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Meditation is often thought of as an extremely personal experience and frequently something that is solitary in nature. However, group meditation is common and the benefit of community practice is notable. Meditation can also be adapted for couples.
A true partnership is based upon the principle of synchronicity. Like the Gestalt psychologists say, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. It also requires sacrificing oneself to something greater. It is not about sacrificing oneself to the other person, but to the relationship itself. Rather, the two become one and each person must let go of some of their own individuality for the benefit of the relationship. It is the coming together of yin and yang, Shiva and Shakti.
Couples meditation is a tool to harmonizing the two energies and create a more meaningful partnership. The practice increases awareness and attention of both your partner and yourself, deepens the bond, improves communication, and helps to become more mindful of the relationship.
One of the simplest ways to meditate as a couple is to participate in the same practice.
It can be a meditation group, a yoga class, a kirtan, or a church service, among others. It can be as simple as praying together or reading the same spiritual book and discussing it.
Some classes or retreats are specifically designed for couples and are targeted at relationship building. Even if the retreat is not couple specific, attending one together can be a wonderful experience. Some retreats segregate the genders, and if it is a male-female couple, this gives an interesting dynamic of being simultaneously together and apart.
More focused couples meditations include meditating directly with your partner. Another simple but effective technique is becoming aware of the breath together. This is done by sitting cross-legged across from one another with knees touching. Rest the hands on the knees, one facing up, and one facing down. The other partner should have their hands in an opposite fashion so the partners’ palms rest upon each other. Simply breathe and become aware of the other person. Maintaining direct eye contact makes the connection more intense. Allow the breath to synchronize. Being with another person without doing anything is incredibly valuable. This is something couples do not do very often.
Another approach is learning to listen. We hear, but listening deeply is a skill that improves with practice. This means placing your full attention on the other person and listening totally, without interrupting, without judgment, and without any nonverbal cues, like smiling or nodding. This is done by taking turns asking each other probing questions, like, “What are your hopes for us?”, “What are your fears?”, and “What do you appreciate about yourself (or me)”? The questions can concern either the relationship or the individual. Using both is ideal. The goal is to listen deeply and allow the other person to be open and honest. It is a very vulnerable practice and helps build trust.
When we listen, we often rush in by commenting or suggesting, and not doing any of these things gives the other person space and freedom. It is a mindfulness practice. It is also extremely intimate and helps build respect and positive regard for one another. If the couple is being honest, they will learn things about the other they never knew and help each other be more compassionate and aware of the others needs.
The Buddhist practice metta (“loving-kindness”) can be adapted for couples as well. Part of the metta practice is directing statements of goodwill towards the self and others. In this version, sit across from your partner with open eyes and both mentally send the loving sentiments directly towards the other. Examples include, “May you be well”, “May you be free from suffering”, and “May you be happy”. Do this for at least five to ten minutes.
Forgiveness meditations can be wonderful tools for couples, and can be practiced separately or together. It can be immensely healing and allow both parties to move past old hurts. As you sit, imagine the perceived wrongdoings of the other person. Try to understand what would motivate the person to act in such a way that hurt you. Try to walk in their shoes and understand. Understand that their actions were motivated by their own pain. Send compassion towards that person and say mentally, “I forgive you”.
Tantric sexuality is another technique that is available to couples. Instead of discharging the energy to the genitals, it is directed towards the crown through a specific method. This practice, however, has nothing to do with sexual gratification, romantic relationships, or relationship building. Having romantic attachments while doing the practice is traditionally discouraged because it increases rather than decreases attachment. Furthermore, the techniques available to couples usually bypass the tedious meditative preparations that precede the act itself. Using this method without proper understanding may provide pleasure initially, but will not benefit your evolution (or relationship) in the long run.
Remember, building a mindful, loving relationship with another human is a microcosm of becoming mindful and loving towards all mankind.
Our personal relationships are opportunities to cultivate an all-pervasive love that extends to every corner of our existence. When we work with couples meditations, it is important to keep this in mind, lest we limit our love only to our partner.
The Buddha said we should love everyone the same because at one point, each person has been dear to us. That is a work in progress, and the current conditions and our current loved ones should be embraced as the chance to grow and appreciate everyone.
Let your love multiply.