It’s a cool and foggy Autumn Sunday before those glorious, sweaty, summerish days arrived for one last hurrah. Our family had made our way down a dirt path to a quintessential, rocky Maine shoreline in an attempt to shake the crankiness off of our day. One boy biked there, while the other road along in a little, blue push-car that has a few thousand miles on it now. We climbed on slippery boulders over to a part of the terrain that held an enormous fallen tree that hung like a bridge. Jonah—so agile, now, in these precarious environments—leapt ahead onto the tree. I warned him not to go under it—wary of the possibility of it collapsing further. Adrian—up ahead of me—made himself clear to my husband that he could navigate the rocks himself, too. I found a seat on a damp rock and took in the scene before me. I took in the juxtaposition of the bright and mustard-yellow colored seaweed against the ashen rocks. A thin layer of fog made the contrasts that much more striking. I sat there for a long while and I picked up a lone acorn that had fallen in amongst a sea of mussel shells and periwinkles, noticing the way it seemed slightly swollen from its contact with the salt water. I sat taking in my surroundings, rubbing the side of the acorn across my lips noticing its smoothness. I sat noticing a spaciousness coming over me and my chest expanding. I rubbed the acorn back and forth across my lips again for a while. Later, I slipped the acorn into my pocket, carefully taking it home with me.
My kitchen sink is positioned conveniently in front of a window looking out at my driveway where my two boys love to play. It is only recently that I may stand here, while they are there. We have a vast lawn and yet it is this runway like surface where they enjoy best setting up their work stations, their water-chalk, their digging zones in the flower beds nearby. We have had more than a few skinned knees here, yet still they return. I’m at the sink now. I’ve come to wash my hands. I turn the water on and adjust the faucet so that a warm stream is flowing through my palms. With soap, I massage my hands together, noticing the way the tepid water relaxes me, and taking in the boys as they play. I am rubbing my hands soothingly and Adrian begins running—laughing—down the driveway with Jonah following. There is crying between them at times. But I am marveling now as I gaze out at them—there is so much laughing. Sometimes the laughing gets to be so lively while they are eating dinner that I think that they may choke. I feel guilty at times reprimanding their antics. I am taking them in from my kitchen window like so many mothers before me and Adrian’s smile is erupting with joy and Jonah’s is, too. I rinse my hands of the soap and reach for a towel.
I am remembering now. I’m remembering now how it feels to look deeply into Jonah’s sea-blue eyes. I am remembering what it means to meet his eyes with mine, crouching down, even, to really look at him when he speaks. I am remembering how he stands up just a little taller when he notices me giving him my full attention. He says more. He has so much to share. His inner-world is active and filled with thoughts waiting to be heard. I am remembering about Adrian’s chocolatey—sometimes hazel—eyes and how his become just a little more liquid when I stop and really take in his words, connecting my eyes with his. It is almost as if he is touched with emotion by my interest. Adrian has so much to say, too. Sometimes he will shout at Jonah, “I was talking first!” I am remembering both of my boys’ gorgeous and reflective eyes and I am thinking about what it means to be seen. I’m thinking about what it means to be seen when you are a child. I’m thinking of all that it means to be seen.
I have a vision. I have a vision of Mothers around the globe beginning their days in peace. I have a vision of our children experiencing a gentle calm surrounding them as they venture out into this too-fast world. I have a vision of each of us—myself included—growing in our capacity to experience an inner spaciousness that will inform our choices, our tones of voice, our inner resonance. I have a vision of truly living the proclamation that real peace begins at home. May this “Mother’s Morning Meditation” assist us all in connecting with our truest essence as we begin our days and may that essence spill forth upon our children. May we all shed our worries about all that has to be done, our urgency about the ticking clock and break open our anxious hearts instead with the beauty of present moment awareness. Notice intently the sleepy morning stretches. Notice the sticky breakfast fingers. Notice the snail-paced pulling on of socks. Notice and rejoice.
