much division and then there’s these those of us that are saying, ‘Now wait a minute. There’s a me and a you but there’s a possibility that this veil of separation can be honored but also opened.
And the meditation guidelines are, I’ll just go through them right now. So the first, there are six of them and the first one is Pause. Do you notice anything in your body when you hear that word, just pause?
Melli: Like a feeling of relaxation to my belly.
Florence: Ah, interesting. Okay. So the pause is an invitation to be awake. To intercept the kind of wheel that’s just moving, moving. Like you’re like I’ve got some place to go to, as you were saying. That can be interrupted with a moment of alertness. So pausing is okay. Here we are. That might be a moment of being silent, it might not.
The next, these guidelines emerge and they’re very, very familiar to our solo practice as well. So the next one, you just named it, it’s Relax. You felt something ease when you chose to attend then you felt something shift in your body. So the guideline relax, on a very concrete level, may be what’s – I’m awake. Ooh my shoulders are high, I can release that. Is there muscle tension that’s unnecessary or added that can actually be met here and released Maybe yes, maybe no but it’s not forcing. It’s invitation.But following from that is oh, allow. So this relax, this is how it is right now. It’s just this way – the body, mind is just like this right now. On the far end of that spectrum of relax is love and of just being with life in this moment.
The next guideline, the third one, is Open. So from a kind of very strong concentration, one-pointedness, there’s a possibility of opening – which you named peripheral could actually be embraced here. And you and I are here in this open space of mutuality. So we’re opening to our interconnectedness, our inter-being as Thich Nhat Hanh says.
And then the next one, they’re all so beautiful, the next one is Trust Emergence. So trust emergence is like as we are here together, not knowing what will come next, there’s the leaning into the not knowing, that we know change is constant and we can trust it. We can actually not have to fight it so much but say, because this is the source of creativity. This emergence. Look what you’ve done, you and your husband are seeing this. And from this first what would it be like to do this, then this, then this is because you are responding to what’s emerging
Melli: I love that. I love the idea of that in general, in relating with another human being. Just having that moment of just not planning, not trying to figure it all out, not having a agenda. I feel relaxed just thinking about it.
Florence: And I do too. And it’s also in what a lot of normal, you know, parlance, there’s a constriction around – I’ve got to say something smart. I’ve got to be clever. Will they like me? – all of that is going on. And it may be showing up in a relational mindfulness practice but you’re noticing it. You’re present with it. “Oh, it’s a thought. Oh, there’s that sensation in the belly.’ It’s not a definition of you. But that’s where so many people feel like, I can’t. They fill the space. I have to fill all the space because what if there is a silent moment on the couch.
From trust emergence comes Listen Deeply, Speak The Truth. So I’ll say something about that.
Listen deeply is really listening internally and offerings, it’s like an offering really to yourself and your meditation partner because we become partners in meditation with this practice that your expression is maybe a tiny movement of your eye, a smile. It might be the tone of your voice. It’s the words you’re saying. But at the deepest level there’s presence – to be present with ourselves and one another. And so the listening deeply really has guidance on moving from the words, the expression through the body and this beingness.
And then the speak the truth is to pause and to feel into what is actually true now for me. Subjective truth. But to take the time to connect with this emergence. And it’s authentic. It’s your word. It’s what your naming. It’s deep authenticity. One of the things I found, I do love this practice so much and it’s one of the most remarked about practices that is done in the 8-week class and in intensives as well. People often refer to it like, I had no idea that this space where, you know, the kind of solo meditation practice or it’s my world can open into a space of mutuality. And when you’re pausing into mindfulness, if I’m like caught up in my own stuff, your practice supports me to remember. So it becomes this generosity that goes back and forth. And then embracing both. And then it can be larger into a whole world. Yeah.
