A Meditation Teacher Taught Me Meaningful Conversations Take Bravery
Think about every conversation you had today; try to count them. Chances are that whether you were at work, getting groceries, or hanging out with your family, you chatted with more people than you can easily recall. And all of those conversations have one quality in common: bravery.
You may not think that talking with a cashier, or asking your partner how his or her day was takes bravery, but it does. During a recent panel interview in New York, the head of the Shambhala lineage, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche talked about that very quality in conversation, and how it relates to our lives. Here’s what the author of The Lost Art of Good Conversation had to teach us.
Why Are Conversations Built on Bravery?
The question seems obvious, but the answer may surprise you. After being asked about engaging with people we don’t know or people we disagree with, Sakyong explained:
“To me, a conversation is very much about bravery. I’ve had conversations with people who say, ‘I’m shy. How do I have a conversation?’ And for all of us, there’s this moment of, ‘should I have this conversation or not?’
You don’t know whether it’s going to go well or not, how this whole thing is going to proceed. So there’s a moment, there’s this moment in space, and how do you enter into that. A lot of that is based upon outcome and trying to control the situation. It may not go the way you want.
“So there’s this moment where even if we’re perfect conversationalists, it’s still not going to go the way we want. And often we have that. So, there is a moment and that’s where I feel like it’s bravery, it’s dealing with that awkwardness, it’s dealing with space. And I think we’re living in a world where people are intimidated with that space. And that moment reflects on, ‘how do you feel about yourself?’ because you’re sharing a bit of yourself in that moment.”
If you’re a person who’s been blessed with the “gift of gab” then there’s a good chance you’ve rarely had to muster up the confidence to engage someone in conversation, whether it’s a stranger or a close friend. But that hesitation is there for most people, in one way or another, and overcoming it, and the anxiety of not knowing where the conversation will take you, is the only way to make a conversation begin.
How Does Conversation Affect Us in a Larger Way?
Regardless of language barriers, conversation is an art all of us engage in daily, and it’s built on a system of trust to which we may not even realize we’re adhering. Sakyong explains:
“I realized that conversation is such a simple way we all engage in. and it goes almost unnoticed. It’s a mundane part of our life, but at the same time it is so powerful because it’s setting up so many small causes and conditions. And if you multiply those cause and conditions, it has a global effect; it has a huge effect on us. To the point where we may not want to have a conversation.”
In this way, conversation is not so different from the quietness of meditation in that as we attempt to connect to a larger global consciousness, our conversations automatically do that. When we sit down to meditate, it’s not only about calming our mind, but it’s about sharing our physical space with everyone and everything in it. This is the same gravity that should be taken into consideration when it comes to conversation, because one conversation can easily be spread.
We all know what damage gossip can do, but even the simplest of conversations can have as strong of an effect. If you simply smile at a customer and say, “how’s your day going?” he or she may carry your positivity throughout the day. Contrarily, if you ignore someone and simply transact, then that customer may leave feeling that you’ve been dismissive, and he or she will carry that into their subsequent interactions.
Everyone has a choice when it comes to their interactions. If you’re having a bad day and realizing things aren’t going as planned, take a few minutes to step away, close your eyes, and reconnected with your breath. It may even be a good time to spend a few minutes meditating and plugging into that greater consciousness to help center yourself again.
How Do Conversations Affect Us Emotionally?
If you missed Sakyong’s recent appearances, it’s ok. His new book The Lost Art of Good Conversation if full of helpful advice to enrich your conversations. He touches on this topic of bravery being the impetus that drives a good chat, succinctly writing:
“Feeling vulnerable is an act of gentleness. Bravery is an act of fearlessness. Without these two, conversation will never be initiated.”
It’s such a simple sentiment, but so applicable to our everyday lives, especially when it comes to social media. Let’s say you found an article about meditation that you found really enlightening, and wanted to post it, but were nervous because you’re not sure how your friends feel about the topic. That’s your vulnerability setting in. Conversely, let’s say that someone poses a picture of their family, and you comment, “You look great!” with no hesitation; you fearlessly chose to join the conversation.The offering of a conversation was out there and you chose to engage.
During the panel in New York, Sakyong expounded on this, principle, saying, “What’s important to remember that we let our conversations reflect on ourselves, and tend to have some sort of outcome in mind. In reality, every conversation is a special moment of exchanging emotions with another person, and an opportunity to connect to the whole in a positive way.”
So choose your conversations carefully, and when you feel that they’re no longer serving you, take a few moments to step away and tap into the quiet universal consciousness.