Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Relaxing Art of Conversational Meditation

Many time we think of meditation as something one might do solo, in private, with silence and without the distraction of others.  However, meditative conversation is a relaxing way to be fully present and in the company of a good friend, while also relaxing and reducing stress.

Traditional definitions of meditation include things such as "concentration on one's breath" or "repeating a mantra".  They can also include activities such as staring at a candle flame or using a guided imagery in one's mind.

But when it comes right down to it, meditation is actually all of these as they all have one thing in common, and that is that they train the mind and consciousness to be fully present and focused on whatever it is that is happening right now.

In meditative conversation, one must work to sharpen their listening skills so they can remain fully present.  It's not uncommon to talk about oneself too much, or change the topic your companion is presenting to be all about "me, myself, and I".  Other common mistakes that distract from being fully present in conversation are things like talking over the top of your friend, rushing to reply before your conversation companion has finished their sentence, and continually changing the topic to focus on your own life and events.  There is a common misconception that conversation is made up of, "I talk about me, then you talk about you".  Which is not really a conversation.  It's two people talking about themselves in the presence of another person. It's talking "at" someone, not with them.

Here are some tips for meditative conversation you can try the next time you plan to get together with a good friend, companion, acquaintance, or partner.

*Meditative conversation is best done in a quieter, relaxed setting where complete focus can be directed at listening and responding to what is heard.  A bar scene is for other kinds of communication, and the loud music and distraction does not make for truly focused discussions.

*Practiced listening skills are key, in that one cannot be listening to another if they are already trying to figure out what their own next sentence will be.  Actively work to not just remain silent (which is not all that "listening" is), but to also hear what is being said.  Active listening involves responses that let others know we are following them, are curious about details, want to know more, can relate to what they are saying, and are truly interested and have heard what they've just said.  Rushing in to turn the topic focus to oneself is not the idea.

*Eye contact, or at least facing one another if outdoors or wearing sunglasses, is a way of showing interest.  Looking away, or over the top of someone's shoulder only says, "I'm not really interested in whatever it is you are saying."  Today we have a very big problem with people looking down at their phones or computers and not really demonstrating attention when others are speaking to them.  Bragging that you are only "multi-tasking" doesn't help the other person feel you are truly present for them.  So put gadgets away and bring your full attention into the present.  When it comes to meditational conversation you are either "fully" present, or you are not.  Partial presence is not fully present.

*When it's your turn to speak, don't dominate the airspace too much, but also don't deadpan or respond with one-word replies.  That causes an imbalance in conversation in which the other person has to "carry the load" of the entire conversation by themselves, and it also says you are not bringing yourself to the moment and are not participating fairly in conversation.

*A good conversation is done with just one other person.  Many good talks can come with more people present, but all involved would need to practice these meditative skills and as the crowd grows, the listening skills and etiquette tends to meander. 

Meditative conversation with another can be relaxing and enjoyable, especially if both individuals are fully present.  Try this with a good friend or companion and see how different a conversation can be.

Thanks to vxla for the great photo
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/