Mindful Sex is Better Sex

Mindful Sex is Better Sex

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When you apply mindfulness, meditation and yogic principles to your sex life, things begin to shift in a fantastic way.” – Courtney Avery

 

Relationships can be difficult as two individuals can and do frequently disagree or misunderstand one another. This is amplified in marriage where the couple interacts daily and frequently have to resolve difficult issues. Sex is a very important aspect of relationships. Problems with sex are very common and have negative consequences for relationships. While research suggests that sexual dysfunction is common, it is a topic that many people are hesitant or embarrassed to discuss. Women suffer from sexual dysfunction more than men with 43% of women and 31% of men reporting some degree of difficulty. Hence, sex has major impacts on people’s lives and relationships. Greater research attention to sexual and relationship satisfaction is warranted.

 

Mindfulness trainings have been shown to improve a variety of psychological issues including emotion regulationstress responsestraumafear and worryanxiety, and depression, and self-esteem. Mindfulness training has also been found to improve relationships and to be useful in treating sexual problems. But there is little empirical research. So, it makes sense to further investigate the relationship of mindfulness with couple’s sexual satisfaction.

 

In today’s Research News article “The role of sexual mindfulness in sexual wellbeing, Relational wellbeing, and self-esteem.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6640099/), Leavitt and colleagues recruited midlife (aged 35-60 years), heterosexual, married, men and women and had them complete a questionnaire measuring mindfulness, sexual mindfulness, including awareness and non-judgement of sexual experience, sexual satisfaction, relationship satisfaction, and self-esteem.

 

They found that the higher the levels of both the aware and non-judgement facets of sexual mindfulness the higher the levels of trait mindfulness and sexual satisfaction and the higher the levels of trait mindfulness the greater the sexual satisfaction. High levels of relationship satisfaction were associated with high levels of sexual satisfaction and self-esteem. They found that trait mindfulness and sexual mindfulness were additive in their associations with sexual satisfaction. Women but not men who were high in aware sexual mindfulness had greater sexual satisfaction. Finally, they found that high non-judgement sexual mindfulness was associated with higher levels of self-esteem.

 

These results suggest that mindfulness during sex, being aware of sensations and emotions and not judging the experience, is important for satisfaction with sex, the marital relationship, and self-esteem. In other words, sex is better when experienced mindfully, relationships are better when sex is better, and one feels better about oneself when sex is better. These results are correlational and causation cannot be determined. But the results are interesting and suggest that a randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of sexual mindfulness training to enhance satisfaction with sex and the relationship is justified.

 

Sex is fundamental to marital relationships and being mindful of the experience, both in terms of sensations and emotions, appears to be very important for the individual and the couple. Enhancing the sexual experience with mindfulness may well be an important therapeutic technique for enhancing satisfaction with marriage.

 

So, mindful sex is better sex.

 

“When people have sexual problems, a lot of the time it’s anxiety-related and they’re not really in their bodies, or in the moment. Mindfulness brings them back into the moment. When people say they’ve had the best sex and you ask them what they were thinking about, they can’t tell you, because they weren’t thinking about anything, they were just enjoying the moment. That’s mindfulness.” – Kate Moyle

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Leavitt, C. E., Lefkowitz, E. S., & Waterman, E. A. (2019). The role of sexual mindfulness in sexual wellbeing, Relational wellbeing, and self-esteem. Journal of sex & marital therapy, 45(6), 497–509. doi:10.1080/0092623X.2019.1572680

 

Abstract

In this study we examine the role of sexual mindfulness in individuals’ sexual satisfaction, relational satisfaction, and self-esteem. Midlife U.S. men and women (N = 194 married, heterosexual individuals; 50.7% female; 94% Caucasian, age range 35–60 years) completed an online survey. More sexually mindful individuals tended to have better self-esteem, be more satisfied with their relationships and, particularly for women, be more satisfied with their sex lives. Some of these associations occurred even after controlling for trait mindfulness. These findings may also allow researchers and therapists to better address an individual’s sexual wellbeing, relational wellbeing, and self-esteem by teaching sexual mindfulness skills.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6640099/

 

Improve Relationships with the Self and Others with Yoga Practice

Improve Relationships with the Self and Others with Yoga Practice

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Cultivating mindfulness can help you face the inevitable difficulties and disappointments that arise in relationship with equanimity, compassion, and loving-kindness.” – Phillip Moffit

 

Humans are social animals. This is a great asset for the species as the effort of the individual is amplified by cooperation. In primitive times, this cooperation was essential for survival. But in modern times it is also essential, not for survival but rather for making a living and for the happiness of the individual. This ability to cooperate is so essential to human flourishing that it is built deep into our DNA and is reflected in the structure of the human nervous system. Mindfulness has been found to improve relationships with others.

 

It is not only important to develop relationships with others but to also develop relationship with the self. There is a widespread problem in the West that many people don’t seem to like themselves. The antidote to self-dislike is self-compassion. Self-compassion is “treating oneself with kindness and understanding when facing suffering, seeing one’s failures as part of the human condition, and having a balanced awareness of painful thoughts and emotions” – Kristin Neff.  Unfortunately, there has been little systematic research of the effectiveness of yoga practice in developing relationships with the self and others.

 

In today’s Research News article “The Daily Influences of Yoga on Relational Outcomes Off of the Mat.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521757/), Kishida and colleagues recruited adult yoga practitioners. They had the participants report their yoga practice characteristics and then maintained an online 21-day diary of yoga practice, mindfulness, self-compassion, compassion, social connectedness, psychological health, and physical health.

 

They found that across days that the higher the level of mindfulness the higher the level of psychological health, self-compassion, compassion, and social connectedness. They also found that the greater the amount of yoga practice the higher the level of mindfulness and self-compassion. A mediation analysis revealed that yoga practice was associated with greater compassion and social connectedness in part directly and in part through its relationship with mindfulness, where yoga practice was associated with greater mindfulness which in turn was associated with greater compassion and social connectedness. In addition, daily yoga practice was associated with compassion both directly and indirectly through its relationship with self-compassion, where yoga practice was associated with greater self-compassion which in turn was associated with greater compassion.

 

This is a correlational study, so causation cannot be concluded, But previous studies have clearly shown that mindfulness practices such as yoga produce improvements in psychological health, self-compassion, compassion, and social connectedness. So, it is likely that yoga practice was the cause of the benefits reported in the present study.

 

Yoga is a mindfulness practice. The results suggest that yoga practice produces direct benefits for the psychological and social well-being of the practitioner in a direct manner. But the results also suggest that yoga practice improves mindfulness which in turn improves the practitioners psychological and social well-being. So, yoga practice by improving mindfulness produces benefits and yoga practice by itself also has its own benefits. These results suggest that practicing yoga make an individual happier with themselves and better able to engage with others.

 

So, improve relationships with the self and others with yoga practice.

 

“In the same way as yoga requires knowledge and skills for the perfection of the practice, relationships require relational skills in order for them to grow and unfold over time.” – Joel Feldman

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kishida, M., Mogle, J., & Elavsky, S. (2019). The Daily Influences of Yoga on Relational Outcomes Off of the Mat. International journal of yoga, 12(2), 103–113. doi:10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_46_18

 

Abstract

Background:

Despite the wide array of health benefits that have been evidenced with yoga, a clear gap exists examining how yoga impacts connections with oneself and to others.

Aims:

The objectives of the present study were twofold: (1) to describe the day-to-day (in)variability in daily yoga practice and relational outcomes and (2) to examine the direct and indirect effects of yoga practice on relational outcomes.

Methods:

Community-dwelling yoga practitioners (n = 104, age range: 18–76 years) with a yoga practice of at least once a week were recruited for a 21-day daily diary study. Practitioners were asked to complete daily Internet surveys at the end of the day which included questions with respect to one’s yoga practice and relational domains (i.e., mindfulness, [self-]compassion, and social connectedness).

