Had to share this one. Buddhist teachings on patience so relevant to life with a toddler!
What was the most important thing you learned in 2012? How does this learning shape the path going forward?
Without a doubt the most important thing I have learned in 2012 is the value of making a concerted effort to live Mindfully, which to me means being in the moment, cherishing each moment, really noticing each moment and all it entails. Especially in relation to really looking at and interacting with my daughters and my husband, not just rushing through the days and tasks and always thinking about the next thing on my To Do list.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be considered from a Buddhist perspective but for me it’s not only a psychological pursuit – I do find myself drawn towards Buddhism. In my hardest times this year, particularly recently, I have been able to grab hold of what I have learned about Mindfulness and about other aspects of Buddhism since starting this blog in January, and it has helped me beyond measure. From when I was having a spinal block prior to c-section and when the pain during surgery scared me, to when I feared for my marriage and when tragic news came from overseas, to more simple things like when I need to take a step back and realise that I just need to eat something to get centred again…I have learned to focus on the moment, to not catastrophise, and to breathe my way through.
I don’t always manage this, I get carried away with things, I forget. But when the proverbial has hit the fan, this year I have had something to hold on to. I have found my saviour in Mindful practice. I don’t know what I would have done at times without it. Words of The Buddha relating to Mindfulness have given me great comfort at times and I know that going forward my learning will be in that direction. I want to learn more about Buddhism, and about Mindfulness. I have gathered many tools and resources this year and I want to keep learning, and putting that learning into practice as I go forward into the New Year ahead.
Until I’m 6 feet under
Baby I don’t need a bed
Gonna live while I’m alive
I’ll sleep when I’m dead
Till they roll me over
And lay my bones to rest
Gonna live while I’m alive
I’ll sleep when I’m dead
Ahhh how I loved Bon Jovi, back in the day! Still do. Apparently they are coming to Australia late next year. This ol’ mama hopes to be there! Meantime I can only be amused at how the meaning of these lyrics has changed for me in the space of twenty years. I was a bit of a wild child in my teens and twenties, and I passionately felt that sleep was highly over-rated. Far too much else to be doing with my time! Right now though it really does feel like I’ll sleep when I’m dead and not before, simply cos there sure ain’t much sleep going on around here, and it’s not voluntary deprivation! Miss M is still having her nightly carryings on, and while her Papa is dealing with her, my other baby girl is here on the inside keeping me up as well. Bless! But also, arghhhhhh…how I crave a full eight hours of deep uninterrupted sleep. Six, even!
Last night as I lay awake in a silent house (no fair!), my mind was buzzing. Only nine days to go! This pregnancy has seemed sooooo long, but now it’s speeding up soooo fast! I feared I would never drift off, and I badly needed to, but then I remembered this beautiful photograph (credit: @SharonSalzberg) that came up on my news feed yesterday.
The Buddha looks so rested, calm and content. I visualised the photograph and concentrated only on the feelings of peace and contentment that it stirs in me, and on my breathing. In…and out…in…and out…and it worked, I fell asleep! Not really meditation per se I guess but definitely a Mindful start! I find my mind racing quite a lot at the moment, only natural of course at this stage, but it would be easy to let things spiral. I am really focusing on being Mindful to get me through this time. I’m
staying trying to stay in the moment, remembering to breathe if I get anxious, noticing the little things around me – birds singing, the sound of Miss M’s laughter coming through the open window as she plays with her Papa…all will be well.
…simply wait awhile, another one will be along in a minute ~ Dr Danny Penman
Toward the end of the week before last I challenged myself to manage just five minutes of meditation for seven consecutive days. Alas, it did not go well. Days 3 and 4 didn’t even actually happen and by Day 5 it was abundantly clear that independent meditation was not working for me. Or I was not working for it? It’s only five minutes, after all! Day 6 I managed but Day 7 was forgotten as Life got in the way once again. In my defence we have had a lot going on at home in addition to my being almost 36 weeks pregnant and in sole charge of a very energetic and willful toddler for the best part of most days. Perhaps this is not the best time to begin my meditative journey? And yet, I believe that the coming weeks and months are when I am most going to need it. Quandary!
We have a tendency to think that meditation is something we’ve got to achieve, another thing we‘ve got to do and get, but Ajahn Chah would put it in terms of a holiday. Try that, try seeing meditation in that way.
The author also suggests that meditation can be seen:
… as awakened-ness and awareness, mindfulness, so that it actually is something you develop throughout your daily life in whatever way you have to live it, in whatever conditions.
This seems to be a much more constructive and indeed manageable approach to take. I’ve decided that I do really, really want to try to start meditating with at least some regularity and that guided meditation is perhaps a better idea for me right now. Some soothing music and a calming voice telling me what to do and when my time is up sounds appealing. I don’t have time to conduct extensive research at present so I am just going to go with what Spotify gives me and see how I go. Anything that gives me a little oasis of calm and helps me to recharge at least every day or two would be most welcome!
However, as suggested in the article mentioned above, I’m not going to put pressure on myself and have meditation on my list of Things To Do. I’ll do the guided stuff as and when I can, and then rest of the time I’ll just focus on being Mindful and practicing exercises I have read about that suggest that even small daily tasks such as doing the dishes can be approached as a minor meditation by just carefully noticing and appreciating every tiny little aspect of the process – the smell, sounds, feel of the action being undertaken. Manageable goals that will hopefully be enjoyable and beneficial. No pressure!
