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Mindful Awareness, Presence, and Civility
Undertaking mindful awareness is a first step on the journey to civility.

In my recent book, Creating A New Civility, I think of mindful awareness as a center of gravity, a nexus from which civility proceeds.

The civil act is a personal act. Civility blooms where we are planted. We can only enact civility where we are, in the places and spaces around us. When we are in tune with ourselves and our surroundings, as we are in mindful awareness, we are exuding civility.

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I learned mindful awareness from Jane Eckert, a brilliant psychologist in Akron, Ohio. I urge you to find a credentialed practitioner if you can, as mindfulness training benefits from group practices. If not, you can read Mark Williams and Danny Penman’s book, or follow the teaching of America’s mindfulness guru, Jon Kabat-Zinn, all of whom offer practices that grow from scientifically-grounded research (see bibliography).

Mindful awareness consists of these essential components, which are spelled out in detail in Creating a New Civility:
  • Carve out a time, initially at least 15 to 30 minutes, four or five days a week, to devote to yourself and to mindfulness practices;
  • During this time, cherish quiet, and embrace silence;
  • Sustain deep and measured, meditative breathing, gently refocusing on meditation when thoughts interrupt;
  • Develop meditative practices, including, perhaps, most important for our purposes here, the body scan; and
  • Use the practices above to achieve what I call a state of presence, from which your civility can grow.
The practice of meditation nourishes your body, mind, heart, and soul, the latter which I define, following Deepak Chopra, as your spiritual body. In fact, presence is your heart, body, mind, and soul, gathered as one entity, and captured in a neologism, a new word, as in heartbodymindsoul. Presence is best realized through meditative practice. When you are in a state of presence, at least for the time being, you are at peace with yourself and you exude the potential for civility.

The space of presence comes alive and is concretized by a yoga-type move in which your hands, at your sides, move slowly up your torso, covering the heart that signifies your body’s emotional center, then on up your shoulders and neck to rest on your cranium, which covers the brain that gives function to mind. Finally you spread your arms in the shape of angel wings that represent your spiritual body, and finally moving them slowly to rest at your side. Through this action, especially when carried out in a group, you feel the vibrations in the space around you.

I add the word awareness to include a sense of ourselves as emanating our essence as we move through the day. Awareness also acknowledges the space around us and the aura we manifest as we move through daily experiences.

Have you noticed how people who resonate civility— personal and public caring and kindness— also emanate good vibrations? Those people’s resonance changes and charges the space around them. They, in their state of mindful awareness, become a center of gravity for civility. You can too, through the practices of mindful awareness. Further, in presence, you are in a focused and relaxed state so that you can approach the other steps to civility— listening anew, interrogating your identity markers, communicating clearly, and developing resonant relationships.