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Mindfulness and Birthdays: Surprising Moments

The first week of May is a big birthday time for my family. My husband's birthday is May 3rd, and my oldest daughter's is May 6th.

This convergence seemed almost too good to be true the week that Taeko was born. We were living in rural Japan, and it was Golden Week, a period of several national holidays that generally coincides with the magnificent display of cherry trees in bloom.

Back in 1986, on May 3rd we celebrated Tom's 23rd birthday. May 5th is Children's Day in Japan, with colorful koi nobori (fish flags) flying from posts in every neighborhood and children participating in greatly anticipated festivities. How perfect that I went into labor on that day of celebration of the joy of childhood.

Taeko was born at 1:00 am on May 6th, and as she settled into my arms and gazed out toward the open window on her first sunny morning, a gentle breeze picked up a few pink cherry petals from the tree right outside and scattered them over her beautiful rosy face.

I will never forget it as long as I live.

As we get older, our birthdays seem to lose their luster. I know many people who prefer to ignore their birthdays altogether.

I understand and respect the shift toward fewer gifts and less hoopla, but I think it is a shame to ignore the opportunity for mindful reflection. We should view birthdays as prized reminders to connect and celebrate.

Sharing your birthday with others becomes less about unwrapping presents and murmuring "You shouldn't have!" and more about laughing with your loved ones about the milestones you've all navigated over the years.

And if we do it right, there's plenty to laugh about, even when we look back on the bumpiest of years. As the old saying goes, having a birthday is better than the alternative!

If your own birthday doesn't inspire you, look forward to the ones celebrated by others. Turn them into an opportunity to play a little birthday mindfulness game.

In the spirit of finding a reason for celebrating reflection, I called an old high school friend on his 45th birthday last month.

He was absolutely dumbfounded. We hadn't talked in over ten years, and our last conversation was a quick hello at a class reunion. But I had always remembered his April 8th birthday, so I made a round of phone calls and tracked him down, reaching him at home as he celebrated quietly with a handful of family and friends.

We had a delightful conversation. It made me wonder why I'd never picked up the phone to call him in all these years. But then, we all know the answer to that--we get busy, and even if we do think of calling, we talk ourselves out of it because it might be, well, weird.

Far from weird, it was heartwarming, affirming, and truly connected us despite the fact that our friendship had faded over 25 years ago. At the end of our call, Scott said, "I will never forget this as long as I live."

What more can anyone ask of a birthday?

Maya Talisman Frost is a mind masseuse in Portland, Oregon. Through her company, Real-World Mindfulness Training, she teaches creative eyes-wide-open alternatives to meditation. To subscribe to her free weekly ezine, the Friday Mind Massage, please visit


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