The Role of Mindfulness in Nourishing Relationships
Positive growth in relationships often come from the highest parts of our selves that inspire us to mindfully find creative ways to demonstrate how deeply we value others.
It takes mindfulness to take a few extra moments to schedule the time to have lunch with a friend whom you haven’t seen in a while.
It takes mindfulness to think of a dear friend when shopping in the store and pick up his favorite soap, snack, or fresh flowers.
It takes mindfulness to be willing to plan for special times rather than just leaving everything to chance in the moment.
Notice how mindfulness leads to specific behaviors or actions that communicate how much we care.
For instance, I have a very dear friend who visits me from another city who says that she would enjoy any activity in my company. Yet, she has also shared how much she and her husband appreciate and feel so special when they notice that I actually take the time to mindfully research and plan an evening out with them, taking them to unique spaces that evoke peace and warmth.
Not that there’s anything wrong with spontaneously meeting and playing it by ear. We’d still have a wonderful time, but the thoughtfulness of putting energy into planning a special evening kicks up the level of nourishment to a space that really helps our friendship grow.
When was the last time you went out of your way to plan and create an experience of nourishment for someone that you love that was mindfully thought out and executed? Is this more the norm for how you move through life or the exception?
Eroding patterns in relationships often start from a place of mindlessness, which comes from the ego and may manifest as states of complacency–lack of motivation to put forth extra effort, or the misconception that if you give more, others will simply take more and leave you drained.
Fears about getting hurt and truly allowing one’s self to get close to others can also play a large role in eroding the levels of nourishment one gives and receives in relationships. Thus, for some people, the closer they allow themselves to be in friendships, the less effort they make to demonstrate valuing others, that one day, they wake up and find that friends have moved on to more nourishing spaces.
Sometimes mindlessness manifests in the form of appointments that get missed and in not going to extra efforts to coordinate and communicate in a way to make sure that everyone is on the same page about spending time together.
We all make these mistakes in relationships from time to time.
For instance, I was guilty of forgetting to mindfully sync my calendars or make sure I had my cell phone with me to check with friends to confirm our dates for activities, such that I missed two date activities with a very precious friend.
Of course, my friend was more than understanding, but I told her, “No, you shouldn’t be understanding –you have every right to be angry and upset because I did not honor our time together with mindfulness to double check our scheduling and confirm our time.” I was not engaging in good friend behaviors.
Actions are often far more powerful than words. While my words said, “I care and value you,” my thoughtless actions did not demonstrate that.
Fortunately, my friend was gracious to give me another opportunity to step up and plan a special time together. This time, I was mindful to demonstrate how much I valued the relationship not only by checking ahead of time to confirm our lunch date but also went to the extra effort to bring a very special handmade gift to celebrate the invitation to her home and back into her life.
It’s that focus of intentionality (the desire to demonstrate how dear a friend is) manifesting into action (not only showing up for time together but exhibiting thoughtfulness to bring a special gift as acknowledgment of the privilege of continuing the friendship ) that helps to restore the energy balance in relationships.
Owning relationships gaffes are key to healing the hurt that comes when actions, choices, and circumstances, whether intentional or not, causes a friend to feel less valued and special.
Corporations teach this simple idea to people in customer service positions: Avoid the egoic trap of feeling blamed when someone expresses they are not feeling valued.
Instead, acknowledge and validate the feeling, then try to work together to find an action to move forward: “I’m so sorry that you are feeling so awful about this. What can I do to help make it better? Let’s figure out what needs to be done together.”
Yet, often times, what people do instead of acknowledging and validating the other person’s feelings, is that they engage in avoidance, denial or defensiveness, which all create an energy that communicates, “You are wrong to feel hurt, annoyed or bothered.”
Not validating feelings can erode a sense of trust, safety and openness in the relationship.
Emotions need to be addressed compassionately from a feeling place versus from a left brain space of, “Let me explain my reasons, perspectives and thoughts,” an approach that presumes that a misunderstanding of thoughts or feelings has led to someone to feel less valued, when usually, with emotionally mature people, it is a tangible action or behavior that has caused the sense of erosion in the relationship.
For example, if you accidentally close the door on someone’s toe, all the explanations of what you were thinking or intending during the moment the door slammed onto the toe will not make the toe hurt less. What will help is to acknowledge, “I see your toe is hurting and am so sorry–can I get some ice or do something else to help make it better?”
Also, calmly exploring how to prevent future slams on the toe is helpful (maybe the friend with the injured toe needs to be more vocal and let others know they are near the door, while the friend who slammed the door may need to be more mindful to check who is near the door before opening it).
In a balanced relationship, friends deserve the same consideration and thoughtfulness, if not more, that we give to strangers, our co-workers or people that exist on the periphery of our lives.
After all, when we open doors in public spaces, we tend to take care to open it mindfully just in case someone is near.
We also take care to plan for and show up to business appointments, baby showers, and other events with mindfulness–and communicate with timeliness (a day or so ahead of time) if plans are changing and suggest ways to reschedule or make up for that time, if we have to cancel. This is courteous behavior. Yet with friends, sometimes we expect them to accept less than courteous behaviors just because they are friends–yet, this expectation does not create a nourishing cycle of energy.
In what ways do you mend a relationship when you notice erosion? Make a list of some tangible actions and behaviors that can help to restore the balance of your relationships when gaffes occur.
The Role of Reciprocity in Nourishing Friendships
Another part of nourishing others is to value the unique skills and wisdom of friends with reciprocal flows of energy that communicate gratitude and valuing of what is shared.
For example, I have a dear friend who is an attorney who would easily give me legal advice for free. Yet I am careful that anytime that I ask her anything that has a legal nature , I ask her to invoice me or if I know the value of the service, I will send her gift certificates in that value from my business. I do the same with friends who are programmers when I need help with my website. In other words, I do not allow my friendships to lull me into a sense of entitlement about receiving services for free from friends.
It’s not a process of “keeping score” but a natural reciprocation that occurs when true and deep gratitude is manifesting through actions and words.
I often will gift my services to clients and friends, who are in need financially, and have been wonderfully blessed to find the energy of reciprocity expressed in so many deep ways.
For instance, I gifted sessions to a client who was dying of liver disease and who was on a fixed income with very little financial resources.
To each session, he would bring vegetables from his garden, which were especially precious to me since he had limited energy and could not garden much. Yet, he grew these vegetables for me. What a wonderful way to value the gift I gave to him and return it tenfold! The garlic and sage that he gave to me, still comes up in my garden and reminds me of his love and beautiful spirit although he is no longer with us in the earth plane.
When we take the time to mindfully acknowledge the nourishment we receive from others and happily reciprocate that flow, it is amazing how ripples radiate from these balanced interactions to flow outward and return to us greater levels of prosperity through our relationships with others.