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From ABC, this is the 10 percent happier podcast. I'm Dan Harris. Hey, gang, the great meditation teacher, Ramdas, who sadly is no longer with us, he once said, and this is a quote here, If you think you're enlightened, go spend a week with your family.


My guest today comes with tools to help you keep your cool when interacting with your family or anybody else. We're going to talk about a kind of meditation practice known as relational dharma or insight dialog. It's a way of taking meditation off the cushion and into the crucible of conversation. My guest is Bart Van Mellick, who teaches to veterans and also to children in juvenile detention centers. He's coauthor of a book called Still in the City. He graduated from The Spirit Rock, EMCs, Teacher Training and Community Dharma Leader Program.


He's based in New York City. But as we recorded this conversation, he was back in his home country, the Netherlands. And in this conversation, you're going to hear a lot of tips about how to actually practice relational dharma and insight dialog, which Bart calls a pressure cooker for insight. Here we go now with Bart van Melick. Bart, great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show. Oh, thank you. Likewise. Likewise.


Every time I see you, I think about the first time I saw you, which was my first meditation retreat in 2010. I wrote about it.


It was like the key scene, the key chapter from the first book I wrote where I go in my first meditation retreat. And I'm having all these interactions with Joseph Goldstein in the moments when I'm allowed to talk to the teacher. And in all of those moments, I don't think I mention it. But you were in the room because you were apprenticing with him and he was giving me all this advice and you're sitting there nodding sagely. So it's always a pleasure to see you.


And, you know, the pleasure is very mutual then. And funny story is I had no idea what you do right for your livelihood because I had just come to America from the Netherlands. So I remember I think Joseph said something to the effect.


Do you know this person well? No, I don't know.


And then he didn't say anything else. But later on I found out, oh, it's. Yeah, it's you.


Well, you were there for one of the most important moments of my life. That retreat really changed the trajectory of my life. So I always associate you with that.


So many areas I want to touch on with you.


But let's start with relational mindfulness. Can you just give me a very basic description of what that is? Yeah, I can. It's let me start just a little bit about that. We as human beings are relational by nature, and a lot of meditation practices are done in a way where we bring attention to something that's going on in really. And. Yet if you look at how life unfolds, it unfolds very relationally, and so in relational meditation practices, in formal ways, you learn not only to be aware of what's going on within you, but you will also get instructions to be very mindful of, let's say, another person who is sitting in front of you and relational mindfulness meditation will also eventually, after practice, allow you to do something that was kind of mind blowing for me.


And that was that I'm able to be connected to this body mind and being open to another or others. And so relational mindfulness allows you to be present with you being in relationship with other people. And sometimes when we're just doing mindfulness drawn more internally, we learn a lot also about being present with internal emotions, feelings and thoughts. But relational meditation takes it another step, and that is to really also notice what's going on around me without losing the sense of my own body mind.


Because so often when we are engaging with people, especially when there's like a lot of content, we may be totally 100 percent focused on them. Right. And not so much aware of this. And so that would be, you know, to be short or relational mindfulness is about. I want to start talking a little bit practically about how listeners can practice this in their own lives. First, just a quick anecdote. I've mentioned this a few times on the show, maybe too many times.


But I had a couple of years ago, I had the kind of semi traumatic experience where I did a 360 review where I was kind of invited a lot of people in my life to comment anonymously about my strengths and weaknesses. And there were quite a few weaknesses, to my surprise, that I was either unaware of or didn't know. Other people could see and describe it very painful, but very useful experience. And I gave the report a long report filled with anonymous quotes about mostly my weaknesses, few strengths.


And I gave it to a really good friend of mine, Dr. Mark Epstein, who's been on the show before. He's a psychiatrist and a practicing Buddhist. And one of his responses was, you know, I think you've kind of fallen into a classic meditation trap of doing a lot of meditation. At that time of my life, I was actually doing two hours a day of meditation. And being focused internally, as you just said, but not enough externally, it is not uncommon for meditators at whatever level to become quite self aware in some ways, but not in a key way, which is how are you with other people?


Does that sound right to you?


Does it? Absolutely does. And. What also happened for me was when I really got in touch with formal relational meditation practices was to really kind of it was so humbling. I started to notice that I'm not that often so aware when I'm with other people. Right, and I kind of a similar path and the beginning of my practice where most of my meditation was done with mindfulness inwardly oriented, and so that was kind of the first shock. And when I'm sharing all this with you, I'm standing on someone's shoulders.


And his name is Gregory Kramer. And he has this revolutionary mind in a way where first time I came into his class, I was actually visiting New York, still living in the Netherlands. And I wanted to go to the New York Insight Meditation Center.


And I just signed up for the only weekend I could go. Right. It turns out he's there.


And I really felt like, oh, I'm going to do a weekend of a lot of silence. That's what I wanted. And this is how he started and he totally got me. He goes to Buddha's teaching is about suffering. In the end, most of our suffering and stress is people stress.


Most of the practices in lots of traditions are only focused personally. This practice, and I'm going to invite you into called insight dialog will exactly bridge that gap. So my first response was, oh, my God, are we going to talk and meditate? How is that even going to unfold? Right.


