My youngest son is 21. As with most guys his age, hanging out with mom does not top the list of “fun things to do.” However, this was the fourth of July, and I had just bought a new surfboard. (It was a garage sale find; hence, it was doubly special). 

I am not much of a surfer. In fact, you could call me the “Goldilocks of surfing.” By that, I mean that I have tried and bought all sorts of surfboards over the years, but none of them were ever “quite right.” They were too long, too short, too this, too that. Until this one, or so I hoped. 

My son, who is a surfer, agreed to venture into the waves with my “just right” surfboard and me and give me pointers. Two hours in and we were having fun. He was surfing, and I was trying. As we sat bobbing between the rolling waves of the Atlantic, I asked him what his plans were for the rest of the day. 

 “I’m supposed to meet up with a girl around 12.” 

 I said, “Man, it’s already 12:30. Go meet your girl!” 

And then came The Moment. “Nah, it’s not as important.”

Whuuuut?! I shouted inside my head, almost falling off my new surfboard. And suddenly I saw it: one of life’s beautiful epiphanies. 

I was trying to surf because it was a way to connect with my son. He was hanging out with me because he wanted me to know that I was special to him. 

“Christian, thank you! I recognize that you were telling me how important I am to you. Thank you, that means a lot. I love you.”

He grinned as he duck-dived the next wave. And I wore the big smile of a full heart as I tried once more to get up on my perfect surfboard. Nope, I didn’t make it up. But it didn’t matter. I had already caught a memorable, magical moment. 

There was a time when I missed a lot of these moments. But because of my work among the dying – and especially since I have become a student of having a good death – I am getting better at noticing. The moments are all around us. Sometimes mine make me catch my breath. 

In this story each of us received joy in our shared moment. This can be described as relational mindfulness. However, relational mindfulness can also be described as a pivotal awareness of my moments colliding with the moments of another. This awareness makes me more mindful of the impact of my words, whether they are from the virtues I strive to obtain or the failure of having done so. 

Relational mindfulness helps us develop many of the virtues which are both inward and outward focused. It teaches us the virtues of caring, commitment, compassion, consideration, contentment, dignity, encouragement, flexibility, friendliness, generosity, gentleness, graciousness, gratitude, harmonious, honesty, humility, integrity, joyfulness, kindness, respect, sincerity, and thankfulness. Depending on the relationship it can also foster the virtues of forgiveness, determination, and tact. 

Relational mindfulness is a practice that ultimately results in a habit. If you are replacing a bad habit for a good habit, it may take a little more practice. Each of us will develop our practice to reach our good habits, however, I would like to give you a start with the practice I am working on to develop better habits and hopefully, improve my relational mindfulness:

  • Look at people in the eye when they speak to me
  • Listen attentively – sometimes it is not what someone says that is important but rather how they say it
  • Do at least one random act of kindness for those living in my household
  • Do at least one random act of kindness for a stranger
  • Give complements to strangers – this one is especially fun because I may notice someone’s nails or hair that clearly took time, and a tired grocery store clerk smiles brightly for having been noticed
  • Respond less chaotically in a chaotic experience
  • If I have something critical to say, choose the right time and the right way to say it and do so with love
  • Be prepared to say I’m sorry even if I don’t think I was in the wrong
  • Foster empathy in all relationships

Relational mindfulness can begin with those closest to us and therefore easier to practice. However, exponential growth in our virtues occur when we are relationally mindful with those who may seem different than us or oppose our opinions. 

Living my moments are those exquisite moments between myself and my Creator and His creation and relational mindfulness is living my moments with others. Sometimes they are both when you look at the vastness of the sea as you bob on your surfboard smiling as your son catches the next wave.

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