Relationships are the stuff of life. To live in a community always means being in relationship with someone or something. Whether that's our loved ones, colleagues or even the environment. Relationships are a constant and they're fundamental to how we experience life.
This is one of the most talked about topics in my work as a coach and meditation teacher. When people learn to meditate, relationships are one of the first areas they notice positive change.
"I'm better able to listen"
"I feel more at ease around people"
"I'm more confident about my personal and emotional boundaries"
"My son and I have had much more laughs"
"I'm calmer and therefore more patient and loving"
Often it's the close, personal relationships that get highlighted most quickly. And sometimes new meditators report a shift in the way they interact with people around them who they don't know - whether it be the person serving them a coffee or the tourist asking for directions on the street corner.
Why is meditation such a powerful tool for bringing about an upgrade to relationships?
1. Relationships are all about giving
This is the fundamental principle that lies behind all relating: what you give is what you get. Give kindness and get kindness. Pay attention and receive attention. Offer up stress and you'll get stress back.
So what are you giving?
Are you giving tiredness, neediness, impatience, mixed messages, doubt or selfishness?
Or are you giving awareness, kindness, friendliness, patience, clarity, generosity?
Meditation transforms what you bring to a relationship. Without fatigue and stress getting in the way you bring your full awareness and energy to the other person. Then you give that which is needed and that which is of value in the moment.
2. Good relationships depend on empathy
To experience empathy is to understand and share the feelings of another person.
When you're stressed, your ability to recognize the experience and feelings of others goes down. When you are caught in the ever-repeating cycle of stress reactions you to go into survival mode - "How do I get through the day?" How do I get what I want? It's all about 'I, me, mine'. With meditation it moves to 'we, us, our'.
Meditation removes stress. When you're not stressed then you can think beyond yourself. What does this person need? Why are they behaving like this? What is she feeling right now? How can I help?
When you're able to move past the basics of 'what about me?' and into the realm of 'what about us?' then relationships are transformed.
3. Staying in the present moment is key
Meditation makes you more alert to the present moment. Rather than worrying about what's happened in the past or speculating about what might happen in the future, you're able to hold the present moment and tune in to the reality of the situation.
When you're more aware of the present, you're able to perceive more clearly. Then you are able to act in a way that is based on what's actually going on rather than some mistaken idea based on what you imagine. This immediately upgrades your interactions with other people. Perhaps you need to listen more, ask different questions, give someone some space or step up and do something? Awareness of the present will give you the information you need to act in a way that helps you and the people around you.
Meditation is key to keeping all three of these aspects lively and stable in your relationships. When you can give that which is of value, connect with others based on where they are at and stay tuned into the subtlety of the present moment, your relationships will be stronger and more balanced.
Jillian Lavender is co-founder and Director of London Meditation Centre and New York Meditation Center. She's a Vedic Wellness expert, teaching meditation, and mentoring in Ayurveda and sustainable living as well as mother to a three year old. To find out more go to londonmeditationcentre.com or follow Jillian on Instagram @londonmeditationcentre.