Your mind is labeling everyone and everything, but you may not even notice. Yet those labels or judgments show up when you interact with people.
Have you ever noticed that you suspend disbelief when you listen to Person A but react with cynicism to what Person B says? Does walking down a particular hallway make you feel stressed?
You can become more aware of this with this Christian mindfulness exercise. It helps us to not behave on automatic pilot, but to become more aware. That way we can walk through our day with Jesus, not our half-buried emotions, leading the way.
- Pray to ask God to give you the ability to listen, really listen, to your automatic thoughts. Ask for blessing for this exercise, which you can do all day or just for a few hours.
- Be open to surprises and new insights. You may know how much you dread seeing one supervisor. (I used to have a boss with the company nickname “Attila the Hen.”) But you may not know how you automatically feel toward people who cause you less auto-stress.
- On a “typical” day, listen to what jumps into your mind when you see individuals, attend groups or go places. For example, walk through the halls of your office space, and notice what you are quietly saying to yourself. How does it feel when you see This Person or pass That Person’s office door? Does a certain room or sight make you feel uneasy automatically?
- Acknowledge these emotions. We don’t want to run away from our feelings. We want to be aware of them so we will not behave on automatic pilot.
- Realize that you can’t control your emotions, other people or situations. But you can accept that you have some emotional reactions to people and places. And you can control your actions. asking for the grace to walk with Jesus through our daily activities.
This is part of “radical acceptance.” Introduced into American culture by Tara Brach, the concept is used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). It is a close relative of mindfulness. We pay attention to only what is happening in the present moment (mindfulness) in the presence of God (Christian mindfulness), and we accept that we cannot control reality (radical acceptance).
By realizing the reality of the emotions that we have attached to people and places, we can bring those feelings to Jesus and make a more sound decision about what to do. It’s a good idea to conduct this exercise quarterly or whenever you experience a significant change in your surroundings.