Through mindfulness practice we can begin to gain awareness and nurture three different types of relationships.
The first relationship is the one we have with time, we can learn to first of all “turn up” for our lives by connecting to the “now” or the “present moment”. We know that nearly 50 percent of our lives we are lost in thought. Our thoughts can bring us travelling through time, to yesterday, to last year, ten years ago, tomorrow, or next Summer. We can use mindfulness practice to help us reconnect to and bring awareness to our lives as they are happening.
One of the best ways to connect to the “present” is to notice your breathing, just noticing what it feels like to breathe in and breathe out, not changing the breath in anyway. You can say “here” as you breathe in and “now” as you breathe out. When we notice our breath like this we reconnect with “this moment” we let go of the thinking mind, and become familiar with a state of “being’”.
Other ways to bring your attention to the “present” is to connect to your senses, notice what you can see, hear, touch, feel and taste right now. The nature of mind is not to stay in the “present” it will move and wander through thoughts, through the past and future but we can keep reconnecting with the “present” using our senses as our anchor. As we continue to practice in this way, we develop an intimacy with our lives, each time we redirect out attention to the “now” we are deepening and strengthening our relationship with our natural state of “beingness” rather than thinking and doing.
When we have connected with the “present” we can begin to bring our awareness to our relationship with ourselves. We can notice what attitude we are bringing towards ourselves and our inner experiences. We can begin by bringing our attention to our bodies, noticing the feelings and sensations in each part of the body. We can also notice how we are relating to our body, what thoughts we are having about how our body looks and feels.
The first step is awareness and the next is allowing. See can you allow our bodies to be just as they are, with what they look like on the outside and with what they feel like on the inside. See can you open up space for all the bodily sensations you are experiencing, the pleasant, neutral and uncomfortable. We can begin to let go of judgment of wishing our bodies to be different, even for this little while, just letting our body be as it is, trusting that it is just as it needs to be right now. We can begin to cultivate a friendship with the self by bringing kindness, gentle and compassion to our awareness. See can you infuse your attention with kindness, particularly when you notice pain and discomfort in the body.
We can then bring awareness to our mind. Firstly, noticing the mind and how it feels right now, then bringing that sense of allowing, allowing our mind to be just as it is in this moment, letting go of resistance or judgement. Bringing kindness and compassion to our attention, especially if we notice discomfort in the mind. So again, we are opening up space for our mind to be just as it is, knowing that it is just as it needs to be in this moment.
Next, we bring our attention to our emotions, firstly noticing the sensations of emotions in the body, recognizing them and then allowing them to be as they are. Bringing that sense of kindness and gentleness to our attention. Holding our emotions in a loving awareness, the same kind of loving attention we might give to a young child.
Through this practice we have fully turned up for ourselves, connecting with the “present” and meeting ourselves in body, mind and heart, bringing a sense of allowing to our attention, allowing ourselves to be just as are in this moment with kindness, gentleness and compassion, cultivating a true friendship with ourselves.
When we have cultivated this awareness and friendship towards ourselves, this is a good point to begin bringing our awareness to our relationships with others. First of all, noticing how we are relating to others right now, what is our attitudes and feelings about our relationships and the people in our lives. Just like before, now bringing a sense of allowing, letting our attitudes and feelings be as they are without judging them or labelling them as right or wrong.
From this place we can begin the practice of Metta, picturing a person in our mind, seeing them as clearly as we can, noticing the good things about them and wishing them well, we can say phrases like:
May you be happy,
May you be healthy,
May you be safe,
May you be loved,
Or alternatively making up your own phrases. We can do this for our partner, children, family, friends, acquaintances, people we have difficulty with, and people or groups of people we don't know.
As we practice Metta, it is important that we maintain the practices of awareness and allowing. We don’t judge our practice or the feelings that arise from it. We know that however we feel as we practice, even if we experience resistance or discomfort is perfectly ok, we are simply planting a seed.
We can finish our metta practice by directing the phrases towards ourselves.
We can check in with these three relationships any time of the day, simply noticing am I connected to the present? What is my relationship with my body, mind and emotions in this moment and how am I relating to others? The practices described here will help you strengthen and nurture each of these types of relationships, helping you feel more connected to the “present”, to yourself and to the people around you.