Last Sunday, I took my mom out for Mother’s Day Brunch. We went with two of her sisters and their families as well. What should have been a wonderful few hours together quickly became a stress-filled ordeal for everyone involved.
Knowing it would be busy, my aunts tried to make a reservation at the restaurant a few days before. They were told the restaurant would not accept reservations on Mother’s Day so my aunts went to the restaurant early in order to secure a table for all ten of us. The restaurant owner would not give my aunts a table until our entire party had arrived.
The lady in the line behind my aunts, upon hearing the owner’s message, told the owner that her entire party was there. She was given a table. My aunts watched her while they continued to stand in line. She sat alone at her table for quite some time and waited for her party to arrive.
When we were all assembled at the front of the line, the restaurant owner gave us a table on the upper level, far away from the food and the window that overlooks the beautiful river and park. We were told we had to eat and leave quickly because our table had been reserved for another group!
When my aunt asked for coffee, the waitress snarled at her and told her she would have to wait her turn. My mom, who has pulmonary fibrosis and has trouble breathing on a good day, could feel everyone’s tension all around her. She absorbed it all and had a breathing attack at the precise moment the waitress snarled, which scared my fifteen-year-old second cousin who thought my mom was dying!
After helping my mom relax and regain her “normal” wheeze, I turned to my cousin, who happens to be a clown, and I commented that perhaps the entire room should go into a deep meditation! Her daughter, the 15-year-old, now fully recovered from her scare moments earlier, immediately held out her arms, touched her thumb and first finger together on each hand, and launched into an extended Om. Her mom, the clown, intervened and told her that not everyone meditates that way. She understood and then proceeded to launch into an “a cappella” version of the chorus from Disney’s Frozen. “Let it go, let it go. Turn away and slam the door,” she crooned loudly, with arm gestures and all.
After I stopped laughing, this entire experience reminded me that we live our lives in a state of extremely high stress and we don’t understand how to stop ourselves from getting caught up in the drama that constantly spirals all around us. This problem is so severe and the solution so glaringly obvious that Time Magazine put a story called The Mindful Revolution on its February 4, 2014 cover. Websites about mindfulness, like Discover Mindfulness, are popping up everywhere. (Discover Mindfulness is dedicated to creating communities, tools and awareness to bring mindfulness and mental wellness to schools.) The University of Toronto Magazine recently published an article about the science of mindfulness, and President and Editor-In-Chief of the Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington, recently spoke to Oprah on Super Soul Sunday about how mindful practice saved her life.
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism and is the focusing of one's attention and awareness. It's a psychological and spiritual faculty that is believed to bring wisdom through reflection. Although it has its roots in Buddhism, mindfulness is not inherently a religious concept, and therefore can easily be taught to all.
A growing body of research indicates that developing our inner selves, using techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation and reflective writing, is critical. Mindful techniques not only help us to cope with the stresses of our world today, but also help us to develop sound ethical and moral practices. Contemplative or mindful-based approaches have the ability to enhance our lives, help us stay calm, concentrate and focus our attention, and feel empathy, kindness and compassion toward others.
Highly regarded research institutions like Harvard and MIT have been measuring what happens in the brain when people use mindful techniques for almost two decades now in an attempt to better understand it. This is significant. There is growing recognition within the scientific community that mindfulness has an enormous impact on our mental, spiritual, emotional and physical bodies.
The shift to a mindful way of life is a critical next step in the evolution of our culture. Mindful practices will help us cope with the stresses of life, develop sound ethical and moral practices, bring peace within and around us, absorb and process new information more easily, become more healthy, athletic and creative, tap into our imaginations more freely, develop our intuitive comprehension and be more easily inspired. With solid mindful routines behind us, we’ll be better equipped to deal critically, creatively and compassionately with the challenges of life in the 21st century.
While driving home, my mom asked me if I thought she’d be here to see Mother’s Day next year. I told her I thought she would.
I’m looking forward to having brunch with my mom and her family again. Perhaps this time, though, we’ll gather at my mom’s beautiful acre in the country, where the birdsong is spectacularly sweet, and where the tinkle of wind chimes can be heard in the soft flowing breeze.
Perhaps the younger generation will bring their favourite breakfast dish and we’ll honour our elders in a calm and loving way. Perhaps we’ll serve them breakfast while they sit in gratitude waiting for the delicious, peaceful and tranquil meal they are about to be served.
My aunts won’t need to show up early to secure a table, deal with a restaurant owner who has different rules for different people, or deal with cranky waitresses or other patrons who lie.
Perhaps Dotsy the Clown will even come out to play. Maybe she’ll paint our faces, give us some glitter tattoos, and make the ridiculous become ordinary for a short while.
After all, that’s the least we can do for our wonderful mothers and aunts.
Mindful practice, which includes honouring our elders and making the ridiculous become ordinary if only for a short while, is a basic requirement in order to survive our current human condition.
Debbie L. Kasman
Author Lotus of the Heart: Reshaping the Human and Collective Soul