Mindfulness, especially in interpersonal relationships, is like cultivating a garden – it needs certain qualities and conditions to bloom. While the conditions for interpersonal mindfulness are varied and can’t always be controlled, the qualities can be cultivated. Here are six qualities considered essential in cultivating interpersonal mindfulness:
1. Openness: This is a quality where you’re open to seeing the other person and the relationship as new and fresh, and where you’re open to the other person’s perspective. Being closed or defensive is definitely a barrier to an open heart and mind! To cultivate openness, notice your first thought or judgement about what others are saying or doing, then imagine it as just one perspective — one slice on a pie chart, not the entire circle. Imagine filling in that pie with other perspectives, each holding equal value.
2. Empathy: This quality actually helps identify with another person’s feelings — emotionally putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. The first step is to acknowledge and experience your own feelings. To cultivate this quality, practice mindfulness of your own emotions, get in touch with them and then tap into specific emotions when you sense that others are feeling them. You may be inclined to trust your intuition in respect to how others are feeling, and this can be effective. However, if you’re at all uncertain, it’s generally a good practice to simply ask.
3. Compassion: This quality combines empathy with an understanding of the position the other person is in and a desire to ease the person’s suffering. To cultivate this quality, allow yourself to imagine the sorrows and pains that the person holds. During this life, they’ve certainly experienced disappointments, failures, and losses, and some of these wounds may be so deep that the person may not feel safe sharing about them. Imagine the person as your own child, feeling frightened and in pain, and consider how you’d comfort him or her.
4. Loving-kindness: This is a quality where you truly wish another well—to be healthy, safe from harm, and free from fear. To cultivate loving-kindness, again imagine the other person as your own child and consider how you would extend these well-wishes for him or her. Imagine how you’d want to see the person bring his or her being into this world.
5. Sympathetic joy: This is a quality where you delight in the happiness and joy of others. It’s the opposite of jealousy, envy, and resentment. To cultivate this quality, imagine the other person growing up and reflect on the joy and adventure the person has experienced, along with the courage and strength he or she has brought to overcoming challenges in life. Sympathetic joy is possible regardless of the person’s circumstances.
6. Equanimity: This is a quality of wisdom, an evenness and steadiness of mind that comprehends the nature of change. Equanimity gives you more balance and composure in understanding the interconnectedness of all life. To cultivate this quality, imagine the other person’s face as that of a parent, a friend, a lover, a child, or a student. This will help you see the person as someone who, like all of us, simply wants and needs kindness and love.
To develop these qualities in you or your organisation, contact Magnum Opus by email at email@example.com or call us at 011-42676768 and ask us about our Mindfulness programme.