Attention, Mindfulness and Code Words – End of the Day for May 17, 2014

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As my 4 days of solitude come to an end, one lesson has been reinforced with me — the need to slow down. Now, there are lots of folks who tell you to disconnect from television, technology and more, but I am not necessarily one of them. Rather, I think I fall more on the side of engagement. When we are doing something — anything — we need to give it our full attention. This is especially true for those things that have deep emotional involvement and impact, but you can apply the concept of attention to anything you do in your life.

Attention and Mindfulness in my life

For me, I have had to make some deep commitments to mindfulness (another name for attention) when it comes to my eating habits. My biggest eating issues seem to be around eating way too much and eating when I am not actually hungry. Both of these can stem from a lack of attention. I am simply going through the physical action of eating rather than eating as a normal human process. This leads me to eat much too quickly — not even tasting the food sometimes — and also eating way to much because I just keep making the mechanical actions of moving food to my mouth without really noticing it. When I sit down to eat I have to actively remind myself to slow down and enjoy what I am eating. This can be very tough if I have allowed myself to become too hungry, but it must be done if I am to break these bad habits.

I know I seem to be talking about relationships and marriage a lot these days, but that is only natural as that is where I live. Rosanne and I have known each other for over 30 years now (married for 28 this June) after all. Secondly, we now get to witness Joseph’s forays into relationships in an era that is quite different from when Rosanne and I met. It is interesting to see what kids have figured out these days and what they still struggle with, just as we did.Rosanne describes Joe’s life like a movie she watches everyday without knowing what might happen next. (She is a screenwriter at heart, after all) With all this happening there are bound to be times when we all need to paying more attention to what each other is doing in their lives, how we effect it and how it effects us.

Rosanne and Graziella read Mary's letter

There are times to pay attention to what you ad others are saying

Code Words

As you might imagine, there are times in any relationship when everything needs to stop and everyone needs to pay deep, deep attention. In the craziness of daily life, neither partner may recognize that need in the other or parents might not recognize a need to stop for their children. For situations like this, I propose a code word that any family member can invoke at any time. When the code word is spoken (in the BBC’s Sherlock, the code work is “Vatican Cameos” — not something that appears very often even in Sherlock’s esoteric vocabulary — everyone stops whatever they are doing and comes together. Phones are hung up. Music is stopped. Headphones removed. PC games are paused. Only then can the issue be addressed — clearly, mindfully and fully.

This idea of a family code word comes directly from our lives. Over the years, Rosanne and I have developed a code word for situations that are about to spiral out of our control. This can happen when you are traveling, after an earthquake, in completely unfamiliar situations of all types. Whenever one of us can feel ourselves or the other starting to “freak out” we hold their hand and say simply, “Adventure Mode.” For us, this has always meant, “Ok, we are totally out of our element here. Circumstances are beyond our control. The wave is coming and all we can do is ride if out.” There have been many times when this has gotten us through some pretty crazy moments over the years when we otherwise would have probably freaked out entirely. 

You family code word works in much the same way, but perhaps with a bit more urgency. It might be saying, “Something is wrong and if we don’t pay attention to it now, it will get far worse. It’s time to stop. Now!” Think about developing your own family code word and discussing when it can and should be used. Everyone in the family, parents, grandparents, children, cousins and even your closest friends need to know that they can “push the red button” if they ever feel the need. I think you’ll find the code word is rarely used, but by its mere existence it can remind us to be mindful and attentive when life gets a bit out of control. 

What’s your code word? 

Previously on End of the Day:

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