I like to think of meditation as the practice of starting over. The basic instruction is this: focus your awareness on the breath. Count your breaths, from one to ten, and when you reach ten, you start over.When your awareness wanders, with as much sweetness and gentleness as you can muster, you simply bring it back to the breath. You start over. Over and over. The gauge of a successful meditation isn't whether your mind has wandered--it's assumed that it will--but rather, it is the spirit of gentleness with which you bring the mind back to the breath. Over and over.
It's one of the reasons why I think meditation is such a beneficial practice for mothers: it trains us in the art of starting over. Silas and I had a crappy morning today, fueled by crappy sleep. But a bad beginning need not be anything else: it's not necessarily a prescription for an entirely crappy day. It's assumed that we'll mess up at times; it doesn't mean that we're stuck there. So we went outside; we walked. I pushed Silas on the swing while playing The Head & The Heart on my iPhone. (Lord have mercy on my rough & rowdy ways) I baked muffins. The clouds parted a little and we breathed deeper. We became a little more at ease with ourselves, with each other. We got a fresh start. The instruction is the same when our minds and when our days veer off course: being sweet and gentle with ourselves, we give ourselves permission to start over. We come back to the breath, where space and ease are always available. Repeating as necessary. Over and over.
Unrelated: for my iPhoneographer friends, I have just fallen for a new camera app. I know, I know. But this one is truly incredible. It's Cameramatic. I think I'm in love.