The Gift of Presence for Valentine’s Day
Forget the flowers, chuck the chocolate and instead give the gift of genuine connection with those you love. Flowers will wilt and die, and we consume chocolate too quickly. However, the feeling of someone being truly present in our lives can last a lifetime. “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers.” Thich Nhat Hanh
One way you can show that you are present in a relationship is by being a good listener.
To be a better listener:
- Allow for space for the other person to be seen, heard, and understood
- Listen without assuming you know what will be said or evaluating what is being said
- Ask caring and non-judgmental questions
- Listen for meaning and understanding
- Don’t start planning what you are going to say in response, while someone else is talking
- When you respond, do so in a non-judging and kind way
Being present during a conversation means you are not focused on your own thoughts or distracted with other things like watching TV or checking your phone or watch. Active listening lets others know they are worthy of love and belonging. “To listen is to lean in softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.” Mark-Nepo
Heartfelt Breathing Intentions
Try the practice of heart breathing meditation. It can help you be intentional when expressing heartfelt kindness and compassion, to yourself and others.
Find a quiet place to sit uninterrupted for 10 minutes. While breathing a little deeper than normal, breathe in for four seconds and then out for four seconds. Count in your mind while inhaling, 1-2-3-4 and exhaling, 1-2-3-4. After three to four breaths, imagine you are breathing in and out through your heart. Then, after three to four more heart breaths, bring to mind a heartfelt emotion such as love or gratitude. Notice how this emotion makes you feel. When you breathe in through your heart, with this feeling in mind, say to yourself “May I be well” and when you breathe out say “May I be happy.” Repeat this for four breaths.
Now, think about someone you love. With the feelings of love or affection for this other person in mind, say to yourself as you breathe in “May (name) be well” and then when you breathe out say “May (name) be happy.” Do this for four or more breaths. Try practicing heart breathing for 10 minutes a day. For some, the regular practice of heart breathing meditation helps them feel more connected with themselves and others. Adapted from Rick Hanson’s heart breathing exercise.
For more training in mindfulness and meditation, consider taking an online course from CSU Extension taught by Sue Schneider, CSU Extension Agent, Medical Anthropologist and Certified Integrative Health Coach.