February 21, 2018

How to Ask “How are You?” in a Mindful Way.

How to change the superficial world?

Hi, how are you?

Do you cringe like I do when you hear these words from an acquaintance you’re passing by, or sitting down next to in a lecture that’s about to begin? We cringe because when asking this genuine question, they obviously don’t have time to get a genuine answer. Perhaps they didn’t even want an answer. Cringe again. So why ask the question then?

When I went to yoga and learned about mindfulness, I started to think deeply about human interactions. I started to crave meaningful interactions.

Let’s face it, in our culture, when someone says, “Hi, how are you?” they don’t really care how you areThey are too busy to care. What they are saying is, “I’m being courteous right now, so smile, say ‘Good, how are you’ so I can reply the same and we can both be on our way.”

I teach Yin yoga, an off the beaten path kind of yoga that goes against everything our fast-paced culture values. Yin opens the connective tissues which connect muscle to bone. Unlike a Vinyasa or traditional Hatha practice which focuses more on muscle, Yin poses are meant to be held for three to seven minutes. In the holding comes the release. In Yin, stillness is the practice. Settling into a deep Yin pose is akin to being in a waiting room with no TV or magazines. As you settle, your body starts to talk and as time goes on, your body gets louder and your mind responds with impatience.

Before I taught Yin last week, I put myself in a pose and became still. In that stillness the thought How am I? arose from that deep center. As the question moved through me, it was as if my heart and mind merged and echoed the sentiment How are we? Suddenly, I was contemplating the state of my self. Suddenly, I was observing my breath and my bodily sensations and the sounds of the students setting up their mats with an open curiosity. Suddenly, I was more present with myself and realizing how I was. It was constantly changing with each breath.

When I rolled over to shift out of my pose and sit for a moment to notice the effects on my body, I felt called to use How am I? as my theme for my yoga class. I encouraged my students to ask it to themselves from that deep and timeless place as they entered the waiting room of holding a Yin asana.

What if, one day, you are asked how you are by someone who genuinely wants to know? What will you do in that moment? The question is actually a deep one. The question takes us to the place of being—our core self. The question pleads forth that inner knowing.

In order to ask it, we must first be able to answer it within our own heart and mind. When we can know how we truly are, then we can ask the question to another with sincerity and with comfort.

You know when someone wants to know how you are; you can hear it in their tone and see it in their eyes.

I wonder, my dear reader friend, how are you right now, in this moment? I’m serious. I’m curious! I am wondering if you are too?

Maybe close your eyes for a moment and go a little deeper and check-in. Maybe ask yourself from that holy center:

How am I? 

Emphasize the words and they will echo through your inner caverns.

What comes back to you may be wordless. What comes back may even strike an uncomfortable chord. But stay with yourself in the process. Breathe with yourself in how’s as much as with the am’s and most importantly, with the I.

I care about how you are, my friend. I really do. I learned to care by caring about how I am—by going in and taking that breath and observing whatever arose.

And I need to keep doing it, to keep asking how I am, because it’s easy for me to abandon myself in the space of superficial busyness. It’s too easy for me to revert back to asking without meaning it.

That’s the everyday yoga: the Yin of life—the ongoing practice of being human.

Keep checking in with yourself. Keep being curious until one day you will be asked a superficial How are you? by a passerby and you will chuckle.

On that day, you won’t need to be heard by them because you already hear yourself, because you already know how you are. On that day, your acquaintance might look at you with a jealous eye when you calmly nod a wordless answer.

“You seem great,” they will say, “What’s your secret?”

In reply, you will smile and ask, “My dear friend, how are you right now?” and suddenly time will stop. Suddenly, you will have all the time in the world to listen.

And your friend will remember what being heard feels like.

And when time starts again, your friend will walk away with a willingness to listen to their own self because of you genuinely asking, “How are you?”

Author: Sarah Theresa
Image: Lucahennig/Flickr 
Editor: Angel Lebailly
Copy & Social editor: Catherine Monkman


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