Right Here with You: Bringing Mindful Awareness into Our Relationships

In recent years scientists have discovered that mindfulness can reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance our sense of well-being. In this book, readers learn how mindfulness can be brought to bear in our relationships to increase intimacy, strengthen communication, and help us to find greater fulfilment.
Topics in this collection include how to open your heart and develop lovingkindness for yourself and others, how to improve communication through mindful speech and deep listening, noticing and counteracting destructive patterns, and discovering how intimate relationships can become a rich form of spiritual practice.
Chapters and contributors include:

• Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on what mindfulness is and why it lies at the heart real love
• Psychotherapist David Richo on finding a partner
• Author Elizabeth Gilbert on conflict and communication
• Psychotherapist and meditation teacher Tara Brach on the power of forgiveness
• Rabbi Harold Kushner on striving to give love rather than get it
• Novelist Jane Hamilton on a marital meltdown—and recovery
• Meditation teacher Susan Piver on the value of heartbreak
• Psychologist John Welwood on relationships as a path of personal and spiritual growth


Mindful Presence: The Heart of Mind Fitness Training ~ Joel and Michelle Levey

Much of our work with organizations and individuals centers around the development of what we call “mind fitness.” Mind fitness means having a mind that’s fit for action and insight. At the heart and core of this kind of mind-body-spirit training is the practice of “mindful presence” — the essential key to mind fitness.

In future blog posts, we’ll introduce and invite you to explore the various disciplines of mind fitness. While all of these are vital to success, foremost and foundational among them is the discipline of mindful presence, so we’ll begin here. This discipline is developed through the cultivation of mindfulness and the mastery of attention. Research shows that daily practice of mindfulness creates measurable changes in brain function associated with decreases in our vulnerability to stress and distress, increases our enjoyment of the moment, improves health and performance, increases our happiness, improves emotional intelligence and deepens the wisdom, confidence and courage we bring to life — and work!

The cultivation of mindfulness is essentially the practice of presence, deep listening and awareness. Mindfulness enables you to wake up and be more fully present to what is really going on in your inner and outer worlds, and to the stream of moment-to-moment change. Mindfulness offers you greater choice and the capacity to live-on-purpose as an alternative to living a reactionary life dominated by mindless habit and out of control reactivity.

The practice of mindfulness also provides a powerful tool to discover the true depth and dimension of our experience. As we see more clearly and understand more deeply, our insight grows and opens new dimensions of freedom, health and change resilience in our lives. Mindfulness is the basis of wisdom, appreciation and gratitude. Its essence is deep listening, an open, non-judgmental yet discerning quality of attentiveness that embraces every fleeting experience with acceptance, investigation and non-attachment.

To experience mindfulness in this moment:

Simply look out through your eyes right now and know that you are seeing.

Bring your attention to the easy natural flow of your breathing, being mindful of the stream of sensations as you breathe in … and being mindful as you breathe out … By being mindful of the natural flow of your breathing, you develop a way to anchor and stabilize your mindful, clear presence within the streaming flow of moment-to-moment change that is your life.

Allow this clear, natural mindfulness to welcome the coming and flowing of every element of your experience. Notice how every sound, sight, sensation, thought, feeling and experience comes and flows. Be mindful of the river of change that flows as your life with awareness.

Complement your mindful awareness with a gentle, self-referential smile — like a smile in your heart. This smile will help you maintain a sense of perspective, curiosity, acceptance and open-mindedness. Smiling gently in this way will also help protect you from trying too hard or being too self-critical in your cultivation of mindfulness.

Throughout the day, bring your mindful, clear presence to whatever you are doing and to being more fully present with whomever you are with.

Experiment with setting the intention to be more mindful and present with simple activities that have a clear beginning and end. For example, mindfully walk from the parking lot to your office, take a mindful shower, eat a mindful meal or go for a mindful walk or jog.

When your mind wanders or your attention fades, note the distraction as soon as you become aware of it, and then without blame or judgment simply refresh your mindful presence and return your attention to whatever you choose to attend to.

If you are like most people you have dozens, if not hundreds, of interactions with people in an average day. One powerful strategy for practicing mindfulness is to set the intention to engage in a significant number of daily interactions as opportunities to practice “mindful dialogue.” This involves being vividly mindful of what you see, hear or sense from the people you are talking with, while simultaneously being mindful of the flow of your own inner personal experiences as you are engaged in that dialogue.

Your practice of mindfulness can take two basic forms:

One is the practice of mindful presence in the midst of the ordinary activities of your daily life.