A Mother’s Morning Meditation
Good morning, dear Mothers. Today is a new day and all is well. All is well. As I enter this day, I center myself with a deep, stilling breath. And then another. I sit in the emptiness and experience myself, the light in me. I greet myself with a smile and acknowledge all that I am and all that I give. With eyes closed, I breath deeply again noticing the many spaces within my being. I notice the places that I experience as too-full. I notice the places that feel clear. I notice the places that feel in need of nurturing. With this noticing, I allow the energy within me to begin circulating, first slowly, then with increased power finding all of the places that need emptying, discovering all of the places that need filling and then slowly, so perfectly bringing the energy inside of me into complete balance. I breathe deeply again now experiencing the steady rhythm of all that is happening inside of my mind, of all that is happening inside of my chest and all around the rest of my beautiful being. I am grateful and know that I may bring myself to balance again and again throughout my day. In this moment, I imagine my body as a sturdy and flowing tree. Through the soles of my feet, healthy, winding roots begin making their way into the earth grounding me into my perfect balance. Through the crown of my head I grow tall and expansive. I am both strong and fluid. I release this image and come back now into my heart center and feel expansive with love. Here I am. And here is my day before me. I have things to do and places to be. I have children who need me. And others, too. Breathing deeply I know that I will find a pace for my words and actions that allows me to meet each moment in my day with grace and presence. I know that my life has meaning, sometimes even in the smallest of actions. I know that I have time. There is plenty of time. I will cultivate this feeling of expansive space in my home today and treat my children with gentleness. I will hear their words. I will smile at them and invite their thoughts into my heart. All that they are will be safe and respected with me. As I come to the end of this quiet moment I take another healing breath and see myself with the same love that I feel for my children. The love I will share with my children today showers me, as well. I feel peace. I feel energized for the day to come. I feel alive and ready to give.
Listen and be guided in A Mother’s Morning Meditation by Meghan Nathanson:
I am sitting at a rustic picnic bench under a sturdy wooden shelter. My legs are stretched out before me. A breeze lifts the hairs from the back of my neck brushing them across my bare shoulders, cooling me. There is a well-worn path to my right leading toward a hilly, lush trail into the woods. The sounds of birds chirping in conversation and the distant rumble of a truck delivering are surrounding me. My boys are filling jars with treasures at a morning day camp a few miles from here.
I recently meandered with a dear friend around the yard of her new home— taking in the various attributes of the land. There was a perfectly rounded sledding hill out front, a brood of chickens in the back and a home in the middle filled with windows and wonder. Surrounding us was a ring of sprawling trees. A breeze moved through these varied and magnificent beauties encompassing us as if in their embrace. Each sprawling limb was doing its part—sending the rushing air along between them. Even the tall deadened trunks—stripped of all their green for a long while now—stood in the distance holding their place in this rounded, breathing space. We wondered whether an owl might find their home in one of these stunning sculptures of nature’s unfolding. I’m taken with the power and the possibility of a circle. My breath seems to move about my body in this same circular direction—the air making its way in and expanding my abdomen, then my chest, up along my spine into the top of my head and then back down again finally settling into my sacrum. All of the spaces inside of me are transformed into a single expansive globe as my breath moves through me before finding its way out again.
My son Jonah has become enthralled with bugs this summer. He searches for them, creating homes and sometimes bringing them to and fro in our car, around our house—like visitors. He names them and even loves some of them. Sometimes he squishes them, accidentally. Sometimes he squishes them because he is just so curious to see what happens. Moving through his fifth year, I notice him bringing more authority to his way of being. His thoughts are deepening. I observe him as closely as ever—maybe even closer—although from a greater distance. Even as he grows I notice the part of him that remains constant. There is a place in him that I recognize from when he was nestled in my arms in those very first moments—still wet from the womb. I remember that same essence from when he was a wee-toddler, my family cheering for him as he begins running for the first time down a hallway. There it is again—that dear Jonah quality—as a boisterous three year-old resisting sleep one million times over. And here it is now—as clear as ever—as he unfolds into a school-age boy. He likes the idea of becoming a “gentleman” and he points out the “gentlemen” that we come in contact with. He notices the way they speak politely and offer to help. He notices these things ahead of me. He refers to me as a “gentle-lady” and has pointed out other gentle-ladies as we make our way through the world. He teaches me to slow down and every day—if only through this essence— he reminds me of his worth.
