Origin of this program: Intrigued by the benefits of mindfulness, beginning meditators often ask, "How do I bring mindfulness into my interpersonal relationships?" While many experience how mindfulness helps them manage emotions and settle reactivity, the possibility of experiencing a deeper level of connection in relationships presents another level of challenge. Indeed, bringing more awareness into relationships can be scary.
This program was developed to assist participants in bringing mindfulness into relationships in order to deepen one's connection with others. The provide participants with both an understanding of the complex inner workings of interpersonal relationships, our "social engagement system," and, through mindfulness practices, to provide participants with the experience of how the system can be changed in order to help us experience more satisfying connection with others.
Through in-class mindful practices and processes, participants will have opportunity to explore and roam the terrain of more meaningful and connected communication processes. In the end, these skills can be used to deepen and transform participants' relationships with family, friends, significant others as well as co-workers, customers, clients or patients toward the goal of enhancing overall lifestyle.
Note: Click on the names highlighted below to watch a short video or read a brief article by researchers.
The program will draw from a number of relationship researchers and therapists including Sue Johnson, John Gottman, David Schnarch and Gary Chapman. While much of this research is focused on "intimate" relationships, the concepts and models with a bit of creative adjustment, clearly apply to all of the interpersonal relationships which fill our days at work and at play.
We will also incorporate a number of related research areas including Attachment Theory (Dan Siegel), Trauma Theory (Bessel Van der Kolk) and Somatic Psychology (Peter Levine). For information on the "social engagement system," will draw from the polyvagal theory developed by Stephen Porges as well as others.
The pioneering work of Keith Witt brings Integral Theory developed by Ken Wilber, into relationships. Bringing an Integral perspective to the complexities of our interpersonal lives allow participants to better recognize when and how one can become stuck in unhelpful patterns and help to find effective ways of growing into a more engaged, peaceful, and loving self, to drop, if you will, into our true nature. While we won't have enough time to delve deeply into this "megamap" of variables impacting one's perspective and view of the world, you'll come away with some good places to begin this journey in the event you find that Integral resonates with you.
Participants will be provided reading and video materials about these theories and will be encouraged to study only as much as they wish. The daily "homeplay" mindfulness practices combined with the in-class experiential exercises and group and dyad processes provide the critical keys for understanding the "relationship dance" better. By investing only a few hours a week, participants can get a general idea of research findings (what works and what doesn't) and how this understanding can be applied to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. All the while, cultivating the core skills of mindfulness - a settled and concentrated mind, ability to attend to the present moment without reactivity while taking a broader, more open and curious perspective on the many challenges of relationships and of life in general.
This rewarding experiential program builds on the core elements of our traditional Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programs. Previous meditation experience isn't necessary. If you have an established meditation practice, all the better. You'll be starting a few laps ahead but we'll all end up at a similar place. We will begin with the basic meditation instructions and foundations of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs, e.g., sitting, walking, eating meditations, Gentle Yoga and QiGong combined with powerful practices that are unique to the relationship program and dig deeper into others found in MBSR such as Insight Dialogue.
Foundations of an Effective Mindfulness Program
• Cultivation of mindfulness. "Mindfulness” can be defined as being aware of what’s happening within and outside of the body/heart/mind without adding the usual overlay of decision, judgment or commentary. This allows the fear, anxiety or confusion, which so often result from such internal dialogue, to be avoided. As the foundation of Cultivating Mindful Relationships, the cultivation and stabilization of the skill of mindfulness is woven into many aspects of the program.
• Shift of perspective from narrow (constricted, isolated and urgent) to open (expansive, connected and relaxed). Ordinary objects (e.g., raisins) and practices (e.g., breathing, stretching) in unusual (mindful, calm, quiet and focused) situations combined with pointing out instructions and special images (old woman/young girl) and inspirational writings (poetry) offer glimpses of a broader perspective and deepen capacity to shift between narrow and open focus.