And I remember my first experience. I was in a dyad, just one partner. They were sitting in front of me. And usually when I start meditating and I'm just by myself, my mind is planning, its fidgety, it takes some time for all the snow to settle. But here I was looking in someone's eyes, guide it with some very specific instructions, and I was so present. Because my mind had thought, oh, I'm going to be quite distracted, which I'm usually are when I'm, you know, in a conversation with people.


But I got really focused. We separated roles of speaking and listening in the beginning, but it was it also felt like when the other person was just listening, it felt like that person was listening me into being. And. It unlocked a lot of insight into habitual energies that I have when I listen and speak with other people. The first one I immediately saw was.


Me planning what to say next, not fully listening. You know, I also started to see like, oh, this is what the Buddha means when he says, like this hunger to be seen in a certain way. I want it to be seen as a yogi who was focused.


So it allowed for a ton of information and insight with the support of a lot of concentration and mindfulness, because you can't really fall asleep on someone.


Right. And so I remember another teacher eventually commenting on this relational practice of inside Dialla, naming it a pressure cooker for insight.


And so it's really changed my whole view of meditation. And it added another very valuable aspect of how I can just as well be mindful of the breath, for example, externally. And when our little baby was born and he's now six, I would sit in his room and instead of me just being mindful of my belly rise and fall, I would just look at his belly going up and down, up and down. And there was still the same awareness.


It doesn't matter whether it knows something internally or externally. And then I even tried and it worked as well on the New York City, trained pre covid. I would feel my body breathe. And I won't be jam packed like a sardine, right, and I could just feel the person next to me breathe at the same time. And so here I was thinking hard. This is what the Buddha meant when he suggested all we can be mindful, both internal and external, even with something as the breath.


And so what it also did is it totally unlocked, this idea for me in a very visceral way, that our emotions, our feelings, they are natural human experiences, not necessarily copyrighted by Bart or Dan. And that made a big impact on how I'm relating to the world and relating to internal stuff. One thing that I will never forget this was when I was teaching meditation in high school in Chelsea, in Manhattan. I would see a group of kids for a whole school year, four times a week, a lot.


And that group really connected and they actually liked doing meditation. We had all kinds of fun games. And then I realized this group, I might actually be able to do some of this relational stuff. And so I paired them up. At that time, I had quite a bit of training inside dialog and the contemplation that I invited them into was what's it like when you are judging school and a lot of, you know, talking what's going on?


And then I saw them change when I asked him about how does judging yourself manifest? And it got quiet. And it was just very concentrated talking, but everyone was engaged at the end of that session in the large circle, there was one young man, Jonathan, I never forget. He puts his hand on his heart and he says. I'm going to apologize from the get go here, but I feel joy knowing I'm not the only one who judges themselves is a 16 year old young man.


And when he said that, then everyone was nodding in that room and I asked him, Jonathan, can you see everyone nodding? He goes, Yeah. And it was just that moment also was just a moment of you could call it. Like a communal recognizing. This is the shared human experience. And so that's another very powerful aspect that arises when you start engaging in relational mindfulness. You said so many interesting things there, I want to follow up on one.


You talked about the Buddha. Exhorting us to be mindful internally and externally, that's actually both an both, right, so can you unpack that?


Because that's in the Buddhist teachings if you go back and read them, right.


Yeah. Can impact it. And maybe the best way is to kind of experience them and.


And so one thing that the Buddha invites us to be mindful of is what you could call a feeling tone and a feeling tone arises in any given moment of contact that our senses make. So I'll give you an example. That's such a long time ago. I came home from my daily routine of swimming in a cold lake and my hands are still cold and it feels unpleasant. And so, you know, maybe you're listening, you can also kind of feel your body and just notice, is the body having a sense of, you know, feeling pleasant?


That feeling unpleasant or maybe something in between neutral? I mean, just noticing where you're standing or sitting on where your movement. So you're aware. Of the feeling, tone of experience and changes all the time. That can be felt internally. Then the Buddha also suggested to be mindful when feeling tones arise externally. And so maybe just imagining that someone is with you or maybe there is someone with you, you kind of see your surroundings, even animals, you can see when they are in pain, when they feel unpleasant experiences.


Right, our kids. To kind of from your perspective, they look quite neutral. Again, they're quite happy or feels pleasant. And so I have the privilege of being around a six year old a lot. And they're feeling tones change quite a bit over today. So whenever I'm aware of that, I go, Ha, Lewis having an unpleasant feeling. So then I'm aware of that same experience, that same phenomena, if you will, externally.


But for many of us, we've been locked in our homes quite a bit privileged enough to have that choice. And so I've seen in our family, let's keep it real. Also, a lot of unpleasant feeling tones in the vibes between my wife, myself and son. And so when you tune into the vibe of a community that in that moment you're part of, then you could say you are aware of a feeling tone that's both internal and external at the same time.


