By Jeannine Cook
I am dashing barefoot through a dew-filled mountainside. Deep fresh air rushes into my lungs. Just as my thoughts slow to the speed of timelessness, I feel a… a drop of water on my nose. Then another. This intrusion brings me down from the mountainside and back into the horn-and-siren serenaded comforts of my North Philadelphia bedroom. Counting down from ten, thoughts swim in. Nine, eight—don’t forget to do the laundry. Do you have quarters? Seven, six—diapers, diapers. Five, four—when are you going to do your homework? Was that eight pages or ten? Three, two—just go ahead and get up, he’s pouring juice on your face.
Oh, the sweet smell of apple juice mixed with dirty diapers—not exactly the perfect compliment to lotus position, but nonetheless the way I start my day. Stretching out of me-time into mommy mode, I think that the ancient masters must have never raised toddlers—though in their teachings lie some of the best parenting tools.
“The benefits [of meditation] can shape our relationships with our children, helping us respond to them from a place of greater clarity and inner wisdom,” said Kari Marble of Yoga Journal. “This does not make us perfect parents, but it does liberate us to more frequently be who we wish to be with our children, and to soften or even let go of expectations about our lives with our babies.”
Initially I was dubious. It’s easy for you to say, Ms. Marble, but is your two-year-old son jumping on the bed naked screaming the ABCs at the top of his lungs? Are you a full-time student and a single parent? Are you going to come baby-sit while I try to find this so-called greater clarity and inner wisdom? Could you descend from your yoga momma cloud nine and see how hard it would be for someone like me to practice meditation?
Then, just to make sure that I explored all of my options, I decided to try meditation out for myself. But when was I going to get the time? I turned to my trusted friend, the internet: “While meditation is beneficial at any time, most people who meditate agree that early morning is the best time,” said http://dharma.ncf.ca. “Part of the reason is that it is said that in early morning the hustle-and-bustle of the world has not yet begun and so it is easier to establish a meditative atmosphere. Having an early morning meditation also lets us carry some of the energy and peace of the meditation into our daily activities.”
So I tried it that way. Early in the morning, before our house was filled with the incessant sounds of Elmo chanting “Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?” I sprawled out on my bedroom floor and started to focus on the color green. But don’t be fooled, I had to start small. After only a couple of minutes of solid concentration, I had fallen asleep. In the beginning, late night homework was not exactly congruent with early morning meditation, until I started to see results. Nothing large like levitation, just a bit more peace of mind, a bit more understanding, a bit less chaos. Over time my practice became less of a chore and more like a helpful additive to my day. Maybe Ms. Marble’s not so bad after all.
Okay, if incorporating any type of meditation into your busy life seems impossible, then stop reading right now because my next suggestion might really blow your mind. What do you think about introducing your child to your practice? I know for some people that may sound crazy, but if you’ve trusted me this long, just hear me out. After I started getting into this, I found out that there is a growing movement to encourage children early in life to value this time of introspection and peace. “Meditation gives even very young children power over their thinking and their emotions, not by a repressive self-control, but by enhanced self-understanding and self-acceptance,” said Anna Selby of Meditation for Children.
I usually choose bath time to help my son get his daily dose of, as Ms. Selby puts it, “power over thinking.” After he’s towel dried and moisturized (which is also an ideal time for a quick massage), I usually place him on his back either on my lap or laid out across his towel on the floor. I begin as if it is my own routine – closing my eyes and taking deep breaths. Just watching seems to relax him. Then I encourage him to do the same.
“Close your eyes.”
“Yes, baby.” Sometimes I even close them for him. I continue deep breathing with my eyes closed, waiting a while before I check to see if he has joined in. “Close eyes, Mommy?” he may ask once more, before getting the message that I am physically there, but my mind is somewhere else.
The first couple of times I was really surprised to see it work—even if just for a minute or two—though I didn’t want to show it and risk breaking his concentration. Over time it has become a more natural practice—one that I think he looks forward to. And I won’t lie and say that it has totally eradicated the “terrible twos” or that he is now some world-renowned spiritual guru (though that might not be so bad, after all his name is Messiah), but it does give us quiet time together, and in that silence I like to think that we relate to each other in a much deeper way. Something to keep in mind while working on this practice is this quote by Joyce Maynard: “It’s not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. We can’t tell our children to reach for the sun. All we can do is reach for it, ourselves.”
Both elementary school teachers, Susan Whelehan and Rebecca Cunningham live in Toronto , Canada . They each have two children. As new mothers, they felt a need for a book of brief meditations to help them along the way; when they couldn’t find one, they decided to write it themselves, and so Meditating Mamas was born. Find the meditations here.