By Heather Coleman, LCSW

“When there is a fundamental openness in a relationship, being faithful, in the sense of real trust, happens automatically; it is a natural situation. Because the communication is so real and so beautiful and flowing, you cannot communicate in the same way with someone else, so automatically you are drawn together.”  – Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, The Myth of Freedom

Mindfulness is non-judgmental openness to whatever may be arising in the present moment–internally or externally. It allows for gentle and curious attention to anything: a sensation, an object or a relationship and is meant to be practiced over and over again. So, how do we practice mindfulness in our relationships?  Here are 4 ways to start now:

  1. Put down the devices and connect:  When it comes to having authentic communication, technology is an obstacle.  It can lead to more misunderstandings, hurt feelings and sneaky ways to dodge the truth.  If we put down the devices, we can communicate directly, face-to-face.  If you’re feeling slightly uncomfortable as you speak, you’re probably being honest, i.e. doing it right!
  2. Use mindfulness to know your feelings:  Bring your attention to your felt sensations in your body to get more clued into how we’re feeling in relationship.  Ask yourself, “Do I want to move towards this person, away or stay the same distance?”   The answer will help us to understand when we need to set boundaries, express empathy, or when we’re annoyed or hurt.
  3. Practice listening not “being right”: Most of the time when difficult conversations arise, we want to prove that we’re right.  We get very narrow and argumentative.  However, being right all the time doesn’t necessarily lead to long-term relationships.  Mindfulness can be used to recognize when we’re caught in the “being right game”, to take pause and actually see the person in front of us.   Ask yourself: “Are they actually a threat?  Would it be OK to try to understand them?”   What are they saying?  Do I understand?  Recognize they are separate from us and have their own opinions, and we can use mindfulness to stay with them.
  4. Practice generosity: The Atlantic came out with an article last year stating that the key to happy, successful relationships is regularly practicing kindness and generosity. It mentioned that long-term success was often built on “scanning the social environment for things they (the couple) can appreciate and be thankful for.”  It takes mindful attention to see what we might want to share and offer each other in relationship: a sunset that you appreciate and want to share with your partner or friend, a trait you like about them or gratitude for a task they helped you with.

These are four ways to connect.  We each have a choice to become more intimate or to turn away.

Heather Coleman

NYC Therapist Heather Coleman is a practicing clinician since 2006, meditation teacher and neurofeedback trainer. She specializes in working with Adult Children (of Alcoholics, Narcissists, etc) and those with Addictive Behaviors.