When someone asks me about the benefits of meditation, I used to get a little over eager. I would take a deep breath and start spouting off a long list of meditation cure-alls. The poor listener probably felt like they got ambushed by meditation’s version of a telemarketer.
Now when the question gets posed, I smile, turn to my wife, and say “It makes me a better husband.” Usually she will smile in agreement (I can’t say that I am always zen-like around her).
Ahh, doesn’t that sound nice? Simple, direct, and something that most people can relate to. Who doesn’t want to be better in their relationship?
I’m no Dr Phil by any means. And I have a string of ex-lady friends who would at least furrow their brow at the news that I have improved in relationships. I look at it like the game of Jenga. Each successive block (relationship) created a nice high structure (marriage now).
So what is the holy grail that I’ve stumbled across in my meditation practice that created improved husband material? Drumroll please…
Meditation has given me 3 seconds.
During conversations, discussions, scheduling, baby planning, social calendar debates, whatever, thanks to meditation I have 3 additional seconds to formulate my response. This may not seem like a big deal on the surface. But how many times has something blurted out of your mouth that has led to irritation, anger, or upset with your partner?
This additional 3 seconds was always there in the past. I just didn’t have present awareness of the moment to see it. Being able to inhale, truly feel the situation, and determine the best response I can give at that moment has made life a lot better in my relationship.
Meditation gives me awareness. Awareness leads to being present. Being present means you are consciously deciding your actions. I don’t agree to social events that I will later on regret and then complain about. I don’t just say “yes” to something so that an uncomfortable but necessary conversation takes place. Yes, these were all less than optimal responses I would give in relationships past.
Most importantly for me, the 3 seconds of awareness helps prevent argument escalation. When having a heated exchange, it is natural to want to “win” the argument, whatever that means. I can get so caught up in trying to get “victory” over my beloved wife, I can say some pretty stupid things. I never win even if I get my way at this point.
Thanks to meditation, I am able to often get those precious 3 seconds and realize I have a potentially combustible response formulating in my brain and making its way down to my vocal chords. A deep breath, some present awareness, and I can successfully swallow it (or at least bite through my tongue).
Here is an example of what I mean:
Wife (in traffic)– “I’m so looking forward to getting home tonight.”
Scott – “Can’t wait to see you. I’ve been texting with some friends, looks like we’ll be congregating on our deck at 8.”
Wife – Silence
Scott – “I thought you said you wanted to hang out on the deck with some wine tonight?”
Wife – “Yes, with my husband.”
Now at this point, I could make an impassioned argument why it will be fun to see the people I’ve invited. Or I could make a slam comment that I think is funny and she won’t. Hopefully, and somewhat often thanks to meditation, I will do the following:
Scott – breathes in and doesn’t try to think of a retort. It helps me tremendously when I don’t try to win the argument, just a breath and nothing else.
Scott – “I’m glad my honey wants to hang out tonight, it sounds awesome. I have started to cook up some tentative plans going on already. How can we handle this?”
Now this doesn’t mean the situation will end all hunky-dory. But it won’t escalate into hollering, because instead of making it a battle for victory, it is a discussion about how to proceed.
The response that you choose to give in the situation, after the 3 second breath pause, will depend on a number of personal factors. The present awareness that meditation gives a person means that it can be a more educated and less hostile discussion rather than an unconscious battle to protect your own feeling and win the battle at all verbal cost.
There is no specific meditation technique that will create a Gandhi-like response to all of your relationship needs. I still do things that don’t thrill my wife or me. But I’ve made progress in relationships thanks to meditation, and that’s something. As the wise t-shirt slogan reads, “Happy Wife, Happy Life.”
Joanne Desgrosseillierson June 8, 2011 Reply
Love you guys. Miss you too!
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