Your East-meets-West life practiceAs an avid learner, I receive my inspiration from a wide spectrum of knowledge, from Ancient Wisdom Traditions to the latest findings of Western Psychology. Reading about wisdom doesn’t fulfill you any more than reading food recipe satiates you, so the real value of this vast knowledge is in applying it in life and work.
Based on my own experience, I would like to share with five tips on enriching your relationships – whether couple, family, friends or work relationships – with an integration of practices based on Ancient Wisdom and modern psychology.
Contemplative meditation teaches you to be present with what arises in the present, moment by moment. When you sit in meditation, you are alone, even if you practice in a group. Take this practice further by being present with another, in an interpersonal interaction, with the same open awareness you are familiar with from your meditative practice. Be present with both Self and Other.
Objective reality is that which can be observed; in a relationship, the only observable parameter is the other person’s behavior: what they say or do, how they hold themselves and how they move. But to really meet another human (or sentient) being, you must have an idea of their interior, subjective world: not only what they do, but also why they do it – their motives. To accomplish this, place yourself metaphorically in the other’s shoes, and try to see what they see, think what they think, feel what they feel. Inquire into the other’s motives by asking them relevant questions or using your mind’s eye to view reality from other perspectives.
3. Expand and Include
To meet another individual in a relationship, you must re-draw the line of your personal boundary to a larger circle, large enough that there is room for the other in it. Separation between Self and Other leads to conflict and it can be erased through an expansion of identity that includes your sense of self, and transcends it, to become a “We” in communion with the other. This is important not only with a spouse or family member, but also with a business partner or client, with whom you seek to accomplish mutually-enriching transactions. I use the Buddhist Tibetan self inquiry “Who am I?” to transcend ego and expand until there is no more separation, no more “Self and Other”, and when all that is left is the Infinite, Eternal Love, I can return from this spaciousness back to the world of form, and relate to the other with an open heart.
When tension arises in relationships, we often raise our defenses by hunching, moving forward into an aggressive posture, or backwards towards retreat. Every now and then, when you interact with another human, check your posture, and find your straight spine that yogis, Zen Buddhists and martial art masters talk about. What kind of energy do you want to embody? See that your posture mirrors it. Watch Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, talk about, and demonstrate the embodiment of calm, assertive energy.
Stress can cause us to unconsciously hold our breath, which locks toxic emotions inside our bodies rather than allowing them to move through us. The basic breathing practice in such situations is to consciously slow down the breath, and circulate it through the body to allow any emotions to flow through and not get stuck in your system. A step further in meeting another individual and creating rapport with him or her is to gently coordinate your breathing with theirs. This helps both of you to focus on similarities rather than differences.
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