I’m sure you’ve witnessed this scene recently. You’re out to dinner and glance at the table next to you—only to see that the entire family has their heads buried in their phones. Mom, Dad, teenage daughter, even preteen son. What does this picture say about our current way of life?
If you’re like me, you ban smartphones and any related-Internet devices from the dinner table. A Wake Up Call reader recently told me that her and her husband go a step further and bar phones from the bedroom. Important, because when you take away the smartphone, it allows you to give the person next to you or across from you your full undivided attention. In the words of author Richard Moss:
The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.
This means listening, really listening to what the other person has to say. As my wife occasionally reminds my family, there is a difference between listening and waiting to speak. When we are truly listening, we are tuning in to not just the words, but the emotions behind the words and the true essence of what the talker is trying to communicate to us.
Importantly, the person across from us can sense when we are really listening. It helps them feel good that they are being heard and that their words and thoughts are valued.
Are you easily distracted? Be sure to turn off the television and radio as well as the phone. But if you still have trouble tuning in, Moss advises us that one key to being good at undistracted listening is a regular meditation practice which can build “the muscle of attention.” By strengthening our ability to observe our thoughts and calm our mind through meditation, we’re better able to focus on the person talking to us—without “spacing out” or having our minds wander off.
Moss tells us we can go a step further with a practice he calls “Sacred Attention.” In this exercise, while conversing with another you keep your focus on your breath and visualize positive energy, or what he refers to as “limitless love or God’s infinite love.” You then let this love flow through you and your whole being to the other person. The result, for both parties, are “sensations like warmth or heat, tingling or pressure, as well as a sense of love.”
A Small Gift You Can Give to A Stranger: The Wave.
I have written before about ways to engage the people you encounter daily and live a more fully connected life, using a practice designed around the acronym REP: Say hello make eye contact or smile to Recognize, say a kind word to Encourage, and Praise those doing or offering anything of value to the world, even if it’s just a smart fashion choice.
I was recently reminded of another small gesture that increases civility and our connectedness to those around us. It comes from the author and life philosopher Seth Godin and it’s a simple and easy-to-do act that can help each of us do our small part to make the world a better place. Below you’ll see Godin’s short essay on “The Wave” in its entirety, each line is a gem.
When someone lets you into the flow of traffic, or holds a door, or takes a second to acknowledge you, it’s possible to smile and offer a wave in response.
This, of course, costs you nothing.
It creates a feeling of connection, which is valuable.
It makes it more likely that people will treat someone else well in the future.
And it might just brighten your day.
The simplest antidote to a tough day is generosity. Waves are free, and smiles are an irresistible bonus.