I struggle with being present. This struggle has affected me in countless ways (mostly countless because I am sure there are many ways it affects me which I am not aware of). It means my memory can be pretty sucky. It means my motivation can be pretty sucky. This tends to lend itself toward labels like “flaky” and “procrastinator.” I don’t think I am these things, but I certainly behave that way sometimes. (Mean Girls: “I know I was acting like a bitch, but that’s only because I was acting like a bitch.”)
On Mondays, my gym torture, I mean activity, is yoga. It’s actually a pretty decent, non-threatening way to start the gym week. I am grateful for that. This past Monday I was grumbling internally about how this stupid class is so much longer than the typical gym class and that is so freaking stupid and why the hell would you DO that?
I was so not present. I was here, blogging. I was here, fretting about editing homework. I was counting off all the ways I should have been spending my morning the day after returning from a camping trip. I was wondering if my in-laws could watch Tike a few extra hours soon so I could get to the ‘To Do’ list I was creating in my head.
At some point the yoga teacher said, as she does many times over the course of a class, “Just surrender to the position. Get comfortable with it.” And we all try not to laugh because there is no humanly way this position could actually be comfortable. And we try not to remind her that if we have to surrender, there is certainly no comfort. But we don’t laugh (much) and we don’t say anything, because we know what she means. And I concentrate on trying to fill my belly fully with each breath while simultaneously NOT falling over or pulling some ligament. And I notice that while my mind is full of silly thoughts like this (_so_ not comfortable, don’t fall, don’t fart) they are all present thoughts. They are all regarding the here and now of what I am doing and feeling.
As soon as we begin the cool-down-type meditation style exercises that signal we are nearing the end of class, my mind starts whirling again: what am I making for dinner, did we really unpack EVERYTHING as soon as we got home, do we have any clean blankets left? Now I understand why this class is an extra thirty minutes long. The first and last fifteen are spent dragging your mental ass INTO class.
In high school I earned my P.E. credit by doing Tai-Chi most mornings. It was probably actually a distant bastard cousin of Tai-Chi, taught by one of our hippie teachers (they were pretty much ALL hippies) who had watched some Tai-Chi master while stoned and bumming through Asia umpteen years ago, but it was the only form of gym class our school offered most of the time, and it sounded easy. It was, and it was oddly totally relaxing. Thirty or so students and one crazy teacher lying on the stage in the auditorium doing deep-breathing/vocal exercises and then sometimes standing up and moving very v-e-r-y slowly. *
In college I took a very popular class called Relaxation Techniques which may have earned me some type of Phys Ed credit, or maybe it was just elective credit, but we learned massage and meditation and aura-cleansing. It was an early, but not too early, class for which we needn’t change out of our PJs so we’d just roll out of bed and grab a blanket (YUP a blanket was required class equipment) and go relax.
I just finished a six week long Mindful Parenting course lead by two local psychiatrists. One who treated my husband, and whose ex-wife treated ME (small-town life is rather amusing at times), and the other who attends some of the tortures at the gym with me. It was a good class if you weren’t looking for new child-rearing strategies, which a lot of people were, but I wasn’t (my kid is three, most of my problems with him are MY problems. Also, a lot of the other parents had varying levels of special needs children and that, so far, is not anything I have to deal with. Hallelujah.). We did a LOT of meditating. A gut-twisting, brain-pickling, nose-twitching, bladder-squashing lot of meditating. And this is coming from someone who couldn’t get to the half-day Sunday retreat for the four hours of still silence there. And also from someone who has done a fair bit of meditating before (and a lot more than most–but not all– the parents in this small, rural community). Holy Buddhist chanting, Batman.
It has, in some small but significant ways, affected my parenting. I still yell too much. I still lose my patience all the effing time. But I know this mindfulness stuff (which is just their fancy-pants way of saying “being present”) has a shot at helping me be a calmer, leveler me. If I can be present enough to remember to practice it regularly. And I am working on doing that. I notice little moments of present-ness much more throughout my day. I take note and add it to my pile of things to do instead of meditating. I hope that means I am improving.
It’s hard to think that most of the time while I am doing something, I am thinking about doing something else. No matter whether I am washing dishes or reading with Tike. And that is just no good. I have to find a way to remember to at least be present for him. I don’t want him growing up thinking his mom’s a flake. Maybe if I can start with that, I can grow it into something bigger. Like a little garden of mindfulness. How zen.
*My favorite coffee drink now is Chai Tea. Coincidence?