I have been happily married to my husband for the last eight years.
We have two beautiful children and a lovely home. We both have wonderful work lives that we are able to balance, most of the time, with the demands of daily life.
And while this sounds great in writing, this doesn’t cover what it means to bring mindfulness into my relationships.
Mindfulness requires an intentional and honest look at the connection we feel with those around us. It is only after we acknowledge the current state of our connection that we can aspire to deepen it in small ways.
Here are some simple practices to help look at our relationships more mindfully:
1. How related do you feel?
Take some time today to think about the relationships in your life. Draw concentric circles with the inner circle indicating the people you feel most close to. How do you nurture the relationships you have with people in this inner circle? What can be done to feel more related to them?
Similarly draw concentric circles on the outside of the core circle and write down names of friends and family who appear on the peripheral circles. Think about how often you get in touch with them, how could the relationship be nurtured? Are there random acts of kindness you can do for your loved ones and those in your circle?
Take a look at friendships and relationships that have become distant. Would you like to cultivate them in some way? Would you like to feel related with someone from the past? What is the nature of your friendships and other significant relationships?
Taking some time out to think about our relationships allows us an opportunity to look at people in our lives and how we relate to them. It allows for a opening within to be gentle and kind with those in our circles, it also helps us reflect upon what causes us to be unkind and how we could shine mindfulness and healing to them. To get started on this contemplation take a week or two to journal about these questions.
2. Cultivate Loving Kindness:
Loving kindness can be practiced in several ways in our relationships. In cultivating relatedness with our circle of loved ones, meditating on loving kindness toward them can open our hearts and minds to seeing those we love for who they are and what they are experiencing (instead of seeing them for who we want them to be). This is such a liberating feeling—to see our loved ones in all their beauty and glory.
In difficult situations in our relationships, loving kindness can help us cultivate friendliness toward the difficult emotions that comes up for us. When we can take deep breaths and move closer to the emotion and away from reacting to the situation we begin to practice loving kindness toward ourselves and others. Giving ourselves and others the space to connect with our wisdom to act intentionally and lovingly.
3. Cultivating compassion:
In our relationships compassion entails deeply understanding the other person and practicing acceptance for who they are and where they are at. It also entails cultivating patience in the face of difficult moments they go through in order to be there for them and help them move from difficult spaces.
Staying present in the shortcomings of those we love and accepting them for their unique presence can help us acknowledge our own expectations and perceptions about our relationships. We can in turn shine compassion on ourselves and our difficult emotions allowing for heartfelt communication and growth in our relationships.
4. Vow to pause:
Any relationship entails difficult moments, of fights and escalated arguments and miscommunication. However, when we can commit to pausing when we see sense anger, irritability and annoyance we give ourselves the gift of deepening our relationship with ourselves and those we love.
If we can commit to practicing pausing before a conversation gets heated, if we can vow to take a deep breath and move closer to the emotion and its physical manifestation and disconnect from a potential heated discussion, we save ourselves mindless name calling and reinforcement of negative patterns of responding.
5. Communicate to enrich your life and that of others:
In pausing and practicing loving kindness and compassion we become aware of the need for communicating in a way that enriches our lives and that of others. Remember that this takes practice. When we move into mindfully relating with those we live and work we become aware of how our habitual patterns often bring us down and away from our goal of mindful communication.
Yet, practicing every day, gently and with utter kindness to ourselves and others can help us connect to our needs and how we can request that others meet them in ways that is mutually enriching to both parties.
The practice of bringing mindfulness to our relationship is a slow and beautiful process. It can cause us a lot of frustration and many battles with our egos.
In the end however, it is important to remember that our struggle with being mindful in our relationships comes from a desire to be loving in our relationships.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Aimee Custis/Flickr