Mindfulness: A Way for Busy Real Estate Practitioners to Reduce Unhealthy Stress

March 1, 1997

I arrived on time, I thought, for a closing at 9 a.m. on a Friday. But everybody else--buyers, sellers, attorneys, and even the mortgage officer--was already there. Signing of papers had begun.

Everyone was smiling, relieved that the day had finally arrived. The group of people shared anecdotes and exchanged information. At 10:15, as the last paper was being circulated, one of the buyers realized that a crucial piece of information, the amortization of the loan, was incorrect. All paperwork dealing with payments was based on a 30-year amortization, but the mortgage they were approved for was a 15-year note.

How could this have happened? Why wasn't the paperwork checked before it left the bank? Who checked the documentation at the closing attorney's office? The mortgage officer was sitting at the table. Shouldn't he have caught it? The attorney representing the buyers was a last-minute substitute, but should he be excused for not being familiar with their file? The buyers hadn't picked up the error either.

All papers dealing with payments had to be redone and sent back to the bank attorney to be re-signed. We all left and returned at 12:30 p.m. The buyers and sellers signed again, this time being more aware of what they were signing. A courier was sent to the registry so that the deed was recorded that afternoon.

Luckily, everyone was in a position to come back. What a disaster it might have been if we hadn't caught the error in time. I'm certain this story triggers some nightmarish memories for many of you.

Hello, Is Anyone There?

Paying attention, being present, living in the moment, listening. What a difference it would make in our life to practice these skills so that they become our regular mode of operation.

Our daily schedules are so fragmented and disjointed. Our minds are so far from clear most of the time. We're usually "somewhere else," still reacting to where we just were or the telephone conversation we just finished or off and running mentally to our next appointment or meeting. Our beepers, whether vibrating or sounding, keep us ever ready to respond. Heaven forbid that we should wait until later to check our messages and make the return calls. And what about the unexpected flat tire or traffic jam or worse? We have absolutely no threshold left. We usually just lose it.

And even if we manage to find the time to exercise, meet friends and family for lunch, and take that break, is it a squeeze-in, with our minds and emotions still racing? Or is it really a delightful interaction, where we're truly present?

Do we have ourselves convinced that this is all part of the business, that it just comes with the territory? Do we thrive on it, or is it burning us out?

I believe it's the latter. We do have choices in how we function. We can create the right environment, the emotional control over our business, our income, our use of time, the people we work with. It's not the business; it's we.

Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." No one can make us feel "stuck," either, except ourselves.

Mark Twain said, "Never put off until tomorrow what you can put off 'til the day after tomorrow." How many things do we insist on doing ourselves that can be done another time, by someone else, or not at all?

Choices! We need to stop and realize we always have them, and if we believe we don't, that's the choice we're making.

An artist sculptured a beautiful, intricate elephant in stone. Someone asked him the secret of his talent. He answered, "That's easy. All I did was chip away everything that wasn't the elephant." Let's get started chipping away everything that doesn't serve us anymore. Let's begin paying attention to each moment, becoming more and more who we really are.

Five STEPS to Maintaining Life Balance

Here are five tips to keep your life in balance:

  1. Take breathing breaks. Between appointments, sit still and be quiet. Switch from a mode of doing to nondoing, not trying to get anyplace or be anywhere. Close your eyes and begin being aware of your breathing. Scan your body with precise, concentrated attention. Inhale, loosening the tightness; exhale, letting go.
  2. Walk mindfully. Move without earphones, noticing the way you carry your body. Open your mind to the feelings throughout your body and to the smells, sounds, and sights around you. Remember to be aware of your breathing.
  3. Respond, don't react. The more "quiet" awareness we provide for ourselves, the less likely we are to "fly off the handle." Step back and listen first and then respond.
  4. Notice feelings as they appear. How strong are they? If negative, when have you felt that way before? With understanding of why we're reacting, we're able to listen to what's being said without personalizing it, thereby generating a more effective response.
  5. Read more on the subject of mindfulness. Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, by Joan Borysenko, Bantam, 1988, $13.95; and Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, Hyperion, 1995, $12.95.

Myra F. Bushell is a sales associate with DeWolfe New England, Framingham, Mass. She has a master's degree in education and conducts private therapy sessions and leads workshops on professional renewal. Telephone: 508/872-6632.

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