Results:

Multilevel analyses revealed yoga and relational outcomes to be dynamic phenomena, indicated by substantial variation (intraclass correlations = 0.34–0.48) at the within-person level. On days when an individual practiced more yoga than their usual, greater mindfulness (b = 2.93, standard error [SE] = 0.39, P < 0.05) and self-compassion (b = 1.45, SE = 0.46, P < 0.05) were also reported. 1-1-1 multilevel mediation models demonstrated that yoga has an indirect effect on both compassion and social connectedness through increases in mindfulness at the within- and between-person levels. In models testing self-compassion as the mediator, the indirect effect of daily yoga practice on compassion was significant, although limited to the within-person level.

Conclusions:

These findings suggest that a routine yoga practice could positively impact how a practitioner relates to theirselves and to others, both on a day-to-day basis, and with accumulated practice.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521757/

 

Improve Romantic Relationship Satisfaction with Mindfulness

Improve Romantic Relationship Satisfaction with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“mindfulness is indeed linked with more satisfying relationships. . . Overall, mindfulness was shown to have a reliable effect on relationship satisfaction. . . Mindfulness makes us more compassionate and better able to stop destructive impulsive behavior. It can help us resolve conflict, rather than exacerbating it and be less reactive to relationship and life stressors.” – Melanie Greenberg

 

Relationships can be difficult as two individuals can and do frequently disagree or misunderstand one another. This is amplified in marriage where the couple interacts daily and frequently have to resolve difficult issues. These conflicts can produce strong emotions and it is important to be able to regulate these emotions in order to keep them from interfering with rational solutions to the conflict. The success of marriage can often depend upon how well the couple handles these conflicts. In fact, it has been asserted that the inability to resolve conflicts underlies the majority of divorces.

 

Mindfulness may be helpful in navigating marital disputes, as it has been shown to improve the emotion regulation and decrease anger and anxiety. It may be a prerequisite for deep listening and consequently to resolving conflict. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to improve relationships. So, mindfulness may be a key to successful relationships. One way that mindfulness may work to improve relationships is by reducing judgement and improving the acceptance of the romantic partner, including their imperfections. But, little is known about this, So, there is a need to investigate just how mindfulness effects couples partner acceptance and its effects on romantic relationship satisfaction.

 

In today’s Research News article “On the Association Between Mindfulness and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: the Role of Partner Acceptance.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6153889/ ), Kappen and colleagues recruited adults on-line who were involved in a romantic relationship and had them complete measures of trait mindfulness, partner acceptance and relationship satisfaction. They found that mindfulness was associated with greater relationship satisfaction both directly and as a result of mindfulness being associated with greater partner acceptance which was, in turn, associated with greater relationship satisfaction.

 

In another study they recruited adult mindfulness trainees who were involved in a romantic relationship and their partners. They measured trait mindfulness, partner acceptance and relationship satisfaction in the primary participant and trait mindfulness, perceived acceptance by their partner, and relationship satisfaction in their romantic partner. They found similar relationships as in the first study but also found additionally that the mindfulness associated improvement in partner acceptance was associated with increased perception by their romantic partner of acceptance. This, in turn, was associated by improved relationship satisfaction in the romantic partner.

 

These findings are correlational, so causation cannot be determined. But, they suggest that the individual’s level of mindfulness plays an important role in promoting a satisfying relationship. It appears to do so both directly and indirectly through partner acceptance. As an additional benefit, that partner acceptance appears to be affect the partner by being associated with the perception that their partner accepts them with all their imperfections and this promotes better satisfaction with the relationship. Hence, mindfulness appears to be associated with better romantic relationships in both the individual and their partner.

 

So, improve romantic relationship satisfaction with mindfulness.

 

In applying mindfulness to our intimate relationships, we find a greater relationship satisfaction, better communication, more skillful responses to relationship stress, increased empathy, greater acceptance of our partners, and increased sensuality within physical intimacy.“ – Sean Courey-Pickering

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Kappen, G., Karremans, J. C., Burk, W. J., & Buyukcan-Tetik, A. (2018). On the Association Between Mindfulness and Romantic Relationship Satisfaction: the Role of Partner Acceptance. Mindfulness, 9(5), 1543–1556. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-0902-7

 

Abstract

In three studies, it was investigated whether trait mindfulness is positively associated with partner acceptance, defined as the ability and willingness to accept the partner’s imperfections, and whether partner acceptance explains the association between trait mindfulness and relationship satisfaction. Trait mindfulness, partner acceptance and relationship satisfaction were assessed in two MTurk samples (n1 = 190; n2 = 140) and a sample of participants of a mindfulness-based stress reduction course (n3 = 118) and their partners (53 complete couples), using self-report measures. In all three samples, trait mindfulness was related to partner acceptance and in two out of three studies trait mindfulness was directly positively related to relationship satisfaction. Also, the results provided initial support for the mediating role of partner acceptance in the association between mindfulness and relationship satisfaction. Dyadic data further suggested that the benefits of mindfulness and partner acceptance on relationship satisfaction extend from the individual to the partner through increased partner acceptance. Together, the results provide initial support for the hypothesis that partner acceptance may be an important mechanism through which mindfulness promotes relationship satisfaction in both partners of a romantic couple.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6153889/

 

The Noble Eightfold Path with Relationships

The Noble Eightfold Path with Relationships

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When we have closer intimate relationships, maybe a marital relationship or lover relationship where sexuality is involved, then we assume we want more from each other. And, there’s the rub. This is where the Buddhist idea of true love helps. True love is where you want the happiness of the beloved; it’s not that you want something from the beloved. You just want to give to the beloved. Shantideva said, “All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come through wanting happiness for oneself.” – Robert Thurman

 

Probably the best place to practice the Eightfold Path is not on the meditation mat or in a cloistered environment but in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. There are wonderful opportunities to practice presented to us all the time embedded in the complexities of the modern world. In fact, the whole idea of practicing on the mat is to learn things that will apply to our everyday existence. What better place is there, then, than the real environment to practice them.

 

In previous essays, we discussed driving an automobile and the work environment as excellent venues for practice. In today’s essay we’ll discuss practicing in the midst of our relationships with significant others. This is an excellent context in which to practice the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. It is filled with emotions, desires, sex, conflicts, suffering, compassion, and memories. In other words, our relationships have all the ingredients to practice and to put to the test all the principles of mindfulness and the Eightfold Path for the cessation of suffering; Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

 

There are many wonderful opportunities in relationships to practice the Right View idea of impermanence. Indeed, our relationships are constantly changing. One day is full of love, understanding and kindness and the next filled with conflict, resentment, and anger. No matter how bad or good the relationships are or the daily interactions between partners, they are sure to change. Sexual relations are a wonderful example of impermanence, with desires and feeling changing dramatically from moment to moment, but none of it can be held onto for more than a moment. They come and they go. They’re impermanent. This exemplifies the Right View idea of transitoriness. We all grow and develop and change throughout our lifetime and these changes can be challenging for relationships. There’s an old story about relationships that upon marriage, the woman believes that the man will change, but he doesn’t, while the man believes that the woman will never change, but she does! Adapting and coping with these changes requires that we understand impermanence, the Right View.

 

We can also practice the Right View idea of interconnectedness. Relationships are cooperative ventures. How interconnected the couple is, is on display. Relationships require consideration of the needs and aspirations of both partners by both partners. Acting alone would is a sure formula for chaos and conflict in a relationship. You affect your partner and your partner affects you, which affects your partner, which, in turn, affects you and so on. If there are children involved this interconnectedness becomes magnified. Keep in mind “If you want to be happy effectively, then think about other people’s happiness and you will be. Think about your own happiness only, and you will always be dissatisfied because you will never have enough.”  – Robert Thurman. Understanding and adapting to the dynamic interplay between partners requires that we recognize, adapt to, and work with this interconnectedness, the Right View.

