Mindfulness in Relationships

Through practice you can dramatically increase your feelings of relatedness to others. Read the following articles and listen to the suggested audio dharma talks, and then deepen your understanding of the teachings by contemplating the reflections provided below.

For Your Reflection:

1. Begin your exploration of relationship with making an inventory of how “related” you feel to others in various situations in your daily life. Then cultivate a modest aspiration to deepen your feelings of relatedness. Avoid falling into cultural clichés around what different kinds of relationships are supposed to look like. Relatedness is an inner felt experience that you know in your heart and in your body.

2. Become interested in the nature of your friendships. Be honest with yourself. Are they friendships of convenience, mutual advantage, or circumstance? If so, how does that feel? Can you identify three people whose friendships offer the potential for deeper feelings of relatedness? Each of these opportunities may be less than ideal, but still there is opportunity. You are cultivating the ability of your mind and heart to be available for relationship and through mindfulness developing the skills to do so.

3. Turn your attention to your significant other. If it’s a long-term relationship, notice if you have ceased to seek intimacy. If so, why? Is it because of their imperfections? Your feelings of rejection? Boredom? The relationship failing to meet some expectation? This very same relationship offers an opportunity for deeper relatedness, if you are willing to accept the person as they are and not demand that they be otherwise. Commit to do doing metta [loving-kindness] practice for your significant other every morning for six months and observe what change occurs when you cultivate love without demand.

4. In most families there is a range of closeness among members. Do you feel more related to some members of your family than others? Start being mindful of how lack of closeness causes you to be defensive around a certain family member, or to shut someone out, or to ignore their full range of human dimensions. Begin a compassion practice for one such member of your family and start to explore how you can be more fully accepting of this person just as they are. And then notice how it feels within you when you do have a moment of such acceptance.

5. In one sense your co-workers are your work “family.” In fact the culture at your workplace will reflect the family dynamics of your boss. So you can do reflection #4 for your co-workers, just as you did for your family members.

6. Throughout your day you can notice and appreciate other people and be sympathetic toward their situations. Smile at them. Be kind to them. All of these actions represent numerous moments of relatedness. Develop a practice of mindful appreciation and kindness toward others. Observe how it starts to enrich your life within just a few months.

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