Q: I want my mate to meditate. He’s a great partner in many ways, but we don’t fit philosophically. I teach mindfulness to at-risk youth and he is a high-stakes investment guy. I keep asking him to join me on the cushion, but he says it isn’t for him. How can I change his mind?
A: Since cave-boy first met cave-girl, partners have been trying to change each other. If only he or she liked dinosaur-knuckle stew, or would enjoy those William Shakespeare plays with me, or wanted to adopt a parrot. Or would learn to meditate. Sigh. So much relationship misery is caused by our attempts to fix our mate. But beware of the insidious if only. This thinking points to the fatal flaw in the scramble to live a pain-free life. It has an inherent assumption that sets you up for suffering—if only the one I love would change, then I would be happy.
It’s pretty simple, sister. Instead of trying to fiddle the outer circumstances, you gotta make yourself happy from the inside. He is not responsible for doing that for you. No matter how hard we try to get everything “just right” – in our relationship, our job, our home, and our kale-and-loganberry smoothie—life will always fall short. Things change, and when we fight to keep them the way we want them to be, we will suffer. So you do have a mind to change, but it is yours, not his.
In meditation, we attempt to meet the present moment experience just as it is. The practice is to cultivate non-judgmental awareness of what’s happening. Rather than evaluating each breath as a good breath or a lousy breath we simply observe it. Breath is there, just being breath. The same way your chosen partner is there, just being your guy. Meditation doesn’t just belong on the cushion—it belongs in your love life.
Sure, because you have experienced the myriad benefits of meditation you want your beloved to try it to. There is nothing wrong with wanting him to meditate and to share your enthusiasm for social causes. Certainly invite him to a meditation class. But if he declines, practice accepting that moment for what it is. It is simply a moment. If you are annoyed or sad when he says no instead of the yes you are hoping to hear (if only he’d say yes…), that annoyance and sadness are of your own making. And that mind state can drive a wedge right into the center of the present moment, and between the two of you.
Your partner is not wrong, just different. His preferences may not match yours. His choices may, at times, leave you baffled. I suspect he doesn’t agree with everything you do, either. But can you love each other with open arms? Can you realize your perspective is just that; a perspective, rather than holding tight to the belief it is The Right Perspective? On the cushion we practice, over and over again, letting go of expectations. We try to bring gentle curiosity to the breath, or to the physical sensation, and yes, even to the stories in our head. When you are off the cushion, try bringing gentle curiosity to your perceived needs, and to those of the man you love. Practice accepting him, and yourself, just as you are.
And when your man notices that you are a little calmer, a little more patient, and a little less critical, he might get curious. After all, the benefits of meditation are best illustrated through positive changes in our own mind, moods, and behavior. Show, don’t tell. Be kinder. Be more loving. Most of all, be happier. Your beloved just might be inspired to check out that meditation class and see what all the fuss is about.
Mindful Loving Tip
Your partner is not wrong, just different. Practice accepting them as they are.
Send your questions about life, love, and mindfulness to Cheryl Fraser at [email protected].