Zen for Real People
I have finally become the master of mindfulness in spite of being a mom to a teen and a pre-teen, the owner of a loving dog who makes the Energizer bunny seem like a slug, and having so many personal and professional and volunteer commitments that even the most robust hard drives crash within months of my owning them.
For years I have devoured books by Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rick Warren, Mother Theresa, Liz Gilbert, the Dalai Lama, Don Miguel Ruiz, Joel Osteen, Deepak Choprah, Brene Brown… and I learned a ton of interesting, inspiring stuff that certainly helped me in situations where it felt like I was a caged tiger, or a fish out of water, or surrounded by wild monkeys. Of course, through all of these books, the main thing I learned was that the wild monkeys inside my brain were the ones to tame, and one can do this by being present, setting good intentions, living purposefully, serving others, eating, praying and loving in exotic locales, and following at least four key agreements.
The problem was that I often found myself resentful of these masters of enlightened living, because while I read these books, everyone in the house was fast asleep, I had surrendered to the realization that what was going to get done that day was done, what wasn’t, could wait till the next day, and the only sound was from my white noise machine next to my bed. It is easy to be mindful and in the present when the wild monkeys have called it a day. In the heat of the moment, such as when listening to my kids fight, or I witnessed or was taunted by closed-minded dogma, or the dog dug six deep holes in the front yard, or someone I had believed to be loyal and kind behaved in the opposite manner, or I wondered how we were going to pay for something, or I felt guilty about not feeling the deep satisfaction from domestic chores that I had thought I was supposed to feel, or the kids hated a meal I had spent more than ten minutes preparing… well, I found it quite impossible during these daily happenings to channel all these wise authors and speakers. I would forget or refuse to dig into my mindfulness toolbox: to stop, take deep breaths, consider that nothing is permanent, focus on five things for which I am grateful, imagine how Jesus would act, not take anything personally and focus on being impeccable with my word. I decided that the reason that all these masters of mindfulness and peaceful wisdom are so successful at all these great methods is that they are either childless or much older, they are male (therefore presumably not the main caregiver), or they regularly smoked peyote. I decided that really achieving this level of enlightenment would be a luxury I would attain later in life, when my kids were out of the house and I could do all the eating, praying and loving I wanted. In fact, I could even spend as much time in the bathroom as I wanted, without someone banging on the door.
My kids are still at home, in fact they are in a stage that when I tell people their ages, they give me this look of knowing and sympathy (which I find amusing, because I far prefer parenting teens to toddlers; at least teens can help me figure out my iPhone). The dog is still a howling, loving mess; I am training for my third Ironman triathlon while teaching several Poga classes a week; I am launching a new business in 2 weeks with a registered dietician, where we will teach people a whole new approach to physical and emotional health; the summer triathlon camp I coach for 6 weeks is gearing up for the 6th year and has grown to 8 camps; and I am very involved with a fantastic foundation to help prevent violence to self and others by understanding and nurturing brain health. In spite of the responsibilities I carry, I am happy to say that I think I finally get this mindfulness thing. I was exaggerating with my first statement about “mastering” it, but I do feel like I have moved from Mindfulness 101 to perhaps 201 or even 251. I am currently enrolled in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course, and I suppose that all of the reading and online courses and podcasts I have read, taken and listened to up to now, primed the pump, so I was ready to dive into MBSR. The daily commitment to 45+ minutes of meditation was something I was looking forward to, rather than stressing over or being terrified by, like I know some of my friends would be, judging from the incredulity on their faces when I share that requirement with them.
At this stage in my mindfulness journey, and in my life, mindfulness looks like this. It is not sitting in an ashram in some beautiful setting, or living on some higher plane impervious to the annoyances and frustrations of life in the real and virtual world. I still get annoyed, my blood still boils, I still feel like Unfriending people on Facebook and yelling at my kids and giving up on unmotivated would-be clients. In other words, mindfulness is not about not feeling and thinking all of those emotions and thoughts we consider negative. Rather, it’s about becoming aware of them and acknowledging them. It’s about realizing that these thoughts and feelings – anger, anxiety, sadness, frustration, defensiveness, guilt, resentment, boredom, hopelessness – are impermanent, are separate from us and do not define us, and they certainly do not control us.
It’s also about being kind and compassionate to ourselves – in fact, that is the most important part. So, for example, when I lie down to do a 45 minute body scan, and I realize I have fallen asleep for the top half of my body portion of the scan, I kindly tell myself, I needed the rest, and I am all the better for having napitated.
It is a practice and our daily life with all of its challenges is the perfect training plan and center. Research on meditation, including MBSR, indicates that within weeks, the brain changes, as revealed by brain scans. I haven’t had my brain scanned but in the six weeks since my course started, I certainly feel that I have achieved a certain non-reactiveness and deeper sense of peace. And a really cool thing is that I notice that as the monkeys in my brain are kindly but firmly handled, the monkeys around me appear more peaceful too.
3/30/2015 02:39:14 pm
My monkeys asked me why I was laughing so hard when I read the part about napitate
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Wellness coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.