Mindfulness and Character Strengths: Training #3 (True Love)
July 3, 2012 by Dr. Ryan Niemiec ·
The wise, humble and zestful monk, Thich Nhat Hanh has inspired countless individuals over the years with his teachings on mindfulness, peace and compassion. One of his teachings is the five mindfulness trainings which offer a practical and positive approach to living.
Keep in mind:
- These are mindfulness trainings not mindfulness commandments. The idea is to move toward the training and to practice the training as an ongoing process, not something to be perfectly achieved.
- The practice of the mindfulness trainings is for everyone to enjoy.
- For a full description of the Five Mindfulness Trainings, click here.
This blog entry focuses on the third mindfulness training, called True Love. It begins:
- Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families and society; cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness—which are the four basic elements of true love (Nhat Hanh & Cheung, 2010, p. 211).
- This training calls for a mindful sexuality and a strong degree of commitment in our relationships. Another aspect of this training involves protecting children from sexual abuse and whenever possible keeping the institution of “family” together. Here, it is our perspective/wisdom strength that needs to be called forth to give us the wider view of life and what is truly important.
How might you use character strengths to practice this training?
- Build the strength of prudence. Prudence, sometimes called “cautious wisdom,” is an important strength to use when it comes to sexual desire. If you are uncertain about a relationship, use your prudence to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. What are the costs and benefits of the action I’m about to take? What are the costs and benefits of not taking the action? In addition, use your heart strengths to ask for others’ feedback about your relationship partner and listen closely without judgment to their feedback.
- When in doubt, be honest and authentic in all your relationships. Allow who you are at your core to match with what you share with others in your life. The strength of honesty usually requires the strength of bravery, as in being brave enough to share who you are, to face any sexual improprieties in your life (past or current), and/or to speak against any sexual misbehaviors witnessed against children, adolescents, or adults.
- Combat mindlessness with perspective and social intelligence. It’s easy to fall into automatic pilot in our relationships with close others, therefore, it is important to periodically check in on ourselves with questions such as: How might I commit more in my relationships? Is there anything I’ve been avoiding with anyone? Applying this requires what Aristotle referred to as attending to the “golden mean” of strengths and virtues; by this he suggested to practice using our strengths at the right time, to the right degree, in the right situation. This requires a bigger picture perspective and our social intelligence strength – being aware of our feelings, others’ feelings, and the social nuances of the context we are in.
- For the full text of Ryan’s article called “Mindful Living” published in the International Journal of Well-Being, click here
- To learn more about mindfulness and Thich Nhat Hanh, click here
- For images of Thich Nhat Hanh from Touching Peace Photography, taken by mindfulness practitioner, Paul Davis, click here
- Nhat Hanh, T. (1993). For a future to be possible: Commentaries on the five mindfulness trainings. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Nhat Hanh, T. (2009). Happiness. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
- Nhat Hanh, T., & Cheung, L. (2010). Savor: Mindful eating, mindful life. New York: HarperCollins.
- Niemiec, R. (2012). Mindful living: Character strengths interventions as pathways for the five mindfulness trainings. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(1), 22–33.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.