I had a weekend away this summer to rejuvenate, and I spent time with many yogis and meditation gurus in the mountains of Snowshoe, WV. This place holds many special memories for me of skiing as a child, vacationing with my own children, getting married among friends and family, and taking beautiful hikes in the woods. Yet, the experience of moving, meditating, and reflecting among others really helped me to understand the importance and process of Being With ourselves and those that we love.
First, it’s important to know that I’m not much of a yogi and I often have little patience for meditation. I do yoga occasionally mostly to work out my kinks. I do prescribe blips of meditation to my clients in counseling to help them deal with anxiety and depression. Yet, I emphasize in psychotherapy sessions that you don’t have to be a master meditator to be helped by meditation. Experts in mindfulness meditation remind us that 27 minutes of meditation is optimal, just 8 minutes is beneficial, and 1 minute is good enough and helpful at times.
Second, I was probably one of the least experienced yogis in the room of several hundred people, which was comprised of many yoga instructors and lifelong yoga students. Yet Rodney Yee–a famous yoga guru–emphasized throughout the entire class how important it was to focus on showing up and doing just enough. He and his partner circled the room with instructions and asked students to be less serious and to scale back how hard they were working in order to achieve a posture.
Why might you ask? Because, in their opinion, the key to growth is in the act of Being With ourselves as we try to progress–with our movements, with our feelings, with our breath, and with our fellow students. They even went on to generalize this notion to life in general–it is the act of Being With our feelings, our loved ones and their feelings, our family and their experiences, and our community. That is what matters!
I was struck by the notion that they are teaching what I try to teach couples when I’m seeing them in couples therapy and using EFT–Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. As a couples therapist, I ask partners in session to slow their reactions down and notice what their action tendency is during fights. Do they exit and avoid? Or, do they fight and pursue? Then, we try to label their outside feelings and list their internal thoughts and perceptions about themselves and their partner during these moments. What does each partner say about themselves or about their partner inside their head? What is their script? Next, we see if they can allow themselves to notice and feel those underlying inside feelings. I ask them to feel, to express, and Be With each other in those feelings. Why do I do that? It is because when we are actively experiencing and showing our inner feelings and allowing others to listen and feel our feelings with us, we are Being With and Connecting With our partner more fully. And, when we spend focused moments connecting with our partner, we have the chance to heal broken hearts and to attend to old wounds that need attention from past fights or prolonged stress in our relationships.
As Sue Johnson, the founder of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, says, our fights are just our protests and really are our call outs for connection. So next time you start to argue with your partner, take some time to reflect and ask yourself if you are letting yourself really be with them. Take just 1 minute to slow yourself way down. If you can, perhaps spend another 8 minutes to sort through the answers to the questions–what is my “go to” action in a fight? What am I feeling on the outside? What am I thinking about myself and my partner in the moment? What am I feeling on the inside? And what am I really wishing for with my partner right now? In a calm moment, ask for time and invite your partner to have a connecting conversation about both of your answers to these questions. You might find that your fight can be transformed into a moment of Being With each other in a new way.