by Tara Brach: Explore this practice for building connection—a sneak peek from Mindful’s feature story on relationships in the April 2017 issue…
Tara Brach and her husband, meditation teacher Jonathan Foust, have developed a regular practice for keeping the lines of communication open and maintaining a deep, loving connection. They engage in the practice two mornings a week. Here’s how Tara suggests going about it.
Practice: Keep the Lines Open
1) Begin by sitting silently together for 10-20 minutes, as time allows.
2) Next, take turns telling each other what you’re grateful for, what’s enlivening your heart at present. “This is called gladdening the heart and serves as a good way to open the channel of communication,” Tara says.
3) After individually expressing gratitude, take turns naming any particular challenges you’re dealing with that are currently causing you stress. These are difficulties you’re facing apart from your relationship.
4) Then, deepen your inquiry by taking turns noting anything that might be restricting the sense of love and openness you feel toward your partner. First, you might ask yourself: “What is between me and feeling openhearted and intimate with my partner?” This is potentially the stickiest part of the practice, as well as the most rewarding.
“What is between me and feeling openhearted and intimate with my partner?” This is potentially the stickiest part of the practice, as well as the most rewarding.
“Naming difficult truths is the best way to bring more love and understanding into a relationship,” explains Tara. For example, she says, “There are times when I get busy and Jonathan takes on a larger portion of the household responsibilities and ends up feeling unappreciated, and I need to be reminded to express my appreciation. When we acknowledge what could cause resentment if left unsaid, it brings us closer together.” But, she cautions, for this step to be productive, it’s essential for both partners to practice speaking and listening from a place of vulnerability, without blaming the other person.
5) Next, expand your inquiry to see whether there’s anyone in your wider circle of family, friends or society at large who’s important to you as an individual or as a couple, and who also calls out for your attention. Take turns identifying them, and sense what might serve well-being in this larger domain of relationship.
6) Lastly, enjoy some moments of silent appreciation together, ideally in a long, tender hug.