This post first appeared on mindfulnessmeditationforrichmond.net
The benefits of mindfulness meditation seem endless. There is no part of my life that the practice has not touched and transformed, including my relationships with others.
It seems obvious to expect that as I feel more peaceful, clearer, more centered, less reactive, my close relationships would see benefits. My ability to love and accept myself and others provides the necessary grace and freedom for true intimacy. My improved relationship with myself, improves my relationships with others.
But the practice has not just affected my closest relationships. It has expanded my sense of relationship and miraculously, seemingly without effort, collected a web of beings around me in support of my practice. My life, thanks to meditation, is full of authentic and joyful connection.
I am not a naturally social person. In fact, I was a painfully shy child, and have struggled with some level of social anxiety ever since.
We all have this anxiety to some degree and it makes good biological sense. Human beings need community for their survival. Exclusion from the tribe, for most of human history, was a death sentence. So we had to be concerned with our likeability and social status.
But, like many of our evolutionary adaptations, the fear of faux pas had become more painful than helpful for many of us. The constant self-assessment, the effort to project certain qualities, and to hide others, is exhausting and takes us away from the present moment.
Meditation practice inspires a certain kind of faith in ourselves. We attend to the present moment, we attend to our inner landscapes, and over time we learn to trust that relaxing into the present allows our most heartfelt and wise responses to emerge. This degree of ease and warmth opens a safe space in us. And those around us can sense this safe zone.
When we are open, present, and kind, we allow others to drop their armor as well. We connect to others naturally. We find ourselves having lovely conversations with strangers, or surprising and genuine interactions with acquaintances. We find that difficult family relationships begin to shift and heal without us having to force anything.
Attention and love are not divisible. To pay full attention to someone is to love them completely. So mindfulness, though described as the process of learning to “pay attention” to our lives, is in actuality an invitation to love our lives in the deepest sense. To not judge or separate or condition our relationship to all of life–including our relationship to ourselves and to others–but to untether it, to free it from constraints.