The second way to practice mindfulness is more as a quiet meditation practice. In this mode, you simply sit quietly, focus your mindfulness on the flow of your breath and mindfully notice the flow of experiences as they come and go. Be mindful of how the waves of the breath come and flow. Let this be your resting place and anchor of awareness. Mindfully notice how external perceptions come and flow from the world around you. Mindfully attend to how the sensations in your body come and flow. As thoughts or mental images arise, be mindful of how they too arise and pass. As emotions come to your awareness, be mindful of them as arising and passing in the clear space of your mindful presence. As desires, intentions or other mind-states arise, be mindful of how these similarly come and flow. With mindful clear presence, embrace the flow of your experience, with great curiosity, openness and compassion. Remain in this stream of experience for five, 10, 20 or 30 minutes at a time, and allow yourself to awaken ever more fully to the wisdom of your true nature, complexity and dimensionality.

Once you understand how to practice the discipline of mindful presence you can never say, “I don’t have time to meditate,” because mindfulness can be activated in virtually every situation and activity of your complex and busy life. This means that every activity and encounter offers you the opportunity to develop and strengthen your mind fitness.

As you cultivate this quality of mindful presence, you’ll begin to realize that you are part of a vast community of people in all walks of life and arenas of work who are engaged in this practice. Hundreds of studies have demonstrated the clinical and performance enhancing benefits of the mind fitness practice of mindfulness.

Over the past 20 years, the discipline of mindfulness meditation has become an integral element in the success path of leaders from many disciplines. In our own work, we’ve taught mindfulness as a core success strategy to thousands of leaders in hundreds of organizations around the globe. In our work with the largest, most successful division of Hewlett-Packard, mindfulness was one of the core values held by senior leaders as a key to their success.

During the once secret “Ultimate Warrior Training Program” (aka Jedi Warrior) that we co-designed and led for the U.S. Army Green Berets, we guided two A-Teams of Special Forces troops on an intensive 30-day silent mindfulness retreat called “The Encampment,” which equipped them with skills to succeed on a series of missions that no other teams had ever succeeded in before. One of our teams was later selected as the most outstanding team in the NATO games. This program was described by leaders at West Point Military Academy as “the most exquisite orchestration of human technology we have ever seen.”

At Google, we teach a course called “The Meditation and Mindfulness Laboratory” for leaders and software engineers seeking to de-bug and reengineer their own personal operating systems. At M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Center and dozens of other leading medical centers and medical schools, we’ve also taught mindfulness disciplines to hundreds of physicians, nurses, faculty and administrators, and many of them have fully integrated these methods into their daily lives and work. Surgeons who train in mindfulness make fewer mistakes and have better surgical outcomes. In medicine, mindfulness also offers relief from a myriad of stress-related maladies and speeds recovery time.

The practice of mindful presence has also been a vital success strategy in our mentoring of numerous world class and Olympic gold medal-winning athletes who have stretched the envelope of success to new proportions. Just imagine what will be possible for you as you develop greater mindful presence and mind fitness in your own life.

Joel & Michelle Levey are internationally recognized speakers, authors, educators, and consultants. Founders of WisdomAtWork.com, the enduring benefits of their pioneering work in mind fitness, change resilience, collective intelligence and innovation has inspired leaders in hundreds of organizations around the globe including: NASA, World Bank, Google, Intel, Hewlett Packard, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Microsoft, Washington Athletic Club, NOAA, MIT, SportsMind, SRI International, Forest Ethics, EarthSave, U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, U.S. Special Forces, and The Clinton Global Initiative.

They are faculty at University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Health and Bastyr University Center for Spirituality, Science, and Medicine, and advisors for the International Campaign for Compassionate Cities. The Leveys’ published works include: Living in Balance: A Dynamic Approach for Creating Harmony & Wholeness in a Chaotic World; Wisdom at Work; A Treasury of Tools for Cultivating Clarity, Kindness, & Resilience; Luminous Mind: Meditation and Mind Fitness; The Fine Arts of Relaxation, Concentration, and Meditation: Ancient Skills for Modern Mind.

Mindfulness is the foundation for any successful meditation practice in daily life. It is the gateway to living in greater harmony and balance and opens the door for deeper wisdom and compassion to guide our lives-work.

In this excerpt taken from their class presented live online by eMindful.com, Dr. Joel & Michelle Levey explore the profoundly practical ways to weave the contemplative inner-science traditions into the fabric of your everyday life.

eMindful (www.emindful.com) is the leading Internet source for comprehensive health and wellness services. Courses include mindful eating, stress management, forgiveness, yoga, and Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management. eMindful’s online courses offer cost-effective and convenient access to our internationally acclaimed team of experts with whom you may see, hear, and interact, live in eMindful’s virtual classroom, while still in the comfort of your home, at the office, or anywhere you can have a broadband Internet connection.

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