I take him in—this beautiful gift-of-a-boy—and create a circular space around him in which he may expand. I try not to make the mistakes that I made when he was three years old, transitioning out of regular napping so many moons ago. Then, I tried to hold him there. I resisted and resisted and resisted. Now, I try to look ahead. I try to look ahead and I make room. I lay down my resistance to the pain that sometimes tags along with seeing your child grow. I try to lay down anything in me that might inadvertently take him away from his original essence. Like the trees, I surround him with my energy and with my love in a gentle, circular caress.
It is nearly midnight and I am lying in my bed with a heavy heart. My boys have been resting in dreamland for hours now—snug in their beds down the hall. My eyes are closed and my left hand is resting on my heart—a habit I developed in my teen years when recovering from a painful hospital stay. My right hand is resting on my abdomen—a practice I learned from one of my teachers—Renee Trudeau—in a seminar at Kripalu last summer. I’m lying uncovered in my bed—my two hands anchoring me, rising and falling with my breath—and I’m floating around the idea of being, “broken-open” as is so often discussed in conversations surrounding spiritual awakening and healing and living. I’m floating around the idea of lingering in this space and noticing what it has to reveal.
Outside my window-filled room, rain falls rhythmically. I am listening to the various notes sounded as the raindrops land melodically on the window sills, on the air conditioner unit, through the trees. I am lying in my bed, noticing my breath and taking in the stillness. Listening so very closely to the rain, I can almost feel the raindrops coming down and landing—each of them—on my heart. My heart is wide open—like a cavern—each drop is landing with a beat inside of me, watering up all of the spaces that are lacking sustenance. Each raindrop feels weighted and comforting. I am thinking about the times that I have felt broken-open before—it happens again and again to some. At times, I have been very aware of the slow yet powerful internal cracking taking place and leading up to the tectonic shifts—like the time I dialed a therapist I’d never spoken to before from the bed of my tiny, NYC apartment on a dreary, Sunday morning. Other times, the breaking open is more sudden—more jolting—like the time in which a long and dear friendship changed drastically over the course of a few days. And sometimes the breaking-open-of-the-heart seems more ordinary. It seems to have to do with difficult transitions and bothersome illness and insufficient support. It never really is about those things, though. It’s about learning where we abandon ourselves and where we abandon others. It’s about discovering the ways in which we act out our fear of judgment and the ways in which we judge. It’s about witnessing all of the ways that we try to protect ourselves from being seen. There is nothing ordinary—at all—about this type of breaking open. It may be the best and most transformative breaking-open of all.
The rain has come and gone a half-a-dozen times since the night of my heart-watering. Our garden is the most lush and green that we’ve had since coming to Maine five years ago. Jonah and Adrian’s legs are covered in scratches and bug-bites—a testament to a summer moving in the right direction. I’m sitting and I’m writing and I’m aware that the gaping opening in my heart from a few weeks ago has been peeled back and massaged and molded into shape once again.
In the corner of my boys’ closet are two paper shopping bags—each filled to overflowing with the tiny garments of years now gone by. There you will find the most beloved of the baby clothing. The striped onesie immortalized by innumerable photographs, the “Kiss Me I’m Irish” t-shirt that made my friend burst into laughter when she saw my bigger boy Jonah wearing it as a 3 month old with a cheek to cheek grin, the “I love my Mommy” sleeper suit. I’ve compiled these precious items with the intention of having them made into a keepsake quilt. On each, I plan to have embroidered a memorable word/quote from each of my children. A long while ago my husband and I decided that on Jonah’s quilt we would inscribe the word, “baku.” It was Jonah’s very special way of saying “thank you” for what—at that time—seemed like a long time. His use of that kind of language is a distant memory now as he marches briskly and boldly through his fifth year.
