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Practice self awareness

Continuing our discussion on foundations for mindful communication, today let us talk about self awareness.

"Self-awareness" is a phrase we often hear in spiritual contexts. There is a famous Islamic narration which goes: "He who knows himself, knows God". In other words, to become aware of God and His magnificence, we must become aware of ourselves.

So far so good. But what on earth does it actually mean to be "self-aware"?

Self Awareness means having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. It is, in essence, the ability to become an observer of oneself, to consider our own selves from a somewhat objective perspective.

Without self-awareness, we are full of "blind-spots" – we have no real idea of our own strengths or where our challenges lay. Without self-awareness, we tend to have little agency or control over own thoughts and emotions, and live in a reactionary mode most of the time. Without self...

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Have a willingness to learn and to act

Continuing with the foundations of mindful communication . . .

Do you know the difference between between someone who is behaving in a certain way and someone who IS a certain way?

It is a persistent unwillingness to learn and to change or grow.

All of us lack skills in certain areas of our lives, including communication. This is not problematic AT ALL.

What causes problems is when we refuse to learn from our mistakes, from feedback of those around us and to change our behavior in response.

When we tell ourselves or those around us things such as

This is who I am
I am not one for expressing my feelings. I'm just not comfortable with it.
I am too old to change
I am not going to change so get used to it
I have always talked like this
Everyone in my family raises their voices – what is the big deal?

. . . or any version of the above . . .

We are blocking our own path to growth and losing chances to make our relationships and our lives better.

Acknowledging that we may have something...

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Have an attitude of curiosity and compassion

Continuing with the foundations of mindful communication, let's talk about the attitude with which we approach communicating with others.

Human beings are judgment making machines.

Our minds are active 24/7 trying to make meaning and sense of the world around us. Everything that happens in our environment and around us goes through the filters we have in our brains (our very own unique 'model of the world') and we interpret all information according to these filters and through this model of the world.

This is an automatic, unconscious process. Neither good nor bad. It just is.

The problem is not that we have our own model of the world, it is that most of the time we are unconscious that we are experiencing the world through our interpretations. We tend to accept our interpretations as 'truth' and 'reality'.

The process of becoming conscious involves recognizing this process and noticing the tendency to accept our judgments as the 'truth' or as 'reality'.

Making and accepting...

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What is effective communication?

Communication is defined as "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs." So communication is the process of sharing information, thoughts and feelings between people through speaking, writing or body language.

Effective communication takes place when the message received is the same as the message intended. To put it simply, effective communication between us happens when I say something to and you understand what I am trying to say and you "get it".

Simple enough, right?

It turns out that miscommunication is actually far more common than effective communication.

As George Bernard Shaw said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."

When you work in mediation, in the legal field or in counseling, you see that almost 80% of cases are a result of some form of misunderstanding and lack of effective communication. Dale Carnegie, author of "How to Make Friends and Influence People," said,...

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Be pleasant company (Imam Ali (as)’s wisdom)

Live amongst people in a manner, such that they long for you while you live and cry when you die.

Wow.

All of us know people whose company we crave.

What makes them so special? What makes us long to be with them?

Presence, patience and pleasantness stand out for me. How about you?

Being pleasant company, is so much easier with acquaintances rather than family or close friends.

We can all fake it for a while. Put on our best face in public.

But this is not what Imam Ali is talking about.

Recognizing that those closest to us sometimes see the worst parts of our personality, Imam also said:

Do not let your family become the unhappiest of people because of you.

A little more challenging, no?

How can we live amongst those closest to us so that they long for our company? How can we be a blessing rather than a trial for our families?

Your thoughts?

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On acquiring wisdom

We will explore the wisdom of Imam Ali (as) in this series of Daily Wisdom.

