The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.—Thich Nhat HanhI have practiced meditation and mindfulness since 2005. Not too long ago, I had an amazing experience with one of my students that deeply impacted my relationship to mindfulness. I usually have a particular practice for the day. The purpose of the practice is to keep me present. If I'm present, then I'm not wasting precious energy regretting the past or manipulating the future. My practices have included the following: reciting poems at the sound of a timer throughout the day, counting the number of times I do something kind for myself, setting good intentions towards others at various points, and whatever other random thing I think to do.
One week, I set the intention of seeing the nobility in others. I got this idea from Jack Kornfield. I interact with difficult personalities every day, and I wanted to redirect my focus. I set the intention to remember there's something admirable in everyone. At one point that week, I made a playful comment to my students. They laughed (as usual), but I noticed a particular student shift in his seat. Something about the way he shifted revealed an important insight. He was self-conscious. Underneath his tough exterior, he was painfully self-conscious.
This insight didn't come from a conversation, book, or student file. This insight was a direct result of my mindfulness practice. From that moment on, I treated that student with the understanding that he was much more fragile than he appeared. I didn't consciously change my communication with him. I never told him what insight I gained. I simply held this insight in mind during our interactions. All of the tension and resistance I felt from him immediately dissolved. I never had another problem with this student. To this day, when I ask for volunteers, for example, he's one of the first to raise his hand (not at all his prior custom).
This experience taught me a very important lesson: the insight I need rests quietly in my present experience. Whenever I doubt my practice, I think of this one experience. It had a profound impact on my appreciation for mindfulness.