Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Editor's Note: This article was authored by Stefan Ravalli, for the Institute for Organizational Mindfulness (IOM). Thanks, Stefan!
Having just been shaken by some condescending statement from a customer, I remember sitting with that feeling, wondering why I was taking it so personally.
Focus on Settling Your Mind
Fortunately, I’d just started giving myself permission to pause, deepen my breathing and let my mind become more settled before returning to the service grind - it did wonders for the quality of my work. I was becoming more and more willing to bring my attention into my physical body like this. During a high-intensity work day, this is not where it naturally goes since the hustle of those demands tends to pull us into our heads.
The feeling resulting from that customer’s careless words was certainly uncomfortable, but something I could more than handle. So what was the problem?
The answer was something that I already knew, but that moment provided the kind of clear experience that was required for something to truly sink in: it was my mind. It was telling a story, the kind that blew up a perfectly manageable series of sensations into a big drama.
That story consisted of ideas:
“They think I’m lowly.”
“I’m not worthy of respect.”
And other such reductions of my value. All from a little comment from someone that doesn’t even know me that my mind decided meant something more.
Combatting a Pattern of Negative Thoughts
This is what the mind does. It’s a storyteller that will make small harmless exchanges mean big things about how problematic you or your life is. And service offers endless opportunities for your mind to slip into the usual stories about how deficient and lowly you are.
This recent Serve Conscious Podcast episode goes deeper into this “mindset of lowliness” that we can so easily fall into, but it’s important to remember that there are also endless invitations to realize that you’re valuable. Service is the opportunity to connect to that power and your service role will become elevated when you remember to simply pull away from those stories that diminish your worth. More and more, you’ll realize that there’s nothing wrong with you - you’re just feeling a bit of discomfort and you’re built to handle it.
So the next time someone slights you:
Notice the visceral sensations that you’re feeling in response.
Notice what the mind is saying about it, but acknowledge that you don’t have to believe it as true.
Note the content and tone of your thoughts, but observe it in as detached a way as possible - like a scientist.
Acknowledge that this is an uncomfortable moment for you, and ask yourself, “How much can I handle simply having this feeling?”
You’ll probably find that the feelings alone are extremely manageable - they’re just physical sensations - it’s the stories of your unworthiness that make the experience unbearable.
So feel the feelings, drop the story and watch your service resilience go to the next level.
Stefan Ravalli (LinkedIn profile here) is a meditation and mindful service teacher. His education project Serve Conscious seeks to give people and businesses the tools to transform their service roles to mindful ones and make a service a medium for growth, power and transformation.
Institute for Organizational Mindfulness (IOM) is a membership association of researchers, educators, and executives, with a shared mission to bring science-based neural training into the mainstream of business, healthcare, education, and government. We're working to create a global community of shared experience, conduct research, define standards and practices, develop educational programs, and determine the measures, metrics, and analytics for organizational mindfulness.