By Luis Morones, MFT
For many of us, it is in our most significant relations that the quality of mindful presence dissipates. Our formal meditation practice, challenging as it can sometimes be, is often a “cake walk” in comparison to the challenges of mindful relations. Our families and partner relations offer an extraordinarily fertile field for our mindful heart’s awakening.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the esteemed creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program entitled his seminal book on MBSR “Full Catastrophe Living”. Referring to the “full catastrophe” of family living, Zinn’s work encourages us to bring our mindfulness skills into the beautiful and volatile arena of our everyday relationships.
It is often in our most significant relations that we are more inclined to react defensively than to respond mindfully. This may be because we are much more vulnerable with the persons that we care about most deeply. Our history with our families of origin, nuclear families and partners often make it very difficult to remain present with an open heart. We tend to project unto them (and they unto us) ideals and the fulfillment of expectations that are completely impossible for even the most enlightened persons in history to fulfill. Mindfulness practices can help us recognize these projections. By bringing us back to the present moment, mindfulness allows us to relate to each other, as we truly are, imperfect and indescribably precious.
My hope for this class is that compassion and connectedness which are integral elements of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction can be accentuated. Straight up what most fuels my draw towards mindfulness practice is the awakening of love.
Demanding and critical as we are often in our expectations of others, we tend to be even more brutal critics of ourselves. At a meeting the Dalai Lama had with western teachers, he wept, when he heard the westerners describe the enormous suffering their students and themselves experienced due to their harsh inner critics. The Dalai Lama said that this was from his eastern perspective a new form of suffering with which he was not familiar.
Mindful relating begins with a compassionate relation to oneself. By learning to relate to our own “Inner Lover”, the “Inner Critic’s” power over one begins to decrease. We are then more able to approach our relations with others with fewer judgments, more assuredness and joy.
Mindful relating can help us identify “triggers” in the present moment as soon as we begin to experience fears, judgments, and divisive separateness. Before we become fully “hooked” into a habitual negative pattern of reaction, we can learn new ways of responding skillfully. In situations when we start to feel engulfed by anxiety, anger, or emotional paralysis we can practice bringing compassionate attention to the bodily experiences that are occurring. By “unhooking” our emotions from the “stories” our anxious thoughts are creating, we can recuperate sooner our sense of calmer connection.
In the Your Mindful Heart course, participants will be introduced to mindfulness skills that may help strengthen our relational bridges. Mindful awareness releases a greater clarity and strength from which we can make more informed and safer decisions. Mindful relating points us to the liberating realization that our true nature is already imbedded in a wise love that is both protective of our own value and capable of great love.
The UCSD Center for Mindfulness offers a spectrum of courses that can make the inevitable difficulties of relating less stressful and more grounded in a joyous life with others. The Mindful Heart course is just one small aspect of this much larger program. It is simply another compassionate attempt to “sell you a little water” in the already free flowing rivers of your hearts.
Luis points out that “When I am feeling relatively happy I am totally convinced that love is our true nature and that I am in exactly the right relationships to become fully alive. When I am feeling physical or strong emotional pain my convictions and sense of connectedness quickly fade. My appreciation for my wife, family of origin, everybody, especially my-self goes down the drain. All I can do is try to be awake compassionately to the experience of the inner yelp for help. Help seems to come a little more quickly when I struggle to stay mindfully with these difficult moments with a seed of compassionate hope. My intention in this class is to together share a few skillful means to help us stay a little more connected to others and ourselves when the waters of the relational psyche are stormy.”
Although couples are most welcome, this class is not primarily a mindful couples workshop. It is intended rather as an opportunity to learn from each other what may strengthen a little our mindful hearts capacity to imperfectly love our lives with others.