Last week I wrote about the three environments that we live within. I’ve been experimenting and thinking about these for many years since I realized in 2002 the person I was becoming was not what I had imagined.
It was the heart of February, still cold with little sun when I saw a look on his face that stopped my heart. There was fear and disbelief in his eyes as I yelled “it’s not fair” over and over when he had pulled a new slip cover off of his beloved couch, thinking I had gotten rid of it.
A very typical response for a two year old. A sad, and alarming, but understandable, response from a mother who was still nursing his younger baby sister, sleep deprived beyond measure and still reeling from 911.
When I think about that moment in time it was then that I realized I had to get my mind in order. I had continued to exercise throughout my pregnancy but with a gain of 60lbs, my body was still trying to recover. My general environment was in good shape, especially with the addition of the couch slip cover, but all things are connected.
It was my mind that needed attention. With 911 I had slipped into a mode of fear…for my family, for myself, for the future. My already scrambled hormones were in overdrive and my previously cheery disposition was nowhere to be found.
It was then that I took the mindfulness course at Jefferson with Diane Riebel. I had no idea what I was getting into. We signed a release form and took a survey prior to the start of the 8 week course. The program, The Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) paperwork warned us that “things might come up.” I was not sure what kind of “things” but I knew I needed help if I was going to be the mother, and decent human, I wanted to be.
It was a two and a half hour class on a weekday morning. Ouch! That was a big chunk of time to be away from my baby and my busy exhibit design and architecture business. I was the person in charge of getting new projects, my husband was my business partner so this was critical for our family, and we had several full-time employees. Really? Did I have time to take a class to learn how to just sit and do nothing?
Nothing can reasonably describe what happened over those 8 weeks. Nothing. But here is how it felt. I was less afraid. I slowed down. I said no, I can’t do many things. I asked for help. I admitted how sad I was. I cried and cried and cried.
There was no “real” reason for all the tears my rational, driven, thinking mind insisted. After a few weeks, I realized that having a baby (probably some post-partum depression) and a busy toddler, no sleep and 911 all happening at the same time…well perhaps these were more than enough reasons to feel sad and overwhelmed. So I just let myself cry. Every time I sat still for my meditation the tears flowed. After a few weeks I felt better.
There were no epiphanies while I sat in meditation each day. Most days I fell asleep at least once or twice in the 20 minutes. What happened though was that I got more and more clear about what really mattered to me. Being an awesome mom, lifting my children’s spirits up, not clipping their wings with my bad behavior. I won’t lie, I did yell at my son again. But I could catch myself and stop it before it was too late. Mindfulness, and learning to slow life down, learning to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment changes everything.
When my mind could relax, my body also began to feel better. The weight began to drop off, the plantar fasciitis in both feet slowly began to heal. My home looked a little nicer. It’s not easy finding ways to shift any one of these environments. The best news of all though is that you get three to choose from. Change one and you change them all.
Are you ready to try mindfulness? It’s simpler than you might think. Start with this simple seated mindfulness meditation. Set aside 20 minutes of quiet, and just sit and listen. Let me know how it goes.