How Mindfulness Supports Healthy Relationships: An Interview with Lauren Korshak
WITHIN teacher Lauren Korshak just published The Mindful Relationship: Easy Exercises to Make Mindfulness a Daily Relationship Practice. We sat down with her to talk about the book, her work as a therapist, and her own personal journey as a meditation practitioner.
Q: What's the link between mindfulness, mental health, and relationship health?
A: Mindfulness is a really important aspect of learning to be with our emotions in a healthy way. Mindfulness allows us to feel and observe our emotions rather than suppress them or lash out in reaction. Feeling and observing and effectively navigating our emotions are the basis of good mental health and good relationships. Our relationship health flows from our ability to respond to others with awareness of our patterns, accountability for our actions and responses, and our ability to be transparent, undefended, and vulnerable with those we love. And, cyclically, having good relationships then feeds back into having good mental health!
What led you to write this book?
I've been wanting to write a book about bringing the principles of mindfulness off the cushion and into relationships for a long time.
As a therapist, I noticed many of my clients seeking a way to bring some of the mindfulness and mindful communication tools we use in our therapy work to their partnership.
Couples are often seeking concrete exercises and structure outside of sessions, and individual clients I see crave the support and understanding of their partner as they practice new ways of relating more mindfully.
What authors or teachers inspire you?
Reginald Ray of Dharma Ocean is a big inspiration. His dedication and embodied depth of somatic and meditation knowledge is endlessly inspiring to me. I'm also inspired by the Mindful Self-Compassion work of Kristen Neff and Christopher Germer. Their research and the work of the Mindful Self-Compassion Organization are very inspiring to me. Charlotte Kasl, Caroline Myss, Esther Perel, Rainer Maria Rilke, J. Krishnamurti, and Yung Pueblo are also inspirations to me.
Who did you write this book for?
This book is specifically designed to be done with a partner so it's unique in that way. Anyone getting started on mindfulness and/or therapy who wants better communication and intimacy and a happier, healthier relationship can benefit from reading this book. Also, anyone who wants to have their partner join them on a mindfulness and self-growth journey!
Mindfulness is a beautiful practice, but can at times feel isolating or hard to translate into mindful communication and intimacy in our relationships - especially when we're emotionally activated.
I'm hoping this book will provide ways for couples and individuals to use the principles of mindfulness every day in their relationships, and also that it will help couples feel more attuned to each other and supported in their daily life!
What have you seen in the groups you've lead about the way mindfulness can change our interactions, especially around meeting new people and dating?
Mindfulness brings more self-awareness. It allows people to reflect on their own part in interactions and to respond rather than to react from habitual learned patterns -- leading to greater connection and intimacy. With dating, mindfulness helps bring the focus away from what the other person is or isn't doing, and back to a centered sense of "who am I" and "how can I respond to this situation?" It helps people feel more empowered, aware, and centered.
As a therapist with a passion for mindfulness, what advice do you give your clients about how or why to get started with mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the basis of self-awareness, and ultimately, of having more emotional maturity. Before we can change a behavior, we have to be able to witness it nonjudgmentally. Sometimes simply witnessing the behavior creates a change. Other times, mindfully observing our behaviors gives us more self-awareness, new insight, and a moment of choice in how to respond to situations.
How did you get started meditating? What's your journey been from learning meditation yourself, to teaching it?
I started meditating in college as part of healing chronic health concerns that arose from emotional difficulties and a traumatic experience.
I felt deeply drawn to learning to observe rather than react to my mental patterns. I've explored meditation since then personally through classes, retreats, trainings, and personal practice, and it naturally became part of my work as a therapist.
I think often as therapists we provide the tools to clients that have been most useful to us. As I started to work with meditation more with my clients, I deepened my training and education and began to teach mindfulness outside of the therapy room.
Lauren is passionate about helping individuals and couples deepen, strengthen, and enliven their relationships through mindfulness. Join her for a class at WITHIN, or learn more about her on her website. Her book, The Mindful Relationship: Easy Exercises to Make Mindfulness a Daily Relationship Practice, is available on Amazon.