The practice of doing nothing
As a mama of two littles and main nest-fluffer of the household, there is something I need to do nearly every moment of every day. Even my own self-care can sometimes feel like a "to-do." Meditation, even if just for five minutes, can be extremely beneficial and refreshing since it is the practice of doing nothing. For whatever amount of time passes between one bell and another on my timer app, there is nothing I need to be doing but just sit there, breathe, and know that I am breathing. I don't need anything; nothing or no one needs me. There is space to just be, a precious and rare commodity.
The practice of placing attention
I love this quote, attributed to Mark Twain: "I've had a lot of trouble in my life, and most of it never happened." He is pointing to one of the deepest truths of Buddhism, which is that most of our suffering is due to unskillful thought patterns. I see this clearly in my life as a mama. Most of the difficulty lies not in having a baby who won't nap, or a toddler who wakes up said baby after he finally falls asleep, but in the thoughts that inevitably arise as a result: I can't believe this happened again. Will this baby never sleep? Will I ever get anything done? When will my life get back to some semblance of normal? I should've never had a baby! Mostly our unskillful thoughts have to do with the past or the future, are riddled with doubt or fear. Very seldom are we preoccupied with what is actually going on in that very moment. If we were, we would see that we have all the resources we need to handle whatever situation is presented to us. The practice of meditation, which asks us to place our attention on the breath, over and over again, trains us to place our attention on what is useful, on what is skillful: our breath, this very moment.
The practice of starting over
We've all blown it, to varying minor or spectacular degrees, and have felt like giving up. I've screwed up, and there's no making it right again. In meditation, it is expected that we will veer of course, that the mind will stray from the breath and follow some random train of thought down the rabbit hole. The success of our practice, if there is such a thing, is measured not by whether or not our mind strays, but by the gentleness with which we bring it back on the right path. It matters absolutely not whether we do this once or a dozen or a hundred times over the course of one sitting period. What matters is the gentleness with which we invite ourselves to start over again. What if that was how we measured our days, too? By the gentleness with which we talk to ourselves? By how we grant ourselves the grace to start over?
Curious about starting your own mediation practice, or returning to the cushion? The Open Heart Project is one of the best resources out there to assist you in your practice. I hope you'll give it a go--if you do, let me know how it goes!