 

In relationships we can also view and practice the Right View idea of no permanent self. This thing called self that you think of a permanent and static actually changes moment to moment in reaction to what transpires in relationships. How you view yourself and your beliefs about the supposed self can change in a flash depending upon what your partner says and does. You may think of yourself as a kind and loving person, but your partner treats you like a selfish and cruel person. This can change this idea of the self. A little mindful reflection regarding this reveals that this thing that we call the self was never permanent in the first place but changing and evolving, coming and going, just like everything else. The highly emotionally charged cauldron of relationships amplifies this and makes it clearer and clearer. This is a tremendous learning experience. Coming to grips with this requires that we develop the Right View of no permanent self.

 

It is hard to find a better context than relationships to develop the Right View idea of suffering and unsatisfactoriness, and their roots. In relationships we want everything to be exactly as we want it to be, and when it isn’t we suffer. We want our partners to understand us, we want sex to fulfill our fantasies, we want to always be agreed with, we want more excitement and less dull chores, we want our partners to acquiesce to all our decisions, we want to have space, we don’t want to deal with our in-laws, we want our partners to unconditionally love us, etc. When these things don’t happen, we suffer. In other words, you can learn, if you are observant of what is happening in relationships, that your suffering is caused by your lack of acceptance of how things really are in your relationship. So, relationships constitute wonderful laboratories to practice Right View. You can learn to accept things as they are, to see things without judgment, to view the relationship, your partner, and children just as they are, as individual human being with their own desires and needs. When you view them this way, the love grows, and the incredible wonder of life and loving begins to reveal itself. You can learn to understand that the way you act with them has consequences, affecting yourself and the rest of the family, in other words, you practice and develop Right View.

 

You can readily practice Right Intentions in relationships and this can lead to Right Actions. Intentions are a key. They become your moral compass. These intentions include the happiness of our partner. “True love is where you want the happiness of the beloved; it’s not that you want something from the beloved.”  – Robert Thurman. They tend to lead you in the right direction even though you may at times stumble.  But, it is often difficult or impossible to predict all of the consequences of your actions. Sometimes, even with the Right Intentions you can cause your partner to suffer. For example, you may want to provide a high standard of living for your partner and family and work long hours to do so. But, this may cause your partner to be lonely and unhappy or your children to feel neglected. You need to try to not only to have Right Intentions, but to discern how even the best of intentions can sometime produce harmful outcomes. The truly Right Intentions do not produce harm, only good. You have to sometimes balance the good you’re doing with the harm produced by the same actions. This requires Right View. This is where relationships can be such a great practice as you can learn what works and what doesn’t and become better at discerning what are the wholesome Right Actions from those that produce more harm than good.

 

Right Intentions also includes the abandonment of unwholesome desires. If you relate to your partner with anger, impatience, selfishness, resentment you are likely to harm them and yourself. The harm may not be major or direct, but indirect by affecting partner and children in negative ways. Perhaps your anger at your partner overdrawing a checking account causes you to lash out at your children. Perhaps, your selfishness causes you to neglect you partners requests or needs eliciting frustration or anger in your partner, or simply cause them to suffer. But sometimes you can produce direct harm to your partner. This can occur when anger and alcohol result in physical or psychological abuse or when your sexual desires cause you to force yourself on an unwilling partner.

 

On the other hand, if you practice Right Intentions with sincere intentions to create good and happiness, relieve suffering, you will treat your partner with tolerance and understanding, with kindness and good will. When our partners are treated with respect, compassion, and helpfulness or when a partner’s anger or frustration are reacted to with patience, kindness, and tolerance, harm and suffering have likely been prevented. A considerate sexual relationship, where the intentions are to love and satisfy your partner, the relationship will become more satisfying for both of you, particularly if your partner has the same Right Intentions. The happiness and love produced carries into everything that you do affecting how you treat you children, your friends, your coworkers, and everyone that you meet. It is good to reflect on the ripples of good that may have been created by the Right Actions producing positive consequences, which produce more positive consequences, producing more positive consequences, etc. well into the future. So, if you form Right Intentions and aspire to create good and happiness you’ll be a better partner and will produce more harmony and good will in in all of your interactions and more importantly will be moving yourself along the eightfold path.

 

There are many opportunities to practice Right Speech in relationships. This can include non-verbal communications such as facial expressions, body postures, etc., perhaps even holding hands or loving glances. But, predominantly Right Speech is verbal. You may have a bad habit of often reacting to a mistake with reflexive emotional expletives. This can occur in response to something as simple as dropping a glass of wine. This can also include gestures. These can occur reflexively or even without awareness but do no good and create harm in yourself and sometimes aggravate your partner. Keep in mind the advice “Have a fast ear and a slow tongue.” ~Mark Ward. Right Speech also involves refraining from gossip. Couples often gossip or repeat rumors about family and friends. This can hurt others in unpredictable and sometimes unknown ways. In addition, Right Speech is truthful speech. In communicating with your partner only speak things that you know are absolutely true. Even “little white lies” have a cumulative effect eroding trust and understanding, while always speaking the truth promotes trust, understanding, and harmony. Right Speech takes practice. We have years of training and daily multiple examples of wrong speech. So, be patient and practice. Slowly the effects and benefits will become apparent.

 

The notion of Right Livelihood mandates that the couple’s occupations not only earns a living but also creates greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieves suffering. Conversely, they should not produce harm. Some occupations can be clearly seen as creating harm such as manufacturing, selling, or delivering weapons, cigarettes, or harmful drugs, human trafficking, or driving animals to slaughter. Some occupations clearly seem to create greater good and happiness, such as teacher, aid worker, nurse, etc. But, most occupations are a little more difficult to tell. Sometimes harm is produced indirectly, such as by damaging the environment, or resulting in layoffs from a competitor, or by producing goods or services that can be misused or used by others to create harm. Although rarely having direct effects upon relationships, engaging in Right Livelihood can do so indirectly. Feeling good about what you do for work can spill over bringing those good feelings home. Also, developing the discernment required to understand the impact of your occupations is a useful skill for understanding the impact of your actions upon your partner.

 

Relationships also present a great context to practice Right Effort. It takes substantial effort to interact mindfully. If you act automatically as most people do most of the time, there is little or no mindfulness and little or no effort.  When you first get up in the morning you have to set the intention to engage in your daily activities in such a way as to lessen suffering in yourself and your partner, to act with kindness, compassion, patience, and courtesy, to drop fear, anger, hatred, selfishness, and to bring to our interactions with our partner the intention to promote well-being and happiness. Right Effort is working the “Middle Way.” That is not trying too hard and getting stressed about interacting and loving properly, and also not being lackadaisical, but rather to try, but relax. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re not relating to your partner mindfully, but congratulate yourself when you do. The “Middle Way” is where effort should be targeted.

 

Acting mindlessly is probably the norm. Most people perform their routine daily activities while their minds are elsewhere, ruminating about the past, planning for the future, or off in fantasy and daydreams. This provides you with a terrific opportunity to practice Right Mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” What better opportunity to practice this than while your interacting with your partner? Right Mindfulness precludes focusing on social media or engaging in other distractions when with your partner. Right Mindfulness makes you acutely aware of what is happening and how you’re feeling during every moment together. Awareness of how you’re feeling and what’s producing those feelings, and how you’re reacting to them makes you better able to interact effectively without emotional outbursts that are non-productive and can hurt your partner. Right Mindfulness is not just part of the eightfold path it is a prerequisite for the practice of the seven other components of the path. So, relating mindfully is a fundamental practice and relationships are great situations for practice.

 

Right Concentration is the practice of focusing the mind solely on one object or a specific unchanging set of objects. This is developed during contemplative practice such as meditation. It is essential to effectively interacting with you partner. Our world is replete with distractions and interruptions. But, to truly be attentive and listening mindfully to our partner we must concentrate. Right Concentration in relationships includes making the effort to be there for your partner and deeply listen to them. There are very few more important things that you can do in relationships than to simply give your partner your full presence, your full attention, your full mindfulness. Improvement in attentional ability is a consequence of practicing Right Concentration. The ability to concentrate and screen out intrusive sounds, sights, speech and thoughts allow you to focus on your partner, producing a higher quality relationship. In addition, it is thought that Right Concentration requires Right Effort, Right Intentions, and Right Mindfulness and these can also be practiced and developed. So, interacting with our beloved is a wonderful situation for the practice of Right Concentration, benefiting each partner.

