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How Mindfulness Practices Will Help You With Your Relationships

Two children practicing meditationYou can’t figure out what’s going on in your relationships unless you are paying attention. Sound obvious? Well, maybe so, yet so few people look closely at their relationship behavior that many unnecessary misunderstandings and feelings of misalignment arise. So, what can be done?

A relationship is like two weights joined by a piece of elastic; each person affects and is affected by the other person. But from the point of view of one of the weights, it’s the other weight that keeps disrupting the situation: the elastic is often too tight or too loose, and seldom just right.

It’s easy to fall into the assumption that how you experience it is how it is, yet there is another person out there who sees it the opposite way; they are being pulled on by you as well as by many other pieces of elastic like jobs, money and relatives.

In a relationship, the only way to improve this situation is with self-awareness, of seeing how you react in the relationship and how that affects it. Talks with friends, partners or relatives often help. Working with a therapist, if you are lucky enough to find a good one, can be just what is called for.

Today, we want to discuss a wonderful practice to deepen that awareness, most commonly referred to as mindfulness.

This is about putting a space between your perception of an event and your reaction to it. This is hard to do all the time, but when you manage to do so, the gap between the two is where you are self-aware. The self is neither the experiences or the awareness of them, but both, and exists in the opposite of a gap – the conjunction of the two. You are not your emotions, but you are not independent of them, either.

This creates a sense of control, of choice, of agency, and also the sense of unchanging self; those two aren’t in opposition but in conjunction; again, the two are true at once. The contradiction of that is only because of language, which divides and categorizes. Look beyond the language.

This practice gives you a sharp sense of presence and an expanded awareness of who you are and what you are bringing to any given moment. It helps you to be conscious of what you are infusing into situations and interactions. You become both yourself and aware of yourself at the same time. A greater sense of peace arises that you carry with you into your life’s events and you become less reactive as you grow in being at ease with yourself.

This is mindfulness. The more you practice it, the more you will be able to find that point of balance. It gives you a sense of peace. A mindfulness practice like meditation has a cumulative effect; by finding your center again and again, that experience diffuses into the rest of your day and you are less easily thrown off balance.

It can change your relationship by separating stimulus and response. When the elastic tightens, you don’t have to automatically react. As the Polish saying goes, “not my circus, not my monkeys.” You have a choice to respond differently, and by doing so, these two weights change their dance. One change leads to another, and that elastic can become a piano string, complete with harmonics.

This heightened self-knowledge creates a shift in how you relate to others. When you know what part of an interaction is actually originating with you, it tends to prevent the kind of projection onto another person that causes so many of the misunderstandings people experience with each other. As you become more self-aware, it leaves more room to actually experience the other person as they are; to listen and hear what they are saying without adding you into it.

Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: Children practicing meditation

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Last Online Course of the Year

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Day 1: Saturday October 15, 2022

  • Session 1: 9:00 AM PDT looks at Core Values, finding out what yours are and how they are fundamental to your relationships.
  • Session 2: 2:00 PM PDT explores respecting individuality and the radical result of total acceptance which transforms your relationships.

Day 2: Sunday October 16, 2022

  • Session 3: 2:00 PM PDT is Phil and Maude's process for creating mutual solutions rather than fighting and arguing.

Follow-up meeting:

  • Saturday October22, 2022 at 9 AM PDT for an hour, getting back together with the group and sharing how people have applied the ideas from the course. This is an optional follow-up meeting.
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The content of this course can be applied to all relationships. Your participation is welcomed regardless of your particular situation: you can come as a couple, a single, one member of a couple, or someone who wants to improve family, friendship or partner relationships.

Successful Relationship Reading Corner


Books on shelfThis week, we wrote about how mindfulness practices will help you with your relationships. Here are three articles describing the details of what mindfulness is and how to practice it.

Thich Nhat Hanh on The Practice of Mindfulness "Mindfulness is the energy that helps us recognize the conditions of happiness that are already present in our lives. You don’t have to wait ten years to experience this happiness. It is present in every moment of your daily life. There are those of us who are alive but don’t know it. But when you breathe in, and you are aware of your in-breath, you touch the miracle of being alive. That is why mindfulness is a source of happiness and joy."

Mindfulness "To live mindfully is to live in the moment and reawaken oneself to the present, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. To be mindful is to observe and label thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner. Mindfulness can therefore be a tool to avoid self-criticism and judgment while identifying and managing difficult emotions."

What Is Mindfulness? "'Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.' This is the off-cited definition from Jon Kabat-Zinn, well-known author and founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts (who is careful to add that it is an operational definition and leaves out some aspects of mindfulness)."

Spreading peace one relationship at a time
Phil and Maude
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