Melli: So I will, I’m just reading the minds of our viewers right now, and I think, I’ll just let everybody know we’ll write down those six steps so you can practice these. I’m going to practice these today. I’ve got a willing participant. So I’m also wondering, obviously that formal practice would be an incredible support in just, you know, building more authentic and awakened relationships and I imagine that’s just going to infuse into daily life and I’m also wondering do you have any other things that you’ve noticed that work in informal communication, in informal mindfulness communication? Is there anything else that you’d like to offer in terms of what works in daily life?
Florence: You know I feel like with all those guidelines, pausing. I mean that’s choosing to be awake. That is making that choice toward mindfulness. But just to give ourselves permission to pause, to really listen. We interrupt each other so much and so often. I find when I do that kind of knee jerk interruption and I say, ‘Oh I’m sorry, you were saying something.’ Very often the person is like just knows right where the thread is. So to care for one another enough to ask more, to listen, to and I think for each of us as well, groundedness in the body is really, really, really important because we can jump out.
Melli: Yeah. I know exactly what you mean.
Florence: Especially when the other person is… it’s crazy.
Melli: It is. It is.
Florence: And that’s what I’ve heard people say in different classes of the relational practice. It’s somebody is saying I want to stay home in my own body when I’m in connection with another and just getting lost.
Melli: Yeah. I really relate to that feeling. I mean it really, I think that’s actually really a nice way of saying it. It feels like you jump out of your groundedness just like that. Yeah.
Florence: Yeah. So I would say that’s one real strong, feel your seat, feel your feet, inviting yourself into the moment, fully present, physically especially, and listening. I wanted to say something about that too. But the third, there’s was just something I wanted to say about this. Oh,another quality that supports our practice is curiosity. Can we be curious, right, with our own experience and who is this person that I’m with? What’s possible here? So listening is not just something that I’m doing here like with my ears. Listening has often been used as another word for meditation. So it’s like as we connect internally, if I find you’re speaking and I’m running tapes in my mind of what I’m about to say, that’s a place to pause. Because we’re just flying off. So that gentle invitation to come back comes from that listening internally and externally.
There is an exercise I’ve invited people into, especially in intensives. And it focuses on a time in your life when you were, had something you wanted to share and you were listened to and another time when you weren’t listened to. And it’s a longer process. I won’t go through all of it. But almost, I don’t think it’s ever happened that I’ved worked with this with a group, that it didn’t come to this place when a person remembered a time when they were really received – really met and listened to and seen, I would add too – they say I am loved. And so what I would like to point out is that we all have the power to offer this to ourselves with kindness, with, you know, a lot of gentleness around some of the heartache we may listen to internally and with one another. It’s like we have a gift that we could give that actually has potential to heal the multitude of times when we weren’t listened to or we didn’t listen to ourselves. Yeah.
Melli: Sometimes I think it becomes obvious when you dig a little bit underneath the surface that a little, what seems like a little act, a small detail of daily life is actually something so much deeper and that’s such a great example of just offering your presence to another person when they want to share is like, it’s such an act of love, isn’t it? I mean just when I, when you were saying that I was thinking about a time when I was really listened to and a time when I wasn’t. And even before you spoke those words, I had come to the same conclusion. You know, when somebody’s listening to me I feel like you’re saying to me I care about you, I want to hear you, I want to connect with you, you’re worth listening to. You know.
Florence: So very, very true.
Melli: I’d like to ask you a personal question if you don’t mind. And I’m just curious if you can think of a time when you were triggered, maybe in the recent past or the distant past if you’re lucky enough, and what did you do in that moment and what happened?
Florence: So well I have a selection I have to choose from.
Melli: I’m not alone.
