“By the time we have children, many of us have become so achievement-orientated, so goal-driven, so addicted to busyness that we lose out ability to relax along with our capacity to notice what is going on in the now. One of the greatest gifts children bring is the way they guide, if not force, our attention back home to the present. Young children live in the present moment, oblivious to the past, unconcerned about the future. They see objects, people and events with fresh eyes, and with wonder. If we choose to, we can take on their viewpoint and see our surroundings as if for the first time. Once jaded, world-weary parents can find themselves lying in their backyards, fascinated at the proceedings of an ant colony. If we let them, children can teach us the value of time with no objectives, a skillful kind of laziness free from the need for productivity.”
This is an extract from Sarah Napthali’s book Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children, becoming a mindful parent which I was gifted from a beautiful friend and mother.
Am I buddhist? No, but this book is definitely my #1 recommended read for any new parent. Getting up multiple times in the night to a teething child is always easier when you are filled with compassion and understanding. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t bounce out of bed smiling to tend to Little A and lets face it, sleep deprivation can make all rational thoughts go out the window. But empathy, understanding and compassion can help how we experience those difficult times.
This year I set a New Year’s resulotion to have inner peace. The goal was NOT to be happy but to be at peace within myself which in turn has bought about greater happiness. I don’t believe feeling happiness all the time to be possible and or even appropriate… should we be happy when faced with loss? I don’t think so!
Earlier this year I did a meditation course run by buddhist teacher Kelsang Norjin. I was 35 weeks pregnant at the time and if meditation wasn’t challenging enough trying to meditate with an active little boy in your belly was near impossible. That was ok though, I didn’t go for a day of meditation but instead I had enrolled hoping to learn the art of meditation. I knew I would have lots of practice to do outside of the course. What I didn’t know was just how hard true meditation is.
Going in to this class I believed meditation to be a relaxing process in which you let your mind free. I quickly discovered I was wrong. In actual fact it is the exact opposite…training your mind and FOCUSING on one thing. There is nothing relaxing about learning and trying to master meditation. It takes discipline and perserverance. I found it to be extremely difficult and frustrating.
By lunch time I was ready to give up. After 2 morning sessions of meditation I think I had achieved up to 3 breaths of “true” meditation. Luckily I bumped into the teacher on lunch break (before I made my planned escape) and after being informed that 21 breaths is “master level” of meditation I was starting to feel a little more encouraged. “Bugger it” I thought, I might as well have another crack… so I stayed for the afternoon session.
By the end of the day I was feeling much more comfortable and relaxed with meditation. Whilst I hadn’t progressed past 5 breaths in a row I felt I had learned a lot and couldn’t wait to try it out without the interruptive kicks from my belly!
How did my head get filled with so much stuff that I could’t truly focus on ONE thing (my breathing) with NO other thoughts for more than 5 seconds?!?!
Fast forward 7 months and life is much different. When Little A was a newborn I could pass hours just gazing at him and feeling him breath on my chest, then it was hours spent engaging with him as he became more aware. Now it is hours sitting in the high chair experiencing food and watching him discover and experience everything for the first time. Life is lived at a much more relaxing pace and such simple things bring me joy.
Yes there is lots of chaos here too. Days when I can’t wait for bath time to come around because I feel so stretched and exhausted. Days when the endless washing and folding makes me feel so unispired.
Luckily, they are dispersed between moments of absolute wonder and amazement and I am so grateful to be aware of and capable of fully experiencing these.
My journey to living mindufully started before Little A was even in my belly (not long before) but Little A’s arrival has only enriched it and assisted me to slow down and live in the present.
If you are looking for a beautiful book to read, I highly recommend Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for mothers of young children, becoming a mindful parent.
If you are looking for a “challenge” to enrich your life I highly recommend learning the art of meditation… just don’t expect results over night!