6.01 Outline - text

“Interpersonal communication patterns”

Lesson Six


In this 2.5 hour session, experiential training in MBSR continues, with an emphasis on the growing capacity to cope more effectively with stress.

Reflection is oriented around the continued development of “transformational coping strategies,” attitudes and behaviors that enhance the psychological characteristic known as “stress hardiness” or resilience.

Theory is linked directly to the MBSR methods and skills being practiced, grounded in the actual life experiences of the participants. The emphasis continues to be on the broadening of our inner resources for developing health-enhancing attitudes and behaviors and the practical application of such skills given each person’s particular life situation and health status.

Daily mindfulness practices are assigned again for homework with an emphasis on the observation and application of these skills in daily life. We engage in an in depth exploration of stress as it presents within the domain of communications.

The focus of this strategy-building session revolves around the application of previously learned MBSR skills and methods in the area of communications. A variety of communication styles are examined both intellectually and experientially, and strategies for more effective and creative interpersonal communication are developed.


Stressful communications; knowing your feelings; expressing your feelings accurately; developing a greater awareness of interpersonal communication patterns; and barriers to doing so.

Interpersonal mindfulness: staying aware and balanced in relationships, especially under conditions of acute or chronic stress, the strong expectations of others, past habits of emotional expression/suppression and the presentation of self in everyday life. Based on the skills that we have been developing through the entire program, emphasize cultivating the capacity to be more flexible and to recover more rapidly during challenging interpersonal situations.

Typical Class Sequence:

Standing yoga

Sitting meditation including awareness of the: breath, body, sounds, thoughts and emotions, choiceless awareness/open presence.

Reflecting on daily practice, especially experiences with the sitting meditation recording. What did you notice about responding more creatively in life and in meditation? Were there new responses? What surprised you?

Reflecting on the upcoming all day session. Explaining the intentions underlying this session and describe in detail the structure and format of the day, including options for self-care and teacher availability. Consider how to work with extended periods of silence and practice. Provide suggestions for preparing for the day, including what to bring: Lunch, loose fitting clothes (layers), mat, blanket etc.

Optional: guided reflection -recall a situation from the Difficult Communications Calendar. Examine habitual relational patterns and how they are experienced in the mind and body and how they manifest as behavior.

Exploring Difficult Communications.

There are a number of exercises that can be used to explore this topic. Embodying a relational pattern tends to make it more available to awareness. The dialogue and inquiry during these exercises allows a heightened awareness of habitual patterns and behaviors, not only in the realm of interpersonal communication, but also in one’s inner life.

It is essential to pause and reflect on these experiences and to notice how relational patterns are externalizations of internal mind and body states. We make connections between our present-moment experience of witnessing and/or participating in these exercises and the personal cognitive, emotional and behavioral patterns with which we have become familiar during the course. These exercises also provide an opportunity for us to experiment with new behaviors and ways of engaging interpersonally.

Note: the intention behind engaging in any of the following (or any other) communication exercises is the cultivation of awareness. The form of the exercise is less important than the essence of this intention.

Some of the options for communications exercises may include, but are not limited to:

• Aikido-based “pushing exercises”, role-playing the initial contact (taking the hit); avoiding conflict/stepping aside/passive-aggressive; being submissive; aggressive, engaged in an equal struggle; and assertive/blending/ “entering”, staying engaged and with eye and wrist contact, but stepping out of the path of the aggression.

Importance of centering in the moment, taking a firm stand, not running away but not having to be in total control; the importance of stepping out of the way, of making contact and acknowledging the other person’s point of view; showing one’s own point of view; staying in the process without knowing where it is going or being fully in control; maintaining mindfulness, openness, staying grounded and centered.

• Experiencing and exploring patterns of communication (i.e. passive, aggressive, assertive, etc.), then taking a posture.

• Exploration of assumptions: noticing the differences between observation and assuming or interpreting/mind reading.

• Speaking and listening: Mindful listening and mindful speech.

Daily Practice Assignment

• Listen to alternate Sitting Meditation recording with Body Scan and/or Standing or Lying down Yoga recordings.

Complete and Continue