Welcome, dear readers, to a new month put from the meditation cushion and into the world.
Last month I reflected on unseen and unspoken losses in “Vanishing Metta”, which spends this month exploring the invisible and unspoken power of chatter.
After the head grower at the market garden I currently work in left last month, I suggested that another member of the wider farming team join me in manning the weekly stall at the local farmers' market.
Having done it myself for six months now, my reasoning was that each new booth partner would look at the experience with fresh eyes, introduce our customers to the wider team behind the scenes, and that the shared experience could helping us bond while staff turned the kaleidoscope around to find a new pattern.
Week after week, it was fun introducing my colleagues to the loyal regular customers at our booth, as well as discovering that they may already know each other in another capacity. It was also exciting to discover new sides of my colleagues: some were very enthusiastic about joining me, while others postponed their shifts as long as possible; some boasted confidently during their turn as if they were born for it, while others needed an hour or so to find their rhythm and groove. One even shyly asked if we could “play store” a few days before they entered the market to help calm their inner jitters.
When a respected and thoughtful farm mentor joined our staff for lunch a few weeks ago, I explained the new experience at the market stalls and deadpanned, thinking it would be soon their week to join me behind the table.
The look of instant, abject horror on their faces was pure comedy – being asked to speak in public covered in spiders would probably have been better received!
They blurted out, “But I’m really bad at small talk!” Small talk ton strength. »
Although I knew them well enough to understand and see the funny side of what they meant, their remark reminded me of one of my private scarecrows, especially in spiritual contexts: such chatter is considered superficial and should either be avoided at all. costs or applied only in certain areas of life.
However, I personally view small talk as a spiritual practice by silently adding put. Much like the organic produce we sell at the stall, chatter can bring all kinds of unseen and unspoken benefits.
How did I come to this unusual realization?
Around XNUMX years ago, a temp agency booked me an internship as personal assistant to the head of auditing in a large London hospital. The department was sort of internal affairs when the medical staff made mistakes.
A few weeks later, the man sitting at the desk next to mine waited until we were alone in the office to say, "You know how to bring out the best in people, and I seem to bring out the worst." Teach me, please? »
Dear readers, isn't it often that the forces that come most naturally to us often remain invisible and unexpressed?
The man asking the question was a recent immigrant from Nigeria, where he had worked as a surgeon until losing his hearing. No longer allowed to perform surgeries due to his deafness, he retrained for an administrative role, scrutinizing other surgeons.
On paper, this seemed like a constructive solution and he seemed like the ideal candidate to evaluate both sides of the operating table if something went wrong; in practice, can you imagine how quickly criticizing work you always wanted to do yourself could escalate into bitterness?
Unfortunately, several complaints had already been filed against him.
Delighted to find him open to suggestions after observing that most people in our shared office avoided interacting with him, I explained that his deafness caused him to speak louder and more than most others in a conversation. And English being his second language, his correspondence was sometimes just as powerful.
We agreed on a few visual cues from me to let him know when what he thought was a conversation was becoming too important for the office, and I suggested he save all emails as drafts until I could quickly read them to check if the content was correct. also becomes too big.
Some of my adjustments made us both laugh privately, while others nipped bigger potential problems in the bud.
A few weeks into our experience, he thanked me for knowing how to work in a fun way. And a few months later, his wife invited the whole team to her house for a barbecue.
It was nice to see how many of our colleagues were there, and I watched him chatter like a champ with the same pride I imagine Professor Higgins felt when Eliza finally joined her. my lovely lady tipping point declaring that the rain in Spain remains mainly in the plain.
Later, when I carried some dishes to the kitchen, his wife hugged me and humbly thanked me for helping her husband not lose the job that supported their entire family.
Fast forward a decade to a time when I had to relearn the power of small talk on my own.
As described in “Metta medicinal tree", I spent my early XNUMXs taking medications I didn't need due to a misdiagnosis. The result? Years of Alzheimer's-related levels of memory loss, problems with spatial awareness, and frequent fainting spells in public. Eventually a solution emerged, but looking back, I actually credit my use of small talk as a spiritual practice for getting me through this very dark and lonely chapter of life.
How? Even at my lowest, I stuck to three non-negotiable daily rules: eat well, leave the house, and take a genuine interest in the lives of others. This third rule has done me as much good as good diet and exercise. . . and asking strangers the time often meant asking how their day was going. I doubt many of them knew that our conversation might be the only one I would have that day, and how simply telling me the time with a smile could be a lifesaver.
And I like to think that the opposite was sometimes true too.
By now, I had been standing behind a table of fresh organic produce every week for six months. If the beautiful vegetables that I grow in the market garden will undoubtedly feed the customers who buy them more than their supermarket equivalent, I also add a little put a little chat perhaps asking them how their week was, or what they plan to do with their purchases, or complimenting a piece of clothing, or asking how their own garden grows, or remembering something something they mentioned on a previous visit.
A bit like sowing seeds.
The paradox of making small talk a spiritual practice is that even though not all interactions a be deep and meaningful – frankly, that would get scary and exhausting very quickly! - with a little put they often evolve effortlessly into something deeper and more meaningful.
Just last week, two customers said they had a really hard time dealing with the crowds, but braved them that day by remembering how safe they would feel when they arrived. at our stand. Two others brought me samples of canning jars made from our products to share with the whole team. The early morning rain showers that drenched us gave way to a double rainbow stretching across the sky above. And every member of the farm team who has worked alongside me has since come up with surprising practical suggestions to make the whole process easier for everyone, and it's heartening to hear the resulting subtle changes in some of our lunchtime conversations.
And so, dear readers, no matter how big your daily conversation is right now, don't underestimate the invisible and unheard power of seasoning small talk with some. put. You never know what might grow from the seeds he helps sow.
Or for put-morphs Louis Armstrong's version of “What a Wonderful World”:
The colors of the rainbow
So pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces
People passing by
I see friends shaking hands
Say: “How are you?” »
Metta I really say
" I love you "