By Cory Custer
Mindfulness-based Emotional and Social Intelligence is a training program we developed to enable our employees, clients, and community to hone the skills and practices that help them be fully present and act intentionally in their lives and relationships.
MESI invites us to use the challenges of everyday life as our fuel for becoming better human beings. Whatever these uncertain times hold for us, they also offer the opportunity to practice our MESI skills and grow as people.
As we look to grow our MESI network, we want to share some of our favorite mindfulness practices.
A wonderful feature of MESI practices is that they are all empirically testable by you. You can try them yourself and see if they work for you. You’re the sole judge of their effectiveness. We invite you to give them a try.
Here’s an exercise to help you find some peace amid the chaos of our times. You’ll want to set aside at least 10 minutes and have a piece of paper and a pen or pencil ready at your side.
First, begin the practice by cultivating a thought. Here’s the thought: your life is perfect just as it is right now. Not perfect in the sense that there is nothing about your life that you wouldn’t change if you could; rather, perfect in the sense that it is perfect for you.
With this framework in mind, imagine that every aspect of your life is exactly what you need right now. Imagine everything in your life, no matter how painful or difficult it seems, is the exact gift you need right now to help you to reach your full potential as a person. Imagine that your life is absolutely the perfect life for you, and all of it is precisely what you need to further your learning, growth, and development as a person. In other words, imagine that every part of your life is working perfectly to bring about a better you.
Try again as best you can to inhabit this thought: your life is perfect just as it is right now. You don’t have to believe it for more than a few minutes, but for the next short while, see if you can genuinely believe it.
As you do this, try to get a sense of what it would be like to know that your life is perfect, absolutely perfect, right now. If this is true, you are exactly where you need to be right now and doing exactly what you need to be doing. You are also feeling as you should feel given everything you are dealing with in your life (and it is a lot!). You are enough. Strong enough, smart enough, compassionate enough—perfect just as you are. Know this and feel this right now as best you can.
Next, from this “place of perfection,” grab your paper and pen or pencil to take an inventory of your life. Take a few minutes to write down as many positive things about your life as possible. For this exercise, nothing is too small, mundane, or seemingly insignificant enough to write down. Write as much as you can, as a stream of consciousness, for about three minutes.
Then take stock of all the pain, difficulties, and sorrows in your life. Take an inventory of everything messy in your life right now. Spend the next few minutes writing, again from a continuous stream of consciousness.
Finally, see if you can move every item from the second list to the first list by changing how you think about it. In other words, “transform” each difficulty into something that is also positive by adopting a different perspective. For each item, ask yourself a few questions:
- In what ways will this help me grow as a person?
- In what positive ways is this forcing me to learn and develop?
- What is this teaching me about myself and life?
- What new skills am I being invited to learn as a result of this?
- In what ways will I be stronger as a person when I get past this?
- What positive attributes or character traits will this experience cultivate in me?
As you examine each of your difficulties with these questions, see if you get yourself to view all your difficulties as not only difficulties. They are that for sure. But they are not just that. They’re a little more. They are also “design challenges”—challenging situations that are “designing” you into a better version of yourself.
This process is in no way meant to diminish or invalidate the difficulties and messiness of our lives. It is intended to show us a slightly bigger picture. This new perspective is powerful. Why? Because it gives us a sense of one of our life’s highest purposes: becoming better versions of ourselves.
For whatever your life ends up bringing you, know that it is also bringing with it learning, growth, and development. With this perspective, you can always feel that you will be a little wiser, a little kinder, a little more patient, compassionate, and loving tomorrow than you are today. And, just as has been the case throughout your entire life, each of the challenges and difficulties you have endured has made you a better person.
But don’t take my word for it. Try this exercise and see if you find a little peace by contemplating perfection. Sometimes that’s all we need to catch our breaths and get back into the ring!
Cory Custer is the director of compassion at Brighton Jones.