And it's of course, it's a perception you're not know 100 percent. But we're so relationally wired, we can pick up on these things. And when we train in this way through relational practices, we see it faster when a specific experience or phenomenon is happening. But it's not necessarily happening only internally. And so that would be a way of looking at this. I have a six year old son to the other day, we were playing catch and arguing about who was going to go fetch the ball, and my son said, well, either you're going to be annoyed or I'm going to be annoyed, which do you want?


And I said, well, seven days a week, I'm going to take you being annoyed. And he looked me dead in the eye and said, That's why you're a bad daddy.


That's that label has been thrown at me so many times, man, it hurts.


They are experts that hurt your feelings.


Yeah, they are. And they also already know about this stuff. Yesterday, I was doing another relational practice with a community. It's called Dharma Contemplation, where we look at an ancient texts that are coming from the scriptures and then as a community reflect on it and not just cognitively, but also the felt sense of it. And we use the teaching that supposedly the Buddha taught to his son when he was seven. So I really felt like this sense because it will be Luke's birthday soon and March twenty six.


And the Buddha asked his seven year old son, like, what's a mirror for? And his answer was for reflection, sir. And then he started saying that in the same way you are invited to reflect on what you say, do or think repeatedly and keep checking if it's for not harming you. If it's not harming another or if it's not harming both, it's everywhere in the Buddhist scriptures, there's relational experience and it makes total sense because we are so relational.


So I also felt very grateful when I was introduced to a relational meditation practices that there was such emphasis on it in the Buddhist scriptures, but not so much in what I had encountered thus far in terms of meditation. Because, you know, seriously, I was one of my first instructions was actually close your eyes, you know, and go inwardly.


And in my years now of also teaching specifically with young people and a lot of young people in difficult circumstances were like incarcerated or in homeless shelters.


The introduction into meditation as it being something you do innocently might not be the right first step. So what I've done also is even in explaining, especially when if I would go into a group of of young men incarcerated and I would be introduced like, hey, the yoga guys here, and they will, oh, I don't want to do this.


And then they said a lot of other stuff.


And so I had to kind of explain why they would give me like a minute or so to tell me what's your program about? And I said it's about awareness. And I would ask this came also from my training and relational practices. I would ask in here when you came in here. Would you say that you really need to be aware of your surroundings and I kind of, you know, the eyebrows go down? Of course, man, what's wrong with you, of course, is that a sense of protection it offers?


You absolutely have to constantly look, you know, watch my back. And so I went, well, what meditation does it it allows you to continue doing that because that's a form of being present and it does protect you, you could also apply it more generally. And see if you can protect yourself from all kinds of thoughts, habits that might not be so helpful in Harlem, East Harlem, there's a man called Stan Coler and he teach meditation connected to martial arts and he would call meditation psychic self-defense like that.


Know, and so sometimes the weigh in is actually from the external instead of starting with being present internally. I don't know if you remember this actually came and spent an evening with you at a juvenile detention center when I did. Yeah, yeah. It's really incredible work you do.


So as promised, I do want to dove into practices for listeners that we can do that would allow us to kind of experience or operationalize this notion of relational mindfulness.


You've described dyads, which is where you and another person sit across from one another. I don't know that any of us. I certainly I mean, I've done dyads before. It's kind of like a death match of staring into somebody's eyes. And it's incredibly uncomfortable and also very valuable. I love that term. Would you call it before a pressure cooker for insight? I think that's right. I don't know that dyads are going to be readily accessible to most listeners, so maybe they will be.


But let's talk about various exercises. And we could be as rangey as you want. Hear that so that people at home can do this in their own lives. Right.


Well, let me then start by specifically an inside dialog to have some key instructions. And the first one is my favorite. It's called Paws. And even me just seeing it right now. I can kind of just feel a sense of heart and pause can mean that you stop speaking. And really take some time to connect again with the body. Because what usually happens for me when I'm not mindful and talking with someone, I'm kind of totally lost in the content of what's being said, I have lost the sense of connection with the body.


And so a very first step without even doing formal practices, and they can be done also in groups of three and four formally, so not just in dyads and don't have to stare in people's eyes.


Incidentally, it's to pause. You know who my favorite, Pausa, is? Obama.


Sometimes he says some difficult stuff for me as a non native English speaker, but he will sometimes just pause. Sometimes literally stop speaking. Maybe he's doing that to also connect with the body or remember to being aware. But when he does that, he also conditions the likelihood that I start to become aware again, too, and this is a very concrete thing that you could do any time. The only thing that is required, and that's really where the whole trick of meditation is, the whole thing is about is do you remember?


And so the likelihood of doing formal practice, both internally in oriented but also interpersonally oriented, that will increase the likelihood that you remember the pause in daily living. So the kids I teach a lot, they so often ask me, why, why don't you have any tattoos? I'll be honest, I'll tell them I don't feel like I have a tattoo of a body and I'm a little afraid, but and then they go, OK, forget that.


What would you put on your body to be worthwhile for you? Because that's what we have, right? We want to be remembered by something. Now, I have a whole list of insights I could put on it, but very prominently I would want pause because that really gives me the gift of remembering to be present.


