Saturday, August 23, 2003


For a long time now, I've been fascinated with the concept of being 'mindful'.....awareness without judgement....a perfect place for an ontological or observational coach to be. So now and then I do small experiments to test it out. One evening while going with a friend from a movie theatre to a restaurant, I decided to be mindful. While having a conversation with my friend as we walked, I made eye contact with everyone walking in the opposite direction, towards the theatre. I never slowed my stride, but would acknowledge those passing me with a subtle smile and almost a nod as I observed them, either alone or walking with companions. Some would smile back and others, would be taken so aback that they'd stop, almost asking themselves if they knew me from somewhere, then would give themselves a mental shake, nod or smile back and continue on their way. My friend asked me why it was so many people seemed to 'know me', because she couldn't understand why they would acknowledge my existence for any other reason.

I explained the concept of mindfulness to her, which she didn't really grasp. She's the type of person who doesn't "waste time" as she calls it, with anyone she doesn't know.

And then I recounted a story about the first time I realised how small a gesture could mean the world to someone else. Years back when I was doing a workshop on inter-personal and communication skills for Health Canada, I took my break by going outside and sitting by the Parkway, overlooking the water. While I was sitting there quietly, absorbing the scene before me, getting ready to go back inside, a homeless man walked by me with all his possessions in the cart he was pushing, his head bent, looking at the path, almost afraid to look into the eyes of anyone he passed. I could see by the way he was walking that he was very sad....almost as if he had the weight of his world on his shoulders. As he passed, I waved, catching his eye. As I gathered my things to go back into the group, I wished him a wonderful day and told him I hoped he would find something to give him a smile and cheer him up.

He told me I already did...that no one ever spoke to him....would rather he didn't exist, and just the fact that I did speak to him, especially in such a nice way was the best thing that happened to him in months. He in turn wished me a wonderful day with a nod and genuine thanks. That exchange took all of a minute... but made a difference to us both.

Last weekend while we were in Norfolk, Virginia, I did the same at a restaurant my son and I were at. As he went to the buffet, I stayed back at the table, just watching people as they went by, making eye contact and smiling back as they instantly smiled at the silent hello and it felt so good to connect to them in some way. And as we stood up to leave, many wished us a good night...people I'd never met before, but with whom I shared a special moment. Felt really good.

Wishing you a wonderful and mindful weekend : )


Donna Karlin

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