Lying in bed the other night I was ruminating about these two bags of clothing and the mountain of other baby and toddler accouterments in Jonah and Adrian’s closet. Questions swirled around my hazy, half-sleeping mind about where these baby items should next live and whether or not they might get any further use in our home. I was wondering if keeping them nearby would keep my boys little any longer. I was wondering and ruminating and suddenly I was pondering the quotes to be embroidered and I realized that I couldn’t remember the quote I had chosen for Adrian’s blanket. I thought and I thought and I couldn’t remember it. Adrian—as a baby—suddenly seemed like another lifetime ago. All I could see in my mind’s eye was his confident, vivacious three-year-old self standing before me with his chocolatey eyes and the tilt of his head—looking at me in wonder. I nearly sat upright in bed. I was wide awake now. I kept flashing in my mind to the little, blue 5 year, one-line-a-day memory book now tucked away on an overflowing bookshelf. At one time, I had been so diligent in filling this little book with the precious lines, the exquisite moments of my life—of my so full, so fun, so frustrating, so funny, so fulfilling life with my two little boys. And now it has gone empty for months and months. We have been so busy living. We have been so busy living, I thought, as I sunk back into my sheets somewhat relieved.
The quote on Adrian’s quilt will be “Deet-Deet.” It was his very own phrase for nursing and he sung it out joyously so very many times. I remember now. How could I have forgotten? He still says it sometimes. He thinks it is funny, now. I hope it doesn’t embarrass him too much in the years to come. When it does, I will tuck his blanket away for safekeeping and relish in the memory of this unforgettable time.
I’m sitting again, this time in an artsy, yummy restaurant housed in an old warehouse and my belly is full. My belly is full and my head no longer pounds and I was able to choose both yoga and writing on this chilly, grey day in Maine. I recognize the privilege and offer thanks. Spring continues to reveal herself oh-so-slowly and the fire is lit again and again in our wood stove at home, keeping us toasty even as we watch our yard carefully for emerging green. There have been some sun rays, but our clothing remains layered, our socks woolen. My own socks have grown so thin on the soles of my feet that my skin can be seen through them. I don’t mind, though. I wear them as a badge of honor for having chosen such a place to live —a place with epic winters and meandering Springs. A place where my heart feels that it belongs. My path has been one of listening and of taking steps in the direction of my soul. My path has been one of coming to understand the power of the mind. And now, my path is winding differently. My ears have suddenly become tuned-in to the distant whispers of the wild women who came before me, beckoning me to see my worth. They are coaxing me to know the ways that the droughts or storms of my own being may impact the climate of my children’s inner landscape.
What better way to bring deep comfort and love to your children—these wild women whisper—than through the arms of a mother who bears witness to her very own right to experience the same? What better way to truly see your children for their inherent value—these wild women whisper—than through the eyes of a mother who recognizes her own worth regardless of what she does or says or is in any given moment? And what better way to teach your children—these wild women insistently whisper—than through the lips of a mother who is forgiving and gentle with herself in the lessons the turbulence of her own bumpy life provides?
I acknowledge these whispers as I page through my well worn copy of “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” and reflect on the fact that I have been gifted with boys in my life. I reflect on what I would like for their impressions of women to be. I reflect on what their impressions already are—some I would like to remain, others I wouldn’t mind erasing. I am thinking about the way in which Adrian—well into his three year old exploration—loves to nestle into me and smell up and down the arms of my clothing. I nestle into him—and my bigger boy, Jonah, too—trying to hold on to the distant smell of the celestial that lingers even now. I’m thinking about the many ways that they feel free to be themselves—speaking shyly behind my leg to a stranger and floating quietly in the tub and yelling loudly when they feel compelled and screaming in frustration and laughing until they can’t breathe and falling on the floor in a fit and shouting in jest and running with abandon and confiding in a whisper and dancing wildly and being naked comfortably and moving their bodies luxuriously and stamping their feet in protest and singing unabashedly to their own tune and stomping on someone’s work and saying they are sorry and hugging their brother and forgiving their mother and being mischievous and angry and oh-so-very loving. I think about all that they are free to do and feel and say and how uncomfortable it can make me at times. And yet, more deeply than this surface panic that sometimes arises is an otherworldly, inner-knowing about the vast power of this allowance that will surely ripple across the landscape of their lives. I do teach and correct and help to make things right as necessary—and I stifle them at times, too—but in coming to accept the many aspects of myself—some of them quite unappealing—I am also coming to accept many more aspects of my two very precious, very alive, very vocal and very free-spirited boys.
