Archives for January, 2013
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. In that case, you should sit for an hour.” –Zen Proverb I've spent the past week taking care of two sick children. Since Monday night, we've had one trip to the ER, two trips to the pediatrician, several nights of coughing, and multiple sick days cooped up at home. Needless to say, I have been exhausted, and I let my self-care lapse. I haven’t meditated in over a week. The frigid weather and sick kids at home made exercise a challenge—one that I didn't take seriously enough. My fatigue and mindlessness led to poor dietary choices (that’s code for way too much chocolate and sugar). I didn't notice how everything was affecting me until tonight, when it all fell apart.
I recently read this quote by Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle”. Parenting isn't easy, and as any child will tell you, being a kid isn't either. Sometimes it just feels hard to be kind, but I believe mindfulness can help. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present moment, without judgment. It’s about knowing how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and what’s going on, without criticizing yourself or wishing things were different. But there’s more to it. The context for mindfulness and the natural outcome of it is kindness. In his book, the Mindfulness Solution, Ronald Siegel used the example of a sniper who is highly focused, aware, and in the present moment. That ability may make him an incredibly successful sniper, but it’s not the kind of mindfulness I want to cultivate. I want to cultivate kindness.
We are one week into the new year, which means that many of us may have already let go of some of the resolutions we set just seven days ago. While the idea of starting a new year fresh is incredibly compelling, the reality is that every day, even every moment is an opportunity to choose something different, something new. In fact, that may be one of the greatest gifts my meditation practice has given me: the realization that I can come back to the present, accept it without judgment, re-focus my intention and attention, and begin again. I wrote about my most important new year's resolution--single-tasking--on January 1. I have done fairly well with it thus far, although meals continue to be a challenge. Rather than beating myself up for mindlessly scarfing down my sandwich (which I am prone to do--both the negative self-talk and the distracted eating), I am working to remind myself that each meal, each bite, is another opportunity to be in the moment, enjoy my food, and be grateful for the nourishment.
I love making New Year’s Resolutions. The truth is that I’m generally no better at keeping them than most Americans, but I still appreciate the opportunity to reflect on a year gone by and think about what I would like to do differently in the future. In the past, my resolutions have been fairly predictable: lose weight, exercise more, read more, watch less TV, etc. Some of those are on my list again this year, but I've added one more—a resolution that, if I can stick with it, will help me achieve all of my other goals, reduce my stress, and become a happier, calmer, more productive person. I’m talking about single-tasking. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s exactly what it sounds like: doing one thing at a time. If the term seems very similar to mindful living, it is. It’s a relatively simple approach to life, but when you stop to consider (as I recently have) how often we multi-task throughout the day, it’s not so easy.