And then when you pause, usually you get a lot of information, and especially when you're among people, quite often there's a sense of tension, especially in the body. Like the zoom fatigue that you hear all over, it might be just from constantly leaning forward. And just kind of having that sense of when you pause, you maybe got all this tension in the body and not to push the tension away, but at least to get a sense of, oh, I am quite tense.




Also, the pause will allow, at least for me to remember being mindful with people whom I'm usually so inhabitable with. My family, you know, the final frontier of spiritual progress when Jack Kornfield says seriously, and so what we know, I found it extremely powerful to pause when I'm with my parents. You know, because that lifelong conditioning that I've had with them so often leads to habitual energies. And so when you pause, then you can kind of connect again with this is what's happening both within you and around you.


And then another thing that you could do, I don't like it so much as an instruction because it has a lot of negative connotations for people, but it's called relax.


Because I was told so often, especially when I was in school, the finger would be pointed at me and the teacher would say, no, relax or focus. And both of these things I couldn't do at that time. But when we pause and you're in a relational field with someone, you may notice the tension that could also be just in your mind of like, oh, I need to come up with something. I need to say something, whatever.


Relax and not in a relaxed, like relaxed, like with the finger, but see if you can receive what's going on. It's unfolding. And you give yourself also perhaps the space to literally relax body parts like softening your belly. Letting the shoulders hang down most of the times when I met people and it's get stressful, the shoulders go up a little bit. The only way that I can relax him is when I'm aware of that that's happening. And so for me to become like a very powerful combo, like the committee, minimize andropause.


Relax. I like this a lot. Let me start with Paw's. What does that look like? ARRL, as the kids say, in real life, if I'm in the middle of a conversation and I remember and I agree with you, remembering is the hardest part of the practice, remembering to wake up, remembering to do whatever it is that you aspire to do. If I remember to pause, does that mean I literally stop talking and everybody notices I've stopped talking, or is it truly just an internal thing that I'm doing or both?


Or either? For me, it's both. And sometimes I will get like feedback, especially in the beginning, my wife would say, are you pausing again?


I see you do it, but it could be both.


It's also really the moment when you remember to be mindful and you don't have to. It's not stop. Sometimes people think about meditation that you have to stop everything. It's impossible anyway, but it's way more like, oh, if there's something sweet about it, about remembering. Oh, I can also be aware because what that usually does, it gives you some space. And you tap into being more present what's going on, and you also tap into how you are relating to whatever you are experiencing.


So, no, it does not mean that you have to stop. And it's also like you described that you start to get new information in of this situation because you are present to it. So it could look like, as I'm listening to you, I could remind myself to pause, which would simply doesn't mean I stop listening. It could simply mean that part of my awareness is also just. Redirected to the body, I like the I've heard before from a friend of mine, a teacher named Koshien Paly Alison, who's a friend of mine, and you know him, too.


And he's been on the show. He talks about just reconnecting with your belly or just remembering the words soft belly when you're in a conversation as a way to just get back into your body for a second instead of out of your swirling thoughts. So I could that would be an acceptable pause under your definition, even though wouldn't be halting the conversation.


Exactly. And after practice, you could do what you suggested, you know, that you could tap into your own body. But sometimes I also find it extremely helpful to really become aware of the body of whom I'm with. You know, I'm still listening. You cannot not listen and you really start to see, you know, I love it when I'm in that mode with someone I know really well. So especially, for example, with family members, you know, to really see them and see their body.


So you're mindful of the body, not so much internally, but you really also present to the way their body is moving. It's the same movement in a way. And what's really helped me, especially when I'm in situations that require a lot of energy or difficult behavior among people, when it's both when you really feel like I can connect to, let's say, the belly and softening it, but also be present from my surroundings, it's possible then to start play a little bit when there's a person who is costing me a lot of energy, I feel energy draining by their behavior, by mindfulness would be 70 percent internal and just maybe like 30 percent external.


And sometimes I'll switch it. And so it also the next thing that happens when you pause, become present to a relational field and relax into both the body and we see what's going on, then you become more open and you start to see that you can be very receptive, not only what's going internally, but externally. And it gives you it's very empowering to kind of shift that value. Like, how much do I want to kind of be external?


Right. And how much is more helpful to stay with the softening belly internal. And that's where the both becomes very powerful as being mindful both internally and externally at the same time.


But just a technical point here. I think we're sometimes told by the neuroscientists that we're actually only capable of paying attention to one thing at a time. So how do we compute that it goes so quickly? OK, it's shifting quickly between. Yeah, yeah. So if you were to take a microscope to your mind in these moments, you would see that if you were breaking it down to its elementary particles, you would see that. Yeah, at any given nanosecond you're only focused on the body or the other person.


But given how fast the mind moves, you can actually stay focused on your internal processes, what the other person is saying, their internal processes to the best of your empathic powers and both and I would imagine actually doing all of that could perhaps. Really keep you in the field, as you said in the moment, in the situation, as opposed to spinning off into your own stuff, which is another place that we often go, I find myself stuck there a lot.


So if I've got these three objects in front of me, me, the other person. And the space between if I'm playing there, I'm less likely to be, you know, planning my next purchase on Amazon or whatever.


