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Amplifying Joy Through Family Connection

Posted by Laurie J Cameron

In some parts of the world we celebrate Mother's Day on Sunday. As one of five children, I always envisioned having a house full of kids. It was something I just knew would happen since I was a kid. My mom Anne was one of five, and my dad John was one of five. As it turned out, my one child will turn 14 two days after Mother's Day- and on some years her birthday falls on Mother's Day!  When Child Two (we named him Segundo in our financial plan) didn't arrive, I experienced deep sadness and loss... and found that deliberately and repeatedly turning my attention to how fortunate I was to have Ava pulled me through that challenging life phase.

As with any situation or event, hard or easy, happy or sad, Mother's Day provides a beautiful way to intentionally practice the qualities - or mindsets - of mindfulness. For some, it is a joyful day of connection, celebration and appreciation. For others, it has complex emotions of navigating loss, working with acceptance, and considering the reality of impermanence. Gratitude is an option for all of us to strengthen the positive and amplify connection whatever our circumstance might be.

As I share in my teaching and writing, the good news of positive neuroplasticity is that whatever you repeatedly say and do changes the structure and function of your brain. If you happen to be a worrier, or someone who tends to see the glass half full, or the voice in your head tends to be self-critical, this is particularly good news because you can offset these tendencies. How does neuroplasticity work? We forge new neural pathways - think of new paths in a field of tall grass, by being deliberate about where we pay attention, how we pay attention, and which habits of mind we strengthen. It takes practice- repeatedly turning attention to what is good will start to make that your mental orientation.

Here are some ways to strengthen mental habits on this Mothers's Day - no matter what your family situation is or what your role is:

Drop expectations. Like I finally did when I let go of what my family might look like, free your mind and let go of a fixed idea of what the day brings and simply be there for each moment. Resist the need to compare what is happening with Hallmark movie scenes, and tune in to the faces, the voices, the beauty of the day and people around you. Savor.

Reflect and appreciate. Close your eyes and bring up the face of your own mother, or if you will be with her, take a mindful pause and look deeply at her face, and in her eyes. Hold that for a few seconds - taking her in. Practice acceptance and compassion for this person who gave you life, for all of who she is - her gifts, her tenderness, the hurt places in her that might have steered her life and shaped her behaviors or style in certain ways. Appreciate the gift of life that she gave you.

Be present for your kids. While cultural norms in the US prescribe flowers and a Mother's Day brunch, give yourself and others the gift of presence with your kids - or other family members - or connect with kids that you encounter wherever your day takes you. Turn off screens, take a walk, stop and swing in a park, ask each other questions about life - just show up fully with undivided attention on this day.

Be generous. Generosity is a pillar of well-being, and it builds trust and connection. Be generous with your time, your attention and your heart. Listen more than talk. Ask questions more than tell. Delight in the people in your life, and engage with your kids. giving your full, loving awareness.

It was a delight to be in conversation with my friend and mindfulness colleague Michelle Gale about how we each bring mindfulness to parenting. Listen here:

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