Thursday, July 12

what is mindfulness? (part one)

"To pay attention, that is our endless and proper work."  -Mary Oliver

This quote by Mary Oliver became an absolute favorite of mine long before I stumbled upon the teachings of mindfulness and recognized them as my life's true work. A teacher once said to me that we recognize wisdom on the spot because it's what we already know to be true in our own hearts. That's how it feels when I read the writings of my favorite mindfulness teachers--a bone-deep, steady and excited YES.
The name of this blog, mama here now, encapsulates my deep desire to live my days in this spirit of mindfulness. But--what is mindfulness?

"Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself--in your body, heart and mind--and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without judgment or criticism."   -Jan Chozen Bays, Mindful Eating

That last part in crucial--without judgment or criticism. Mindfulness invites us not only to be aware of the quality and texture of our experience, but to embrace it as if we had chosen it.

"Die to having to have anything be different in this moment; in your mind and in your heart, give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are."  -Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever you go, there you are

I'm a lover of quotes, devoted underliner, copier, and re-re-re-reader of passages, and this last one is one I come back to over and over. I recognize mindfulness as my life's work not because I am so good at it, but because I am very, very, very bad at it. Being a SAHM of a 17-month old toddler is the job I've always wanted, and I don't want another. However, it is a hard job, hard in ways I would never had anticipated, and the hallmark of my days is not acceptance but a near-constant rejection of my experience.

When my toddler clings to my pantleg and bites the back of my thigh; when he wiggles and kicks through diaper changes; when it's 100 degrees outside and I'm sweating and he's cranky and he grows rigid as a plank as I try to put him in his car seat; when he won't nap; when he naps through playdates; when he wakes for good at 4am again; when he climbs me like a jungle gym and wants to run his truck over my face; when he whines mamamamamamamama and I don't know what to do to please him; when we are both sick of each other and it's 6pm and my husband texts me that it'll be another 30 minutes before he gets home: my full-body response is to shove back at the moment and want to yell this isn't happening.

But it is. Whether I  want to or not, what is happening is happening. And the choice is mine: I can either resist and push and kick like my son does when he doesn't want to go in the car seat, and in so doing create more tension and cause the unpleasantness to escalate; or I can relax, and go along for the ride, and move on to the next moment. It sounds simple, and really it is. But simple doesn't mean easy--far from it. I forget every single day, several times a day. But not always: there are rare, glorious moments in which I remember to find my breath, to exhale deeply, to let my shoulders melt away from my ears, to smile, to surrender. It's in those sweet moments that I know, in the marrow of my bones, that Mary Oliver was oh-so right: this is, indeed, my "endless and proper work."

Drop by next week for more explorations of how mindfulness can support and assist us in our lives as mothers!

1 comment:

  1. I've heard that "what you resist, persists" and find it to be very true. My days are so similar to yours and I know how hard it is. I think our children sense our moods and anxiety levels and act accordingly. I am so frustrated some days and just want to run away, but that does show me that I have plenty to work on within.


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