 

Negotiating the eightfold path in relationships is not easy. But, remember that it is a practice. Over time you’ll better and better at it, but nowhere near perfect. Frequently the discursive mind takes over or your emotions will get the better of you. But, by continuing the practice you’ll slowly progress. you’ll become a better partner and have a more relaxed, loving, and happier relationship. Keep in mind the teaching that actions that lead to greater harmony and happiness should be practiced, while those that lead to unsatisfactoriness and unhappiness should be let go. One of the keys in the practice is mindfully observing your partner and yourself. This allows you to discern the improvements even when they’re small and subtle.  Over time, these small improvements add up.  Without doubt, practicing the eightfold path lead to a terrific, happy, satisfying, loving relationship.

 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

Better Relationships with Mindfulness

Better Relationships with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“In romantic relationships, we make ourselves vulnerable to the good will of our relationship partner. Our fears of being hurt in this vulnerable state can make us more reactive, and we run the risk of self-sabotaging, not acting in our best interest in relation to the ones we love. Mindfulness presents a valuable tool for facing the daily challenges of staying close to our partner. It allows us to become more centered and calm, so we can talk things out instead of spiraling into a screaming match.” – Lisa Firestone

 

Relationships can be difficult as two individuals can and do frequently disagree or misunderstand one another. This is amplified in marriage where the couple interacts daily and frequently have to resolve difficult issues. These conflicts can produce strong emotions and it is important to be able to regulate these emotions in order to keep them from interfering with rational solutions to the conflict. The success of marriage can often depend upon how well the couple handles these conflicts. In fact, it has been asserted that the inability to resolve conflicts underlies the majority of divorces.

 

Mindfulness may be helpful in navigating marital disputes, as it has been shown to improve the emotion regulation and decrease anger and anxiety. It may be a prerequisite for deep listening and consequently to resolving conflict. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to improve relationships. So, mindfulness may be a key to successful relationships. There is a need to investigate just how mindfulness effects couples and their behaviors during their daily interactions. In today’s Research News article “The Role of Mindfulness in Daily Relationship Process: Examining Daily Conflicts and Relationship Mood.” (See summary below). Iida & Shapiro recruited cohabitating heterosexual couples (average age 34 years). They had both partners complete daily for 24 days on-line measures of mindfulness, conflict with partner, and relationship mood including satisfaction, feeling loved, feeling supported, relationship anger, relationship anxiety, and relationship sadness.

 

In general, they found that women reported greater satisfaction and feeling supported in their relationships than men. Their partner’s mindfulness was associated with women’s satisfaction. It was positively related to their male partner’s mindfulness; the more mindful the men, the more satisfied the women. Conflict reduced satisfaction, feeling supported, and feeling loved, and increased anger and relationship anxiety in both men and women. Men’s mindfulness was positively associated with their feeling loved, the more mindful the men were, the more loved they felt. Men’s mindfulness also moderated the effects of conflict on feeling supported, relationship anxiety, and relationship anger with the more mindful men having a greater decrease in feeling supported and more relationship anger and increases in relationship anxiety when there was conflict. Women’s mindfulness was negatively associated with their relationship anxiety and positively with relationship sadness, the more mindful the women were the less relationship anxiety and the greater sadness they felt.

 

These are very interesting results that begin to uncover how mindfulness effects relationships and indicate how mindfulness plays an important role in daily relationship process. Mindfulness appears to be associated with more positive moods and less negative moods in relationships. Although conflict appears to affect men and women equally, otherwise the genders have different responses to their own and their partner’s mindfulness. “Mindfulness in men was associated with them feeling more loved and supported in their relationship. Mindfulness in women was associated with them feeling less anxiety and sadness in their relationships.” Mindful men also appear to be more sensitive to the effects of conflict feeling greater anxiety and less loved.

 

The results clearly demonstrate the importance of mindfulness to the feelings of the partners during everyday situations. Although men and women appear to react to some extent differently, mindfulness for both contributes to greater positive feelings and lower negative feelings. It will be important for future studies to investigate the effect of mindfulness training on the emotions surrounding relationships. The results clear suggest that mindfulness contributes to happier more stable relationships.

 

So, have better relationships with mindfulness.

 

“Mindfulness requires an intentional and honest look at the connection we feel with those around us. It is only after we acknowledge the current state of our connection that we can aspire to deepen it in small ways.” – Via Aarathi Selvan

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Iida, M. & Shapiro, A.F. The Role of Mindfulness in Daily Relationship Process: Examining Daily Conflicts and Relationship Mood. Mindfulness (2017). doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0727-9

 

Abstract

The current study examined the role of trait mindfulness in daily relationship mood and relationship processes in cohabiting couples. Forty-seven couples participated in 24-day online daily questionnaires. Mindfulness in men was associated with higher levels of feeling loved and feeling supported, and mindfulness in women was associated with lower levels of relationship anxiety and relationship sadness. Mindfulness moderated the association between relationship conflict and anxiety, such that men with more mindfulness experienced a larger decrease in feeling supported, and a bigger increase in relationship anxiety, on conflict days compared to non-conflict day levels. These findings overall suggest that trait mindfulness is indeed beneficial for positive relationship process on a day-to-day basis, but that associations are somewhat complex, and also that individual-level trait mindfulness alone may not be sufficient for buffering individuals from the negative impact of conflict.

Reduce Couples Psychological Distress with Lung Cancer with Mindfulness

Reduce Couples Psychological Distress with Lung Cancer with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based clinical interventions are low-cost and low-risk mind-body practices that have been shown to positively affect quality of life and biological outcomes in many different populations, including cancer patients and healthcare professionals.” – Susan Bauer-Wu

 

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer has a huge impact on most people. Feelings of depression, anxiety, and fear are very common and are normal responses to this life-changing and potentially life-ending experience. These feeling can result from changes in body image, changes to family and work roles, feelings of grief at these losses, and physical symptoms such as pain, nausea, or fatigue. People might also fear death, suffering, pain, or all the unknown things that lie ahead. So, coping with the emotions and stress of a cancer diagnosis is a challenge and there are no simple treatments for these psychological sequelae of cancer diagnosis.

 

But cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. Over half of the people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 10 years later and this number is rapidly increasing. It is estimated that 15 million adults and children with a history of cancer are alive in the United States today. But, surviving cancer carries with it a number of problems. “Physical, emotional, and financial hardships often persist for years after diagnosis and treatment. Cancer survivors are also at greater risk for developing second cancers and other health conditions.” National Cancer Survivors Day.

 

One of the residual problems can be relationship difficulties. When one member of a couple receives a cancer diagnosis it places stress on both members and their relationship. A partner can be an asset in coping with cancer or can add to the stress exacerbating the situation. Communications and compassion become a key for couples coping with cancer. Mindfulness may be helpful. It has been shown to improve recovery from cancer and to reduce anxiety and depression in people with a wide variety of conditions. In addition, mindfulness training has been shown to strengthen relationships. So, it would make sense to study the effects of mindfulness on cancer victims, their partners and their relationship.

 

In today’s Research News article “Are Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Related to Psychological Distress and Communication in Couples Facing Lung Cancer? A Dyadic Approach,” see summary below or view the full text of the study at:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5355515/

Schellekens and colleagues recruited lung cancer patients and their partners. Patients were recruited at least one month after diagnosis and had either completed treatment or were currently being treated. Both partners completed measures of relationship characteristics, mindfulness, self-compassion, psychological distress, and communications about cancer.

 

They found that both higher levels of both mindfulness and self-compassion were related to lower levels of psychological distress in both patients and their partners and were also related to better quality of communication about the cancer, but only in patients. Neither the mindfulness or the self-compassion levels of the patients were associated with the partner’s psychological distress or visa-versa. Interestingly, the levels of self-compassion in the individual were less strongly associated with psychological distress if the partner also reported high levels of self-compassion. So, the partner’s level of compassion appears to affect the need of the individual to use their own self-compassion to mitigate psychological distress.

