How To Grow Relationships in the Midst of a Busy Life
“When we come into contact with the other person, our thoughts and actions should express our mind of compassion, even if that person says and does things that are not easy to accept. We practice in this way until we see clearly that our love is not contingent upon the other person being lovable.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
With political debates in full swing, superbowls, political trials and Oscar Night winners and losers, … it is easy to slide into zero-sum thinking… that there is a right and a wrong, or that we or others are right or wrong. With mindfulness we learn to hold a wider, less judgmental perspective, and cultivate a mind and heart that looks for and holds space for it all. Structure and rituals can help.
The first time I spent a week at a monastery living with the nuns and monks, I started learning the many daily practices and rituals that our family adopted to nourish ourselves and each other to keep that wider perspective. It was time at these monasteries, living in community with the monastics and Thich Nhat Hanh (a Zen master, poet, author and mindfulness teacher) that we started practicing. Thich Nhat Hanh is known for his ability to translate ancient wisdom into everyday, useful tools, and we practiced as a family starting on that first retreat tucked in the trees.
One of the core rituals- or set of practices, is called Beginning Anew. Beginning Anew is about connection, and learning to keep communication open with mindfulness, compassion, and gratitude. It is designed to support you in moving towards others instead of away in the daily ebb and flow of the busy lives we lead. This practice is done with others, so try it with partners, family members, friends, and even coworkers.
The first part of Beginning Anew is called “watering flowers.” Here, one person shares what they appreciate about the other – it could be a personal quality or a specific act of kindness that they witnessed that week. This part of the practice is to help you focus attention on the positive qualities of the other person and express appreciation. Appreciation fuels connection.
The second part is about clearing. After “watering flowers,” you’ve created a safe space to clear the air of anything hurtful or regretful that may have come up during the week. It is an opportunity to share mistakes or regrets and allow a fresh start.
In the third part of Beginning Anew, you bring up a moment when you’ve felt hurt. This is a chance to bring things into the light and treat your companion with compassion and openness, rather than let unpleasant feelings build up. It also makes loving communication a norm in your family, circle or team. After learning this as a family, we would brew tea on Sunday nights, sit on the floor around our teapot, candles and mindfulness bell, breathe for a few minutes to arrive, and then begin.
The idea of gathering with others for connection, prayer, community and growing together has been around for centuries because we are tribal by nature, it is biological heritage to come together. It does seem that in today’s world of isolation, technology, division and uncertainty, the need is stronger than ever to create these sacred spaces at work and home to intentionally gather. You can form these gatherings in whatever way works best for you. It could take the form of a mindful hike, a meeting or a meditation group. Just set the intention to bring your people together – daily, weekly, monthly, or whatever works – with the purpose of deepening connection. It’s up to you to intentionally gather your tribe to cultivate community, which is one of the greatest sources of joy, love and well-being.
This week, experiment with your own version of Beginning Anew with the circles, teams or relationships that matter. Adapt the language to make it feel like your own- or use Thich Nhat Hanh’s poetic phrases. Our family just talked about it this morning, and we are coming together this week to start up again. Let me know how it goes for you.