Florence: No. No. Okay, I think I can share one. So this is not distant, it’s within the year probably. And I was coming into a meeting. And I had an agenda and things that I wanted to share. But I suddenly realized that I was feeling not in my seat and a kind of, definitely a kind of vulnerability. And then I noticed that my mouth was very dry. And I was at a, so all of the recognition was here. And I started speaking and I could feel how dry my mouth was. And I just stopped. And I said, first I said I just need a moment, I need to pause for a moment. And then I said, I just want to say – and of course I’m at the Center for Mindfulness – and then I said that I’m just very aware that my mouth is very dry right now. And then the whole group shifted in a way that I, just my having the freedom to say that out loud, I think brought a lot of kindness and compassion into the space. But it also, it was like here’s stress reactivity. It’s right here. I mean everyone in the room is familiar with this. But something about the authenticity of naming it. Because I could have chosen not to and there would be times that would not be appropriate at all. At all. You know, depending on who you’re with. But most important of all would be the inner recognition. And from that place, that’s an act of compassion because that is the listening. And then from that clarity, you know I’m using listening here – of connection, of awareness – and then the choice can be made. You know, I just need a few moments. Offer yourself care. Recognize who you’re with. It’s, you know, what being awake can allow us, the choices and the freedom are all possible there. But I said that out loud. So that was one sure of a time. I could think of others.
Melli: I love how you mention there was a shift in the room as well because I’ve noticed that a couple of times when other people have just kind of outed their moment of vulnerability and when I’ve done it as well, it’s like everybody just relaxes and just goes ‘ahh.’ You know, not only, I think not only because there’s a vulnerability. But it’s just such a wonderful moment of connection especially if there’s a, especially if there’s a scenario where someone is presenting or they’re being the authority or they’re just going ‘you know what, I’m really nervous right now.’ or ‘I’m feeling this.’. And it’s almost like a visible sigh in the whole room or in the conversation.
Florence: Why do you think that’s so? What do you suppose happens there?
Melli: It feels like to me that a mask just came off. And there’s no real boundary of pretending or showing up as anything, no protecting. There’s no more protecting happening.
Florence: Ah, beautiful.
Melli: That’s kind of what it feels like. What do you think?
Florence: And you know I think that we, discernment is needed there because it’s like what is the role that we’re in. So if we’re the teacher in a group, how much we say ‘I’m nervous right now’ may not be skilful. Knowing it is totally important. This was a meeting, you know, so it was separate.
Melli: That was the effect.
Florence: But the other part of it is what you’re naming about the mask coming off. It ties back to what you shared about authenticity. And whether we share the specific moment of nervousness or something or not, what’s most important is we’re just people who are choosing to wake up and to be in connection with ourselves and with others, you know hopefully, to create greater peace and compassion and these mili-moments during our day that start to build up and the world.
Melli: And I think you are right. A lot can be said in a moment of being triggered or whatever is going on. I think a lot can be said without saying a word. And I’m imagining, you know, a difficult conversation that I could have with my partner when he wakes up and we have a cup of tea. You know, but a lot can be said without saying a word. You know, I can remember times when you could be triggered and then sometimes all you have to do is just recognize it and just go uhmmm, I’m here, without even saying a word. You know, you can disarm I think in a way. So, yeah, I’m glad you mentioned that. You don’t always have to verbally out ourselves for that sense of, you know, ahhh.
Florence: And what you just said is ‘I’m here’ is what it is. I am here. I’m here and it’s like this right now.
Melli: ‘I’m here and I’m here with this’ response.
Florence: I’m here and I’m not missing it.
Melli: Right. Right. Yeah. I just have one more question and that is, if you could time travel and you could go back with all the experience and wisdom that you have now and you could travel back in time and meet your former self and just whisper one piece of advice in your ear, and this is the you in the past that’s just about to start on the journey to mindful living, what would you, what would one piece of precious advice would you whisper in that ear.
Florence: I think it would be just keep going. Keep going. Because it’s not going to be flashing. It’s not going to be a sudden epiphany. There are insights, there are all of that that we know, exquisite beauty. But there’s also waking up to exquisite tenderness, vulnerability, fear. So not to be deterred by those times when it’s like wooh, that’s a whole person, that’s a whole life. Wow. So keep going. And you know that’s, there’s this word discipline but it’s the steady, keep moving. Yeah. Beautiful question.
Melli: I’ve really, really enjoyed connecting with you. I really enjoyed this conversation and yeah. Thank you so much for your time and your presence.
Florence: Thank you Melli