5 Ways That Meditation Can Help Your Relationship
Can Meditation Really Help a Relationship? How So?
You may have heard that meditation can help release stress and keep your mind clear. You may have even tried it before yourself and found that it did indeed relax you. If you have a daily meditation habit, it can also be very grounding, and you may be allowed an occasional peek into a different state of consciousness.
But did you know that meditation can ultimately help with a lot more than just stress? In fact, if you make it into a habit, you may start to notice all kinds of improvements in many unrelated areas of your life. One of the areas where it’s more pronounced, though, is when it comes to human relationships—especially romantic ones, but also friendships, family relationships, and even working relationships.
How does sitting on a cushion and watching your breath manage to do all that?
It’s understandable to be skeptical unless you’ve practiced for awhile, but meditation is one of those things that has far-reaching effects on your life. It can literally change your whole perspective, and of course this will affect your relationships in a number of ways:
1) Meditation Helps You Stop and Consider Things Before You Act
Have you ever said or done something that you later regretted and it really hurt someone as a result? Was it like your mouth was running on its own, like you had become another person temporarily, and when you look back on what you said or did, you can hardly recognize yourself?
Maybe it wasn’t even anything that bad. Maybe instead of hurting someone, you merely became uncontrollably nervous and said something stupid, something that you normally would never say.
We all do things like this every once in awhile. This is because a weird little creature lives inside each of us, a creature that is constantly talking and commenting on what’s going on, a creature that is constantly judging, a creature that is constantly insecure. Every once in awhile, something external will trigger this creature, and you will have some crazy emotion that you can’t help but act out.
Maybe you’re at a job interview and you forgot to trim your nose hairs, and this irrational fear of judgment drives you so crazy that you’re nervous and can’t present your best self to the interviewer. Maybe your partner says something that bothers you because of your personal history—maybe they call you “crazy” as a joke, but your family has a history of mental illness, so you take it personally—and so you explode at them out of nowhere.
This is the “creature” inside of you acting out. It’s made from all of your personal baggage, both good and bad. Some people call this “the ego,” and others call it “the pain body.” There are many names for it, but the point is that it loves to pretend that it’s you. (But it’s not really you. “You” is the person who can watch these weird thoughts. If you and your thoughts were the same thing, then you wouldn’t be able to watch them, would you?)
Meditation allows you to see this creature. That’s actually the point of meditation—not really to relax you on its own, but to relax you enough that the creature stops talking for a moment, so that you can tell the difference between the creature and yourself.
When you meditate, you watch your thoughts as they float past—usually, these thoughts are produced by the creature, who is always talking. You will find that the real you doesn’t talk all that much, unless it’s about something important.
When you can see the difference between yourself and this creature, it starts to lose a lot of its power over you. If you meditate enough, you can begin to stop yourself before you fully transform into the werewolf, and eventually even prevent the transformation altogether.
2) Meditation Helps You Become More Compassionate
Once you realize and experience for yourself the power that this “creature” (your own narrative of thoughts) has over you, you may suddenly find yourself being more compassionate and understanding of others. You may realize that when someone lashes out at you, that’s actually not them—it’s that weird beast inside of them that is acting instead.
True that some people are in this mode (they believe that they are their thoughts) all the time, but it will still become easier for you to recognize when people are being controlled by this false self and when they are actually being themselves. This will help you understand people’s perspectives a lot better because you will see that they have something in common with you, even if their triggers and reactions are different in terms of specifics.
“The creature” is “the creature” no matter what it does or who has it.
3) Meditation Helps You Choose Better Friends and Partners
We already mentioned how meditation can help you recognize people who are projecting a false self all the time. Well, this can be critical information when you are choosing the people that you surround yourself with.
Have you ever gotten to know someone—perhaps they were a friend or a lover—and everything was great for awhile? They were really nice to you, you seemed to have hobbies in common, everything looked great on paper—but you couldn’t shake this weird feeling about them? Eventually, did your relationship implode all of a sudden in a totally unpredictable way? For example, did they suddenly out of nowhere lash out at you? Or did your partner, who you thought loved you, suddenly cheat on you or become abusive?
These things can catch anyone by surprise. The fact of the matter is that someone who believes themselves to be “the creature”—who operates as the false self—will eventually lash out at you. They can’t help it. You will eventually cross them because they are full of landmines.
The confusing thing about it is that if your personalities click very well, you might have a great time with them at first. The problem is that, deep down, that person cannot love you. The “ego” (the false self) can’t love anyone or anything. Before long, you will trigger them and they will see something in you that their ego does not like. Perhaps they become possessive and jealous (which is not the same as love), or maybe you say something that doesn’t sit well with them and they decide to never forgive you.
Just having compatible personalities is not enough. For someone to be a good partner to you (or a good friend), they have to have compassion and be capable of forgiveness. They have to be interested in your agenda, in helping you attain the things that you want, not just what they want. This is what a genuine, two-way relationship is like.
