There has been a lot of talk about mindfulness in recent years. It has been shown to be effective in reducing stress and is a respected treatment intervention in mainstream healthcare.
And yet it remains out of easy grasp for most of us, because there are many different ways to engage in the practice, and because it needs to be experienced firsthand in order to be understood.
Simply put, mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, which means we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judgment. In a state of mindfulness, we don’t believe there is a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. We just tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
What does mindfulness mean for relationships?
If we see and truly accept what is in the moment, we no longer spend energy trying to alter or control or fix our partners. Instead, we are free—from a place of openness—to notice other solutions that we didn’t see before.
Also, if we accept something as it truly is, we may feel things we have avoided through rumination: Sadness, powerlessness, frustration. But once we enter into those feelings without judgment they pass like a wave in the ocean. Plus (and more importantly) we end up with greater awareness of our own agendas, filters, and fears. This type of awareness makes it easier to be authentic with our partners and shift out of finger-pointing mode.
Finally, if we are just aware without judgment, we become vulnerable and clear. We are less reactive, which creates space for transformation and new ways of being. Sometimes we don’t even know what those new ways will be, but they emerge as we practice non-reactivity. In a state of mindfulness, we are open to learn that other forces besides our own will are at play in the world, and that things can work out just fine without our reactions.
People who actively practice mindfulness in their lives are less stressed and more able to create positive transformations in their lives and relationships.
Mindfulness: 4 Ways to Transform Your Relationship
So how can we “do” mindfulness? It’s actually not a technique but a way of being. There is much written on it, and each person finds their own way.
But here are some simple, fun things you can try to experience mindfulness in your relationship:
- Approach sticky situations with curiosity. Set aside what you think you know and see things from a “beginner’s mind.” When you jump to conclusions, stop and say to yourself: “I wonder…” When we aren’t curious, we miss the changes our partner might be making, or fail to notice something new and beautiful.
- Notice and hold lightly your emotions. When we start to experience emotions as energy in motion, we notice how they come and go and morph with our attention. Avoid feeding emotions with thoughts or meaning-making.
- Forgive and invite. When you get too busy or doubt the process, these are just opportunities for learning about what gets in our way. By noticing our “failures” we learn what we need in those challenging moments and the fastest way to begin again. Invite yourself to begin again.
- Start wherever you are. You don’t need a quiet space free of distractions. You can just notice the sounds, sights, vibrations, physical sensations that are occurring right now. Just be present to them without interpretation. That is mindfulness and it can be done anywhere.
It is amazing what can happen in our relationships when we practice mindfulness, because it really is a form of radical acceptance. And acceptance is the starting point for all true transformation. Any changes that precede acceptance are just variations within an old paradigm.
Without mindfulness, old programming eventually sabotages the efforts we make.
So start where you are, tune into what is–without judgment. You will become open to compassion for yourself and others, and gain a healthier perspective.
Try these tips and be free from knee-jerk, unconscious habits, so you can get the life and relationships you were meant to create!
Good luck with these tips and let me know in the comments below how these work out for you!