A series of monthly relationship practices by Jill Weinknecht Wardell, Training and Development Specialist, Training and Organization Development department
Wellness not only applies to individuals but to relationships as well. What are healthy relationships? Healthy relationships are those that are capable of movement, transformation, and change. The way you cultivate healthy relationships is by putting practices into place that raise awareness and create new possibilities for you and/or your partner (whether it be a supervisor, colleague, friend, or loved one).
A practice is something (an action, words, or way of being) that you intentionally put into place in order to create or forward positive change. You may choose to practice for the sake of another without them knowing it or if you have an interested and/or willing partner, you may enroll them to practice with you. Either way, it is important to pay attention to how the quality of the relationship shifts over time.
We forget that just as we are capable of change, relationships too, are capable of change. Nothing is the way it is things are the way we design them to be. Practicing helps us reclaim our role as a co-creator of our design. Even if our partner is not willing to practice with us, we can create a sense of peace and well being in ourselves and likely change the course of our relationship simply by choosing different ways of seeing, being, and acting.
Relationships serve not only the two people who are involved but a larger network as well a department, work colleagues, family, friends, and the community. For the sake of these extended communities and their well being, we need to tend to our relationships to ensure that they are healthy and functioning, providing internal as well as external support to us and to those whom we serve.
Keeping a practice log is one way of tracking progress. It is not meant to be a journal and need not be lengthy. The intention is to succinctly focus on the following:
January 12, 2009
Practice: Notice the difference between phenomena (what actually happened and observable through the senses) and story (my interpretation of it).
Today, on my way to the office, I said hello to a colleague who did not say hello in return. I immediately noticed my shoulders raise and tense up, my breathing halt, and a feeling of resentment well up. I began creating a story about how rude she was to ignore me, assuming that she had. I remembered my practice and became curious about what other stories and other possibilities might be true. Possibly she didn't hear me or maybe she was caught up in an assignment. As I imagined these stories to be true, I felt my breathing return to normal, a spaciousness return to my posture, and a feeling of peace return. I was able to let go of my truth and any resentment I felt toward this colleague.
All relationships at one time or another will experience conflict, that’s a fact. When this happens, most of us get so entrenched in the details of the conflict that we lose sight of the meta view, or 20,000 foot level perspective. One way to enlarge our perspective is to look to observe mother nature. If we look at the history of our planet, there have been several phases where the earth invited conflict, destroying existing life in order for new life to spring into existence. In the case of the universe, destruction and creation go hand in hand. How might we be different in the midst of our human conflicts if we sense that this same creative process is happening through us?
This month’s practice invites you to rise above the details to look at the growth that’s happening as a result of the conflict. What new competencies is this conflict birthing in you and your partner that are necessary for you both to evolve and grow? Instead of getting caught up into victim-oriented stories, become a mindful creator, focusing instead on the gifts of this conflict. Pay attention to the many ways that your conflict is your teacher and become a student of it. Notice how shifting your perspective around conflict changes how you ‘be’ in it and changes your partner as well.