I’m sitting and I’m listening. I’m sitting and I’m listening while the inside right bridge of my nose is burning and the right side of my head is throbbing. I have finally succumbed to the cold that my boys endured a few weeks ago. Now, I understand the headache they were describing. Now, I see that they were quite brave. I am sitting in a cafe having chosen writing over yoga and the sun is streaming in on the rustic wooden table where I’ve planted myself. The ground is covered with a thin layer of glistening snow. Last night—with a full moon shining—white crystals came swirling down in Southern Maine, coating our yard again and Sister Spring remains aloof. It mirrors well the waiting in my own life—the call to linger in-between the planting of seeds and the arrival of dreams. Rushing and outcome orientation leave me wanting. It is within the process that I discover myself, my value, the value of my children. The things that I thought would matter in child rearing—the lessons, the discipline, the future successes hold less weight for me now. Instead I relish the pauses between these necessities and achievements. I linger in connecting eyes with Jonah in the rear view mirror of my car, holding on just a little longer, noticing his smile widen. I listen intently to Adrian as he interrupts the story I am telling, over and over again, allowing him to express his vision of the squirrel’s journey. I correct and I redirect and I help to make things right when things go wrong but I am holding on less and less to the seemingly poor actions inherent in early childhood and more and more to the moments to be treasured.
We had a busy time away this past weekend. It was fun and full and we were completely diverted from our normal rhythms. I heard yelling from the bedroom where my husband was trying to finish stories with Jonah before a 10:00pm bedtime—nearly 3 hours later than usual. I could see that things were not going well. I did not blame my husband at all—he was exhausted too! We all were. I came in and was able to smooth things over by giving my son, Jonah, the benefit of the doubt. I saw him with compassion. I saw him with love. And within a few moments we were lying quietly together in the dark. I was rubbing his back and he said, “Mommy, I can feel the love pouring out of your heart into mine.” I am not always capable of making these choices but I knew in that moment that choosing to see my son as good made all the difference. We do not always hold the same standards for our children as we do for ourselves. They are expected to have perfect actions and behaviors but we—we can erupt, we can become emotional, we can hold grudges or lash out. I am trying to remember this and as I listen today, this is the message that I hear.
It was another mother—a successful writer—who introduced me to the show, “Listen to Your Mother” via an online post a few months ago. I learned from her about this series of live staged readings put on across the country meant to give Motherhood a microphone. I clicked on the shared link and immediately butterflies began swirling around my solar plexus. I hadn’t felt this way since I pressed “publish” on my very first blog entry about the way a single leaf took me to a new level of letting go. I knew that I was supposed to audition for “Listen to Your Mother” in just the same way that I knew a few years ago that I was meant to share my words beyond my supportive—and trusted—circle of friends. Butterflies have long been my messenger, ushering in new loves, new life and new pathways. The New York “Listen to Your Mother” audition schedule and process had not yet been posted and so I began checking their website regularly and eventually found myself with an audition time slot: February 23rd, 1:30pm. I belabored my decision about which piece I would read and left my final selection until the week before the audition. The producers of “Listen to Your Mother” shared what they were looking for from those auditioning. They were looking for the stories that had be told, for the stories distinctly about Motherhood and for stories so personal that only the author could have written them. They were also planning for those words they selected to come together into a greater whole. It sounded so good to me. I was especially drawn to this experience for the opportunity to share—in person—the journey that I have been on. I loved that it wasn’t about being an expert in anything or trying to teach anything but rather a willingness to go forth in vulnerability and a desire to reveal one’s own life and truth in a very public way.