• Ability to detect subtle bodily sensations including minor tensions and contractions associated with reactive patterns/habits/emotional triggers. This allows for a quick periodic check-in throughout the day and especially during stressful times, so that relatively minor tension can be released, preventing physical and emotional tension from accumulating. Emotional triggers can be identified so that skillful responses can replace mindless reactivity, which allows a shift toward healthy and productive choices. This skill is developed, deepened and stabilized by using eating and walking meditation, the body scan, Hatha yoga and Qigong practices within a supportive group context.
• Ability to rest in discomfort with equanimity and maintain a clear/focused mind, relaxed body and open heart. This skill is developed cognitively by working with disturbing thoughts, emotionally by working with disturbing feelings, and physically by working with disturbing sensations. (As participants experience them; none being intentionally induced as part of the program.) Participants are encouraged to relax in the presence of such discomforts and to gently move their attention toward them. These practices provide potential for insights into how conditioned reactions to minor discomforts underlie much of our suffering and unskillful reactions to the people in our lives. These insights often encourage participants to deepen their commitment to a daily mindfulness practice.
• Capacity for establishing a trusting interpersonal connection. This is clearly an important aspect of our Cultivating Mindful Relationships program and also a core element of our other mindfulness training programs. The facilitators create and hold a safe space in which participants feel comfortable in sharing their struggles, failures and successes in establishing their mindfulness practice. The importance and power of being open, honest and vulnerable is highlighted. There are small group and dyad exercises in which participants first meditate together and then share an experience, for example, a time when they felt most alive, honest or integrated or a time when they felt very afraid or embarrassed. Periodically, during this exercise, a bell will signal them to check-in internally and become centered before re-engaging with their partner. Such guided communication activities help cultivate the capacity to establish and maintain an inner stillness throughout a conversation, which invites one to listen and speak from their most authentic and integrated self.
• Openness to emotional healing, personal & Spiritual growth. Mindfulness practice brings one’s focus to the arising of sensations and contractions within the body thereby avoiding becoming hijacked or overcome by random thoughts or powerful emotions. A shift to a more open, curious perspective allows an interruption of the chain of reactivity that gives the emotional and physical energy room in which to rise up, be witnessed and owned, and processed and released. This natural self-healing process is often appreciated as another helpful fruit of regular mindfulness practice.
Program Formats: The Cultivating Mindful Relationships program is regularly offered in both a weekday evening - six, 2.5 hour sessions, and a weekend day - four, 4-hour sessions, format. When it is offered on a weekend, it is generally with meetings held every other week. Other arrangements can be easily made for groups or organizations who want a program delivered exclusively to their members in a private setting (e.g. full weekend, residential program, on-site multi-week training).
• Materials: As with our traditional MBSR programs, there will be weekly readings, YouTube videos, a collection of 8 or 10 guided meditations, QiGong and gently yoga recordings and practice suggestions to tie the program together. Participants learn about these supports, practice them at home and refine them in the next session.
• About the Facilitators: John Shealy, PhD, and Jordan Dye, MSW, CSW, are a married couple who together have over 45 years of experience practicing and teaching mindfulness meditation. Both currently practice Integral Mondo Zen. John is a licensed psychologist, Jordan, a certified social worker. Both are trained yoga instructors and live a healthy, balanced lifestyle. The safe, respectful, peaceful space they hold for each other and for the group provides a container for establishing a daily meditation practice while promoting personal and relationship transformation.
• Class size: Due to the experiential and intimate nature of this program, class size will be limited to 20 participants.
• Location: Earth & Spirit Center - In the brick barn behind St. Agnus Church, 1920 Newburg Road, across from Bellarmine University and up the hill from Our Lady of Peace.
• Meeting dates and times: Saturdays, June 20, July 14 and 28, and August 11, 2018 from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm (with a brown-bag, mindful lunch).
• Fee is on a sliding scale from $450 to $250 per participant, based on your financial situation. Some partial scholarships may be available.
• Registration is through the Earth & Spirit Center website
If you have any questions, please email John or call him at 502 727 2996.