Today is Valentine’s Day and you might wonder about the best present to buy for the love of your life. Will it be a nice perfume? A beautiful bouquet of roses? Or a romantic evening out? Well, it will do the trick for sure… but won’t necessarily win you a prize for best gift idea 🙂
If this time you’d like to really impress, then today is the day to consider gifting your sincere attention. You might laugh now: what a weird suggestion! But in a world where we are constantly on the run, where the beeps and bleeps of our cell phone always fight for our immediate attention (and get it), and where most of us disappear into screens both great and small for over 12 hours a day… real, sincere, undivided attention has become a rare gem.
As a mindfulness expert I have developed a few simple but effective mindfulness exercises which will not only reconquer your honey’s heart, but will also boost the bond between the two of you.
Ban all distractions
On any given morning you find yourself checking your Insta and FB feeds while at the same time scanning the newspaper’s headlines, watching the TV breakfast news, and sharing the latest gossip with your WhatsApp friends. By allowing your attention to dash from one subject to the other, you aren’t even aware of the taste of your coffee — let alone notice your partner’s presence.
Today resolve that you will ban each of these invasive distractions. As soon as your loved one is up, you silence your phone or switch it off (be strong, you can do it!). The TV will remain off, and you’ll leave the newspaper in the mailbox. Instead, you put on some soothing music. This self-created oasis of peace and quiet will now give you more than enough time to cook a nice breakfast. Do this with full, undivided attention: toasting bread, beating eggs, cutting cheese, making coffee. After that you set the table in calm awareness, so that you can make every detail look lovely.
When your partner is ready for breakfast, the whole house will breathe this wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, and you’ll enjoy a particularly romantic breakfast thanks to the attention you’ve put into it.
Of course, your life partner isn’t exactly perfect. There is plenty of small stuff to sweat: those sport socks that have been spread around the lounge for days now. The wet towels on the bathroom floor. The incredible mess in the office room upstairs. While you are totally perfect and always do everything in a perfectly correct way!
Today, don’t allow your ego to drag you into that muddy pool of irritation, but resolve to practise appreciation. Think of your love’s good characteristics:
What qualities did you fall for when you two met?
Which plusses positively surprised you when you really got to know each other?
What traits still make you tremble with passion?
Our human mind is in the habit of highlighting the negatives time and time again, while quickly storing the positives under the tab ‘well-known and utterly uninteresting, duh!’. Today you can counter this tendency by consciously remembering your partner’s attractive traits and positive intentions.
By practising appreciation you change your mindset while your attitude will radiate both love and gratitude. What better gift could your Valentine ask for?
Listen with calm attention
After a hard day’s work you both drop on the couch with wine and sushi. Normally this would be the moment to turn on the TV and start checking that endless stream of messages on your phone and social media feeds. But not today! This Valentine’s Day listening is on the menu and so you plan to consciously listen to your sweetheart’s stories. But how do you actually practise the ancient art of listening?
Take a minute to ground yourself. Stand up, and breathe in. When exhaling you allow your breath to flow through your belly, your legs, your feet, right into the floor. Do this a few times, and try to breathe through the floor as far as you can. You will notice that this will spread calm within while opening up your heart to your better half.
Now you will listen consciously. Just to make sure: this means that you will listen and not speak. Relax the muscles of your face and make sure that your facial expressions are neutral. This neutrality creates emotional space so that your significant other can be at complete ease.
You will notice that listening triggers an avalanche of thoughts that scream for attention. Your love tells you about lunch with colleagues? Suddenly you hear this shrill voice in your head yelling: I had lunch with my colleagues too! It was wonderful! I had salmon! And it was beautifully cooked!
Be strong and suppress the impulse to crush your partner’s story under your own fantastic lunch-tales. You had resolved to listen, not talk. Push those thoughts filled with excitement and judgements into the background, and really follow the story that is being told.
Once your love has finished talking, express gratitude and leave it at that. Don’t jump into the silence to quickly fill it up with your own experiences. Allow silence to be present and enjoy the serenity that can now spread between you, thanks to your sincere attention.
With these mindfulness tips you honour your love’s deepest humanity. Not only will your partner respond positively to your honest attention, but it will also awaken a quiet, special energy within yourself. It is a sort of superpower that opens up a whole new dimension in your life. Sincere attention costs you nothing. But it’s invaluable for the person you hold so dear to your heart.