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It’s a question I find myself asking on the regular:

Am I ready for this?

Whatever it is – prepping breakfast; tonight’s performance; writing a blog; temps in the 30s; the Friday morning phone interview; driving to Massachusetts; the first faint flakes of snow that drifted like campfire ash in the morning air; responding to a text from a friend in the hospital – I find it’s good to check in with myself, before doing anything, to ask myself with genuine curiosity and care: How are you doing?

Just asking the question can help calm any nerves or doubt I might be having. It can also bring me into closer contact with that anxiety, and by doing so, allow that anxiety to express itself in the body, and then quickly subside. I have found that it’s a helpful practice.

‘How are you?’ is a phrase so commonly uttered by most of us in initiating conversation with others that I sometimes wonder if we have lost touch with the meaning of the words.

On our long drive home from Texas recently, we stopped for the night at a cheap motel somewhere in upstate New York. I walked into the office to check in, and an elderly gentleman greeted me with a nod of his head.

I said, ‘Hello.’ He replied, in a small, gentle voice, ‘Hello.’

I asked, ‘How are you?’ – and with genuine surprise in his voice and in his raised eyebrows, he answered about an octave higher, ‘WHAT?!’

I was startled! I chuckled and asked again, ‘How are you this evening?’

He relaxed a little and smiled, nodding his head and answering in a heavy Indian accent, ‘Very well, very well, thank you.’

The shock in his ‘WHAT?!’ has stayed with me ever since.

Being genuinely curious about the well-being of ourselves and others and then expressing that curiosity is one of the simplest acts of lovingkindness that one can practice. Try it! Ask yourself – with curiosity, and with regularity – how you’re doing. And when you ask someone else how they are doing, really connect with the meaning of that phrase, with the intention behind it. You might be surprised at the answer!

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