Category: Family

Mindfulness in the Family

I am the only child of a tight-knit family.  I would consider myself very close with my mother and father, but our dynamic can be just as complicated as that of any larger or more dysfunctional family.  This summer I am living at home while I work as an intern in a town near by.  Needless to say, we have had some issues.  I’ll try to explain.

Most people who know me would call me a daddy’s girl.  My dad and I are similar in many, obvious ways.  We are both introverted and insightful.  We are both emotional and thoughtful.  We share a love for skiing, and take two or three ski vacations together every winter.  We have always been incredibly close.  He is my best friend.  We don’t usually fight on our own accord.

The relationship between me and my mom has always been a bit more of a struggle.  While I prefer my life to be as structured and focused as possible, she is often doing ten different things at once.  I am often frustrated with her inability to listen to me and all too frequently lose my temper.  This can result in anything from a short spat, to a drawn out fight that consumes my family for days.  It’s hard for me to admit that here and subject one of my biggest issues to your rightfully judgmental eyes, but on my quest for self exploration – and ultimately self improvement – I feel like this is an important step to take.

I used to think that my mom didn’t understand me, but now I’m starting to realize that I was the one who didn’t understand her.  Over the past few years, new maturity has allowed me to better see my mother for the amazing woman she is.  She is giving, kind and selfless.  She has faith and compassion.  I often find that her strengths are my weaknesses (and vice versa).  Unfortunately, this realization does not make coping with our plaguing differences any easier.

Somewhat of a cycle has developed in our family.  My mother and I will argue,  my dad will get angry with me for being short with her, and very quickly we are all fighting and miserable.  For years we have gone through the same argument.  How do we change?  How do we spend more time being the loving family that we are and less time biting each others’ head off?

As I have pondered this recently, I have turned to the mindfulness preached so frequently in  yoga.  Mindfulness is about being aware.  Being aware of yourself, your body and your surroundings.  Mindfulness knows no bounds.  A true yogi aims to be mindful in all aspects of life.  I have found the easiest places to practice mindfulness to be at the beginnings and ends of yoga classes.  At these times, I focus on being mindful of my breath.  I repeat, “Inhale, I am breathing in.  Exhale, I am breathing out”.

Mindfulness is one of the newest “things I want,” and I have begun applying it to my life wherever possible.  When it comes to my family, trying to be mindful has brought me particular clarity.  In the moments before a fight with my mother would otherwise ensue, I stop.  I check in.  I think about why my mom is the way she is and why I am the way I am.  I ask myself what it is about what’s occurring that is trying my nerves.  It is near impossible to lose your temper in this state of mind.  You have no choice but to react thoughtfully.

No one wants to fight with their loved ones.  I think we can all agree that we regret much of what we say in anger towards them.  And if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know that these harsh words do not bring about their desired effect.  Rather, they bring hurt, tension and shame.  What would happened if we became more mindful when dealing with our loved ones?  Much healthier relationships, that’s for sure.

Just think of the changes that would come if we could bring more mindfulness into our lives.  We would find more joy and less frustration.  Peace and calmness would abound.  Our relationships would be more loving and constructive.  We would make fewer careless mistakes.  We could take more pride in our actions and our way of life.

I expect mindfulness to become a dear friend in my quest for self-fulfillment.  I know it has the power to guide me through my explorations and help me to come out of this journey in control of my mind and my emotions.