The Psychotherapy Networker magazine this month focuses on The Mindfulness Movement currently afoot in our culture. Because my own spiritual disciplines include meditations of various sorts, I value the transformational qualities of these kinds of practices. Some of my clients do, too, and part of our work centers around how their practices of silence and mindfulness impact their therapeutic progress. As an Imago practitioner, I’m interested in the way meditation and mindfulness marries with and enhances Imago principles and will be blogging about this in the days ahead. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from a great article by Tim Atkinson, Executive Director of Imago Relationships International.
How can Imago Dialogue build your mindfulness and compassion muscles?
1. Listen. This seems obvious, but listening brings inner stillness. You can learn to focus fully on what your partner is saying. This is a mindful practice –shifting your attention from your own thoughts to another’s, without judging or reacting.
2. Become aware of your own thoughts and feelings. Taking your turn as the speaker is an opportunity to practice awareness of your own thoughts and feelings. But unlike meditation, when you try to still the chatter of thoughts, as your partner asks you “is there more”, you get a chance to really follow these thoughts, and learn their origin. Your partner then mirrors them back to you. The next time these thoughts come up, you will find yourself less absorbed in them, or the associated pain. This, in turn, helps you to be present for others.
3. You create a sacred space. Something else beautiful happens in an Imago dialogue, as you become aware of the “sacred space” you and your partner create together. It’s the space which includes you both, and connects you both. It’s a deep experience of connectedness, and of the idea that in addition to each of you, physically separate, there is a relationship that is real.
4. Empathy leads to compassion. The emergence of empathy in an Imago dialogue is also a powerful practice. As we learn to practice empathy with our partner – it extends to others too. And empathy lies at the heart of compassion.