The Power of Words

In our monthly staff meetings, my coworkers and I have all chosen to end the meeting with a hope or goal for the coming month. It is an effort to end the meeting on a positive note. We share these hopes to inspire each other, and to encourage a little bit of accountability for ourselves.

Yesterday’s meeting had tempers running high, because we were discussing many changes to the rules. We were all pretty worn out by the end of it. We also have a big transition coming up in a few weeks as we change classrooms for our new school year. This has everyone pretty stressed. As we went around the table, I heard many variations on the hope for a smooth transition. By the time it came to my turn, I knew I had to say something special. I was hearing words that expressed hope, but voices that spoke only of defeat. So I took  a deep breath, leaned forward, and this is (roughly) what came out of my mouth:

“I do sincerely hope that we have a smooth and easy transition. But much more importantly, I hope that each of you will take a few minutes every day to be mindful. Get in touch with yourself, with how you feel and where you are. Be wholly present in the moment, just for a bit. Because in the end, if you take care of right now, then three weeks from now will take care of itself.”

I stopped there because I didn’t want it to turn into a rant, as some of my more passionate thoughts tend to do. But as I looked around the table, I knew I had said exactly the right words. People began to relax. Some even looked hopeful. The strongest and least sentimental person on my team was wiping away tears. My supervisor said “thank you” in an uncharacteristically soft voice. And as we continued around the table, I could hear the strength and vision that usually define my team creep back into their voices.

I am far from perfect when it comes to ideas like mindfulness. Usually, I’m so good at ignoring myself and my emotions that I don’t notice something is wrong until it is too overwhelming to ignore. But I try. Not always. Not even as much as I could. But I do try. And moments like that one tell me that I am doing something right. If I hadn’t been mindful of myself and my environment at that moment, I wouldn’t have said anything close to that. We would have just kept on the way we were, and all gone home stressed and a little defeated. But because I made the choice to be aware, to pay attention, I had the power to speak words that could change that. It’s an incredible feeling.

We all have that power. Every minute of every day, if we are paying attention, we have the chance to do or say something to change a life. Recognizing that is exhilarating and uplifting. Remembering it is challenging. But now that I have a fresh reminder, I am going to try a little harder. I wonder how much change I can encourage if I can be mindful, truly present, for just five minutes a day.