 

These results are interesting and suggest that mindfulness and self-compassion reduce psychological distress in both members of the partnership when one is diagnosed with lung cancer. They also suggest that self-compassion can also affect the partner’s processing of psychological issues, indicating a degree of influence of one partner on another. It should be noted that this study was correlational in nature and as such causation cannot be concluded. But, it does suggest that a randomized controlled trial should be conducted of the effects of mindfulness training on the psychological distress of cancer victims and their partners and how each affects the other.

 

So, reduce couples psychological distress with lung cancer with mindfulness.

 

“Studies show that patients who practice mindfulness begin to feel better despite their medical problems. Physical symptoms don’t necessarily go away, but that’s not the aim of mindfulness. Rather, the goal is to help you find a different perspective and a new way of coping with your illness.” – Eric Tidline

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Schellekens, M. P. J., Karremans, J. C., van der Drift, M. A., Molema, J., van den Hurk, D. G. M., Prins, J. B., & Speckens, A. E. M. (2017). Are Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Related to Psychological Distress and Communication in Couples Facing Lung Cancer? A Dyadic Approach. Mindfulness8(2), 325–336. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0602-0

 

Abstract

Lung cancer patients and their spouses report high rates of distress. Due to the increasing popularity of and evidence for mindfulness-based interventions in cancer, mindfulness and self-compassion have been identified as potentially helpful skills when coping with cancer. This dyadic study examined how mindfulness and self-compassion are related to psychological distress and communication about cancer in couples facing lung cancer. Using the actor-partner interdependence model, self-reported mindfulness, self-compassion, psychological distress and communication about cancer were analyzed in a cross-sectional sample of 88 couples facing lung cancer. Regarding psychological distress, no difference was found between patients and spouses. In both partners, own levels of mindfulness (B = −0.19, p = .002) and self-compassion (B = −0.45, p < .001) were negatively related to own distress levels. At a dyadic level, own self-compassion was less strongly associated with distress if the partner reported high self-compassion (B = 0.03, p = .049). Regarding communication about cancer, patients reported to communicate more openly with their partner than with spouses. However, after controlling for gender, this difference was no longer significant. In both partners, own self-compassion (B = 0.03, p = .010) was significantly associated with own communication while mindfulness was not. A trend showed that mindfulness of the partner was related to more open communication in the individual (B = 0.01, p = .080). These findings give a first indication that mindfulness and self-compassion skills may go beyond the individual and could impact couple functioning. Future research should examine whether couples facing (lung) cancer may benefit from programs in which mindfulness and self-compassion are cultivated.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5355515/

Reduce Marital Conflict with Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation

Reduce Marital Conflict with Mindfulness and Emotion Regulation

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Even in healthy relationships, conflict is inevitable—it’s how you cope with conflict that matters. Coping badly increases stress, and research has shown that too much stress in romantic relationships can put people at risk for mental and physical health problems. According to two new studies, cultivating non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness—or mindfulness—might help people feel less stress when conflict arises with their significant other.” – Emily Nauman

 

Relationships can be difficult as two individuals can and do frequently disagree or misunderstand one another. This is amplified in marriage where the couple interacts daily and frequently have to resolve difficult issues. These conflicts can produce strong emotions and it is important to be able to regulate these emotions in order to keep them from interfering with rational solutions to the conflict. The success of marriage can often depend upon how well the couple handles these conflicts. In fact, it has been asserted that the inability to resolve conflicts underlies the majority of divorces.

 

Mindfulness may be helpful in navigating marital disputes, as it has been shown to improve the emotion regulation. The great sage Thich Nhat Hahn stated that “If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.” This is a beautiful thought and suggests that we should be in the present moment and completely attentive to our loved ones when we are with them. When any two people interact paying real-time attention to the other is rare. This lack of “presence” can make it difficult to resolve conflict. To successfully negotiate disagreement, it is imperative that each individual truly hears the other perspective. Mindfulness is a prerequisite for deep listening and consequently to resolving conflict. Indeed, mindfulness has been shown to improve relationships. So, mindfulness training may improve couple’s ability to resolve conflict in marriage.

 

In today’s Research News article “Comparing the effectiveness of mindfulness and emotion regulation training in reduction of marital conflicts.” See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5327703/

Molajafar and colleagues investigated the effectiveness of mindfulness training and emotion regulation training in assisting couples in dealing with marital conflict. They recruited couples who were referred for treatment due to marital problems and divided them into a mindfulness training (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy, MBCT), an emotion regulation training, and a no-treatment control condition. Both treatments were delivered in 8 weekly 90-minute sessions. Before and after the 8-week treatment period all three groups were measured for marital conflicts including the reduction of the couple’s cooperation, reduction of sexual relationships, increase of emotional reactions, increase of asking for children’s support, increase of personal relationships with their own relatives, reduction of personal relationships with the partners’ relatives and friends and separation of financial issues.

 

They found that in comparison to the no-treatment control both treatments produced a significant decrease in marital conflicts, but the emotion regulation treatment was significantly superior to the mindfulness training in reducing marital conflict. These results suggest that emotion regulation is the most important skill needed to effectively manage marital conflict. Mindfulness training is also effective but may be so as a result of improving emotion regulation. These are interesting and potentially important findings that treatment for marital problems should focus on emotion regulation. It remains for future research to study whether emotion regulation training and mindfulness training may have additive effects such that the two in combination have a greater impact on the couple’s ability to resolve conflict than either alone.

 

The ubiquitous nature of marital conflicts and the high rate of marital failure and divorce suggests that there is a great need for discovering methods to help couples effectively navigate conflicts. Effective emotion regulation ability appears to be crucial. It involves fully experiencing emotions but reacting to them in a productive and adaptive way. The results of this study suggest that mindfulness and emotion regulation training may be an effective way to do this.

 

So, reduce marital conflict with mindfulness and emotion regulation.

 

“Many marriages run into problems because each partner wrongly believes the following:
“if only my husband (wife) were more (less)…, then I would be happy.”  Or, simply put, “fix him (her)”.  Recognizing and giving up this false belief is one of the most important steps you can take towards improving your marriage.”
– Suzanne Burger

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Molajafar, H., Mousavi, S., Lotfi, R., Seyedeh Madineh Ghasemnejad, & Falah, M. (2015). Comparing the effectiveness of mindfulness and emotion regulation training in reduction of marital conflicts. Journal of Medicine and Life, 8(Spec Iss 2), 111–116.

 

Abstract

Introduction:this study aimed to compare the effectiveness of mindfulness and emotion regulation training in the reduction of marital conflicts.

Methodology:the present evaluation was a quasi-experimental study with a pretest-posttest design and a control group. The population consisted of all clients who referred to Moein Counseling Center in Alborz province (Spring 2014) due to marital problems. Using the simple random sampling method, 45 married people were selected as the sample and divided into two experimental groups (15 participants in each) and a control group (15 participants). Mindfulness training sessions were held for the first experimental group and emotion regulation training sessions were held for the second experimental group while, the participants in the control group did not receive any training. The Marital Conflicts Questionnaire was used for data collection and the obtained data were analyzed through descriptive statistics and analysis of covariance.

Results: the results confirmed the main hypothesis of this study regarding the effectiveness of mindfulness and emotion regulation training in reduction of marital conflicts (p<0.001, F=43.41).

Discussion and conclusion: there was a significant difference between mindfulness training and emotion regulation training in the reduction of marital conflicts; thus, compared to the mindfulness training, emotion regulation training can be considered a more effective treatment of marital conflicts.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5327703/

 

Increase Connectedness by Meditating in Pairs

Increase Connectedness by Meditating in Pairs

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Couples meditation provides a great way for you and your partner to tune your instruments to one another. By taking a few minutes to meditate with your partner, you greatly increase your chances of having meaningful conversation and intimate connection. Couples meditation is a way of bringing your emotional state and psychological rhythms into alignment.” –  John Wise

 

Meditation training has been shown to improve health and well-being. It has also been found to be effective for a large array of medical and psychiatric conditions, either stand-alone or in combination with more traditional therapies. As a result, meditation training has been called the third wave of therapies. One problem with understanding meditation effects is that there are, a wide variety of meditation techniques and it is not known which work best for improving different conditions. Also, meditation occurs in a variety of social conditions. It is practiced, alone, with another, dyad, or with groups of varying sizes. It is not known what the effects, if any, of these different social conditions might be on the effectiveness of meditation practice.

