Throughout January, I’ve been participating in Aetna’s #Mindful30 which gives daily tips on how to create mindful moments in your life to relieve stress. Today’s tip is about listening.
“For today, practice mindful listening. Try to be completely present in the conversations you’re having. Quiet your mind and just listen to what your friend, family member or colleague is saying to you. You’ll be surprised at how much you hear and how much more connected you feel to the person in front of you.”
I’ve noticed that when I ask Mazzy how her day was at school, her standard answer is “Blah Blah Blah Nothing.” That’s verbatim. Thanks for the update, Mazzy. So, in an effort to listen mindfully, I decided that instead of trying and failing to initiate the conversation, I was going to pay more attention to the topics she brought up herself and take her lead, even if that meant discussing the latest Lego and Friends video she found on YouTube.
The first opportunity came during dinner when she mentioned that the teachers at her school were allowed to have dessert every day while the kids weren’t. I said that I’m sure even though they are allowed to eat dessert every day, many of them probably don’t. That got us into a whole discussion about how part of being an adult is having enough information to make your own decisions (bad or good), while kids are still learning.
Then I gave Mazzy a bath. Both of my kids are old enough so they usually play in the tub by themselves while I do other things and then I help them out with washing when they’re ready. Mazzy’s got so much hair, I can’t imagine there will ever be a time when she is old enough to get it all shampooed, conditioned and rinsed by herself. But on this night, instead of running around while Mazzy played in the water, I sat down next to her on the floor like I used to do when she was younger.
I could tell that Mazzy knew she had my full attention and was happy about it. Then she gave me this look that she makes when she wants to fill me in on an exciting discovery.
“Mom, can I tell you something?”
“What?” I was expecting her to tell me something about her friends in school or about her latest obsession— an Equestria Girls game on her iPad.
“Water is thin.”
Huh. Not where I thought she was going at all.
“What do you mean?”
She explained that she could feel the water on the top level of the bath but not underneath. Obviously, an incorrect observation but I let her explain.
“Do you know how I know water is thin?”
She took a cup and put it under the water. Then she put her hand in the cup. “See? If there is water in the cup, then how can I put my hand inside?”
I told her to take the cup out of the water, but keep it full. She did as told. Then I told her to stick her hand in. She watched the water run over the sides and into the bath.
“You see?” I said. “The water is being displaced by your hand. The same thing is happening underwater, but you can’t see it because everything is already submerged.”
“OH!!!!! That’s cool, mom.”
What a second. Did I just teach my daughter some science? Really the last thing I expected from listening mindfully was a conversation about water displacement. Why had I assumed we’d be talking nonstop about things like American Girl Dolls and Frozen?
So I ended up learning three things from listening mindfully:
1) Mazzy notices when she has my full attention.
2) Conversations start when I pay attention to what she wants to talk about.
3) What she wants to talk about is more interesting than I give her credit for.
This post was sponsored by Aetna, who believes health is about the body and the mind. Stress can affect emotional and physical health, and reducing stress can boost wellbeing. As part of their #Mindful30 challenge, the views and opinions expressed in my posts on the topic of mindfulness are my own, not Aetna’s. To learn more about mindfulness, visitaetnamindfulness.com.