Exactly, exactly. And then what happens is when that is kind of established, that sense of awareness that you talk about, we can attune to what's emerging in the moment. And that is so powerful, especially in a relational field, because we can feel when someone is really present for us and I get a lot of that feedback from my six year old when he notices that I'm not right.


And so when really present for what's going on internally and around us both at the same time, we can attune to what's emerging and we can also really become way more creative. And it allows for a lot of playfulness. Because I'm no longer thinking, oh, what is dad going to say or when you are, you know, asking a question when you are kind of in the middle of it? I see all these things like, oh, I could see this today and I could see that.


And, you know, it's just that's the nature of conditioning, but I don't have to kind of follow that and stay very so that just like in meditation practice, sometimes you go back to the breath. You know, one of the first constructions that I ever gotten in Thailand, you can in relational feel, you can also go back to the between or something that we are creating right now. And make that into your object, like, oh, this is between this is happening right now, I feel a sense of curiosity, kindness between then and I.


And tuning into that. Allows for presence. And then after a while, I don't even have to tune in to that, just like the breath, because it feels like there is some continuity of kind, presence, awareness. And then, you know, there's so much more receptivity to both what's going internally and externally so than how that manifests in relationships is that we can really speak, for example, from the tip of the moment. And not that we blur everything out.


This is really also a practice of what the Budwood called, why speech? Because when you are aware, you can keep checking quite simply, as is true is a kind and helpful.


And is it timely because you're so attuned also to what's, you know, the cues you're getting nonverbally from another human being or an animal or several beings? And so we also start to notice that what we receive verbally is just one part of being in a relational field, but what we receive nonverbally is huge as well, like the pitch of your voice.


The speed of your speech, you know, all kinds of physical gestures you do when you speak or you move, so it also allows for really being attuned to what's called for in the present moment. Much more of my conversation with Bart Van Mallock right after this. Staying informed has never been more important. Information is coming at us faster than ever. So how do you make sense of it all? Start here. Hey, I'm Brad Noki from ABC News.


And every weekday we will break down the latest headlines in just 20 minutes. Straightforward reporting, dynamic interviews and analysis from experts you can trust. Always credible, always solid. Start here from ABC News 20 minutes every weekday on your smart speaker or your favorite podcast app. You mentioned the Buddha's instructions about right speech, I just don't want to let that pass by without hanging a lantern on it just so people are clear.


I believe the instructions were to say what is true? Say what is useful and say it at the right time. And appropriate and kind of sorry, I got three of the five. Well, sometimes I do appropriate and helpful. I combine them, but there's actually five.


Yeah, you talked about being able to say if you can, of course, you're going to notice that I'm listening to Bach speak and all sorts of, you know, various starbursts of thoughts about clever things I could say in response or follow up questions or what's the audience going to want to know and how can I keep track of that, et cetera, et cetera. I don't need to chase all of those. I can let them go as natural or icings.


And that leaves me when it's my turn to talk. Having really listened to what you just said, that leaves me with the capacity to do what Zen teachers talk about this a lot, which is to be spontaneous.


Exactly. Exactly, yeah, in the beginning, it felt challenging for me to be invited to a tune to the emergence of what's going on, ideas and thoughts that come up within me or what I hear from other people in formal meditation in this way. Because we're so used. To having this idea of control and so what we're going to say next or what we're going to be planning for and. We're also so used, especially with people that we know well, that we can have already fill in what they might say or how they're going to do it, especially in relationships that you have for a long time.


And this practice really invites you to be very fresh in the moment, and I found it extremely helpful to attune to this emergence when I'm in that field of really being present and I'm starting to trust it. I'm really starting to trust that I might not have something to say, you know? Or trusting that when a person is really taking their time to speak. To not interrupt them. It's been so helpful because then speech and being in relationship becomes my practice, too, in a way, and if I can make a plug for creativity and meditation, there are so many ways that you could do formerly.


That helps you to be present. And this could be one. I found it in the beginning, so limiting that most of my meditation teaching was offered, for example, with either my body sitting or not really moving much, but still had maybe a little bit of walking. Now that I've gotten way more exposed to other ways of being mindful, my practice now, for example, my former practice, if I can, is a mindful swimming. Really brings me like for a continuous period of time in the present moment.


I also teach in a VA hospital in the Bronx and there was one man who constantly kept visiting our group of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, diagnosed veterans, and he said, Oh, man, I wish I could join you. I want to be Zen man and said, so join us. And he said, No, no, it's about sitting here just like you have to even ask if we have to sit cross-legged like a Buddha statue. So no, no, no.


We just sit in chairs, join us. And then when he started all of a sudden halfway, he says, stop, please, I need to move. I can be present, but I need to move. So I asked him, so how would you want to move? And he goes, Can I pretend as if I'm salsa dancing with my wife.


And I sit and I ask the others, I said, is that OK for you? And that's fine. And so he was doing that, but he was very present. While we were doing some yoga poses in the yoga chair and sitting quietly, but I really want to encourage everyone to find ways in your life where it's quite easy to start cultivating and training the sense of being present. And for a lot of people, it could actually be in a relational way.


