Greetings fellow mindful travelers,
Happy February! Love is in the air. In celebration of Valentine’s this month, I want to talk about two of my favorite subjects, Love and Mindfulness.
Specifically, I want to explore how mindfulness practice can help us love more fully and whole-heartedly.
So without further ado, here are 6 ways to Love mindfully this month:
1. Being kind to others AND yourself
One of the benefits of being more mindful is that we become more aware of our needs and the needs of others. We can recognize when we are hungry, angry, hurt, sad, tired, etc. and have empathy for others in whatever state they are in.
From this empathy and awareness, we can cultivate a practice of kindness toward ourselves and others. Kindness toward all of life. When we are tired, what do we need? Can we care for ourselves in that moment?
When we see someone else experiencing sadness, what can do to be kind and caring? Love and kindness go hand in hand, and with more mindfulness and awareness comes a greater capacity to love.
2. Knowing yourself like a good friend
Mindfulness practice allows us to look within and know all the different aspects of ourselves, even the not so nice parts. We may notice our fear and aggression that shows up. Our anger or past trauma may become more apparent.
This is part of the process of self-exploration. And as we explore ourselves, we do so with care, like we are talking to a good friend and trying to understand them.
As we gain this self-knowledge, it becomes a powerful tool in being able to be kind and understanding to ourselves and as a means to build more intimate connected relationships with others. It starts with knowing ourselves, and then having the courage to share with others.
3. Communicating openly and honestly
Relationships can be a fantastic source of joy and happiness, but also painful and challenging. When two people come together, they are bringing the multitude of all of their thoughts, emotions, bodies, and past experiences together.
If you think sitting in meditation with your own thoughts is difficult, trying sitting with two activated minds and the interactions between them.
With mindfulness practice, we can cultivate greater self-awareness, which is a powerful tool for a Loving relationship. When two people have a disagreement or conflict, we often look to the faults of the other person and try to point them out as a means of “being right” or “showing them that they are wrong.”
However, this approach will rarely bring two people closer together. Instead, what is needed in these difficult moments is humility and open sharing about your own experience.
For example, the first approach would be: “You didn’t do the dishes! You never clean up after yourself, you are just being lazy. You really need to get your act together. I can’t believe you are stressing me out so much!”
Here’s the second approach: “I feel angry that there are dirty dishes in the sink. I’m feeling triggered and hurt. When I was young my mother used to scream at us if there was any dirty dishes left out. If my room was messy, she would punish me. I want to have a clean house, but I also want to be flexible. What do you think?”
Now that was some advanced mindfulness. Who would you rather be in a relationship with?
4. Expressing gratitude for others
While mindfulness can help us see our difficulties with greater awareness, it can also help us focus on the good we see in others.
Try this exercise with a friend or partner. At the end of each day, ask the person “what were three things you are grateful or thankful that happened today?” With practice, you may start to notice more and more things to be grateful about.
When you are interacting with others try to mention at least one quality or thing they did that you appreciated. See how it could transform that relationship.
5. Accepting yourself and others fully
One of the most important aspects of Love is acceptance. This is not an easy thing to do, especially in the face of difficulties, but it is one of most powerful and Loving things you can do for yourself and someone else.
Acceptance means to Love without trying to change, control, get, or manipulate in any way. It means to look at your partner, friend, or family member and say “I love you with all of your strengths, weaknesses, traumas, thoughts, feelings, ugliness, and joys.”
I means to embrace the entirety of another person.
And when directed toward yourself you can practice the mantra “I accept myself fully as I am.”
No one is perfect; acceptance is a muscle to grow and practice, especially during difficult times.
When someone accepts you fully, how do you feel? Notice that, and provide that for yourself and others.
6. Cultivating a sense of humor about life
Perhaps an overlooked benefit of mindfulness is that we don’t take everything so damn seriously. We can see our thoughts as just thoughts, and as other people just doing their best and innocent.
We can notice the thought “I’m a loser” and laugh at its absurdity. When our internal scary monsters come out, we can put a party hat on them, dress them in a tutu, and have them dance the funky chicken.
With our thoughts, our emotions, our fears, we can play with them and laugh and have a good time. Invite all your internal monsters to a big party of Love and show them a good time. Our fears, dark thoughts, and past pains deserve Love too.
Thank you for reading. As we make our way through February this month, may we cultivate kindness, awareness, openness, gratitude, acceptance, and humor in the service of Love.
Until next time,
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with anxiety and could use the support of a professional, it would be an honor to be of service. I offer Therapy for Anxiety and Mindfulness Workshops in Oakland, California.