The practice of relational meditation
The traditional style of of sitting down silent meditation does not work for me at all, I have known this for years. My thoughts wander, and wander, and keep on wandering; most attempts end up being a silent monologue that leaves me feeling disconnected and frustrated more than anything else. But recently I have found the practice that sends me to that incredibly blissed out space people look for when they meditate. I call it relational meditation.
Relational meditation uses the connection with another as a channel to help the mind focus in the present, the same way that tai-chi uses the body, movement and gravity to focus, and Transcendental Meditation uses a mantra. I guess it’s the same with most practices, they look for a tool to still the mind, which is our biggest blockage to the present.
I suspect I like relational meditation because relationships are my passion, so it brings what I am most interested into my moments of stillness, which makes them all the more attractive and effective. This came about naturally out of my connection with a friend who is as passionate as I am about living in bliss all the time. She is at the other end of the globe, so all our practice so far has been though audio calls.
This is what I do with her:
- Slow down.
- Check in the body how centered/grounded I feel.
- Voice what is in the way.
- Go back to the body.
- Inhabit the space.
I’d like to say a bit about each step because I am keen to understand the process really well for myself and writing about it helps me. But also because I want to be able to explain to others what is it that we do exactly, so I can replicate it with other people.
The slowing down is crucial and radical. It allows for us to talk and listen while noticing the effect of the words inside (in our bodies, our nervous system and our emotions). So we are doing a “double layer” listening: to the words AND to the inner response that usually goes unnoticed, which expresses itself in the running commentary in our head and the somatic reaction in our body. We slow down our speech and often our movement as well, then everything else (thoughts, pulse, tension, etc.) follows that slowing down and becomes quiet and attentive.
Pleasure is a good indicator, I have found. How am I feeling inside, physically and emotionally? Is it pleasant or unpleasant? Usually, if I am centered, I can connect with my body and it is a pleasant experience. If there are emotions in the way, I struggle to feel my body and instead there is a sense of restless that feels unpleasant. Thoughts become interruptive and I struggle to stay with the bodily sensations.
VOICE WHAT IS IN THE WAY.
Remember “what is in the way, is the way”? This is the system I have found to use blockages as a path to connection and bliss. If I find I am not very present, I voice in a very mindful and paused manner whatever is going on, with silences in between phrases in order to invite awareness and stillness into the story and not be taken away by the mind. As I do that, usually the emotions feel deeply heard. This is a way of giving them space to move; as any emotion will do when given the opportunity (since an emotion is energy in motion), it will carry on its process and, within minutes, dissolve, leaving me in a state of peace.
This a tricky step because we are trained to focus on the story behind our emotions. Yet I think that this is the missing component of the spiritual practices I have practiced so far: I believe that when thoughts keep on interrupting my meditation practice, it is often because they have something important to say, a wisdom that they want to convey. If I keep on pushing them away, they will come back with increased charge. What you resist, persists. Yet if I go into those thoughts my usual way, I get lost into them and soon I am in what Eckart Tolle calls the “stream of thought”, where one though follows another without any logic. How to do this resourcefully?
I like imagining these inner goings as different parts inside. The grounded, centered part is my core self and the one capable of true listening; but she is not very practiced at it and, therefore, she needs to do in in a slow way for now in order manage. The thoughts that keep on clamouring for attention are my inner children, expressing some upset. What makes this step effective is being able to hear the children’s upset without getting lost in the facts and details or being flooded by the emotions.
Mindfulness, and the slow speed of exploring the emotions, allow me to stay present with the story and feelings WITHOUT IDENTIFYING WITH THEM. That way, the core self does not get lost in the inner child’s upset. When I manage this, the child feels heard, valued, and its wisdom is received by my core self: mission accomplished; she can now rest. That leads invariably to peace, which often shows as a deep sigh.
GO BACK TO THE BODY.
The body seems to be an anchor to the present. It gives my mind something to focus on that is takes it away from the stream of thought. Focusing my attention toward the felt sensations inside works as a barometer, too: how present am I right now? When feeling present and grounded, the sensations are delicious and I often seem to become acutely aware of the beauty around me, of nature, of the pleasant information my senses capture (sounds, sights, smells, temperature…).
INHABIT THE SPACE.
That means just staying with it as long as I can. To help my mind focus, I often voice what I am noticing somatically: where it is located in my body, where are its boundaries, how does it feel in sensory terms (texture, temperature, colour, etc.), does it change in any way? Again, I do that in an incredibly slow and mindful manner. Staying in this space for a while deepens the bliss and helps it integrate in my system. By doing so, it takes hold, I am training my brain and nervous system to operate from this place. I have found that after doing this regularly for a while, it permeates the rest of my life, slowly bringing a quality of presence and insight incredibly useful and healing into my relationships.
Now, I would like more opportunities to practice because, ultimately, I want this state to be the basis of my life; the place I systematically move, act and speak from; my default way of being. Not only it is extraordinarily pleasant, peaceful, loving and joyous, but it brings out the best in me: wisdom, compassion, the capacity to set true Loving Limits or boundaries without violence, acceptance of all my parts, empowerment… everything I could possibly want! So I am looking for more practice buddies, playmates, people interested in exercising the muscle of embodied presence on a regular basis in this way. If you are interested, please let me know!
With deep commitment to The Path, Maira
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