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Basic Goodness: The Practice that makes all the difference in conflict

In my 10 week group, The Mindful Couple, we just finished week 5 and in this round of the group I’ve introduced the concept and practice of Basic Goodness. Basic Goodness is a concept in Buddhist philosophy that teaches that all human beings have the capacity to “wake up” to the present moment, and see ourselves and reality in a clear way. The words “basic goodness” translate to “complete – nothing wrong, and nothing lacking, just as you are”. The practice of Basic Goodness is a simple meditative practice of tuning in to whatever you are sensing in the moment, offering yourself compassion and reminding yourself of your value, and tuning into the freshness and possibility of the present moment. Having access to your sense of basic goodness has the capacity to turn things around in the heat of a conflict!

Why is that?

In my personal and professional experience, when a couple is stuck in a pattern of conflict, a big part of the “stuckness” is a sense of being seen in a negative way by one’s partner. Defending, explaining, counter-attacking, etc. are all ways to react to the experience of our sense of “self” being judged, in our minds, unfairly and the panic, anger, or anxiety that follows is a sign that we don’t feel our Basic Goodness. Instead we have a sense of “how dare they?” and a deep sense of discomfort that someone we love could see us in such a negative light when we are also struggling to accept ourselves.

When we practice tuning into our Basic Goodness, if we get into a conflict and our partner gives us feedback that they didn’t like what we did or said in a situation – maybe they even insult us in the process – with practice, we can can actually start to be interested in how our actions impacted other people because our sense of self as a worthwhile and valuable human being are no longer “on the line” so to speak. We can tolerate the reality of being fallible, making mistakes, and even hurting people intentionally or unintentionally because feeling our Basic Goodness means we can basically be a good person who also screws up from time to time. Its the loss of that sense of basically being OK that makes it intolerable to hear how we’ve blown it, especially in our closest relationships.

How can I stay open to this? Is a question that will take you really far in life, and Basic Goodness is one of the practices that can help support openness. The more open and accepting we are of ourselves, the more open and accepting we will be of others – and being open to ourselves and our partner in our most important relationship is part of turning the corner to a more peaceful and connected life!

The next round of The Mindful Couple will begin in January 2015 – exact dates to be determined! If interested in learning more about The Mindful Couple, click here:

For more on Basic Goodness, here is a short audio clip of Pema Chodron teaching on the concept:

Thanks for reading!

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