A Complete guide to Bringing Heartfulness into Marriage
We often hear the words “mindfulness” and “compassion” as interchangeable, positive attributes to embody and integrate into our lives.
Although complimentary, mindfulness and compassion are not the same.
You’ll recall from last week’s posting, How to Mindfully Meditate in Marriage, that mindfulness is about maintaining a moment-to-moment awareness and acceptance of your thoughts, feelings, physiology, and surrounding environment.
When we talk about mindfulness, we also hear the term “loving kindness.”
So, what do these words really mean, how are they interwoven, and why is practicing them within marriage so important?
As Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. explains,
“In Asian languages, the word for ‘mind’ and the word for ‘heart’ are the same.So, if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it.
Compassion and kindness towards oneself are intrinsically woven into it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.”
Simply put, by practicing mindfulness and compassion, you powerfully bring your heart and mind together as one.
Mindfulness in marriage is about being receptive to your relationship experience and being present without judgment, while loving kindness and compassion are about embracing the fact you want to be free of pain and suffering and that your true wish is to alleviate yourself, as well as others, from this suffering.
Why Do You Need Heartfulness?
So, why do you need heartfulness – that melding of mindfulness and compassion – in your relationship?
Because relationships are hard!
Applying heartfulness in your marriage can help you, as Dr. John Gottman explains, to soften your startup.
You are more able to be present, aware, and attentive of what you communicate and how it impacts your partner when you are talking to them.
Practicing this on a daily basis helps you to see things clearer, view interactions through a lens of kindness rather than judgment, and act with calm wisdom instead of reacting.
Softening the startup of your communications with your partner in this way will lead to a more stable and happy relationship.
The Benefits of Heartfulness
Approaching your marriage with heartfulness will produce numerous long-term benefits. Here are a few of the positive effects it can have on you and your spouse:
• The ability to handle difficult emotions with greater ease
• New perspectives on stressful situations
• More fluid communications
• Improved emotional well-being
• Transformation of your potentially difficult relationship
Integrating Heartfulness Into Your Marriage
The key to being heartful is to actively listen to your partner with an open heart and without judgment.
Instead of thinking of the next thing that you’re going to say, be present and compassionate to what your partner is going through and what they are trying to communicate.
The only way to do this is to step out of your own story so that you can fully take in and acknowledge what your partner is experiencing.
Now, I’m not saying that stepping out of your story is easy. By human nature, we’re all susceptible to falling prey to our own self-defeating narratives.
Getting unstuck from this place takes yet another level of heartfulness – one that is focused inward.
I’ve certainly experienced the challenge of focusing heartfulness inward.
There were times in my marriage where I became frustrated and critical with my late husband, Steve, saying things to him that could have been delivered more mindfully.
Luckily, he dabbled in eastern practices and psychology himself, so when he saw I was triggered he had the wisdom to gently guide me towards having more self-compassion.
In these instances, Steve would remind me to get in touch with my feelings and say,
“Why don’t you take a moment and give yourself some compassion
and then we can revisit and talk about what’s bothering you a bit later?”