Some people are so used to being around others who purely identify with their egos, that they may not even realize that there are folks out there who are not like this! Is this you? Have you ever found yourself complaining that “people” are mostly evil and selfish?
Don’t accept any less than what you want! You deserve to be loved for who you are, unconditionally. Assuming that you are ready to offer someone else the same kind of love, keep your distance from people who are stuck in the spiral of the ego. Meditation will help you recognize these mechanisms in others (and yourself).
4) Mediation Helps You Let Things Go and Forgive
One of the hardest things to do in life sometimes is to simply forgive. Many times, that weird little voice inside of us may suspect that if we forgive someone and forget about the harm they caused in the past, then that is like we have given the person permission to “sin” again.
That’s actually not true at all! It’s important to have boundaries and to enforce them, but that’s very different from holding a grudge and constantly remembering (or reminding someone) of what they’ve done in the past.
Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive someone is nothing more than a pattern of repetitive thoughts, and it hurts you just as much—if not more—than it hurts the person you’re directing your feelings towards. This is because refusing to forgive someone is basically allowing yourself to relive unpleasant situations from the past over and over, every time you see them.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be around a person or tolerate what they do. It simply means that you’ve let go of the past and that it doesn’t dictate your actions moving towards the future. Mediation can help you become conscious of these inefficient grudge patterns and eventually let go.
If you’re having a lot of trouble with this in particular, I recommend finding a nice guided meditation that specifically addresses forgiveness. You may have to practice with this in mind for awhile before it sticks, especially when it comes to a traumatic event, but it can really help you move past sticking points in your life.
5) Meditation Helps You Stop Projecting Your Intentions Onto Others
Constantly, every day, you are looking at others and trying to figure out what they’re thinking. It’s just automatic, and doesn’t require any conscious intervention on your part. “The creature” does it for you just fine.
The problem with this, is that the predictions are often wrong. There’s no way you can know what is going on in someone else’s mind for sure, and it’s certainly hard to figure that out when there’s this little voice projecting all of your judgments and insecurities on the person.
In fact, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You think to yourself, "Ugh, that person's politeness is just so superficial. I bet they secretly hate me behind those gritted teeth. You know what? I hate them, too," and the next thing you know, that person doesn't like you anymore. Guess you were right all along, huh?
When was the last time you actually listened deeply to what a person was telling you with his or her body language, or even their verbal language, and shut off all that crazy commentary of yours? When was the last time you took it all in without judgement?
For example, when was the last time your boss looked at you with a negative air and you thought to yourself simply, “Hm. He has a frown on his face,” instead of, “Uh-oh! I’m in trouble! Damn it, why is he always blaming me for everything? Last time it wasn’t even my fault. I shouldn’t have even come into work today. Can’t he see that I come in every day, even when I’m under the weather? Unlike Larry. If he even has an itch on his leg, he’ll call in. Why am I treated this way? Don’t I deserve respect?...”?
Etc, etc. You get the picture. You may be projecting all kinds of intentions and emotions on other people, simply because you feel them yourself. Have you ever been in a situation where everything seemed great and you were having a wonderful time with some very nice people, but a friend of yours was like, “I don’t know man. I’m suspicious. These people seem too nice. You know what I mean? Something’s up.”
That’s a perfect example of projection. If you yourself would never act a certain way because of your culture, upbringing, and so on, then you may be unable to fathom why someone would act that way. (Sometimes people can't even fathom why other people would be nice to them!) But guess what? People are different! I know, right? What a concept!
Meditation helps you get to the root of what makes your mind work the way it does. When you do that, you uncover all kinds of unpleasant biases. Once you notice those biases, you can look at reality (and other people) with something closer to a clean slate. So yes, instead of getting upset and questioning your entire relationship the next time your partner ignores you, you may actually be able to step outside of yourself and say, “Hm, he/she looks very busy. I wonder if everything is okay.”
Learning to Meditate is Easy
Now, if you don’t have a regular meditation practice, you may be wondering what you need to do. That’s the thing about mediation—you don’t have to do anything. That’s kind of the point!
Now you might be like, “Oh, but I do nothing all day. Isn’t that mediation?” No! You may not realize, but your mind is constantly occupied, to the point where you can’t see the “you” underneath. That’s where the problem lies. If you are looking at your phone, watching TV, playing video games, or doing work, that’s not “nothing.” You’re stimulating your mind, and so you’re for the moment distracted from looking within.
If you’d like to start meditating on the regular, I suggest looking up videos or articles on the subject, and find a simple method that works for you. Just remember that you don’t need to buy anything. Meditation should be free and shouldn’t require anything but an active, eager mind. Good luck!
Your Meditation Practice
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Meditation for Relationships
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Jorge Vamos