I wanted to read a piece that I had already published on my blog so as to avoid presenting anything contrived. I needed to know that my words had come from a pure place untainted by the expectation that they may end up being read from a stage. Reading back through old posts, I noticed there had been a change in me—some things that I had felt and believed and feared in my original blog-entries had fallen away like a snake’s skin—no longer serving me. The words that I discovered in those first few months—though still true and relevant to the unfolding of my path—were no longer the story that I must tell, now. I read on further and eventually I narrowed my choices down to a few more recent posts and the question that I kept asking myself was, “is this distinctly about Motherhood or is this just about me?” I noticed in my newer writing the way in which the compartments of Motherhood and the compartments of My Life have now become more fluid—lines blurred, walls transparent or crumbling. Even as the snow continued to fall this winter, I began envisioning the soles of my feet digging deeply into the earth, toes pressed down as if roots—experiencing myself and my role as Mother more seamlessly. I felt and continue to feel as if all of life and the earth and me and my children are all rolled up together into Oneness. It was about then in my selection process that I considered changing the name of my blog from, “Mindful Mothering” to “Mindful Living” or some other title more reflective of the inextricable connection between how we are with ourselves—how we are with the world—and our way of being with our children. I went around and around like a spinning top trying to make a decision about what to read—poling friends and family, praying for guidance, reading my choices out loud to my husband—until ultimately coming into a place of silence and inner-knowing about the story that I had to tell. The story that I am called to tell, that I must tell, and continue to try to tell through my writing and my way of living is this; true enlightenment is to be found in the ordinary. It is in the delicate dance of coming right into the very space that we are. It can be discovered on a crowded train or in a prison. It can be unearthed in a backyard garden or shoveling snow. It is right there with you in the middle of a chaotic household with a handful of children or in solitude with only the presence of ocean waves tumbling.
I remember my audition vividly. I remember trembling before walking into the space where I was met with a panel of sophisticated-looking women who appeared to know what they were doing. I remember connecting with their eyes, noticing long, red hair and feeling at ease. I remember placing my words on a podium and grasping onto the long necklace from which dangled a ring my bigger boy Jonah had bought for me at a festival this past fall. His ring anchored me as I read. My words transported me back to a challenging time, to a sprawling beach in my beloved Maine and to the magic that was found with my boys, there in the tide pools. I remember leaving the audition and momentarily thinking, “I got it!” I felt elated and relieved and completely at peace. I am absolutely not one to think this way normally—especially about something that involves any sort of judging or performing—yet, something felt very, very right about that audition—about the entire experience. Of course, it turned out that I did not get it—at least not in the way that I had hoped. I received instead a gentle and encouraging rejection letter via e-mail in a parking lot after an outing to the library with my boys. I felt pretty crushed and it took some time to recover. And life went on. Sitting here now, though, after having had the opportunity for things to settle and for the truth to come to the surface, I know without a doubt that I did get it! I know now—for certain—what the story is that I must tell. It may not fit into a category in the way that will make me appealing to a traditional publisher or to the producers of this show right now, but the message that I must share is crystal clear to me.
There are various stacks of paper piling up on my counters and spilling off of my filing cabinets—evidence of my growing apathy for the “should’s” of this world. My car inspection will wait for the last moment, I’m certain. Thank-you notes go unsent—though my heart is filled with gratitude. A plethora of e-mails in my inbox are like messages in bottles adrift at sea. Instead I drive across a landscape—again luminous with freshly fallen snow—captivated by the shapes of trees and shadows and hills. I am mesmerized by the contrast of the red barn juxtaposed with the snowy field, the rocking yellow sign with the blue-sky backdrop. I wonder how I might bring these scenes to life with the scraps of paper that have become my latest artistic medium. The sun is a torn flower from an old calendar. The arm of a child is the pink and orange sunset, quintessential Maine.
