This morning as I was brushing my teeth and making my bed at the same time, my brain pointed out to me that I was not in the present moment. I was rushing around getting ready for my day and trying to decide where to start. As I did more chores, it became clear to me the that writing this blog was my starting place. Being mindful is a daily challenge for most of us. I was first made keenly aware of how much I needed this practice when I attended Thich Nhat Hanh's Buddhist ashram in New York. We started with 2 hours of meditation and singing which was wonderful. (I may have napped) Then Thay appeared and spoke for a couple of hours. Honestly, I don't remember what he said but what happened after he spoke was my cathartic moment. We were all invited for a mindfulness walk. (At this time in my life I was being pulled in numerous directions as a mom and musician. I was constantly running behind and never present for anything as I worried about the next thing in my day.- sound familiar?) We lined up single file behind the monks who then led us around the grounds at a pace they established. Step, pause, step, pause... I thought I was going to die. My heart was racing. It was all I could do to not run past them. This was torture, not mindfulness! I did not know where to look, how to keep my balance, my focus was on my body's unfamiliarity with the slower pace and my stomach felt uneasy. I held my breath and until finally we finished. Big sigh of relief. After the walk, we shared a meal together and we were instructed to wash our own dishes. And, in Thay's words, make washing the dishes the most wonderful moment of the day. What? Dishes?
Spring forward about 10 years. I still learn from these lessons. I actually love washing the dishes. The sound of the water, the way the dirt rinses away, the feeling of accomplishment at the end. I can actually be present here! And concerning the walking meditation, my dog taught me how to embrace this! He's the most zen being I've ever met. Step, sniff, step, sniff, step, sit. "Come, Mom! It's time to sit and enjoy this moment." Our walks are regularly interrupted by resting and observing. Observing! That's what was missing. On my walk with the monks I did not take any time to observe my surroundings. I was in a beautiful forest, in silence with hundreds of other humans, all seeking answers and I was missing it. Now, thanks to Rigby, I can take the time to observe my surroundings, I can listen to the songs my foot falls make, I can be aware of my breath and I can know, in that present moment, that all is expected of me is to be present.
So what does this have to do with parenting? Everything. Find time to be mindful, whether it's a slow walk, meditation, watching incense burn or even closing your eyes for a few minutes to restore yourself. A restored mind has a better perspective, can make rational decisions and choose love over anger. It can help diiffuse the frustrations of parenting. Being present and mindful can help you be an observer instead of a reactor. And that alone will help you find intuitive answers to parenting challenges. Autism does not present in traditional ways. Behaviors can be erratic, baffling and frustrating. But a calm mind can help you understand the situation with love and patience and everyone benefits from this type of mindfulness.