Now. I really plus one on that in a big way, and I think there's a lot of evidence in terms of, you know, people have really struggled mightily to establish the habit of meditation and mindfulness. Absolutely. And so there I think there's a lot of evidence that supports that. If you can find the easiest way in, that's probably going to be the winning strategy. And so if you can figure out, are there places in my life where just being awake for this, you if it doesn't look like the Buddha statue I saw outside the spa at the airport, it's working for me.


And so that kind of creativity, I think it's a really skillful. It's right speech part is what I'm trying to tell you.


It's it's helpful. I do want to go back to pause for a second because we talked about pausing. In a way that your wife won't catch you because you're not interrupting the conversation, you're not stopping. It's a kind of an internal process that nobody's going to notice. But there is a way, I suspect, to pause Obama style where you actually stop in the middle of what you're saying. And so somebody might notice. So this guy is actually pausing.


So what does that look like? How do you do it without it coming off like some technique you're using on somebody?


Right. Well, first of all, these relational practices that I've been talking about, they're not like communication tools. They are really tools to remember to be present and support you in the continuity of it. Right. But I've personally felt like if it's coming naturally to you after a while to pause and that could look like that, you kind of stop speaking for a while. I've noticed that it actually makes people more attentive and oneself as well, like I have like a decade of experience teaching young people who are not receptive in the beginning to meditation in middle school, suspension, schools, what have you, and to get their attention.


In the beginning, I would kind of raise my voice or I would speak quickly. None of that worked. Sometimes the most effective way of also gathering my thoughts again really connect with my body and softening of the belly perhaps was through stopping. I have a little bit of an advantage as a non native English speaker, is that sometimes because I this is not my language, I have to kind of pause to find the right words.


And so maybe for native English speakers who use it all the time, like maybe just pretend sometimes that you're kind of giving yourself more time to really find out what are the words that need to be expressed. And it's so interesting to see how where the words come from. How does that happen? That process I find extremely interesting, like they kind of bubble up and even the act of speech, I find it amazing.


Like right now my vocal cords are vibrating in the Netherlands, mediated through the Internet. You hear this, then your ears? I don't know the exact English word for the thing that vibrates in your ears is vibrating right now with the vibration of these vocal cords. And so this communication is unfolding, mediated through the Internet.


And it all starts with. These images and thoughts that come up and so quickly, they form into words, so with some form of practice, it's also very interesting to see like. What's the difference between mindful speech? And habitual speech. And we can only start seeing that in a moment when we wake up and we go, oh, that was a period of time of unmindful speech and I might have said something that wasn't fitting to the five aspects of my speech.


And so in this way, we learned through repeated reflection, as the Buddha was suggesting to his seven year old at the time. Even right now, I just it feels. As a protection to pause for me right now. And it doesn't mean I stop speaking. But it kind of gives me also time to check in, because I'm seeing you like your nonverbal expression. You know, and we're so attuned to checking on this, then maybe wanting to say something, I can pass.


And so also the timely nature of speech that the Buddha talked about, one can only know this when one's present for the relational field that you are creating with someone. I do sometimes feel a little guilty because this is an unusual conversation, because I'm interviewing you, so I occasionally have to break eye contact and writes a note because I want to make sure that I don't forget to ask you a question, but I also want to write it down so that I'm not having to hold it in my mind while I'm trying to listen to you.


So you have to put up with me occasionally looking down and writing notes.


You've been very patient with it. Back to pausing for a second just to really put a fine point on it. So I understand it. I really like that distinction you made. This is not a communications technique. This isn't like something you're doing to make sure your points are landing with the other person. This is really a this is psychic self-defense, actually. And so the pause, it doesn't have to be some. I'm thinking out loud here, but I can imagine it doesn't have to be some big tactic, some theatrical thing you do to you know, it could be just you know, I for example, I notice not infrequently that I get carried away and start saying a bunch of stupid stuff.


And so I might say, you know, let me pause for a second. And then start talking again and again, it doesn't have to be I kind of hate it when I feel like somebody using a technique on me or they're, you know, like performative, mindful or whatever. Yeah. So then my inner dialog gets pretty sort of unhelpful in those moments. So I don't want to do that to other people. But I do like the idea of the psychic self defense of let me stop this snowball before it gets all the way to the bottom of the hill and knocks over a small child.


So yeah, that strikes me as really useful anyway. Does any of what I've just rambled about makes sense?


Yeah, you know, the listeners can't see it, but I've been nodding and this kind of connects back to that example of this high school young man, Jonathan. You know who for him, this was a huge insight. When he realized he was not alone in self judgment. And so what you just described, my bet would be that almost anyone has had a similar experience that you just described and I think. Talking about our experiences in this way is also very helpful because.


It helps you to start seeing clearly certain patterns. So what you just offered, Dan, is helpful for me because I will probably, you know, remember that when I see myself doing, you know, I'm having the same habitual feel as you just describe. And I go, I might remember even your name like, oh, Dan, you know, and when that remembering is happening, usually there's mindfulness. And so the more we start to name all these experiences, it becomes easier to recognize them when they're operating again.