My fingers and my dining room table both have a thin layer of polymer gloss covering them. At night when I rub Jonah’s back in his bed he tells me that my fingers feel rough. They feel rough to me too as they travel up the silken skin of his smooth, warm back. I wonder how much longer this precious time with him will last. A few weeks ago he announced that he didn’t need for me to rest with him in his bed at night any longer. I was surprised by this edict and grateful that it didn’t last. This is the place where I experience the gentle, “I love you’s.” This is where I listen to his longings for learning, for more knowledge about the world. This is where I remember how little he still is. He asks to feel my rough fingers and evaluates which ones I must use most in my collage work. I think of his request that I create a collage based on him and use a dolphin picture we found together in an old calendar. I think of he and Adrian standing on a bench overlooking one piece making various observations. One woman’s arm appears like a flamingo and Jonah feels this may exclude it from being “chosen.” They take in a picture of a beach from a torn calendar and Jonah exclaims, “that would make good skin!” It’s a family affair, my art.
I’m working on a piece based on a photograph of a friend and her child curled up sleeping together. Her son is feverish and her arm is draped across him with care. I am belaboring the faces. Pieces layered and layered—attempting to get the nose just right, yearning to create a cheekbone as perfect and rounded as my friend’s. This work is consuming me. And then later I am laying with Adrian. He too prefers these quiet, end-of-day moments with company. Often he leaves me with only a sliver of his bed so I am lying on my side trying not to fall and he is sprawled out on his back. Our faces are so close that I can feel his soft cheek on mine and notice the sweetness of his breath. His eyes are open but he rests in the space between wakefulness and sleep where a haze begins to fall over the happenings of his day and his lips fall silent. I am studying him like the faces of my collage. I could never capture his incredible beauty. His softness. This time. I must live in this time. Nothing will capture it or preserve it or ever make it come alive again in the way that it is now.
One might believe that a mother like me, the author of a blog titled, “Mindful Mothering,” must have a well-oiled meditation practice complete with a special pillow, a well-decorated alter and a neatly blocked out period of time in which to practice quieting her mind and noticing her breath each and every day. She must conduct this practice quietly and in her own space and with no interruptions. It must be that she begins her day this way and her family just knows that, “Mommy meditates in the morning!” It turns out that I don’t, at least not in the way that one might imagine. I do have a Buddha kitty statue sitting reverently beside my front door and I have looked up various satsangs and Buddhist temples and other mindfulness gathering opportunities on the internet more times than I would like to admit—never having attended any of them! No, formal meditation has not found its way into my life. Instead—as I’ve noted in previous posts—I discover an inner silence, in the space between filling sippy-cups and cleaning up crumbs. I focus on tiny fingers placing magnets on the refrigerator door and the varied expressions of my children’s faces, allowing my attention to come to my breath, allowing my mind to quiet. I absolutely have a meditation practice, it just isn’t formal and it would take a keen eye to even know that I am practicing. To an untrained eye, I may just appear very, very patient (in those moments in which I am meditating, that is).
I’ve been noticing recently when these moments occur and how they can be very powerful in thwarting blind reaction, in slowing things down so that I can think, in preventing me from being too harsh with word or action. I am not always capable of tempering things enough and sometimes I do react unconsciously. Some would argue that this is good for the children, that they need to learn the varied ways in which people may be. It is this (occasional) harshness that will prepare them for the world. I do not agree with this reasoning—perhaps it is just my perfectionistic nature! If I were to humor this idea, though, there is another—maybe even more powerful—realization that I would come to. It would become clear that even if my reacting harshly is “good for the children,” it is not good for me! I do practice mindfulness for my children. I want for them to experience me as peaceful, as someone they can trust, but I also practice mindfulness because of the tremendous beauty and peace it allows me to experience. No matter how many pictures we take of our children—and I have taken thousands—nothing compares to the breathtaking moment of truly taking in the depth of a child’s gaze and realizing the pure love that is in your midst. Nothing compares to truly experiencing a child’s words as they earnestly ask for your opinions, for your knowledge about the world around them. Nothing compares, even, to fully witnessing a child gripped with anguish and blaming you and still discovering enough space in your heart to know that they both need to make you wrong and to be comforted by you at the same time. I practice mindfulness because I’ve seen my children just melt before me because of that little extra heartbeat that I’ve allowed to beat between us.
