As a couple running One Mind Dharma, we thought we’d share our favorite meditations for couples to help cultivate loving and mindful relationships.
We have found that cultivating mindful relationships takes dedicated practice and effort. We have also found a few couples meditations and mindfulness practices that have been extremely beneficial in our own relationships. One Mind Dharma is a deep sharing of our own love for meditation, and as a married couple with strong passion for the dharma we find it important to investigate meditations for couples and ways to deepen our practice both individually and together.
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Couples Meditations and Mindful Relationships
Meditation practice is a deep and intimate experience. When we practice meditation with a partner, we are able to share our practice together and get to know each other perhaps a little more deeply than before. There are many different couples meditations and ways to cultivate mindful relationships, and the result is that we are able to see each other a bit more clearly. Cultivating these wholesome qualities with your partner can make a huge difference. The couples meditation techniques aren’t just for those that are struggling in their relationship. The meditations for couples may benefit those in a new relationship, those in healthy and happy relationships, and absolutely anybody.
We have been together for quite a few years now and got married in the summer of 2016. One Mind Dharma has been our project together for over five years now, and we have a beautiful relationship with which we could not be happier. However, we started diving into practice together a few years ago, and it helped move us toward a more open, free, and loving relationship than we knew possible. We’ve made the practice of meditation with a partner a priority because we’ve seen the benefits in our own lives. We’re able to share more openly, not try to fix problems but just listen and hold the other, and really be aware of how the other may be feeling.
Mindful relationships may of course be cultivated through individual meditation practice. However, setting aside time to investigate couples meditations benefits us in a new way. Some of these meditations for couples are quite different than formal sitting practice. We’ve found ourselves investigating mindfulness, compassion, and awareness in completely new ways. To practice meditation with a partner is extremely intimate, sometimes uncomfortable, but always a beautiful benefit.
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There are many couples meditation techniques that we enjoy ourselves and have found useful in our work with other couples. These couples meditations can be done any time together, and you can find the amount of time that works for you. We have some suggestions for how long to start with, but you can find what works for you. Before practicing these meditations for couples, you may want to sit for a few minutes in silent practice just to settle. You may start with even five minutes of silent, closed-eye practice before engaging with your partner. For all of these practices, it is best to sit at eye-level with your partner as close as you feel comfortable. It also can be helpful to keep in mind your attention to cultivate mindful relationships.
In meditation with a partner, there are a few helpful tips to remember. First, try to keep eye contact as much as possible. It may be uncomfortable, but connecting with the eyes can really help us see and be seen. Second, retain some awareness in the body. It’s okay to pause and see what is present for you. Notice when the nervous system is activated, when you feel at ease, or when you feel something interesting or uncomfortable. Hopefully you feel safe with your partner and where you are meditating, and feel into this sense of safety. These couples meditation techniques are our favorite practices, and we offer them here in written form. In the near future, we will have a few guided audio clips for guidance and some YouTube videos to show you how we do it together. You are always welcome to email us at Matthew@OneMindDharma.com or Elizabeth@OneMindDharma.com and we are happy to walk you through anything or talk to you about any experiences you have arising.
The practice of asking questions is our personal go-to way of practicing meditation with a partner. This form of meditation for couples is a practice in many ways. There are two main ways that we do this: repeated questions and open questions. Although these two methods are slightly different, the concept remains the same. When asking the question, try to practice simply listening. Don’t nod the head, smile in agreement, or respond in any way. This is hard, but the point is to truly listen deeply to what the other person is saying, tuning into their experience. As we mentioned before, it may be helpful to retain some awareness in your own body. When you are the person answering questions, try to speak honestly and go with whatever comes up. Part of this practice is to dig a little deeper and cultivate some insights for both you and your partner. Finally, remember that these are practices in vulnerability. When we can be more vulnerable in our couples meditation, we can be more vulnerable in general with our partner.
