For the past six months or so, I’ve been trying really hard to practice mindfulness, and making this concept of “being present” a part of my daily life and interactions. I’ve become acutely aware of people around me, going about their daily tasks, having normal conversations, and asking myself, are they truly present in the moment of what they are doing, or are there distractions and challenges getting in the way? I’ve begun tasking myself, learning to break some habits, and learning to place myself in the moment. In my daily interactions with people, I’m working on listening to them, without interruption, giving them the opportunity to speak before I say things like “me to” or “oh my goodness” or “that same thing happened to me”, etc. etc.

At a recent concert I attended, it was very easy to pull out the cell phone, take pictures and videos of these moments and memories I was making. Yes, I am guilty as charged, along with thousands of others in the stadium surrounding me. However, I did force myself to put the cell phone away and enjoy some of the music and songs “in the moment”. It was hard! I so badly wanted to preserve these memories forever, but the joy I received from making myself stop, listening and watching to the performers on stage, and then taking in the people around me, was very impactful. At one point, the lead singer asked if everyone could put their phones away just for one song, and be present in the moment. We did – and it was amazing!

Jon Kabat-Zinn says: Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.

As development professionals, how many times have we been told “listen, listen, listen”. However, let’s look at it this way: When you’re talking with donors, are you really listening? We have our agenda of what to cover, what to say and have the next set of questions lined up, ready to ask away. In doing so, are you truly listening? Are you truly present? What would happen if you became intentional in what you were asking, and instead of trying to steer the conversation based on your agenda/purpose, you took the time to build the connection with that donor? We all know that building those strong relationships with donors is key to success.

I’m working on the art of Mindfulness, and learning to use it to not only reduce stress in my life, but to truly connect with other people. I challenge you to do the same.

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