One of the keys to mindful relationships is to develop true intimacy with ourselves. Only then can we become truly intimate with others.
Where is genuine intimacy?
The world is in need of healing. Rates of divorce are at an all-time high and many people stay in relationships that are deeply unhappy. Huge numbers of people are cut off from their own inner world and then wonder why they cannot find intimacy with others. And this lack of intimacy – with ourselves and others – means that many people exist in a state of disconnection from their communities and the ecology of the planet, with increasingly obvious negative consequences.
It is important to get back into a genuine intimacy with yourself and to reconnect with the tender, vulnerable parts of yourself and learn to hold these with gentleness and love. Only then can you learn to do this with the people around you, rediscovering the importance of connection in the process. After all, we are social beings and require genuine connectedness in order to thrive.
Mindfulness and liberation
When we begin the path of mindfulness, it is natural to hope that one day, with enough practice, all of the difficulties and pain will simply cease to occur. Many of us wish that somehow we will become inoculated against the ups and downs of life, or find ways to detach from the emotions so that we become immune to the hurt that seems unavoidable in relationships. But as people ripen on the path of meditation and mindfulness, they come to realise that discomfort and difficulty are a part of life and cannot be avoided. Trying to do so leads to spiritual bypassing – the attempt to use mindfulness or other forms of meditation to somehow avoid or get around the difficulties that are an intrinsic part of the human experience. Experienced mindfulness practitioners – the ones who have stuck with it and are really starting to get it – recognise that the path to liberation is through the difficulties rather than around them (or away from them). Learning to embrace the fullness of life, what Jon Kabat-Zinn calls the “full catastrophe”, with a sense of openness and gentleness – this is the path to liberation.
Mindful relationships: two keys
There are two key themes to mindful relationships. The first is that true intimacy must begin with ourselves. It requires that we become able to fully inhabit our body, to be able to sense and be with whatever we notice there. Only once we become intimate with ourselves can we hope to become intimate with others. The second key theme is that this intimacy then spreads out in ever-expanding ripples, first to our partner, children, and other loved ones, and then to workmates, communities, and society as a whole.
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