Mindfulness, Love and Matters of the Heart.

Valentine’s Day approaches and with it can come a myriad of mixed emotions. During this week where we will lead up to the day of St. Valentine I’d like to come at this day with a different approach.

Not long ago I came across a 60 minutes report and was met with the word “mindfulness”. It’s challenging to find a single definition of the word. You can go to a dictionary, but it lends a vague description and lacks deeper meaning. Here is a nice definition of the word in the context of where I’m going with this post. Mindfulness is “the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts, and sensations occurring in the present moment.” The piece presented on 60 minutes was wonderful and took me back to many fond memories of massage school, foreign countries, relationships and times where I’ve crossed into true mindfulness.

The first time I recall hearing about mindfulness was in massage school. It was a relatively new concept for me at the time and was something I briefly learned about and then cast aside as I was also memorizing things like mitochondria, ATP, anatomy, physiology and the krebs cycle!

When I lived internationally as a missionary there were many times where I had fantastic experiences of mindfulness. During times of reflection in a quiet, cold summer kitchen; while playing with a child; journaling while sitting on a grassy knoll outside a quiet Romanian village attempting to comprehend all that I was experiencing. If you do some reading you’ll find that mindfulness comes from teachings of Buddha. Some might say it is a “new age” term. But regardless of our spirituality we can learn from the concept of mindfulness. I think back to Romania and inwardly chuckle, because when I was in the missionary field I used to joke that missionaries are nothing more than hippie Christians, depending on the goodness of others to survive in a foreign land, praying and waiting on God’s word hoping that God might speak to us. But, when I was the director of operations for three children’s homes I also had to remind my missionary colleagues that it is fine to listen for God’s word but right now we need to take care of some everyday needs, such as feeding kids, transporting them, or making an airport run to pick up visiting guests!

A favorite, beautiful Romanian hillside
A favorite, beautiful Romanian hillside

The world has changed a lot in the last fifteen years. And some of the changes, while we’ve been force fed to believe that they make our lives easier, at times, do not. Currently, in 2015, we live in a terribly distracted world. Technology has made the world much smaller and the challenge of mindfulness is pervasive across borders. Work, responsibilities, finding time for self, children’s activities and stress affect my best friends in Romania as much as they affect me, my wife, my clients and my neighbor.

Social media turns our brain on to where we no longer know how to turn it or a phone off. Phones merely get plugged in to recharge and only get shut down when an app or system does not function properly. People lag behind while walking, risking being hit in traffic, because they are sending off a text. Conversations with true meaning, to a depth of the heart do not happen as frequently because we’ve forgotten how to listen, to breathe, to nod in understanding because it is so very, very challenging to be present with people.

I must say that I speak from the person of I in all that I have stated above, but also observe it in our culture and it is disturbing. It’s disturbing when I see it in my own family and I’m guessing it is a safe bet that it is present in most relationships and families.

So what does all of this have to do with Valentine’s Day? Coming back to the definition of mindfulness I gave above, I feel that I have to begin disconnecting from the busyness and buzz that surrounds me so that I can hear my breath, feel a breeze on my cheek and listen to the buzz of a honeybee. I need to forget about trying to change the past because no matter how much I wish for what was lost, or desire to have a second chance to do something better, it will not come my way again. If I worry about the future I only miss the beauty of the here and now, the present, which offers a gift of its own.

It is not necessary for me to fill every second of every day. It is not necessary for me to have a full slate of clients on my massage table. For me, it’s vital that I give of myself, my time and my energy to those that I come in contact with during my day in the physical, emotional and spiritual sense.

There has been so much written about love, but how do we capture this feeling, fleeting as it is, as we read about a complex emotion in words on paper? My Romanian friends were perplexed about some of our English words. We “miss” someone when we haven’t seen them in a while. Romanians however, use the word “miss” when they talk about missing the bus or an appointment. If they have not seen a friend for some time they use a word that means “they are hurting; as in their heart aches”. To know someone this well, to understand them, to feel their pain, their joy, their excitement, is to know love. Love is a deep emotion, an emotion that truly does transcend differences in opinion, religions, political beliefs, silly arguments and whether the damn dishes were cleaned or not. Love is throwing your whole heart into the matter with no fear of being emotionally damaged, because what good are words that are never spoken, hands that are never held, arms folded that don’t embrace and eyes that don’t fill with tears of joy, happiness and empathy.

So, this Valentine’s Day, instead of fretting about the dinner, card and flowers, take a walk around the park with the one you love. Take the time to really look into a person’s eyes and feel what they feel. Tell a friend how much they really mean to you. And above all, be kind, gentle, compassionate and loving to yourself first, because if we don’t find love for ourselves, how can we truly find love for others?

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