What does this statement actually mean?
I’ve heard mindfulness described as ‘being in the moment’. It involves recognising the present, rather than guessing what will happen or, obsessing about what has happened. The term mindful implies being aware. It reminds us to focus on the task at hand, to recognise our emotional response to a situation and distinguish our thoughts.
So, how does this apply to expression?
On one level it suggests being conscious of what we say and understanding that just because we said something, doesn’t mean it’ll be interpreted the same way. I’m sure we have all experienced times where we spoke in good faith but were misunderstood. These mismatches in communication occur when we have one story in our mind and the person we are communicating with has a different story. In other words, different experiences and different emotional states give rise to different perspectives.
‘Be mindful of expression’ is a comment I often write on student’s essays. Am I asking them to be conscious of what they say? Yes! I am asking them to be conscious of the way their sentences may be interpreted by the reader. Yet I am also asking them to focus on the task at hand so they may write coherently and cohesively.
At a purely mechanical level I make this suggestion so students can develop and improve their writing skills. They need to focus on the words they choose, the way they arrange words in a sentence and the way they link sentences together. They need to be conscious of spelling and punctuation. Similarly, after they have written, they need to edit and draft their work. This is arguably the most productive part of the writing process since it facilitates improvements in writing style.
Because the process of editing requires a person to reread what they have written. At this point a student is checking for both accuracy and clarity. In other words, they are asking themselves, does this make sense? As a result of this self-correction the student is training themselves to recognise how to write effectively.
At a more profound level I make this suggestion to encourage students to reflect on their ideas and how they share those ideas with others. When we are present in the moment, our energies are focused on what is at hand, we are paying attention and are aware of our thoughts and emotions. We are here rather than guessing what if.