Repeated questioning is exactly as it sounds. Partner A asks a question and Partner B answers it. After Partner B answers, Partner A replies, “Thank you.” Then Partner A asks the question again and the process repeats for a set amount of time (1-5 minutes). We recommend starting with just one minute or 90 seconds if you are new to the practice. You can choose who is going to ask the question and who is going to answer, then set a timer and begin. When the timer runs out, simply switch roles with the same question. Once a full round is complete, move on to a new question. We generally find that sitting down to do three questions in a session is most beneficial, and recommend giving it a shot this way. We have a few examples of questions we like to work with in groupings.
Open questioning is a similar practice to repeated questions. Instead of asking the question over and over again, Partner A asks the question once and lets Partner B answer for the period of the timer. Silence or pausing is acceptable, but the idea is to allow Partner B the space to investigate the question without interruption or worrying about taking too much space or time.
We generally work with questions in sets of three. As such, we have grouped these questions into sets of three to show how we work with these practices.
1. What is something that brings you joy?
2. What gets in the way of your joy?
3. What does joy feel like?1. What would you like to learn more about?
2. What would you like to learn about me?
3. What would you like to learn about yourself?
2. What does sadness feel like to you?
3. How can you care for your sadness?
2. What do you hide from yourself?
3. How can you feel comfortable being you?
1. What do you worry about?
2. How does worry feel?
3. In what way does worry serve you?
2. How does regret feel?
3. How can you be supported?
2. What do you appreciate about me?
3. What do you appreciate about us?1. What are your intentions for yourself?
2. What are your intentions for us?
3. How can I support these intentions?
Listen and Reflect Back
Listening practice is somewhat similar in concept to the questioning practice. In a listening practice, you set aside 5-10 minutes for somebody to answer a question or tell a story. Partner A will talk while Partner B simply listens for the duration of the timer. When the time finishes, Partner B will have a similar amount of time to simple relate back what they heard, felt, and saw. This is a practice in listening and in letting each other know that they are seen and heard. We recommend doing a 5 minute story to start, 2 minutes of relating back, then switching. You may use any of the above questions, one of your choosing, or one of the questions or topics below.
What is something that has made you happy recently?
What is something that has sparked curiosity for you?
What are your intentions for the coming day(s)/week(s)?
What is something that you have recently learned?
Out Loud Vipassana
Out loud vipassana is another of our favorite couples meditations. If you are not familiar with vipassana, it is the practice of simply noting what is going on in your experience. This may include any experience you are having. You may consider the six sense doors of sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling, and thinking as a good place to investigate what is happening in your experience. Again you pick one partner to go first while the other listens. For this practice, set a timer of 3-5 minutes. When the timer starts, Partner A will simply begin noting out loud what is occurring in their awareness while Partner B simply listens. It may sound something like, “I’m seeing your face. I feel self-conscious. I can feel the body breathing. I can feel my face smiling.” You don’t need to rush and name every single thing that is coming up; find a pace that feels easy and comfortable for you.
The practice here is twofold. We are sharing with our partners what is going on in our experience, hopefully being truthful and open. When we are listening, we are just listening. This cultivation of the ability to listen is extremely helpful in building mindful relationships. Furthermore, we begin to see with this meditation for couples how our partner’s mind works. Maybe it’s similar to ours. Maybe not. Either way, we gain some insight into the humanity of our partner.
Open Eye Metta
Although this says “open eye metta,” it may really be done with any of the brahma-viharas or heart practices. These include metta (gentle friendliness), karuna (compassion), mudita (appreciative joy), and upekkha (equanimity). We may also do this with a forgiveness practice. There are really two ways to do this. The first way is to do your normal brahma-vihara practice with open eyes toward your partner sitting across from you. If you are working with metta, you may sit with eyes open and offer the phrases silently in your head, “May you be at ease,” “May you be happy,” “May you be healthy,” “May you be safe,” or any other phrases of metta that work well for you. You may set a timer and do this for 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes. Just as with our silent brahma-vihara practice, we are cultivating a heart that is able to be present with this other person.
The second way you may do this practice is through the guidance of one of the clips below. These recordings offer reflections and thoughts on cultivating these qualities in relation to our partner. You may sit down together and listen while you look at each other. In this meditation with a partner you have another voice in the room, and many people benefit from the guidance that encourages us to stay on track with our intentions. If you are new to the cultivation of the Buddhist heart practices, we recommend trying this method first.
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