Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Life is stressful. Relationships are stressful. Kids are stressful. Jobs are stressful. It's all so much sometimes. I do a pretty good job of staying calm. Staying even. I'm a pretty patient mom even until about 8:00 p.m. And then I am done. Patience gone. Irritability up. Way up. And I get growly.
My husband has a demanding job. He's a lawyer but I suspect that even by normal lawyer standards he works a lot. He's just go go go. Sometimes he really can't stop. I admire what a machine he is. He can work for eight hours, ten, twelve, sixteen. He forgets to eat. He forgets what time it is. He forgets everything on the planet except for that one luminescent Goal. Deadline. Argument. Twist.
Sometimes I wish I could be like that. I would have written twelve novels by now.
But it takes a toll. The human body can only take so much, and the human mind perhaps even less.
Lately he's been practicing mindfulness of a sort. A sort of walking or sitting meditation. He's been walking his mind away from negative thoughts. When he notices them bubbling up and appearing, he walks himself away. Each time. Over and over again. The stress burbles up, he feels it in his bones, and then he remembers to walk away from it.
I've been practicing this noticing and walking away for many, many years. For me, Buddhism and psychotherapy have worked hand in hand. I went to my first therapist at 14 and my first good therapist at 15. I started practicing Buddhism at 18. Learning to recognize my thoughts and to move away from the destructive ones has been a long and steady practice.
It's like a muscle. You've got to work it. You've got to do reps. You do it over and over again for days upon days, weeks upon weeks, months upon months, years upon years. It simply must become a daily practice. A part of your life. The norm.
So last night, we sat.
My husband asked for my help and to be honest, I'm sort of zen and spare about my approach to meditation. I don't think you can teach it. I don't think you can read about it. I don't even know that you can take a class about it. Sure those are all well and good—good starts—but none of them do a damn bit of good if you don't do the work.
So I suggested we sit.
I turned off most of the lights in the house. Our daughter was upstairs sleeping. Our son at hockey practice. I pushed the coffee table aside and we sat in the dim light of the house.
Our house became a temple.
I heard the old lady—the house built in 1924—creak and groan as though getting up from her own mat. I heard the low rumble of a car about to lose its muffler. The furnace kicked on and I felt the warmth flow over my legs.
I took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
Every time my mind wandered, I went back to my breath. The simple in and out. The sound of the passing car.
And it was all good. The simple sounds of the house breathing. The movement of the world outside. Sitting with my husband in a quiet room. Feeling his presence but not talking.
It felt good and safe to be alive.
I forget about that. I forget how quiet it can be. Everything is such a constant noise in my head. My brain narrates the Internet, the text messages, the emails, the status updates. All of it noise, clamoring for attention in my head. All of it distracting me from the presence of ... me?
And everything around me. All around. Outside. Inside. In and out. Deep breaths and the pulse of life.
It was a good reminder to unplug from the frenetic pace and to plug-in to the inner self. The inner being that resonates with what's real and natural and silent. With the pulse of life. The pulse of heart. The breathing in and out of love.
Once a night. On the rug. On the mat. Let this night be our daily practice. Let this moment be its own.
Just sitting. For fifteen minutes. Ten minutes. Seven. Five.
Whatever you have.
Just sit. And breathe.