Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nice-Me Wednesday

Today is Nice-Me Wednesday, a day observed by being nice to others. Before you run out the door with a smile pasted on your face and a cheery hello wound up and ready to spring out your mouth at random passersby, let's discuss "nice".

The word "nice" is used most frequently when you have nothing nice to say about someone or something, but also have nothing particularly bad to say. So when asked what you think of the guy you just met, you say, "Oh, um, he's nice."

When used in this manner, "nice" is a close cousin of the word "interesting".

For many, being nice means being cordial, or more accurately behaving cordially. To be nice is to affect warmth and geniality. Typically, the affect masks sentiment that is neither warm or genial.
Someone says, "Now you be nice to her."

So, you slow your breathing. You smile genially. You soften your voice. You relax your grip. You become "nice", perhaps scathingly so.

Neither of these types of "nice" have anything to do with Nice-Me Wednesday. As Zen-Master Quinn would say, "NOT AT ALL!" 

Nope, Nice-Me starts with Aware-Me. In this case, your awareness is centered on the person with whom you're currently engaged. So, how does one go about being nice in the full spirit of Nice-Me Wednesday?

Step One
Step one is set an intention to love and then to act upon it. Relax your shoulders, take a deep breath and look at the person with whom you're about to engage. Decide that he's a really good guy doing the best he can to get on in this world. Take all her quirks that you used to deem cute, but now find annoying and make them cute again. Decide that you want the best for him and that whatever's best for him is best for you. Know that your time together is going to be delicious.

Step Two
Step two is to refuse distraction. Look at her as she speaks or thinks about what you just asked. Don't crane your neck to see what else is going on while you "wait" for her to respond. Don't glance down at your watch or up to the clock. Vigilantly decide to not accept any forms of distraction.

Step Three
Step three is to take in all that you see and hear, and then translate it into physical sensations.  Remember you're looking only that the person to whom you're being nice. What do his eyes tell you? What does her posture tell you? What is he doing with his hands or feet? Is her jaw tight or relaxed? Is there tension in his shoulders?

I've found that you can translate what you see in others into physical sensations that tell you a lot about how they're feeling and what's going on for them. It's not unlike playing music by ear, specially when playing the same instrument as the one you're hearing.

Hearing the notes is as much about tone color as it is about pitch. On saxophone, a C# is played with all the keys open. This gives it a very distinct and recognizable tonal color. Not only can you tell pitch from color, but you can tell a lot about the player from what you hear. Just by listening, you can tell wether or not his reed is wet or dry, how he's breathing, how he's shaped the inside of his mouth to form the sound, or whether or not he's standing.

On guitar, there are many seemingly complex patterns of notes that are easily played in keys where you can employ open strings and difficultly played in other keys. Simply by hearing the open sound and the rate at which the notes are played, you can tell in which key the song is being played and you can visualize the player's fingers moving across the neck.

Listening to a conga, bongo or djembe, you can hear wether the player is using her palm or her fingers to strike the head. You can tell whether she's hit the center of the drum or the rim.

When you become aware of what you do physically to produce a certain sound on an instrument, then you can translate what you hear to that physicality. You can feel it.

The same goes for pretty much anything you see or hear someone do. If you're aware of your sensations when doing the same thing, then you can get a good sense of her sensations. People who produce television shows and movies know this and take advantage of it by filming things where you don't get to see the actual event that makes you cringe. 

So, step three is to fully engage in the translation of observation to sensation.

Step Four
Step four is to apply your full awareness to the exchange in a focused and loving way. Hint: Ask about what you observe and sense.

That's it! One, two, three, four and voila, it's Nice-Me.

You can apply Nice-Me to anyone in any situation. You don't need to know anything about the other person. If you don't know what to say, no worries, just ask a question. If you don't know what to ask, then you've probably skipped one or more of the aforementioned steps.

Happy Nice-Me Wednesday,

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