When I first began meditating 22 years ago, I shared my living space with one person. I was able to shut the bedroom door and hang the cardboard placard with the smiling Buddha face on the door-knob. Like the college guys "hanger on the door-knob" was a warning to keep out as their roommate was "getting lucky." My Japanese minimalist inspired water color on cardboard was our "hanger on the door-knob." When I placed that card on the door, I was assured that I could sit zazen uninterrupted, thus having a "true" meditation experience.
22 years later, I share a three bedroom duplex with two children one teenager, and my partner.
Meditation is the practice of sitting with what is and accepting that everything is perfect exactly as it is unfolding before us. My usual m.o. when interrupted from meditation practice is to react. I express my frustration assertively. I am aware of the hurt my words and actions are to my loved ones when I choose to behave this way.
This is how I think: "Real" meditation is done on a cushion. I sit in the Burmese fashion, feet tucked in. Posture erect and my eyes gaze forward and towards the floor about two to three feet in front of me. My mouth is closed, lightly smiling with my tongue touching the roof of my mouth.
When I first began sitting, I was, as many converts are, an intolerable purist.I had to do meditation exactly right or I would fail to meet God or whatever it was I was looking for in 1992.
The 26 year old me lived with three dogs and a girlfriend. The worst interruption of my sitting practice would happen if I didn't close the door all the way. 26 year old me most definitely did NOT have children.
Today my cushion is a sofa bolster on a folded blanket. Sometimes I add a yoga mat for extra comfort. I face a makeshift altar that doubles as an end table and storage unit for unfinished mending projects.And when I turn my gaze to the floor, instead of the wall meeting the floor, my view is an African market tote stuffed with various jeans and socks waiting to be mended. The end table is flush against the small entertainment center thingy which supports our television. 26 year old me would be appalled that 22 years later I do not have a special, private sanctuary for my unenlightened ass.
This morning I was interrupted three times. I experience these moments that keep me from practicing "real meditation" as angry, frustrating and anxiety inducing. If I don't get to meditate before I start my day, I am doomed to a day of unmet expectations and unpredictable circumstances. It will be my family's fault if they receive the backlash from it.
I started and stopped myself two of the three times from lashing out. The third time. I launched into my well versed litany on why I believe I can't get anything done i.e. practice meditation; complete projects, get the house clean and and I "never" get time to myself.
Four minutes into my third attempt at my daily five minute meditation, my eyes were fully closed. I don't know where my tongue was placed. I was wearing headphones and listening to a guided meditation. I heard a familiar footfall. It was unmistakably my 9 year-old marching confidently across the living room floor.
He was fully dressed, to shoes even. With his backpack slung over one shoulder, his jacket shoved under one arm and a Harry Potter book in his hand, he was eager to start his day. he was prepared a full half hour before we normally leave the house. He was right on time for our normal routine.
Let me appreciate these two words for a moment. "Normal" and "Routine." These two words are strangers in our home. Nothing is ever "normal." Certainly nothing in our home is ever "routine." At least not when it falls on me to maintain.
Some other mom must have taken over my body.Evidently, a serene, calm, person. I opened my eyes and pulled the earphones out of my head. "You have a two hour delay. It's early. You can go back to bed if you like." I could see his eyes were bright and clear. He looked very pleased with himself. "Or," I hesitated, not really wanting to share my space, " you can find a quiet spot to read," I looked at the love seat on the other side of the living room hoping he would get the hint. "...if you like. I'm going to meditate." Just like that, I redirected my son. He happily trudged back the way he came and I heard not a peep.
I did not have to yell. I did not have to board the emotional roller coaster of attachment to meditation and how it should be according to my warped interpretation of a valid practice. As a result, I did not have to flail about on the end of a kite string only to crash smack into the trunk of a very hard tree as I fall to the ground in the kite flying park of acceptance.
This is me today. In a single moment, a flash, a nanosecond I was able to witness me being an awesome mom. The kind of mom I have always wanted to be. The mom that doesn't need to yell to be taken seriously or puke out her frustration with the world at large on to her children. Especially this particular child who truly cherishes me, warts and all.
I had successfully processed all my feelings, positive and negative before uttering a sound. In that flash I was able to see how happy he was to be starting his day following the simple list of tasks we have been struggling to get our children to accomplish every morning. I felt a certain pride in myself right then and there for intuitively preserving his happy shining moment. Allowing him to remain a happy, well adjusted child if only just in that moment.
I did not lash out. Just for today, I did not deflate this happy youth; bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. In that moment, I recognized God's will for me today.
My mission as a parent is to strengthen the spirits of my children. To parent them in the way that was missing in my own child hood, the very opposite of Spirit Strengthening. My parents, may they be blessed, did many wonderful things for my siblings and me. But our spirits were not strengthened. Our spirits were worn down, perhaps as their spirits were when they were kids. God's will for me in relation to my children is to recognize each moment is an opportunity to build up their Spirit or to wear it down.
Why stop with my children? Maybe I should consider this thought process with every one?
The degree of patience and grace I am able to access and apply to life as it is, is directly related to the degree of acceptance I have for myself just as I am. Isn't this the very essence of meditation? To be able to allow life with its interuptions, ideas, challenges, pleasures, tragedies and clebrations to flow over us through us and around us .