Blogtoberfest 2012, 30/31
I came across this quote by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh in my newsfeed this morning (thank you, Writing Our Way Home). Wise words that gave me a very welcome focus when I woke up wondering how I was going to get through the day. I’m tired. But today is our family’s Friday, so come 5.30pm our weekend will begin when my husband gets home from work. He’ll share the load, we’ll chill, and come Tuesday (our Monday) I hope to be back on top.
I couldn’t help but smile when my daughter ran into the bedroom chattering away this morning after she had breakfast with her Papa. She is talking more every single day, it wonderful to see her grow. I’m finding it a little more difficult to breathe at present because Miss M’s little sister is also growing, and not leaving much space at 35 weeks for my internal organs! So yeah, I need to go slowly, and that’s ok.
We’ve been TV free for 3 weeks now and it’s going just fine. Yesterday my husband had to take Miss M to work for a few hours though so that I could rest, and that couldn’t happen again today, so I must confess that I succumbed to the wonders of ABC iView and allowed Miss M to watch Sesame Street on the computer so I could have a little much-needed down time. First screen time in 3 weeks, she was transfixed and thus…quiet! Given the last few very rough days, emotionally and physically, I’m not going to beat myself up about a lil bit of Elmo on a Saturday morning to keep me and this baby inside healthy and calm. Tomorrow is another day!
Blogtoberfest 2012, 27/31
Unsurprisingly the practice of meditation comes up a lot when Mindfulness is discussed. I’ve had a bash now and then over the years, with little success. During the initial stages of my recovery from alcoholism (I quit drinking almost ten years ago) I brushed against the idea but having the attention span of a gnat, it really wasn’t for me back then. I focussed instead on AA meetings (in the first months), my long term sessions with my psychologist, and other what I considered to be more “practical” ways of getting better. Then life did get better, but my interest in meditiation had waned. A couple of years later I found myself WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) on a small farm in rural NSW that was run by a couple of Buddhist nuns. I tried to meditate again, with them, in a setting that couldn’t have been more conducive unless the Dalai Lama himself had been there, but I guess my heart wasn’t properly in it, and when I left the property, I left my meditative intentions behind too. Later on, work, life, travel occupied me utterly, and then I became a mother…and here I am.
Over the past year, however, my quest to live a more Mindful existence has of course thrown the idea of meditation my way many, many times, especially when I went to the 2012 Happiness Conference in Sydney earlier this year. I keep telling myself I just don’t have the time, or quite frankly the concentration span. But I also keep hearing about how very good it is, and that many people believe that even a little bit at a time can have such great benefits for one’s sense of well-being, health and peace. This morning I started a book by Nicky Arthur called How to be a Happier Mum, and in the first pages, there it was again. I consider myself to be a happy person in general, but apparently, if I commit to meditate for just five small minutes per day for seven days, I will start to feel even happier. Short and simple instructions – how to sit, how to focus, and a few affirmations – are provided and I am assured that this really will make a difference. It’s not two hours on a Himalayan hilltop, but it’s a start! So, I am going to take up the challenge. My first five minutes will begin shortly!
Blogtoberfest 2012, 20/31
I’ve ploughed ahead with the first chapters of Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for Mothers in the last couple of days and already I notice a difference in my daily life! Best of all has been the reminder to really look at my daughter, and be in the moment with her, see things the way she sees them. Sometimes when I hear her wake from her afternoon nap I’m guilty of thinking,”oh god no, not already…”. If I lay her down with that attitude, of course we’re not going to have a positive start to the rest of the day when she wakes. I know such feelings are normal at times and I shouldn’t beat myself up about them, but at the same time, allowing them to take control of my thinking just isn’t constructive. And after all, she is wonderful, and all of life is just wonderful to her – I don’t want to miss that in her, and when I take a step back and really look at her, my mood can’t help but lift!
This morning we went for a long walk by the ocean. Everything takes more than twice as long with an almost two year old, but hey, what’s the rush! Watching her pick up leaves and stones and listening to her chattering away and giggling is such a joy. The world viewed through her eyes is very simple and if I’m mindful to take a leaf out of her book and just stay in the moment with her, all of life just seems simpler to me too.
There hasn’t been much blogging going on around here recently, due to first tri knackeredness and nausea. I just haven’t had the energy to do anything beyond the necessary, and play with Miss M. Didn’t even manage my 52 Weeks of Grateful post last week, and despite feeling utterly crappy, I do indeed have everything to be grateful for at the moment! I’ve written the best Buddha quote on my whiteboard to keep me straight when I start feeling a little bit overwhelmed and sorry for myself: You have no cause for anything but gratitude and joy. Damn right!! Coming up to week 8 so hopefully just a few more weeks of this to go and my energy levels will increase again and the vile nausea will dissipate. Fingers crossed!
Such has been my exhaustion that I was almost ready to throw in my blogger towel, until I remembered that the real point of this exercise is not the blog itself (much as I like to write) but the process toward my goal of learning to live mindfully, and thus without resentment. That resentment has started to creep back in just a little bit in the past several days and I think it’s partly a pregnancy thing (if men had to bear children humankind would cease to exist yadda yadda, oh my poor husband…) but also because I’ve taken my eye off the ball with regard to my journey and I’ve lost sight of my goals a little. I need this blog to keep me on track. So, I might be posting a little less, but I’m going to keep posting, and stay focussed.
It occured to me last night that perhaps the best way for me to approach this new pregnancy journey is mindfully. A quick google shows me that this method is tried and tested, so, I will be researching! I am also looking forward to the arrival of Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, ordered from the UK about a week ago, so shouldn’t be long now. To my mind, a truly mindful mum will be a truly happy, fun and healthy mum, and that’s what I want to be for my babies more than anything else in the world.