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Mindful : June 2018
Antoine had cut himself on the broken glass coaster we’d left on top of the refrigerator. My husband was whispering the details as I walked through the door. “I think he’s going to be fine,” he said quietly, “but we should give him some money.” Antoine worked for the service that came to clean our friend’s apartment while we were staying there. When I went upstairs to find him, he said his hand was probably going to be OK, but he mentioned a past event when a tree branch had punctured his skin, causing an infection in his arm. I glanced at the small see- through bandage on his index finger and saw no evidence of anything serious, yet I sensed that Antoine felt vulnerable. I offered to take him to the emergency room, which he declined. He seemed fine, but how did I know? As he left I pressed some cash into his hand and gave him my phone number, inviting him to call me if any- thing terrible came from this mishap. The next day I tracked down the cleaning ser- vice to see how Antoine was. The person there said he had mentioned the incident but was able to work. She said she’d tell him I called. → ABOUT THE AUTHOR Elaine Smookler is a registered psychotherapist, mindfulness teacher, writer, and performer who helps people develop mindfulness and resilience in everyday life. Think first impressions don’t lie? Let’s reconsider. Have you ever made a negative assumption about someone, only to later find out that you had the person pegged all wrong? Snap judg- ments can reveal a lot about our deeper biases and fears. When you unpack them, you create new oppor- tunities to better know your own mind—and more freedom to choose how you want to move through life. TRY THIS Take a moment and recall some- one you may have had a strong cyni- cal opinion about: your best friend’s new boyfriend, your good-looking neighbor, the new sales manager at work. Then, get curi- ous: What was it that you percieved that provoked your cynical line of thinking? Was it their name? Their role in society? Their accent? The way they looked? Did they remind you of someone? When you were proven wrong, how did it feel? Was it a relief? Embar- rassing? Frustrat- ing? Did it make you feel hopeful or maybe a bit vulnerable? How did this experience shift your thoughts and feelings about the person, about yourself, and about the world? What did you learn about how quickly a negative view- point can seize your mind and reframe what you are perceiving? This exercise is not about being right or wrong. It’s about developing the awareness to notice when you might be making choices that either shut down pos- sibility or let you remain open. Mistaken Identity It’s so easy to mentally catego- rize people so that they fit into the story line we cre- ate to make sense of our world. But when you’re willing to take a deeper look, you read- ily discover that nobody is just one way. We’re multidi- mensional, made up of many parts and experiences. Each time you catch your- self making an assumption about someone, you have the opportu- nity to pause, take a breath, ask your- self “Is it true?” and consider a shift in how you view them. Not predjudg- ing people is a deep source of generosity. When we push away others with our negative frames of reference, we’re protecting cozy territor y we’ve marked off for ourselves, but openness is the far more invigorating strategy. I could have been suspicious and self-protective, careful not to appear too responsible lest it bite me in the hindsight, but this just isn’t how I want to live my life. Call me an optimist. June 2018 mindful 65 get real