This is how Reza Shah-Kazemi introduces Imam Ali in his fantastic book Justice and Remembrance: Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali:

"To speak of Ali – cousin and son in law of the Prophet Muhammad, fourth caliph of Islam and the first in line of Shi'i Imams - is to speak about the quintessential spirituality of the Islamic tradition. For in this seminal figure of nascent Islam, one finds an integral expression of the two fundamental sources of Islamic spirituality, the Quranic revelation and the inspired Sunna of the Prophet. By his Sunna, we do not mean simply the outward imitation of the Prophet's – a reductionism all too prevalent in our times – rather, we mean the spiritual substance of the prophetic perfection to which the Quran itself refers: "Verily, thou art of a tremendous nature (68:4)"

The Prophet Mohammad (saw) had advised his followers:
I am the city of knowledge and Ali...

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Problems as Opportunities (Quotes to live by)

When we face challenges in our lives, it can really throw us off track and destabilize us. Once we start getting some perspective, we can learn and grow from the challenges and use the challenges as catalysts to propel us onto a path of learning, healing and growth.

Here is how Louise Hay thinks about it:

If we can use our problems and illnesses as opportunities to think about how we can change our lives, we have power.

When there is a problem, there is not something to do, there is something to know.

Louise Hay is the one who popularized positive affirmations as tools for transformation and growth. Used wisely, affirmations can be helpful in changing thought patterns and beliefs that no longer serve us. Here are two powerful affirmations from Louise:

When we want to change a condition, we need to say so. "I am willing to release the pattern within me that is creating this condition." You can say this to yourself over and over every time you think of your illness or problem. The...

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Louise Hay on Self Love (Quotes to live by)

How much of your self talk is about criticizing yourself and giving yourself a hard time?

Women in particular have been somehow conditioned to be way more mean to ourselves than we are to anyone else, don't you think?

This is what Louise Hay has to say about it:

Loving the self, to me, begins with never ever criticizing ourselves for anything. Criticism locks us into the very pattern we are trying to change. Understanding and being gentle with ourselves helps us to move out of it. Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn't worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.

(New research on willpower actually confirms this – that self-criticism depletes the will to change while self-compassion encourages change and helps us live up to the best versions of ourselves – who would have thought!!)

She also said:

Self-approval and self-acceptance in the now are the main keys to positive changes in every area of our lives.

The more we love...

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Wisdom from Louise Hay (Quotes to live by)

Those of you who know Louise Hay's work, may have heard that she passed away peacefully last week at the age of 90.

Louise Hay was one of the founders of the self help movement and her book, Heal Your Body, was first published in 1976, long before it was fashionable to discuss the connection between the mind and body. After the publication of You Can Heal Your Life in 1984 (which has more than 50 million copies in print worldwide), Louise started to inspire and uplift millions with her words of wisdom, now contained in over 30 books for adults and children.

You can read much more about her work and legacy here.

Although criticized by some for her "woo-woo" new age messaging and lack of scientific backing for her work, there is no doubt that Louise's words have supported millions of people through life's challenges. Even if we don't entirely buy into Louise's messaging (and I do have my reservations!), there is so much we can learn from her about helpful versus unhelpful thinking.

...

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Live fully (Quotes to live by)

Today's quote is a lovely poem from Khalil Gibran

Don't live a half life

Do not love half lovers
Do not entertain half friends
Do not indulge in works of the half talented
Do not live half a life and do not die a half death

If you choose silence, then be silent
When you speak, do so until you are finished
Do not silence yourself to say something
And do not speak to be silent
If you accept, then express it bluntly
Do not mask it
If you refuse then be clear about it
for an ambiguous refusal
is but a weak acceptance

Do not accept half a solution
Do not believe half truths
Do not dream half a dream
Do not fantasize about half hopes

Half a drink will not quench your thirst
Half a meal will not satiate your hunger
Half the way will get you no where
Half an idea will bear you no results

Half a life is a life you didn't live,
A word you have not said
A smile you postponed
A love you have not had
A friendship you did not know
To reach and not arrive
Work and not work
Attend only to be absent
What makes you a...

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