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Do you say hello or ask how they feel?

"How are you?" A greeting thats asked by millions of us every day, but what does it mean? Is it even a question that is supposed to be answered?

Does the person who asked the question even want to know how you really are? If asked, would you want to share your inner feelings to someone you may barely know? People often ask the question whilst walking past someone, not even waiting for a response... isn't that rude in our society?

It is a very strange question to ask but on the other hand is it? Well ask yourself this question, 'how many times have I actually wanted to answer with honesty and depth how I really felt?' If you are like me then you have wanted to a couple of times in your life but it always seems inappropriate, generally because you know that they asked you in a greeting kind of way and they really didn't want to know how you are! In our busy lives we sometimes do not want to hear the problems of other people, we have enough problems of our own right?

This fascinating subject into the way we interact with people we know always reminds me of when I was about 18 years old. I was on my 1 hour lunch-break from my new job and I had to walk the 20 minute journey into town to go to the bank or something equally as "important". I was really pushed for time but was on schedule when I saw my aunty walking towards me. I stopped and asked "How are you?" (as you do!) I was happy to see her but when I looked closer I could see she was upset. She started crying and it was then that I remembered that her son, my cousin, had died only a few months earlier. She began to tell me how it was wrong that a child could die before the parent, her pain was obvious to me and passers by. I genuinely didn't know what to do. I couldn't comfort her or anything, I just froze because of this public show of emotion. I felt awful and very helpless. This scenario often plays out in my head and the older, more mature me, gives her a big hug and takes her inside the cafe we were stood in front of for a cup of tea... the bank can wait until tomorrow. Sadly the younger me said something like "I'm sorry for your loss", muttered something about the bank and then left her.

The point is I had asked her the question and the only response I wanted was a happy one where she was supposed to say "Oh I'm fine!" and then we politely go about our business. This experience with my aunty taught me a very valuable lesson and that was, don't ask this question so flippantly! If you ask the question be prepared for an honest response. Of course I know that most people will give me their automated response but I am always prepared to listen. I also try and look for those tell tale signs that tell me that in-fact 'I really do want to talk about how I feel today!'

Our 'How are you really? Yoga & Meditation retreats' were actually born with this in mind. We wanted our guests to ask themselves the question and really think to themselves, actually, 'how am I really?' If my feelings are negative... sad, unhappy, trapped, lacking direction, we want to help answer these type of questions with the various tools we use during the week with us. By the end of the week our guests will hopefully of answered the question about how they feel and know what to do about emotionally putting themselves back on track. It can be a tough journey having to listen to your honest self but going through it, writing it down, even burning it, can bring you through it a cleansed, happy and content person. To be able to ask yourself "How are you... really?" and give yourself a positive answer is very liberating and will make you want to share the "How are you... really?" message!

So next time you ask someone "How are you?", ask it mindfully with a genuine interest in their wellbeing. Find out if they really are ok and if they are not... give them a big hug and take them for a cup of tea! #teaistheanswer #listen #howareyoureally

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