Love From Paris: How Mindfulness Fuels Connection
Hello from Paris – the city of lights and love. It was a joyful two days this week facilitating the Search Inside Yourself mindfulness program at the historic gathering house for authors – the Societe des Gens des Lettres. I returned for another year to the old villa surrounded by gardens in the midst of the vibrant energy of the city. Ninety people from France, across Europe and as far as Brazil took a deep dive into how to connect with ourselves and each other by cultivating the energy of mindfulness – being truly here for yourself, and for those around you. I recalled a mindfulness retreat with my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh a few years ago, where he shared with us his teachings on love. He told us that it is especially important to be truly here for those you love, because after all, how can you love if you are not here?
The good news is that being here can be accomplished with your breath. It is as accessible as bringing attention to the in-breath and out-breath, letting go of thinking or planning. We trained in how to actually be present for one another. We learned how to be aware of the impulses and thought patterns that block listening and connection, and how to increase the skill of mindful, focused attention, so we could give each other space with loving presence.
On this February 14th, the day that celebrates love and connection, try experimenting with ways to be present without an agenda when you are with those you love. Mindfulness increases our self-awareness, helps us turn the floodlight on ourselves – increasing our ability to see how we show up. Are you open, tuned in, and kind-hearted, or behind a protective wall, distracted, and distant? Awareness helps us shift from our protective, habitual patterns to calm, compassionate presence.
I am filled with being touched by the people who came together these past two days – their insights, observations, challenging questions, and warm smiles. One participant from Paris said he realized that he often feels awkward in intimate moments, sometimes withdrawing, using humor to hide, or losing himself in his anxious thoughts. He shared his discovery that simply being there, offering space – not even needing to say anything, was a gift for both people. Loving presence is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and those you love this Valentine’s Day, and every day.
Three Practices for Loving Presence
1. Take Three Breaths. Take three breaths to calm the mind, relax the body, and ask yourself “What’s Important Now” when you are with others. Remember that connection comes before tasks, being right or solving problems.
2. Listen Mindfully. Listen to others without jumping in, finishing their sentence, or waiting for your turn to speak. Notice when your mind wanders, and bring attention back to the speaker with an open, curious way of listening. This practice alone will transform your relationships.
3. Offer Loving Wishes. Cultivate a loving orientation of your heart and mind. Silently extend kind wishes to those you meet today- in the metro, in the hallway, in a meeting, and at your dinner table. Extend the same wishes to yourself, and those you love.
May you be happy
May you be peaceful
May you know that you are loved.
To read more about how to become more mindful at home, at work, at play and in love, order my book from National Geographic, available now on Amazon. It is called The Mindful Day: Practical Ways to Find Focus, Calm and Joy. I would love to hear from you – you can also join my community here or at www.purposeblue.com.