Give The Gift Of Compassion This Holiday Season With Co-Mindfulness

Dwarf Burford Holly

by Doro Bush Koch & Tricia Reilly Koch

This year many of us won’t be traveling home for
the holidays. We won’t be rushing off to parties to celebrate the passing of
another year with our friends. We’ll find new pandemic-safe ways to get
together with our loved ones – over Zoom, bundled up around a fire outside,
masked inside our living-rooms with the windows wide open.

Managing our lives during a global pandemic has
been stressful and emotionally draining. Having sacrificed so much already, it
feels cruel not to be able to share the holidays with the people we love. In
our sadness and fatigue, many of us might be inclined to withdraw and hunker
down, but to retreat would be a mistake. The best gift we can give ourselves,
and our loved ones, this holiday season is the gift of our compassion.

Before Covid-19 became a household word, we
started asking ourselves what giving our compassion to others might look like.
How do we make compassion not something we practice every once in a while, but
the very foundation of how we interact with people? Scientific studies have
shown that giving is a much more pleasurable and beneficial experience for us
than receiving is. When we give our compassion to others, not only are we
lifting up the people around us, we are also giving a very real boost to our
own well-being and happiness.

Are You Listening?

To help people cultivate more compassion in their
everyday lives, our team at Bright, Bold & Real Wellness Consulting has
devised a practice that we call Co-Mindfulness. Inspired by the core tenets of
mindfulness meditation, co-mindfulness is a wellness practice rooted in our
relationships. While we tend not to think of our individual well-being as bound
up in other people, scientific studies have revealed that close empathic
relationships are as vital to our health and happiness as diet, exercise,
meditation and sleep are.

Like meditation, co-mindfulness is a practice that
we intentionally set out to do. In mindfulness meditation, we use our breath to
bring our attention to the present moment. In co-mindfulness, we use 7 core principles
to be more fully and compassionately present to the people in our lives. Today,
we’d like to share the first principle “Giving Our Full Attention” to help you make
compassion part of your everyday life. To get started,
choose one close person in your life as your co-mindfulness partner. This
person (who doesn’t need to know that they’re your partner) will serve as your ‘time’
to practice co-mindfulness, meaning whenever you are with this person you will practice
giving them your full attention. Having a partner when getting started ensures
that you regularly practice the principle. Over time, as the principle becomes
more familiar and natural, you can expand your practice to others. The goal is
for the principle to become such an ingrained habit that you begin to do it instinctually
without thinking.

principle “Giving Our Full Attention” begins with what we like to call deep
. Deep listening is
patient, inquisitive and has no agenda. Unlike most of the listening we do,
deep listening is a deliberate quality of listening that generously gives space
to another person to freely and safely express themselves. To practice deep
listening, you first need to let go of any expectations you might have for the
conversation. You need to set aside your own personal thoughts and feelings and
make yourself fully available to your partner. Once you’ve carved out a space
within yourself for your partner, you then invite them to speak first, closely listening
to their emotions as well as their words. When they are done speaking, instead
of responding with your own anecdote or piece of advice, you ask open-ended
questions to draw them out, such as “Why did you…?” “What were you feeling
when…?” “Can you tell me more about…” You let your partner take the
conversation wherever they want. All you have to do is make them feel valued and
held by your deep compassionate listening.

20180225_Sunset before the snow

As you listen to your partner, you will also
need to pay attention to what they’re not saying – their body language,
tone of voice, subtle facial expressions. Somewhere between 60 – 80% of human
communication is nonverbal. To understand what your partner is truly thinking and feeling, you
will need to fight your natural
instinct to take what they are saying at face value and pay close attention to
their non-verbal cues. Be especially attentive to any incongruities between what
they are saying and their body language. If you notice a disparity, inquire
about it. You could say something like, “You say you are…but I notice that
you…” These thoughtful observations shared in an open and non-judgmental way
can help to draw your partner out and have them share with you what is really
going on with them.

Giving someone our full attention is how we
express our love for them. We all have a deep desire to be loved and
understood. The more we practice giving our full attention with the people in
our lives, the more we show them our understanding and love, the more we will
be loved and understood in return. This year make compassion your gift to your
loved ones and enjoy a healthier, happier and more fulfilling holidays.

To learn more about co-mindfulness, go to       

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