And it also makes us more compassionate when we see them operating with other people.


Because when you are seeing and it was like, oh, man, I he also when you said about, you know, how your son sometimes calls you, I forgot the exact wording here.


I have even been called I hate you. It was even worse.


And then I remember telling this to a friend like, oh, Lou just told me that he hates me.


And he just said, I've been hated by my daughter for a really long time. I hear you. And I think. That's really what is so transformative in this practice, is that we start to see that all these experiences, whether they happen within us, around us or with other people, they are just in a way, nature operating and unfolding. And from a meditation perspective, all we're asked is can we be with it? And when we were be with it, we create more space to take skillful action.


This practice also really has shown me, Dan, is that. I would be very good at doing nothing or saying nothing when actually it was required for me to say something. You know, where in workshops reflecting on patriarchy, racism, social injustice, I would just kind of be quiet and hide behind thoughts that were saying, oh, you're from Europe, you don't really know how the situation is in America. What do you have to say about this?


And I wouldn't say anything. And after a while, you know, I also started to notice what's the impact of my silence? And I noticed and I actually got feedback from friends saying, like, well, look, you're just hiding in that privilege of you can be silent. And so this practice of really becoming more also attuned to what's going on around us without losing a sense of self can make us sensitive to the impact that we have even when we're not speaking.


It really feels like it's totally enriched my meditation practice as soon as I started to really see it in a more broad way and start incorporating relational mindfulness, yet I'm really sold.


We explored one of the very useful techniques that you provided, which is pause. But there was another one you mentioned that I just want to go back to put up a little bit more meat on the bone and people can use it in their lives, which is relax.


Right. That's if I understand correctly, that's a different practice than. Am I right about that? Yeah, kind of follows it. Pause is the remembering of awareness. And the instruction and insight dialog to relax is then to physically see. If you can maybe soften the tension that was noticed by Paw's. You know, like softening your belly. I sometimes have to loosen the jaw. You know, I'm a grinder, especially when it's an uncomfortable, unpleasant relational field that I'm creating with someone.


So that has a physical aspect, this relax the mental, you cannot really relax your mind, but what you could do is to have an attitude. And very deliberately, maybe even say to yourself, receive. Receiving. Even if it's like very unpleasant. Can you receive the experience of that unpleasant? Because what it allows for you to do is to be bearing witness with it, maybe you can even go as far as saying allow. So relaxed and becomes like, you know, you pause, but you can then also very use that space to go, can I receive and allow what's happening right now?


I might eventually condone what's happening, but the actual experience right now and so when you would say pause is a remembering of awareness, relax is connecting with kindness. I think the two of them then and they come together. Gregory Kramer, who created this practice, says that, relax, that attitude heals what pause reveals. I really like that because it if the attitude of mind is one of receiving what's going on, what's unfolding. It usually has a healing quality.


Because there's kindness there. So Porres allows you to become aware. Relax, it's kind of like, you know, you choosing kindness and ease as best as you can in that moment by having a receptive, maybe even allowing attitude to the experience that you're having. To be clear, though, that is not a quiescence or a passivity, that means accepting what's happening right now. Not necessarily being blindly reactive to it, but responding in the wisest way possible, which may be, you know, not explicitly not condoning what's happening right now.


Exactly, exactly. So pause, relax.


Those are two good related tools.


Are there other tools within this world of relational mindfulness, insight, dialog that you think would be sort of reasonably easily?


Operationalized by listeners. Yeah, so after a pause and relax, another instruction is called open, and this really kind of allows you to start playing with this idea of being aware of something that's internal and then also noticing when you're more aware of something external and both in a great way to do business with nature.


So maybe pretty soon after hearing this, if you can maybe go to a park or nature and practice open and see what happens and in a very concrete way, what you could do, you can even do it in indoor is to start with feeling your body as best as you can and just listen to how it speaks to you. So more mindfulness directed internally. And then see if you can look at something, an object, it could. I'm just looking at a microphone right now.


But see if he can still feel. The body. And slowly opening up to this could be a tree outside. It could be. A moving animal could be a rock. And to see what it's like to open to. Another experience that's unfolding outside of you, but mindfulness can be aware of it. I think that's one of the reasons so many people, especially in the midst of this pandemic, find a sense of his refuge, if you will, by going out in nature.


Because it naturally opens the mind. And so what I would suggest that you could do. Is Stenseth, whatever your posture is, start first internal. And then to slowly maybe start with sounds, can you feel the body and still hear the sounds of his voice? Sounds that are coming in from the space here in. Those are external experiences. Then opening your eyes and maybe opening up to right now in the Netherlands, already the daffodils are coming out.


They're really kind of becoming open to that, still feeling the connection to yourself, but it's also fine when you notice you totally getting into this experience of seeing the daffodil and allowing yourself to play with her. So sometimes that awareness is a lot more external. That's fine, too. There's no this is all about balance. And because life is always changing, your balance has to change every time, too. And so that could be one way where you can also start playing with opening the field of awareness, not necessarily losing a sense of yourself in it.


