“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it. ”
Several years ago, I started to explore the concept of mindfulness and meditation. In an attempt to manage frequent bouts of insomnia, I would listen to Dharma talks online. I still have insomnia, but I struggle less with my attempts to get to sleep. Learning about mindfulness, being consciously aware in the moment, and exploring my breath; quietly led to a new awareness in my life. After spending years working and planning for a family, I was lost now that this family had ‘arrived’. We purchased a small home, finally had two running vehicles, and the addition of two children. We even had marriage, our third ceremony, ensuring increasing protection for our family.
Life was good.
As a result, I didn’t realize that I was often restless. What’s next? Should I think of a new job or a new career altogether. Did I want to go back to school or take additional courses in my field? I had come to live my life without direction or even awareness, and a lot of uncertainty. SO…I simply stopped. Books like Sylvia Boorstein’s, “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There” and “Happiness is an Inside Job”, supported my attempts to DO NOTHING. No planning, no classes, and no expectations! I just allowed myself to sit with uncertainty and awareness. Sylvia Boorstein’s definition of mindfulness, “is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience”. This was my mantra for a full year. “It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it. ”
I used to be embarrassed that I simply wanted time to pass when my children were younger. I enjoyed them and I loved them, but the days seemed endless. Sleepless nights and busy days had me longing for silence. What I didn’t realize is that I simply needed to look inward, often enough to be present to my wife and kids. I simply needed to take a breath more often, appreciating that I was part of something. Every one of these moments allowed me to appreciate holding my two year old after a crying spell or enjoying the smell of freshly baked cookies in the kitchen. I even learned to breathe before I decided to scream in frustration when my kids refused to listen or chose to take a time out instead.
I failed to keep up with this practice often and without a lot of compassion for myself. I ‘went to sleep’ by engaging in the same drive to do something. Fortunately, there was no something to do. Simply enjoy my family, our friends and the life we have created. As parents, there are so many ways to get lost in the details of life. Even our children become extensions of our drives and insecurities. Our plans for them to be somewhere, to do something, and as quickly as possible. I have come to understand that slowing down Inside, whatever that means for you, can lead to an amazing journey of self-discovery.
I also learned that I am enough. By simply being and breathing, I can get through some of the most difficult parts of life. A rush to the emergency room, an accident with no available diapers or even a change of clothes. After a fight over whose next to stay with a sick child. In the midst of life, I can be. I can be content being a mother, a spouse, a social worker and a friend; in good times and in bad. I may never ‘accomplish’ something great, because that was never the goal anyway. I can simply be!