Relationships are a dance. With any long-time dance partner, we develop routines. You zig, he zags. He zags, you zig. And on you go, down the dance floor. It’s a beautiful dance, as long as the relationship is working. But if something isn’t working well or when difficulties arise, the established pattern of how we interact can become a block that prevents a resolution.
In fact, difficulties are really opportunities to deepen the relationship. If they are successfully navigated, they allow both parties to feel safer and closer within the relationship. They’ve managed to overcome something tough together, which deepens the bond and mutual respect. The key is to successfully navigate the difficulty, and that is where meditation can help us. With meditation, we can make the most of these opportunities in several ways.
Meditation Creates Balance
Meditation is the practice of sustained attention. We put our attention on something and then try to keep it there, whether it’s 5 or 10 minutes, or much longer. Whether or not this is successful is largely determined by the general state of our entire system; that is, our body, our mind, our emotions, etc. The more balanced our system is, the easier it will be to direct the mind where we’d like it to go and keep it there. In the Yoga tradition, one of the main purposes of physical movements (āsana) and conscious breathing (prāṇāyāma) is to bring the system toward balance as a preparation for meditation. When we spend time preparing our system before meditation then the mind will be more directable and we’re more likely to have a beneficial experience.
The moving of our entire system towards balance is important. Balance in our system promotes feelings of peace, calmness, and satisfaction within ourselves. It’s much easier to deal with difficult situations when we feel good and we’re in a positive mood! These positive and calming emotions can become a salve when a relationship issue results in hurt feelings and anger.
Meditation Creates Positive Emotions
Meditation’s ability to generate positive emotions removes a lot of pressure from our relationships. When we feel good, we don’t have the same need for someone else to show up in a certain way for us. We can better empathize in uncomfortable or unpleasant situations and circumstances because some portion of our emotional needs is already being met through meditation practice. We don’t ‘need’ the relationship to provide that for us. This frees up our partner and allows them to be more themselves in the relationship. This is not to imply that we will no longer need others. We just don’t need them in the same way because our meditation practice already helps us to feel fulfilled and satisfied every day.
Meditation Creates Space
Meditation also creates the space necessary for us to see our part in the dance. We better understand how our actions played a role in creating the difficult situation. The predominant characteristic of a successful meditation is stable attention. When the attention is stable, there is a spaciousness in the mind, it has time to be with something, to remain there, and perhaps see it more closely, as it really is. This provides an opportunity for insight to arise. When we are able to meditate with stable attention, we often experience insight into current situations. This is particularly helpful in relationship difficulties because we may have an ‘aha moment’ on something that we are doing that’s causing problems. We might realize we need to find another way to express ourselves in order to get our needs met. It helps us to boil down to what the real cause of the difficulty is.
Meditation Inspires Insight
The insights that come up are oftentimes uncomfortable, especially when they show us something about our own behavior that is the cause of the difficulty or hurt. But the uncomfortable insights are often the most useful in helping us reshape our relationships in a positive direction. And the more regularly we meditate, the easier it will be to access that calm, stable attention, shorten the amount of time we spend feeling hurt, and tap into those helpful insights. Then, we’ll be freed up to work together with our partner toward harmony and resolution.
This is not to minimize that our feelings got hurt. And definitely not saying that we should use meditation to stay in a wrong or abusive relationship! We’re not saying that meditation makes the hurt feelings okay. Rather, we’re pointing out that meditation reduces the intensity and amount of time we spend holding onto the negative emotions and gives insight into how the situations arose and may be worked on. This helps us to be present in the relationship difficulty, and work with our partner toward solutions that resolve the difficulty.
Meditation Inspires Confidence
Mr. Desikachar was fond of saying “Yoga is relationship.” And to the question, “How do you know your Yoga is working?” he would respond, “Your relationships are improving.” When things get really hard in a relationship and we are able to work through it with our partner or family member, we have a sense of confidence in the relationship. It gives us both the feeling that we’re able to weather any storm. This confidence gives a tremendous sense of security and is a wonderful base from which to move out into the world. We know that we will be able to come up with a solution, and when it is implemented and it works, both partners feel better about the relationship. It’s deeper, it’s more sound, it has some real connection. And that makes making up more fun, too! But that’s a topic for another blog.