 

Four types of meditation are the most commonly used practices for research purposes. In body scan meditation, the individual focuses on the feelings and sensations of specific parts of the body, systematically moving attention from one area to another. Loving kindness meditation is designed to develop kindness and compassion to oneself and others. The individual systematically pictures different individuals from self, to close friends, to enemies and wishes them happiness, well-being, safety, peace, and ease of well-being. In focused attention meditation, the individual practices paying attention to a single meditation object, learns to filter out distracting stimuli, including thoughts, and learns to stay focused on the present moment, filtering out thoughts centered around the past or future. On the other hand, in open monitoring meditation, the individual opens up awareness to everything that’s being experienced regardless of its origin. These include bodily sensations, external stimuli, and even thoughts. The meditator just observes these stimuli and lets them arise, and fall away without paying them any further attention.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Contemplative Dyads on Engagement and Perceived Social Connectedness Over 9 Months of Mental Training: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” See:summary below, Kok and Singer investigate the effectiveness of loving kindness meditation and open monitoring meditation practiced in dyads; meditating in pairs. They recruited normal adults aged between 20 to 55 and randomly assigned them to two different orders of conditions in a complex research design. Training in meditation began with a 3-day retreat, followed by 3 months of home-based breath focused attention and body scan meditations practiced in pairs, dyads. The first group of participants then spent 3 months practicing loving kindness meditation in combination with a taking turns for 5-minutes describing feelings and bodily sensations during a difficult situation. The next 3 months they practiced open monitoring meditation in combination with a taking turns for 5-minutes describing a recent situation from the perspective of a randomly assigned “inner part.,” e.g. “the judge” or “the loving mother.” The second group reversed the order to these home-based 3-month dyadic practices.  The participants reported daily on their feeling states, contents of thought, meta-cognition, closeness to their partner, valence, and arousal.

 

They found that the participants liked the loving kindness meditation segment best. Self-disclosures increased and became more personal over the training but this did not differ between conditions. Both conditions also produced significant increases in felt closeness to the partner, but the loving kindness meditation segment produced the greatest increase and the fastest rate of increase in this sense of connectedness.

 

These results suggest that meditating in pairs is an effective technique producing the usual benefits of meditation and also a social benefit of increasing felt closeness and self-disclosure. This could help in relieving loneliness that is often associated with depression. Loving kindness meditation appeared to be best in promoting these social benefits. Future research needs to investigate the impact of this improved social connectedness on the physical and mental health of the participants. This research is a step in the right direction of better understanding the consequences of different meditation types performed in different social conditions. Such an understanding should improve the targeting of specific meditation techniques to specific physical or psychological needs.

 

So, increase connectedness by meditating in pairs.

 

 “If you are partnered perhaps either you haven’t felt as connected as you used to or things are going great but you want to make them even better. In either case, meditating together daily, or as often as possible, could make a big difference in the quality of your relationship.” – Your Tango

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

Kok BE, Singer T. Effects of Contemplative Dyads on Engagement and Perceived Social Connectedness Over 9 Months of Mental Training A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online December 28, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.3360

 

Key Points

Question  Can 2 newly developed dyadic contemplative exercises increase perceived social connectedness?

Findings  In this randomized clinical trial of 242 healthy adults, social closeness increased during a 10-minute dyadic practice session for both the socioaffective affect dyad and the sociocognitive perspective dyad. Furthermore, predyad social closeness and self-disclosure increased significantly for both dyads over the 3 months of a given training module.

Meaning  Contemplative dyadic exercises may effectively prevent or reduce the detrimental effects of loneliness and the social deficits often observed in many psychopathologies by increasing perceived social connectedness.

Abstract

IMPORTANCE:

Loneliness is a risk factor for depression and other illnesses and may be caused and reinforced by maladaptive social cognition. Secularized classical meditation training programs address social cognition, but practice typically occurs alone. Little is known about the effectiveness of contemplative practice performed in dyads.

OBJECTIVE:

To introduce and assess the effectiveness of contemplative dyadic practices relative to classical-solitary meditation with regard to engagement and perceived social connectedness.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS:

The ReSource Project was a 9-month open-label efficacy trial of three, 3-month secularized mental training modules. Replacement randomization was used to assign 362 healthy participants in Leipzig and Berlin, Germany. Eligible participants were recruited between November 11, 2012, and February 13, 2013, and between November 13, 2013, and April 30, 2014. Intention-to-treat analyses were conducted.

INTERVENTIONS:

Breathing meditation and body scan (the presence module), loving-kindness meditation and affect dyad (the affect module), and observing-thoughts meditation and perspective dyad (the perspective module).

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES:

Primary outcomes were self-disclosure and social closeness. Engagement measures included compliance (ie, the mean [95% margin of error] number of meditation sessions that a participant engaged in per week), liking, and motivation to practice.

RESULTS:

Thirty participants dropped out after assignment to 3 experimental groups; 90 participants were assigned to a retest control that did not complete the main outcome measures; 16 participants provided no state-change data for the affect and perspective modules (226 remaining participants; mean age of 41.15 years; 59.3% female). Results are aggregated across training cohorts. Compliance was similar across the modules: loving-kindness meditation (3.78 [0.18] sessions), affect dyad (3.59 [0.14] sessions), observing-thoughts meditation (3.63 [0.20] sessions), and perspective dyad (3.24 [0.18] sessions). Motivation was higher for meditation (11.20 [0.40] sessions) than the dyads (9.26 [0.43] sessions) and was higher for the affect dyad (10.11 [0.46] sessions) than the perspective dyad (8.41 [0.46] sessions). Social closeness increased during a session for the affect dyad (1.49 [0.12] sessions) and the perspective dyad (1.06 [0.12] sessions) and increased over time for the affect dyad (slope of 0.016 [0.003]) and the perspective dyad (slope of 0.012 [0.003]). Self-disclosure increased over time for the affect dyad (slope of 0.023 [0.004]) and the perspective dyad (slope of 0.006 [0.005]), increasing more steeply for the affect dyad (P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE:

Contemplative dyads elicited engagement similar to classical contemplative practices and increased perceived social connectedness. Contemplative dyads represent a new type of intervention targeting social connectedness and intersubjective capacities deficient in participants who experience loneliness and in many psychopathologies.

The Noble Eightfold Path with Relationships

 

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“When we have closer intimate relationships, maybe a marital relationship or lover relationship where sexuality is involved, then we assume we want more from each other. And, there’s the rub. This is where the Buddhist idea of true love helps. True love is where you want the happiness of the beloved; it’s not that you want something from the beloved. You just want to give to the beloved. Shantideva said, “All the joy the world contains has come through wishing happiness for others. All the misery the world contains has come through wanting happiness for oneself.” – Robert Thurman

 

Probably the best place to practice the Eightfold Path is not on the meditation mat or in a cloistered environment but in the midst of the chaos of everyday life. There are wonderful opportunities to practice presented to us all the time embedded in the complexities of the modern world. In fact, the whole idea of practicing on the mat is to learn things that will apply to our everyday existence. What better place is there, then, than the real environment to practice them.

 

In previous essays, we discussed driving an automobile and the work environment as excellent venues for practice. In today’s essay we’ll discuss practicing in the midst of our relationships with significant others. This is an excellent context in which to practice the Buddha’s Eightfold Path. It is filled with emotions, desires, sex, conflicts, suffering, compassion, and memories. In other words, our relationships have all the ingredients to practice and to put to the test all the principles of mindfulness and the Eightfold Path for the cessation of suffering; Right View, Right Intentions, Right Speech, Right Actions, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.

