You can incorporate mindfulness into just about anything these days. Eating, walking, working, yoga, communicating. One of the most powerful places I have integrated mindfulness into my own life is in my relationships. My wife and I have embraced mindfulness practices into our partnership and marriage pretty much from the very start. But, it doesn’t end there! Now that we are a family of three – my three year-old daughter and I are finding our own rhythm with how we will share mindfulness together as well. I have found these following five tips helpful in all sorts of different relationships. You can apply the fundamentals of them into any relationship in your life.
1) Practice Mindful Listening and Speaking
It has become a norm in our culture to speak a lot, speak fast, and to interrupt. The practice of Mindful Communication can be simple and also quite powerful. It is easiest to begin to practice with someone in an intentional setting, where you are carving out a certain amount of time to try the exercise. Choose who will speak first and who will listen. The person who is speaking has “the floor”and can share whatever they would like. A possible theme can be “How are you feeling now? What is alive in you? How was your day?.” The person that is listening, does just that, listen as fully as possible. The listener might find his or her attention wandering, (that is completely normal), when you realize you have drifted simply come back to your parters voice and words. When they are complete, offer a simple acknowledgment (ie. Thank you.) and switch.
2) Share a Mindful Meal
I know one of my tendencies is to eat fast. There are numerous studies that show the value of slowing down how fast we eat. When sharing a mindful meal with someone you have the opportunity to slow down and appreciate your meal and your company. You can begin your meal by offering a word of gratitude. Together you can appreciate what you are eating, observing the smell of the food, the presentation, and then together sharing in the taste of the food. To add another piece to this practice you could try to weave in some Mindful Sharing or even try out a silent meal where you don’t talk, but simply enjoy your food and your company in a new and fresh way.
3) Take a Mindful Walk
Walking meditation is one of the most common forms of Mindfulness practice. Taking a walk can be a wonderful way to slow down, get outside, and share in the present moment with another. It is said that the slow and constant pace of walking can have greater benefits on the physical than many intensive exercises. When walking together we also have an opportunity to share mindfully. Practice mindful observation, where you see through the eyes of a child. Point out the beauty that surrounds. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this practice “Kissing the Earth together with every step.
4) Mindful Intimacy
Yes, of course, one of our favorite and most familiar places of authentically being mindful is when we share in intimacy with a loved one. When sharing in intimacy you have one of your greatest opportunities to be mindful. The best part of this practice is that it normally happens naturally. When we are being intimate with another, we are drawn into the moment and our mind normally settles into the comfort, nurturing, and love that is shared in a space of intimacy. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. Some tips to enhance your experience can be to sit silently for a few minutes before you begin, look into each others eyes, and try breathing together.
5) Create a Regular Mindfulness Practice Together
Weaving awareness into our regular day life is true goal of mindfulness. But one of the most beneficial ways of practicing is to create a regular formal meditation practice, and to practice with someone else. Try to create a routine, where you meet at the same time, ideally in a place that is special to both of you. Be as intentional and reverent as possible, and use the presence of one another to support the practice. There can be something so sweet, simple, and intimate about sitting with someone in the space of silent practice.
Do you have any mindfulness tips that have worked or helped your relationships? I would love to hear them!
Joshua Canter is the Founder and Director of True Nature Education. He holds a MA in Contemplative Psychology with an Emphasis on Mindfulness. Joshua is a meditation teacher, trained facilitator, retreat leader trainer, and yoga instructor. Since 2002, Joshua has been living part time in Costa Rica and in Asheville, North Carolina, teaching courses and workshops, leading retreats, and accompanying his wife, Luna Ray, musically she travels throughout the United States. Joshua is also a father to his daughter Jaya Arielle.