Just when we think we have mastered mindfulness alone in our daily practice, we enter a relationship and realize what novices we are. Relationships are the graduate school of mindful practices and mindful practices create healthy relationships.This mindful mastery has many levels:
Mindfulness 101: Be mindful of who you choose as a partner.
People tend to mindlessly pick their partners on “looks good and feels good” only to find out shortly thereafter that it is not, actually, good. The investment of mindful forethought is worth every moment.
Begin with thinking through your own values and determine what is actually important to you and what is merely a preference. Religion or spirituality may be a non-negotiable while height may simply be a preference. Being a vegetarian may be a preference but addictions may be a non-negotiable. Knowing the difference between the two will help to keep you from missing a great catch for an unimportant reason, or from taking someone into your heart that is only going to break it.
Make a list of questions. Ask, listen and observe, seeking the answers. Then, be mindful that you are not only choosing this person, but also bringing their values, lifestyle, family and friends into your life. Just as ignorance is no excuse when breaking the law, it is also no excuse when making a choice in a partner. Ignorance is often simply ignoring.
I have found people often pick a partner with the “as is” sign on their chest, only to blame them for those very same qualities once committed. When blame and judgment raise their ugly heads, practice acceptance.
Mindfulness 102: Be mindful of whether you are a good choice as a partner.
When I was dating, I focused on the traits and qualities of others, contemplating whether I liked them. Somewhere along the way I realized that it was equally important that I have traits and qualities that were desirable to someone else. This required self-awareness, integrity, responsibility and honesty. All of these qualities require mindfulness.
Consider the list of values you were seeking in another and see if you are living in alignment with your own values. Remember, just as you are taking on someone else’s lifestyle, they too will be subject to yours. If you want someone healthy, be someone healthy. If you want someone who meditates, be someone who meditates.
Mindfulness 103: Be mindful of what you say and do.
When we practice self-observation, noticing what we are saying, doing and thinking, we become self-aware. When we are self-aware, we realize that we have choices. When we recognize that have choices, we become powerful. The power to create healthy relationships is hugely related to our ability to choose words, thoughts and actions that support loving kindness, clarity, respect and responsibility.
If your target is a harmonious relationship, practice constant self-observation. Pay attention. You may be surprised how often your unconscious choices lead you the opposite direction from where you want to go. Be mindful to bring your words, thoughts and actions into alignment with what you want to create.
Mindfulness 104: Be mindful of your stories.
This is much akin to being mindful of what we think, but one step deeper—and perhaps more challenging. Our “stories” are the unconscious meaning we make from things we don’t understand. The problem is that we forget that we are making up the meaning and we turn this into a belief. We need to be mindful that our made up stories are not necessarily the same thing as the truth.
When your sweetheart doesn’t call on time, or immediately respond to a text, notice the stories you make up about what happened or why. Practice mindfully labeling your thoughts as “hypothetical” instead of the “truth.” This simple recognition will set you free from a lot of drama and blame and allow you to move mindfully forward in your relationships..
Practice these mindfulness steps and soon you will truly have your “Master’s Degree” in Relationship Wellness.