Love it or hate it, with red hearts and roses popping up everywhere, it is hard to escape the fact that today is Valentine’s day. So how can we navigate this day mindfully?

If we are single…

Valentine’s day can be tough when we are single. The multitude of messages from advertisers seem to suggest the only thing that is important right now is romantic love. Even if we know that is not true, we still consume these messages as we walk past shops and restaurants, see adverts on the tube, log in to Facebook.

If we are single right now this can bring up a feeling of loneliness. It is a feeling we can all experience, even if there are many positive people in our lives, even if we are in a relationship. It can be really helpful to learn to make friends with loneliness.

If we have been practicing mindfulness, we may be able to recognise it, and call it by its name, “hello, loneliness”. If we are used to cultivating an awareness of our body, we might be able to sense into how loneliness feels in our body, where is that we feel it? What does it feel like?

We can lay down on our bed, put our hands on our belly and breath with the loneliness, allow it to be there, sooth it. What will notice is that when we lean into the feeling, it is not as bad as we first thought and actually it won’t stay forever.

If we befriend our loneliness, we don’t need to run away from it. That is very liberating. The alternative is we try and cover it up, maybe we distract ourselves with eating or drinking, or watching something or even making big life decisions subconsciously driven by a desire to get rid of this feeling of loneliness. So making friends with loneliness can be an upside of Valentine’s day.

We can also use Valentines day as a time to check our ideas about happiness. It can be pervading idea about happiness that is in the water of our society that we need to be in a relationship to be happy. Just look at Ted Mosby dedicating his whole life to finding ‘the one’. We can use our mindfulness to see if somehow we have taken on board this idea. And we can ask ourselves “are we sure?”. Of course, it can be great when we meet the right person, but is it also true that we can be fully ourselves and live life meaningfully and enjoyable while we are single? Is it true that the wrong kind of relationship can create a lot more hassle and problems? It is just a chance to breathe and to see if we are somehow taking on ideas what happiness that aren’t true to us.

If we are in a relationship…

So we have bought the chocolates, the roses, booked a table at a nice restaurant. We have ticked the Valentines day boxes. But is that what our partner really needs?

Maybe our relationship is already pretty perfect, but maybe there is space to bring in some mindfulness in a way that can improve it.

With a mindfulness practice, we can see if we are really there for our partner, 100%. When they speak, are we listening with our full being or is 30% still at work or planning ahead. If we learn to be with the breath and our body with our mindfulness practice, we can give this awareness and attention we are cultivating to our partner and the quality of the time spend together will increase. So on Valentines day, presence > presents! (sorry I couldn’t resist!).

“When you love someone, the best you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?” Thich Nhat Hanh

A mindfulness practice can also help us to have more flexibility and openness in relationships. The more I have practiced mindfulness, the easier it has become to let go of my personal preferences or ideas about how things should be, and the more space I have had to be open to different possibilities. (Although still a work in progress!) When have this kind of flexibility we can navigate the different preferences and views in a relationship much easier. If can use Valentines day to remind ourselves that when we practice mindfulness we are not just doing it be benefit ourselves, but that it will benefit many people around us including our partners.

 

For all of us…

Partner or no partner there is more to love than romantic love. One of the most important aspects of mindfulness for me is it helps to uncover and accentuate the basic care and concern we have for other humans. Through becoming generally aware and sensitive, cultivating a kinder relationship with ourselves or practicing metta meditation, mindfulness seems to give us more capacity to care about others. Whether that is in the extra smiles and few seconds of the time we give the people we interact with on a daily basis, being more present for our friends and family, or even considering the impact on people we’ll never meet of our daily purchases.

We might want to call it “love” or that may seem to0 much, but whatever we call it, our connection with all the other humans around us, can be something to celebrate this Valentines day.