With all of this in mind, I’ve created a list of a few unexpected moments, perfect for beginning your meditation practice today. All families, all humans, have their challenges, myself included. My hope is that these ideas might awaken in you the knowledge that there is time to breathe, there is always time for one more heartbeat to inform your next steps.
You’ve been out with your children and they didn’t want to leave your previous location and now they are beyond hungry for a meal. You enter a restaurant and they begin acting out as soon as you are seated. You are temped to pick them back up and storm out of the restaurant, or worse. Instead, sit back into your chair and allow your feet to sink into the floor. Feel your attention come down into your abdomen and begin noticing your breath. Take a drink of the water before you and notice the water as you swallow. Rub your hands back and forth on your legs noticing the texture of your clothes. Connect with your child’s eyes and smile. You’ll know what to do next. Maybe you’ll leave. Maybe you won’t.
It’s bath time and no one wants to take a bath. One child is running naked down the hall and the other is standing on top of the sink making faces in the mirror. You begin threatening that there will be, “no books tonight!” It doesn’t matter that you know this is an empty threat. Find a space where you can be near enough to the climber to keep them safe and release your expectations for bath time, for bedtime at least for the moment. Release the need to “get there” when you had planned to. Raise your arms up in the air stretching and clasping your hands, turning them inside out. Pull your elbows back opening your chest, opening your heart, noticing your breath. When you are able, walk over to the tub, turn the water on and dip your feet in truly experience the water washing over them. Notice your children as they surround you in all of their naked glory. Wash and repeat.
It’s a cold and rainy day—your only day “off” away from your children. You have a doctor’s appointment and you are made to wait. This is your only free time! You don’t even need to be at this appointment anyway, you think. They aren’t going to help you. Notice this way of thinking. Notice the tightness in your chest. Make a choice and sit up in your chair finding your spine lining up with the back of the chair. Curl your lips into a smile even if you have to pretend to be tickled by the way your mind is working so hard to make you miserable. Allow a flush of gratitude to come forward within you. Find your breath and just unweight yourself of all of this. Let it go and just breath. Close your eyes and breath and relish this ability to be in life. Open your eyes and look around you at the other faces in the room. Notice the varied ways in which people occupy their time. Notice the lines on their faces. Are they smiling? Are you?
You’re in the car and the decibel in the backseat is raising exponentially. You begin to whine, “can’t we just have a good day?” Then you start to threaten about pulling over the car or swinging your arm into the backseat like your Mom used to do. Meditate instead. First loosen your grip around the steering wheel. Slide your hands back and forth, noticing the texture. Roll down your window and breathe in a bit of fresh air. Feel a sense of spaciousness arriving inside of you and sink into your seat with your whole body. Look into the rear view mirror and smile. You might need to stop and let someone know that they are distracting the driver or maybe you won’t.
You’ve had a very rough day at work and you just know that when you walk in the door at home the smiling faces of your children are going to make everything all better. Instead you walk in and all of the children are crying or screaming or throwing something. The house is a train wreck and your partner greets you with a scowl. You feel like you might scream or cry. Sit down immediately and drop all of your things. Let go of the idea of the house being a mess. One day it will be clean again. Maybe even sprawl out completely on the ground, notice how your children begin crawling all over you. Close your eyes and find your breath, noticing the miracle of living. Notice the many varied sounds around you. Wiggle your fingers and toes then tighten and loosen them. Feel your shoulders relax and settle into your being. Stay as long as you need to and then you will know what needs to be attended to first.