What Story Are You Making Up?

Jun 08, 2024
Impatient? Pause, breathe

I am currently listening to Mindfulness and the Brain: A Professional Training in the Science and Practice of Meditative Awareness. One of the authors shared a story about a man who’d been involved in mindfulness training while in the military. In essence, this military man was a no-nonsense, get it done person growing increasingly impatient while standing in a grocery store check-out line. There was a woman holding a baby in front of him with only one item, and he judgmentally wondered why she wasn’t in the fast 12-items-or-less line. When she got to the register, she and the cashier began talking to the baby. He could feel his blood pressure rising. 

He thought about his mindfulness training and paused, took a deep breath and then another and another. He calmed down and watched with different eyes as the cashier reached out to hold the baby and then finally give it back to the woman who left. As he stepped forward for his turn, he said, “That was a cute baby.” The cashier beamed and replied, “That was my baby! My husband died in Afghanistan a year ago and I had to go back to work. My mom takes care of her and comes in to buy one thing so I can see and hold my baby during the day.”

 The Power of Tuning In


Hearing this story made me realize why the Conversations Worth Having strategy of tuning in is so powerful. It is a mindfulness practice. Tuning in has the same two initial steps as mindfulness training: Pause, breathe. In mindfulness training the idea is to just breathe. When thoughts intrude, notice you are thinking (even say “thinking”) and then refocus on your breath.

To foster a conversation worth having in a moment of impatience, irritation, judgment, defensiveness, or fear, we suggest tune in: Pause, breath and get curious:

  • What’s going on for me?
  • How do I want to feel or be?
  • What other story about this situation (besides the one I’m making up) might be true and would totally shift my reaction?

As you keep breathing and keep asking generative questions, your ability to create space for yourself and others expands. You create a body-mindset that allows you to connect and think with a more open mind, heart, and will.

I am imagining that the military man in the check-out line might have practiced tuning in. Recognizing his reaction, he might have paused, breathed, and then asked himself, What’s my hurry? What if I just practice mindfulness in this moment? Two great generative questions!

And in the space created by pausing and breathing, his world expanded. He saw the baby and was able to genuinely connect with the cashier. In return, her response showed him how the world turns on the story we are using to guide the present moment. And that story depends upon our curiosity and willingness to be open.

What story is guiding your present moment?


Not convinced of the power of pause, breathe, and get curious? Watch this 2-minutes P&G video Widen the Screen. You can also watch the first lesson of our On-Demand Conversation Bootcamp where you will:

  • Experience the power of words and conversations to influence your mood, behavior, and ability to think creatively.
  • Experience first hand the neurophysiologic effects of a negative and a positive conversation.
  • Hear stories and see videos that reflect the power of our words to influence our lives.

This lesson is free. You can watch it on the cwh.today website! Just this alone, if you embrace it, has the power to transform the way you engage with yourself and others.

By Cheri Torres, PhD, co-author of Conversations Worth Having. I still need the reminder to pause, breathe and get curious, especially when engaging in challenging situations with my family. I appreciate the opportunities for practice they continue to bring me. I am grateful for their patience.
Image generated by Microsoft image generator. 

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