Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Manners As A Spiritual Practice

Manners As A Spiritual Practice 
There are marvelous benefits of the digital world, like instantaneous communication and information at the finger-tips.  But the fast-paced usage of smart devices has caused a huge gap in our ability to be aware of others.  As individuals become addicted to devices which foster self-absorbing behavior, good manners and etiquette have gone by the wayside.
We've all seen the effects of poor manners.  Instead of making eye contact with others, heads are bowed over a hand-held devices.  In restaurants it's more important to check emails and texts than it is to interact with those you came to dine with.  If a car is going slow or weaving in your lane it's a pretty good bet the driver is texting or reading emails. On Easter Sunday I watched a little girl about 3 years of age drawing pictures on a sidewalk. She eagerly tried to get her father's attention to see her creation.  But he was too busy talking on a cell phone while simultaneously tapping on his Ipad.  A treasured moment of encouragement with a little girl lost forever.
But sadly, the deterioration of manners goes beyond the usage of electronic devices.  It extends  to those who should "know better" and who disappoint us by disregarding common courtesy.  For example, how often is a meaningful 'thank-you' or a few well-chosen words of appreciation extended to the volunteers who serve?
How often is gratitude part of the teaching of an organization?  Or respect and good manners part of the practices of those on a consciousness raising path?
There's a generation of people alive who were brought up to respect others, hold the door open for another person, give up a seat to their elders, and to say please and thank you.  Through that courteous behavior, those individuals put the needs of others ahead of their own.  That  mindfulness displays a much higher level of consciousness.  It's a behavior which also serves as a guide to others.  And it's what prompted this article.
Good manners IS a spiritual practice!  Acts of kindness or respect offered to another lifts personal behavior to a higher plane of understanding and expands universal connection.  It creates genuine human connections, the recognition of which touches and changes the character of the person.  The individuals who behave in this manner generally follow an enlightened lifestyle.  Kindness is a hallmark of their lives.  They take the high road in disputes, and are more likely to treat others as they would like to be treated.
There's a meditation practice called Mindfulness.  It directly influences the human experience and determines how we interact with others.  In the exacting practice of Mindfulness, it is impossible to be so self-absorbed that we disregard others.  Instead, you become present to what is occurring around you and sensitive to the stories happening in the moment. You become an active part of the reality that is unfolding in front of you instead of the artificial reality playing out on a digital screen or in one's imagination.  Freed from electronic habits or ungracious behavior you can more easily respond to events as they unfold in the present.  Thus Mindfulness becomes a beneficial spiritual practice for developing good manners and conduct.
But remembering to do the practice is the hardest part. Human selfishness causes us to be distracted or to become preoccupied with unimportant interruptions.  It will derail the best intentions and cause an easy  return to the state of carelessness.  Human Self-Mastery on the other hand suggests that Mindfulness can be developed as a permanent state.  The more consciously mindful one is of other people, the more that awareness is woven into the habitual fabric of an individual.
Conscious Mindfulness can be started with small acts of kindness or respect for another.  It can begin by focusing the attention on someone other than yourself.  When you're with them, let your full attention be on nothing else but them.  When in the car, be mindful and aware of every other car around you.  If someone has extended themselves on your behalf, please take the time to offer a meaningful 'thank you.'  Above all, be courteous and respectful.  It is a responsibility and a duty we accept for it is the price we must pay on this journey towards Self-Mastery and enlightenment. 
Remember, the best gift we can bestow on someone is the gift of ourselves - our time, our interest, and our full attention.  The results of that gift will speak spiritual volumes.
Jo Mooy - May 2013