It is true that being mindful invites you to check into your awareness, to gently notice what is happening in your body and mind. When we talk about mindfulness, we spend a lot of time noticing aspects of ourselves: from the breath, to body sensations, to thoughts. But just as mindfulness helps you to turn inward, it can also help you to turn outward and to connect more deeply and intimately with the world around you.
We humans are programmed to be social. Not so many generations ago, our survival depended on the connections we made to the people around us and the networks of support we formed. From our first days after birth, we seek human contact to sustain us. And not much changes as we age. Of course there are individual differences in our characters that influence the personal value and meaning of social connection but at the core, we all seek to find meaning through our friendships and family lives.
Mindfulness can powerfully shape the quality of relationships we have in a given moment. Listening mindfully- without judgment and in the present moment- can open up a new level of conversational connection. So often in talking with others, we are already shaping our responses, planning our next verbal move, impatient to have our voices heard, add our two cents and be recognized by the other. Totally normal but this way of conversing may not leave room for really being with that person in that moment.
And sometimes, these moments of connection can uplift us. When we feel heard, we feel valued. We feel a sense of belonging that comes from sharing vulnerability. When we speak (or blog for that matter), we have just risked sharing a part of ourselves (how we feel or what we think) with another person. And listening – really and truly listening- is as active a process as speaking.
Being mindful is not about shutting out the rest of the world to focus only on yourself. Mindfulness means being fully present in any moment- whether it is at work, on the bus, arguing with your partner, or sitting on your meditation cushion. And since we humans are surrounded by other humans most other moments of our busy lives, it can be useful to see how intentionally tuning in can influence relationships. You may find some delightful surprises.