Fireworks always take my breath away. When a panorama of starbursts brighten the night sky, I can easily become lost in mindfulness momens, mesmerized by the dazzling display. Fireworks can transfix us for over half an hour. Yet, in our multi-tasking world we sometimes find it difficult to focus for even 10 minutes on someone we love. And in some ironic way, the fireworks that represent a long fight for freedom, simply flash by.
The meaning of freedom can range from national Independence Day gratitude to breaking free of worn out relationships, prejudices, and anger. I was invited to one of Rick Benjamin’s workshops recently. This Rhode Island Poet Laureate recited "Red Brocade" by Naomi Shihab Nye. Then after asking us to write a poem about an enemy – real or perceived – he admitted: “There was an enemy once in my family. I forgave him. We are now friends." For Benjamin that might have been Independence Day. (Naomi Shihab Nye - As It Ought to Be)
In relationships today independence might also mean breaking free of the digital devices that invade our homes and even special times together. Have you ever watched what happens to a couple during a romantic dinner when a cell phone rings? In the split second to answer or turn it off, the mood is shattered. Strengthening a relationship takes work and focus, and mindfulness can benefit both parties. However, men and women have been shown to react differently to mindfulness in terms of conflict, according to research published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.These tips can be helpful:
Four tips to help strengthen relationships
* Let go of anger and remind yourself often that in relationships it takes honesty to face the enemy within; courage to say "I'm sorry;" and wisdom to embrace.
* Develop an attitude of gratitude rather than taking love for granted.
* Smile often during the day – at friends, family, and strangers. Look into their faces and silently wish blessings.
* Practice mindfulness when you walk, eat, and when you find moments to be alone.
Mindfulness fosters the freedom to be in the moment and not anticipate what might happen next.
Fireworks and easing regret
When I was a little girl, we lived with my grandparents in a grand old house on the water. On the Fourth of July, strangers came from the entire town to sit on the lawns that stretched to the break- wall at the water’s edge. There we could see the town fireworks and all of the fireworks from across the bay. “These are for you,” said my parents, “because it is your birthday.”
I still remember that day after the fireworks my father took me for a ride on the Flying Horses. I was expecting that everyone in town at the fireworks display would be wishing me “Happy Birthday.” But no one did. After telling this to my father he just smiled.
As the carousel went round and round, there was a device in which men would hold onto the poles, lean over, and try to catch the Brass Ring. Dad succeeded. When he brought the brass ring to the carousel operator, he apparently told him of my disappointment. Moments later a cheerful man came by, smiled at me and said, “This next ride is for your birthday.” Then he said to those around us, "Everyone sing 'Happy Birthday' to this little girl and then I'll start the ride.' And they did.
Taking responsibility for our own joy
As we grow older, we have no buffer to mitigate disappointment and regret. We become responsible for our own freedom, our own joy. Savoring each moment frees us from distraction as well as fretting about the past and worrying about the future. Additionally, mindfulness creates a place in our hearts for acceptance, gratitude, and the ability to give someone we love our undivided attention.
Have you read Fireworks, Friendship, and Letting Go? ow.ly/yNy9l
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter, January 8, 2014Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress
Heidemarie Laurent et al: Sex-specific effects of mindfulness on romantic partners’ cortisol responses to conflict and relations with psychological adjustment, Psychoneurodndocrinology | 2013 | 38 | 12 | 2905-2913
2013 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mindfulness - Mayo Clinic Health Letter
Copyright 2014 Rita Watson