Whether we are cooking, running, writing, or driving, mindfulness—and putting our energy toward it—allows us to move through our lives with a greater sense of purpose.
When we are mindful, the ways in which we relate to ourselves will influence how we treat those around us. For example, if we hold a hostile attitude towards ourselves, it’s likely that this will be expressed in some way towards others—even in subtle ways. We benefit when we treat ourselves and others with mindful kindness and compassion.
And when we apply mindfulness to our intimate relationships, we find greater relationship satisfaction, better communication pathways, more thoughtful responses to relationship stressors, increased empathy, greater acceptance of our partners’ qualities, and increased sensuality in our physical intimacy.
So, when you are interacting with others, I want you to check in and observe your head, heart, and body. What do you feel? What do you hear?
The goal here is to become mindful of which actions serve us and which do not when we are with others (and in general). Mindful attention to the experience of the present moment allows us to act more purposefully and less out of social reflex.
Being aware of what we say, how we say it, how we receive others’ words, and being present—really listening to the other person—is what we should strive to do.
Being able to relate to others is something we all desire. We want to feel something—love, appreciation, affection.
To build those feelings, to help us tap into our relationships, I challenge you to try this eye-gazing exercise.
Eye Gazing Exercise
Eye gazing is the practice of simply looking into another person’s eyes. It sounds really basic, and it also probably sounds incredibly awkward if you’ve never done it! But how often do we ever really engage in this way? When we do something so authentically—with all of our presence—it can be very powerful and very intimate.
You can choose to gaze into the eyes of a family member, a romantic partner, or another person in your life that you trust. You may even choose to gaze into your own eyes in the mirror.
Do this for between three and five minutes.
- Find a comfortable seat facing one another in a crossed leg position, or any positions with the least amount of strain in the body.
- Close your eyes for a moment to center yourself and get ready for the practice. Release all nervousness or tension from the body and soften any giggles or laughter. (Reminder: It is natural to feel funny or anxious when we bear witness to another person.)
- Then, both of you should open your eyes and look directly at one another—in the eyes. For the length of this practice there is no language, and no verbal or physical communication. Relax your body and commit to looking only into your partner’s eyes. Sustain this gaze.
- When the time is up, both of you can close your eyes and relax there. Take a few moments in silent gratitude to meditate on the gift you’ve each been given.
This simple practice helps us to remove the stressors, emotions, and judgments that can cloud our ability to relate and connect to others. Using mindfulness and being present in our relationships is an important step toward extending graciousness, forgiveness, compassion, and love from the self into those around us.