That sounds like a great formal practice that would train up the ability to play in conversation, to play with moving between or balancing awareness of your own stuff, awareness of the other person stuff and awareness of the field between the two, three, four or five, whatever number there are of you. So we do this open practice and then we're able to bring it into relationships. Yeah, that's right.


Yeah. Does an easy way to start is with, let's say, trees or like things in nature, because this is way less judgment around trees. I've only judged a tree once because my sister has the habit of planting her Christmas tree back in her garden and then puts it back in when it's Christmas again. And then one time she had a tree. It looked miserable.


That was the first time I actually saw myself, you know, judging a tree.


So but with so this practice of open, I would suggest starting with something that sparks little judgment and another thing down.


And I love that you you use as well as the verb play, because when I came to America, the first weird experience for me, I think there was I was on a plane. A flight attendant would come to me and my wife and we were still eating. And the flight attendant goes, Are you finished working on this? And I'm working. You know, in Dutch, we don't have a word for work and food and eating. It's just totally two different worlds.


Right. And then when I have been in America now for about 12, almost 13 years, I notice how much that word work is used in the American language.


It's way more used than in Dutch. And even in the world of meditation, I would have people come up to me and say, oh, I think my mindfulness is good, but I have to work on my compassion. And so. Again, going back to what really is helpful for you in establishing and maintaining a practice is maybe switch the word work and make it into play. And I've seen that in my little boy when he is playing. I have a sense that he's not wishy washy.


He keeps repeating the same stuff over and over again. He's not afraid to make mistakes. And just like a musician doesn't work their music, there's a sense of joy that comes with it. So I just I just noticed you using that word, so.


Yeah, thanks.


Well, I stole it from our mutual friend, Joseph Goldstein, who talks about playing in meditational lot.


I don't have any original ideas. Me neither.


I feel like we've done some good and I'll use this term slightly playfully here, work on introducing the concept of relational mindfulness and then giving people a few easy takeaways.


Or I don't want to use the term easy to blithely, but like doable things to play with in their own lives around pausing, relaxing, opening.


Do you feel like we've given people a suitable introduction or is there something that we've missed that we we absolutely should dove in on before we let people go?


No, no. I think this is we we covered a lot. Yeah. The one thing that I think is just key is.


Really appreciating a moment of when you actually wake up in the middle of whatever you're doing in daily life because you know what that means. It means the practice is working, you know, and and I just always saw myself usually going like, oh, I haven't been mindful at all.


Look at me. A lot of self judgment. Good to notice.


But lately it's way more like Hanz. A sense of joy. So it's I'll close with this like it's the pause that remembers. And I really like that the pause that remembers. At the Insight Meditation Society, when I teach there, there's a space for the staff to eat and the teachers and then the door back to where all the meditators are in there in silence, the door knob on top of it, it also says the pause that remembers. So that would be the main takeaway that, you know, just that word pause and then really feel what it's like to be present in the midst of, you know, the messiness of daily life.


Next time I see you, I fully expect you to have the word paw's tattooed on your wrist, so I'm going to hold you to that.


I've been told many times once, actually, I was on a retreat and the person after the retreat thanked me and was wonderful. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I am a tattoo artist. I got my gear with me. I offered to you for free, chickened out.


I thought about getting the letters.


It feels a little sort of earnest in an off brand way, but I think it could be useful FTB.


Obie. For the benefit of all beings, oh, as a reminder, to stop being so, you know, selfish and self-involved, that if I had that somewhere, you know, near my hand on my wrist or something like that, it would be it would be a useful reminder.


But I, too, am pain averse and chickens. So and I don't like you jump in freezing lakes on the regular. So I'm truly pain averse. Well, this has been great. It's great to see you and great to learn from my quest. And thanks for doing this. Appreciate it.


Thank you as well. Just a thought. Maybe we could get that two together.


Yes, I would do that. I would. I really would. If I if I went with you, I would do it. OK, you promise. OK. Thank you. The whole thing is picking up. Oh wait. Before I let you go. After we made that promise in public, if people want to learn more about you work and they do that.


I am active at the Newark Insight Meditation Center. I'm in New York base usually. So there they can find me. I also teach at the Insight Meditation Society and we've talked about our dear friend Joseph Goldstein, the coach, teaching a retreat with him and beginning of April and on my website, my full name, Bavand Malik Dotcom.


We'll put links to all of these in the show notes. So if you want to learn more, learn from the man himself, you can go do that. Bach, great job. Thanks again. Likewise.


Thank you so much, Dan Bewell. Thanks again to Bart. Oh, I just want to plug something here on Bach's behalf, he's doing an upcoming retreat with Joseph Goldstein and Roxanne Dalt through IM's, the Insight Meditation Society, starting on April 3rd. There's a link to sign up in the show notes. I just got an email from Joseph about this retreat. He's very excited about it. So go check it out. This show is made by Samuel Johns, Kashmir, Kim Bekerman, Maria Wartell and Jan Plant with audio engineering by Ultraviolet Audio.


And as always, a shout out to Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen at ABC News. We'll see you all on Friday for a bonus from the great meditation teacher or Jay Sofer.


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