In her interview with PsychAlive Senior Editor Lisa Firestone, Dr. Donna Rockwell talks about the effects of mindfulness meditation on parenting. Watch or read the interview below.
Lisa Firestone: I was wondering if you could talk about how mindfulness affects relationships, like romantic relationships, for instance.
Donna Rockwell: Certainly. Well, as far as relationships go, mindfulness, if both partners understand what it means and can sort of enter into that space or worldview together, there’s a lot more patience and time to be present to the other person, to cultivate empathy for what the other person might be feeling. To get a true picture of what’s actually going on here versus, “I need to defend myself, and I didn’t do anything, and it’s her fault or it’s his fault.” And that’s just more rat race.
What mindfulness does, again, is it creates this space, it takes us out of the catastrophe. And as a couple working together in a mindfulness way – and I do have couples that see me just for that very reason. Because they want a mindful therapist. There’s a lot more heart available. There’s a lot more understanding possible than this need to defend, which is, I think, what we find in the therapy room a lot with couples. They’re just trying to feel OK and mindfulness can really help both of them be in the same place at the same time, with a full opened heart for one another.
Mindfulness helps us be more vulnerable. It lets us take more risks in being; more authentic because we don’t feel we need to guard so much. And instead of already needing to know, instead we have a curious mind, a beginner’s mind, an open mind and instead of, like, thinking that we need to have the answers, instead, we’re curious, instead, about what’s really going on here. How does he really feel? How does she really feel?
And what I have found in the therapy room with couples is that they’re able to re-embrace love, and sharing that with each other because of mindfulness. Because they’re able to put down all this luggage they’re carrying around of why they’re OK. So I think it enables them to put down their weaponry and pick up their meditation ball. You know, and to sort of be in that space with one another. It’s a profoundly intimate space.
And what I have found is that meditation in the context of personal growth is that – and this helps couples as well – is that meditation helps you fall in love with yourself. It helps you regain your sense of awe in life and the appreciation and gratitude to even be alive.
And that there’s a whole rash of gratitude studies now. They’re helping with depression and anxiety in people. Because you can’t be anxious at the same time you’re feeling grateful. You can’t have both of those systems operating at the same time.
So that’s the other thing that happens with couples in the room is that their gratitude and appreciation for each other is cultivated. Not only do they fall more in love with their spouse or with their partner. But with themselves. And the more you can be in a state of love with self and appreciation for self, the more you have available to share that love. So you don’t have to defend. There’s nothing to defend against.