Mindfulness: Rainbows and Family Connections

Mindfulness:  Rainbows and Family Connections

“Two bubbles found they had rainbows on their curves. 
They flickered out saying:
“It was worth being a bubble, just to have held that rainbow thirty seconds.”
Carl Sandburg

Last week I was in Virginia, helping my daughter recuperate from surgery.  During that trip, I visited my late husband’s mother, Bev, and my sister-in-law, Judy.  I have been thinking about my visit ever since and reflecting on its significance for me.  Any time I have an opportunity to be with my relatives from that side of my family, I feel a sense of connection with my life before my late husband, Chris, died.  I feel peaceful and happy.  It doesn’t mean I’m not happy with my current life or with my new husband; it just makes me feel complete – as if a circle has been closed.

Research verifies what many of us know – losing one’s spouse is probably the most difficult stressor in our life.   For me, the stress of losing my husband was compounded by my daughter’s downward spiral into drug addiction. Add to this the stress of starting a late-life, full-time academic career, and it was all I could do to make it through each day without breaking down.   Bev and Judy experienced their own grief over Chris’ death and we all supported each other during those very dark times.

Back to the present.  Bev, Judy, and I sat in their sunroom, reminiscing about our lives and sharing our hopes for the future.  To add to the mood, my mother’s cat, Sally, sat in Bev’s lap, purring contentedly.  After my mother died in 2015, Bev adopted Sally and they are now totally devoted to one another.  Connections with my loved ones filled this room with joy.  At one point during our visit, Judy jumped up and pointed out the large window.  “Look, there’s a rainbow.”  Not just any rainbow, but a double rainbow! The rainbow was brightest where it ended on the horizon – it was so spectacular that it made the Washington Post newspaper the next day!

In Judeo-Christian traditions, the appearance of a rainbow is considered a sign that God is not planning to destroy the earth with another flood. Rainbows are also considered lucky, and traditional Irish stories often refer to a “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow. Buddhist tradition considers the rainbow the highest spiritual plane one can access before crossing over to the other side, and Armenian mythology states that the rainbow belongs to the sun god. Rainbows are also often considered a sign from “above,” especially when they appear on a sunny, rain-free day.”  https://www.reference.com/world-view/rainbow-symbolize-7617e0f556acce72?qo=contentSimilarQuestions

For me, the rainbow that appeared in the sky while I was visiting Bev and Judy represented the mindfulness I experienced in that room.  I was present for the love on Bev’s face as she stroked Sally’s fur.  I was present for the amusing memories Judy shared of her relationship with her brother, my late husband.  I was present as I gazed around and took in the colors and textures of the room.  Judy’s creativity was displayed on all the window sills e.g. a marvelous collection of handmade, fairy garden doors.  These colorful, little doors reflected the colors of the rainbow we saw through the windows.  I felt happy and grateful for all that I experienced in that moment – love, beauty, calm, hope, and trust.

Relationships with family change and become increasingly important as we get older. Helping my daughter while she recuperated from surgery was very important to me, especially now that I’m retired and my priorities have shifted away from career.  Family has always been important but now that I’m in my sixties, helping my daughter is more about compassion than it is about earlier parental responsibilities for my child’s safety and security.  It’s important to recognize that parenthood is no longer the primary source of identity for older adults.  As our kids become independent, we also reorganize our own lives.  A mindful retirement life allows parents and adult children to keep in regular contact while maintaining our own activities and identity.

Now, whenever I see a rainbow, I’ll think about my family onnections – with love and gratitude..

Rainbow Walk:  A Mindfulness Activity to Move the Body and Rest the Mind


The instructions are very simple:  Take a walk, and look for something red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.  Keep going through the colors, in order, until the end of your walk.

You can do this anywhere, at any time of year.  Obviously, it will be easier to spot a lot of different colors in a garden in the spring.  But in the winter, you could notice some bright red berries, or a red ski hat, or even a stop sign.

Here are some suggestions for individual practice:

  • Bring a camera and take a photo of at least one image with each color;
  • Bring a sketchbook–even if you’re not an artist, this will help you really focus on what you’re looking at (as Churchill said about painting);
  • Write in your journal about the things you noticed and how they made you feel.

And here are some suggestions for group practice:

  • Provide a worksheet for students to note and/or sketch something they saw in each of the colors;
  • After the walk, discuss what different members of the group noticed–were different people focused on different things?  (For example, one person may have noticed mostly flowers, while another person may have noticed mostly cars or clothing)


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