How to Build a Mindful and Loving Relationship and Parshat Ki Tavo
In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, we learn about the covenant between G-d and the children of Israel. It says: “You have affirmed G-d this day to be your G-d and you will walk in His ways and keep his statutes/commandments….And G-d has affirmed as he promised you , His treasure, who shall keep his commandments…”
The word in Hebrew for affirmed is האמרת he’emarta which is attributed to both G-d and the people. According to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the covenant is a mutual bond of love on both sides to be faithful and cherish one another.
Our commentators have different opinions as to the meaning of this verb.
Rashi says it means chosen, Radak says it means betrothed and Hizkuni says it means unique.
Whatever the meaning, language is deliberate in the Torah and the fact that both G-d and the Jewish people affirm their relationship shows the duality and reciprocity in their relationship.
There is a mutual bond of love.
This example of mutual love can be used in human relationships as well.
A loving relationship is a very important value in Judaism and is referred to in many places in the Torah. As Yeshiva University Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky wrote: "The relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people is a model for a loving relationship, and we can derive an important lesson from the words of commitment “ונשמע נעשה -- we will hear and we will do“, that brought this relationship into existence. The Jewish people were not aware of all the details of Torah life before committing to its observance. What was necessary was the trust in G-d and commitment of the Jewish people that as the relationship progressed, they would learn more about G-d and His Torah, and would want to observe all of its laws."
In addition, the holiday of Shavuot placed more of an emphasis on trust and commitment than on the knowledge of all the details. That knowledge would eventually come in time. Similarly, in a growing relationship with a potential spouse it is unrealistic to focus on every possible detail about the other person. More emphasis should be on general personality traits, compatibility, and mutual trust. As events unfold, a relationship built on trust and commitment will be able to sustain life’s challenges.
In our approach to our spouse’s shortcomings, we should emulate G-d’s patience and willingness to overlook our flaws. Nobody is perfect, and those who constantly focus on others' imperfections will never be happy.
So how can we put these ideas into practice?
Here are a few ways that the practice and attitudes of mindfulness can help us be more open to love, introspection, and growth in all of our relationships.
1. Mindfulness helps us be more present and attentive. It can help us notice when we are on autopilot and redirect our attention to whatever our partner is saying or to what they are feeling, which builds intimacy and makes our relationships happier and more connected.
When you are mindful of the love in your life you open yourself up to the opportunity for love to grow. And not just romantic love, but self-love, and loving friendships as well.
2. Mindfulness improves emotion regulation. So even when we do start to “lose it” or walk away from our partners when in the middle of an argument, we are able to say “This is not helpful!” and stop ourselves from going down a negative spiral in our relationship.
3. Be interested in the other person. One of the essential attitudes of mindfulness is curiosity, and we can bring this into our relationships to foster warmth and trust. Our minds often tell us that we “know” someone so well that we can predict their behaviors and responses. While this may be true some of the time, it also stops us from clearly seeing the person in front of us—instead, we just see our “idea” of that person. See if you can be open, curious, and interested in those close to you as if you are getting to know them for the first time. You might be surprised by what you find.
4. Mindfulness makes us more compassionate and kind. People like to be around others who are kind because they feel cared about and safe with them. When we practice kindness, not only do we feel better, but we help others feel good, too. And this just increases opportunities for positive connections throughout our day, which, in turn, contributes to our own health and well-being.
5. Practice Mindful Listening
There’s a difference between hearing someone and actively listening to them. The next time you’re having a face-to-face conversation, notice the posture and body language of the other person. See if it’s possible to put aside forming your own response while listening to them speak.
Some of us who believe in or promote the benefits of mindfulness have a way of proselytizing in our attempts to raise awareness about the practice. “If it’s great for me,” we think, “it must be good for you, and you are missing out!”
Being excited about mindfulness is wonderful, but when we get too pushy about it in our intimate relationships—especially with our partners and spouses—it can cause friction.
Let go of the hope that he or she might one day get into mindfulness as much as you do. When you let go, a new world of deeper connection awaits, according to
Try this couple's meditation by Tara Brach , psychologist and meditation teacher.
A 10-Minute Meditation on Love Connection
Tara Brach and her husband, meditation teacher Jonathan Foust, have developed a regular practice for keeping the lines of communication open and maintaining a loving connection. They engage in this practice a couple of times a week. Here’s how Tara suggests going about it.
Keep the Lines Open
1) Begin by sitting silently together for about 10 minutes, or as much as time allows.
2) Next, take turns telling each other what you’re grateful for, and what's warming your heart right now. This is called gladdening the heart and serves as a good way to open the channel of communication,” Tara says.
3) Next, take turns naming any particular challenges you’re dealing with that are currently causing you stress. These are difficulties you’re facing apart from your relationship.
4) Then, deepen your inquiry by taking turns noting anything that might be restricting the sense of love and openness you feel toward your partner. First, you might ask yourself: “What is preventing me from feeling openhearted and intimate with my partner?” This is potentially the stickiest part of the practice, as well as the most rewarding.
“Naming difficult truths is the best way to bring more love and understanding into a relationship,” explains Tara. For example, she says, “There are times when I get busy and he takes on a larger portion of the household responsibilities and ends up feeling unappreciated, and I need to be reminded to express my appreciation. When we acknowledge what could cause resentment if left unsaid, it brings us closer