Mindfulness for Healthy Relationships: When relating to others, author Steve Price describes three key areas to focus on.
Jan 31, 2015 10:29AM
● By Steve Price
Humans are by nature, social beings, and all of us on the planet are inextricably linked. When we are mindful of this fact, we can begin to minimize suffering and maximize happiness for ourselves and everyone around us. There are two components to cultivating mindful relationships, and both are important.
First, carve out alone-time each day to meditate. Before relating to others, we must first relate to ourselves. We can start by observing our breath, noting where it's most easily felt: perhaps in the nostrils, chest or belly. If the mind wanders, gently bring it back to breathing. As thoughts and feelings arise, the key is to simply observe them without judgment or analysis. For example, fear, anger or resentment may cause muscular tension and disturbed breathing. This awareness alone provides an opportunity to choose other thoughts.
We can also be mindful of how positive or loving thoughts make us feel. Muscles relax and breathing becomes easier. It may seem as though a weight has been lifted off our chest and we can sense our heart opening. This is what compassion feels like, and the more we practice it, the better we feel. In turn, we can use compassion to maintain our daily meditation practice. If sitting is painful, lie down or walk. Start with five minutes a day and gradually work up to 30. If a class or a group meditation would help, go for it. Consistency is critical, so do whatever it takes to keep the practice easy, interesting and enjoyable.
The second part of relating mindfully is to apply what we learn in meditation to our daily interactions with others. Remain aware of thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. For example, if someone cuts us off on the freeway, we may notice a rush of stomach acid, tension in our jaw and a harsh thought or two. We can take a moment to fully feel the discomfort in our bodies, and then make a conscious choice to replace the judgment, "Jerk!" with the observation, "Speeding." We can exhale deeply and feel how good it feels to release our neck and shoulders. In relating mindfully to others, here are three things with which to experiment:
1. Listen. Oftentimes in conversation we're in the past, thinking about what was said, or in the future, thinking about what we're going to say next. Be fully present and do nothing else but listen to what the person is saying now, without interrupting verbally or mentally. Watch their body language and tune into their tone of voice. Listen to them as if to a song heard for the first time.
2. Feel. While in someone's presence, maintain attention to reactions or sensations in our own body. Is the stomach tense or relaxed? What's going on with the breath? Overall, do we feel pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? Simply notice, without analyzing.
3. Forgive. The ancient philosopher Philo said, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Sometimes kindness comes easily, but what about when someone really pushes our buttons? As we feel our chest starting to contract, we can choose to do the opposite: relax, take a deep breath and open our heart. In doing so, we're reminded that it's more important to be kind than to be right.
The more we can quiet our minds, the more our hearts can open. As we commit or recommit to a practice of mindfulness, we can find ourselves falling in love with life.
Steve Price directs and teaches at A Mindfulness Life Center, in Scottsdale. To learn more about the center, visit AMindfulnessLifeCenter.com.