 

There are many wonderful opportunities in relationships to practice the Right View idea of impermanence. Indeed, our relationships are constantly changing. One day is full of love, understanding and kindness and the next filled with conflict, resentment, and anger. No matter how bad or good the relationships are or the daily interactions between partners, they are sure to change. Sexual relations are a wonderful example of impermanence, with desires and feeling changing dramatically from moment to moment, but none of it can be held onto for more than a moment. They come and they go. They’re impermanent. This exemplifies the Right View idea of transitoriness. We all grow and develop and change throughout our lifetime and these changes can be challenging for relationships. There’s an old story about relationships that upon marriage, the woman believes that the man will change, but he doesn’t, while the man believes that the woman will never change, but she does! Adapting and coping with these changes requires that we understand impermanence, the Right View.

 

We can also practice the Right View idea of interconnectedness. Relationships are cooperative ventures. How interconnected the couple is, is on display. Relationships require consideration of the needs and aspirations of both partners by both partners. Acting alone would is a sure formula for chaos and conflict in a relationship. You affect your partner and your partner affects you, which affects your partner, which, in turn, affects you and so on. If there are children involved this interconnectedness becomes magnified. Keep in mind “If you want to be happy effectively, then think about other people’s happiness and you will be. Think about your own happiness only, and you will always be dissatisfied because you will never have enough.”  – Robert Thurman. Understanding and adapting to the dynamic interplay between partners requires that we recognize, adapt to, and work with this interconnectedness, the Right View.

 

In relationships we can also view and practice the Right View idea of no permanent self. This thing called self that you think of a permanent and static actually changes moment to moment in reaction to what transpires in relationships. How you view yourself and your beliefs about the supposed self can change in a flash depending upon what your partner says and does. You may think of yourself as a kind and loving person, but your partner treats you like a selfish and cruel person. This can change this idea of the self. A little mindful reflection regarding this reveals that this thing that we call the self was never permanent in the first place but changing and evolving, coming and going, just like everything else. The highly emotionally charged cauldron of relationships amplifies this and makes it clearer and clearer. This is a tremendous learning experience. Coming to grips with this requires that we develop the Right View of no permanent self.

 

It is hard to find a better context than relationships to develop the Right View idea of suffering and unsatisfactoriness, and their roots. In relationships we want everything to be exactly as we want it to be, and when it isn’t we suffer. We want our partners to understand us, we want sex to fulfill our fantasies, we want to always be agreed with, we want more excitement and less dull chores, we want our partners to acquiesce to all our decisions, we want to have space, we don’t want to deal with our in-laws, we want our partners to unconditionally love us, etc. When these things don’t happen, we suffer. In other words, you can learn, if you are observant of what is happening in relationships, that your suffering is caused by your lack of acceptance of how things really are in your relationship. So, relationships constitute wonderful laboratories to practice Right View. You can learn to accept things as they are, to see things without judgment, to view the relationship, your partner, and children just as they are, as individual human being with their own desires and needs. When you view them this way, the love grows, and the incredible wonder of life and loving begins to reveal itself. You can learn to understand that the way you act with them has consequences, affecting yourself and the rest of the family, in other words, you practice and develop Right View.

 

You can readily practice Right Intentions in relationships and this can lead to Right Actions. Intentions are a key. They become your moral compass. These intentions include the happiness of our partner. “True love is where you want the happiness of the beloved; it’s not that you want something from the beloved.”  – Robert Thurman. They tend to lead you in the right direction even though you may at times stumble.  But, it is often difficult or impossible to predict all of the consequences of your actions. Sometimes, even with the Right Intentions you can cause your partner to suffer. For example, you may want to provide a high standard of living for your partner and family and work long hours to do so. But, this may cause your partner to be lonely and unhappy or your children to feel neglected. You need to try to not only to have Right Intentions, but to discern how even the best of intentions can sometime produce harmful outcomes. The truly Right Intentions do not produce harm, only good. You have to sometimes balance the good you’re doing with the harm produced by the same actions. This requires Right View. This is where relationships can be such a great practice as you can learn what works and what doesn’t and become better at discerning what are the wholesome Right Actions from those that produce more harm than good.

 

Right Intentions also includes the abandonment of unwholesome desires. If you relate to your partner with anger, impatience, selfishness, resentment you are likely to harm them and yourself. The harm may not be major or direct, but indirect by affecting partner and children in negative ways. Perhaps your anger at your partner overdrawing a checking account causes you to lash out at your children. Perhaps, your selfishness causes you to neglect you partners requests or needs eliciting frustration or anger in your partner, or simply cause them to suffer. But sometimes you can produce direct harm to your partner. This can occur when anger and alcohol result in physical or psychological abuse or when your sexual desires cause you to force yourself on an unwilling partner.

 

On the other hand, if you practice Right Intentions with sincere intentions to create good and happiness, relieve suffering, you will treat your partner with tolerance and understanding, with kindness and good will. When our partners are treated with respect, compassion, and helpfulness or when a partner’s anger or frustration are reacted to with patience, kindness, and tolerance, harm and suffering have likely been prevented. A considerate sexual relationship, where the intentions are to love and satisfy your partner, the relationship will become more satisfying for both of you, particularly if your partner has the same Right Intentions. The happiness and love produced carries into everything that you do affecting how you treat you children, your friends, your coworkers, and everyone that you meet. It is good to reflect on the ripples of good that may have been created by the Right Actions producing positive consequences, which produce more positive consequences, producing more positive consequences, etc. well into the future. So, if you form Right Intentions and aspire to create good and happiness you’ll be a better partner and will produce more harmony and good will in in all of your interactions and more importantly will be moving yourself along the eightfold path.

 

There are many opportunities to practice Right Speech in relationships. This can include non-verbal communications such as facial expressions, body postures, etc., perhaps even holding hands or loving glances. But, predominantly Right Speech is verbal. You may have a bad habit of often reacting to a mistake with reflexive emotional expletives. This can occur in response to something as simple as dropping a glass of wine. This can also include gestures. These can occur reflexively or even without awareness but do no good and create harm in yourself and sometimes aggravate your partner. Keep in mind the advice “Have a fast ear and a slow tongue.” ~Mark Ward. Right Speech also involves refraining from gossip. Couples often gossip or repeat rumors about family and friends. This can hurt others in unpredictable and sometimes unknown ways. In addition, Right Speech is truthful speech. In communicating with your partner only speak things that you know are absolutely true. Even “little white lies” have a cumulative effect eroding trust and understanding, while always speaking the truth promotes trust, understanding, and harmony. Right Speech takes practice. We have years of training and daily multiple examples of wrong speech. So, be patient and practice. Slowly the effects and benefits will become apparent.

 

The notion of Right Livelihood mandates that the couple’s occupations not only earns a living but also creates greater happiness, wisdom, and well-being, and relieves suffering. Conversely, they should not produce harm. Some occupations can be clearly seen as creating harm such as manufacturing, selling, or delivering weapons, cigarettes, or harmful drugs, human trafficking, or driving animals to slaughter. Some occupations clearly seem to create greater good and happiness, such as teacher, aid worker, nurse, etc. But, most occupations are a little more difficult to tell. Sometimes harm is produced indirectly, such as by damaging the environment, or resulting in layoffs from a competitor, or by producing goods or services that can be misused or used by others to create harm. Although rarely having direct effects upon relationships, engaging in Right Livelihood can do so indirectly. Feeling good about what you do for work can spill over bringing those good feelings home. Also, developing the discernment required to understand the impact of your occupations is a useful skill for understanding the impact of your actions upon your partner.

 

Relationships also present a great context to practice Right Effort. It takes substantial effort to interact mindfully. If you act automatically as most people do most of the time, there is little or no mindfulness and little or no effort.  When you first get up in the morning you have to set the intention to engage in your daily activities in such a way as to lessen suffering in yourself and your partner, to act with kindness, compassion, patience, and courtesy, to drop fear, anger, hatred, selfishness, and to bring to our interactions with our partner the intention to promote well-being and happiness. Right Effort is working the “Middle Way.” That is not trying too hard and getting stressed about interacting and loving properly, and also not being lackadaisical, but rather to try, but relax. Don’t beat yourself up when you’re not relating to your partner mindfully, but congratulate yourself when you do. The “Middle Way” is where effort should be targeted.

