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Crow Wing Energized: Mindful Presence -- bringing compassionate care to self and others

Far too often, we become exhausted by the constant demands to be there for those in our lives; and, sometimes we, and our closest friends and family pay the price.

Word tile game pieces spell out - be here now
When our psychological and emotional bowl is full, there is no space to hold the suffering of others.<br/>
Contributed / Metro Newspaper Service
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“How was your day, Dear?”

We’ve all been asked this question when we’ve arrived home from a partner, spouse or loved one. Sometimes we’ve had days where we just survived, others where we were busy and maybe productive, but how often can we honestly say: “Today, I made a difference!”

When we set an intention at the beginning of our day to make a difference in the life of even just one other person, we find we are more satisfied with our jobs, our lives and ourselves, and research supports this notion. However, it isn’t easy to maintain that focus once we get drawn into the back and forth and hustle that is the day for many of us, especially those whose profession it is to care for others.

Far too often, we become exhausted by the constant demands to be there for those in our lives; and, sometimes we, and our closest friends and family pay the price. In order to be truly, completely present to others in our lives, we must be in the right space, we must be in the position of being able to emotionally and psychologically hold others without bringing our own issues, problems and agendas into our reactions.

So often, when another is going through a challenging time and is acting out of a particular emotional stance, we react in ways that match their state. Anger begets anger, and our interactions become increasingly less effective. How often do we react to another person’s emotional state, and not take the time to act, rather than react, out of a place of compassion — it isn’t easy. We have to be in the right space in order to be mindfully present to those in our lives.

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As the poet Rachel Stafford writes:

I know someone going through a hard time and

I will not make it worse by making it about me.

It’s not easy to respond when I want to retreat,

To forgive when I want to freak out,

To detect when I want to dictate,

To bite my tongue when I want to bite back.

So, how do we find the space not to “bite back,” and to be compassionate when we want to retreat or freak out? In order to be mindfully present to others, we have to come from a space in which we have “emptied our bowl.”

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When our psychological and emotional bowl is full, there is no space to hold the suffering of others. When our bowls are full, we make the reactions about “me” — about my needs, my “should and oughts” that I project onto the other person, rather than taking the time to listen carefully and compassionately to the person beneath the emotions. So, how do I “empty my bowl?”

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The ability to respond compassionately to others is a dispositional stance we can operate from when we have taken the time to understand ourselves, the stressors in our lives, how we react to others emotionally, and to create a space in which we choose to act rather than react. This work is not easy, nor does our current culture promote it. It is something we must strive to develop and to work on.

We need to do the work of “emptying our own bowls” before we can be in the space to hold the others in our lives. Much like the safety message on the airplane to secure your mask before helping others, we have to take the time to understand our own issues so that we don’t project ours onto others — so that we don’t make it worse by making it about us.

“Mindful Presence: Compassionate Care for Self and Others” is an eight week, 90-minute/week class designed to help us to reach that space where we can bring compassion into our lives. Where we understand how the daily stressors impact us psychologically, emotionally and physically, and how we can address these stressors in productive and effective ways.

It focuses on what we bring to the world as our strengths, not deficits and how we can work with our own strengths and those of others to be effective in our interactions. Each week, a specific theme is addressed with activities and out-of-class homework designed for application. Discussions in each class are focused on the themes and activities with the opportunity to share successes and challenges so as to learn from our own experiences.

Crow Wing Energized has two sessions scheduled. Each session starts on Tuesday, September and ends on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Both sessions will be in person at Crow Wing County Land Services Building. Registration is required as class sizes are limited; classes are free. If you are an employee of Crow Wing County, your sessions will be from 3:30-5 p.m.; if you are a community member, your sessions will be from 5:30-7 p.m. Links to register: CWC employees: Mindful Presence Compassionate Care for Self & Others-Crow Wing County Employees Only - Crow Wing Energized or community members: Mindful Presence Compassionate Care for Self & Others-Open to the Public - Crow Wing Energized

Steve Hoover, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, St. Cloud State University & the Healthy Aging coordinator, Central Minnesota Council on Aging, has taught mindfulness classes, positive applications of psychology, stress management and development for over 20 years. He developed the Mindful Presence class to stress the application of mindful practices in our lives.

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