 

Acting mindlessly is probably the norm. Most people perform their routine daily activities while their minds are elsewhere, ruminating about the past, planning for the future, or off in fantasy and daydreams. This provides you with a terrific opportunity to practice Right Mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” What better opportunity to practice this than while your interacting with your partner? Right Mindfulness precludes focusing on social media or engaging in other distractions when with your partner. Right Mindfulness makes you acutely aware of what is happening and how you’re feeling during every moment together. Awareness of how you’re feeling and what’s producing those feelings, and how you’re reacting to them makes you better able to interact effectively without emotional outbursts that are non-productive and can hurt your partner. Right Mindfulness is not just part of the eightfold path it is a prerequisite for the practice of the seven other components of the path. So, relating mindfully is a fundamental practice and relationships are great situations for practice.

 

Right Concentration is the practice of focusing the mind solely on one object or a specific unchanging set of objects. This is developed during contemplative practice such as meditation. It is essential to effectively interacting with you partner. Our world is replete with distractions and interruptions. But, to truly be attentive and listening mindfully to our partner we must concentrate. Right Concentration in relationships includes making the effort to be there for your partner and deeply listen to them. There are very few more important things that you can do in relationships than to simply give your partner your full presence, your full attention, your full mindfulness. Improvement in attentional ability is a consequence of practicing Right Concentration. The ability to concentrate and screen out intrusive sounds, sights, speech and thoughts allow you to focus on your partner, producing a higher quality relationship. In addition, it is thought that Right Concentration requires Right Effort, Right Intentions, and Right Mindfulness and these can also be practiced and developed. So, interacting with our beloved is a wonderful situation for the practice of Right Concentration, benefiting each partner.

 

Negotiating the eightfold path in relationships is not easy. But, remember that it is a practice. Over time you’ll better and better at it, but nowhere near perfect. Frequently the discursive mind takes over or your emotions will get the better of you. But, by continuing the practice you’ll slowly progress. you’ll become a better partner and have a more relaxed, loving, and happier relationship. Keep in mind the teaching that actions that lead to greater harmony and happiness should be practiced, while those that lead to unsatisfactoriness and unhappiness should be let go. One of the keys in the practice is mindfully observing your partner and yourself. This allows you to discern the improvements even when they’re small and subtle.  Over time, these small improvements add up.  Without doubt, practicing the eightfold path lead to a terrific, happy, satisfying, loving relationship.

 

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

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Improve Romantic Relationships with Mindfulness

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“We are vulnerable creatures, we humans. In the act of exposing our heart and hopes, we also expose our fears and fragility. But we need not be slaves to the past, or to the external love object, be it bear or spouse. We can deliberately develop a more secure sense of attachment, training our mind to become a place of security, safety, and warm fuzzy reassurance simply by paying attention to now, not then.” – Cheryl Fraser

 

The great sage Thich Nhat Hahn stated that “If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.” This is a beautiful thought that applies to all loving relationships and suggests that we should be in the present moment and completely attentive to our loved ones when we are with them. When any two people interact paying real-time attention to the other is rare. Most of the time, the individual’s mind is elsewhere, perhaps thinking of the next thing to be said, perhaps thinking about what the individual wants from the other, or perhaps reviewing a past interaction. We are all so into ourselves that we fail to truly pay complete attention to the other, even a loved one. But, if we do, it has a major impact.

 

Being present for another implies that we are being mindful, paying attention non-judgmentally, to what is transpiring in the present moment. To our partner this conveys a caring and respect that is a true reflection of love. Our partner will generally respond very positively to this mindful attention, amplifying the moment and building the emotional connection that is the glue of a romantic relationship. Indeed, mindful individuals are rated as more attractive and mindfulness training appears to help with sexual difficulties. So, mindfulness should be related to relationship quality, both for the individual and the romantic partner.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindful Mates: A Pilot Study of the Relational Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Participants and Their Partners.” See:

https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeStudiesCenter/photos/a.628903887133541.1073741828.627681673922429/1263164117040845/?type=3&theater

or below.

Khaddouma and colleagues examined the relationship between mindfulness and romantic relationships and the effect of increasing mindfulness in one individual on both partners. They recruited adult heterosexual couples who were in a committed relationship (80% married), ranging in age from 18 to 64. One member of each pair received training for 8-weeks in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program while the other did not. MBSR involves training in meditation, body scan and yoga.  Couples were measured for mindfulness and relationship satisfaction, both before and after MBSR training.

 

They found that MBSR training significantly increased mindfulness and relationship satisfaction in the MBSR enrolled participants but not their non-enrolled partners. All facets of mindfulness increased including, observing, describing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting. They also found that the greater the increase in the acting with awareness mindfulness facet of the enrolled participant the greater the increase in relationship satisfaction for both members of the couple. In addition, the greater the increase in the non-reacting mindfulness facet of the enrolled participant the greater the increase in relationship satisfaction of their non-enrolled partner.

 

These results are very promising and suggest that Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training improves mindfulness and relationship satisfaction in the participant. Significantly, the MBSR training and its effects on the participant appeared to spill over and effect their romantic partner’s satisfaction with the relationship, particularly as a result of increases in acting with awareness and non-reactivity. Acting with awareness appears to be the most highly related to improvements in relationship satisfaction for both members of the dyad, while non-reactivity also affects the non-enrolled partner.

 

This suggests that “increases in abilities to attend to activities of the moment with purposeful attention (rather than behaving reflexively or automatically) over the course of MBSR are positively associated with increases in both partners’ relationship satisfaction.” In addition, the enrolled participant’s “ability to avoid getting caught up and carried away by thoughts and feelings” appears to make the relationship better for the partner. So, MBSR training changes the mindfulness of the participants, changing how they act and react in the relationship and this improves the relationship for both members. Being mindful makes romantic relationships better.

 

So, improve romantic relationships with mindfulness.

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

“If, in the midst of a fight with your partner, you can label your angry thoughts and hurt feelings as “just my rejection script,” or if you can notice your blood pressure rising and your face getting redder, then you have a greater degree of choice about how to behave. Rather than feeling compelled to scream and attack or vigorously defend your position, you can instead choose to take a break, connect with your love for your partner, or try to understand his/her point of view.  As a result, you should have reduced stress and more loving, connected relationships.”Melanie Greenberg

 

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Study Summary

Khaddouma, A., Coop Gordon, K. and Strand, E. B. (2016), Mindful Mates: A Pilot Study of the Relational Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Participants and Their Partners. Family Process. doi: 10.1111/famp.12226

 

Abstract

Very little is currently known about how increases in dispositional mindfulness through mindfulness training affect the quality of participants’ romantic relationships, and no previous studies have examined how increases in specific facets of mindfulness differentially contribute to relationship health. Additionally, even less is known about how an individual’s development of mindfulness skills affects the relationship satisfaction of his or her romantic partner. Thus, the purpose of this pilot study was to examine associations between changes in facets of mindfulness and relationship satisfaction among participants enrolled in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course and their nonenrolled romantic partners. Twenty MBSR participants and their nonenrolled partners (n = 40) completed measures of mindfulness and relationship satisfaction pre- and post-enrolled partners’ completion of an MBSR course. Results indicated that enrolled participants significantly improved on all facets of mindfulness and relationship satisfaction, while nonenrolled partners did not significantly increase on any facet of mindfulness or relationship satisfaction. Moreover, enrolled participants’ increases in Acting with Awareness were positively associated with increases in their own and their nonenrolled partners’ relationship satisfaction, whereas increases in enrolled participants’ Nonreactivity were positively associated with increases in their nonenrolled partners’ (but not their own) relationship satisfaction. These results suggest that increasing levels of mindfulness (particularly specific aspects of mindfulness) may have positive effects on couples’ relationship satisfaction and highlight mindfulness training as a promising tool for education and intervention efforts aimed at promoting relational health.