Meditation has been the most important daily task in my life since 2003. I used to sit daily for an hour and also practice yoga, a form of active meditation, for one hour and a half on top of that. All that practice gave me helpful insights, a calmer perspective about life, and much patience, compassion, and tolerance toward other fellow beings I interact with.
I am very grateful for all the times I was able to spend at least two hours of my days in silence, nourishing my soul, listening to my body and observing my mind. That lasted for about a decade. Then, a storm passed through (divorce and all its consequences) and I noticed my time available for sitting in silence shrinking more and more… All of a sudden, all the time I could dedicate to nourishing myself was spent doing yoga, in a tentative to care for my soul, body and mind at the same time, all within one hour! That only happened when I could make it to a yoga studio, or when I would have enough discipline to practice at home for about 45 minutes. After all, I had gone from housewife to head of household, and mother of two teenagers adjusting to life post-divorce.
Like some divine gift, one day mindfulness showed up in my life! And it opened up a new world of possibilities for meditation. Luckily, I started to investigate it in 2014, one year before my divorce. So, by the time that storm came, I had already practiced mindfulness meditation enough to give me a sense of equanimity and navigate through it all without spilling my emotions everywhere I passed. I had learned to deal with most of them within me. For the more overpowering or deeply ingrained emotions, I knew I had yoga as a tool to help me digest and move them out of my system in a healthy way. This way, I was able to handle myself and still be able to support my kids through the divorce process, which apparently does not end with signing papers. Not being a burden for my kids while they had their own struggles was a relief for me, and I bet for them, too. As a child of divorced parents myself, the last thing I wanted to hear, besides my parents arguing about me or finances, was a parent asking me to help them handle their own emotions. My parents never came to me for that, luckily; probably because we were all too darn proud to admit to each other we were all suffering with divorce!
Mindfulness started spreading along my day, showing up in little and big things, from noticing the smell in my apartment to calmly watching my reactions after receiving some angry email. I realized then, that even if I did not find time to sit in silence or practice yoga that day, I could practice many types of mindful meditations during different activities: Showering has taken a new meaning as I investigate the sensations in different parts of my body affected by the water temperature; washing dishes has become a process to bring me back to the present moment as I scrub soap and water onto different plates and containers, and try to explore that sensation on my hands, instead of thinking about my to-do list or how a certain meal eaten on that very plate got me bloated; doing laundry, which is one of my least favorite house chores, has transformed into an interesting experience as I touch different types of fabric and notice the different shapes, sizes, and colors in our clothes. Everyone has various sensations and emotions to feel throughout their days, and most of us are oblivious to them. That makes us very distant from our bodies, even if technically we still inhabit them. Hence, there seems to be some desensitizing happening, aggravated by this disconnection with emotions and sensations, which leads to problems with relationships, for instance, as we become less present, less engaged, or less empathetic with others. With this statement, I am not trying to discuss whom we should blame for their desensitization, since it is really hard to try to process all feelings in this fast-paced life we lead nowadays. My point here is that it has become harder for us to be present with all that is expected from each one of us by society.
When I try to remain present for certain activities, it is fascinating to see how easy it is to be mindful for some of them, and how hard it is with others. I suppose this is different for everybody, depending on their life experiences. I have noticed that it is easy for me to be mindful most of the time while showering or doing the dishes and laundry, for instance. It is also comfortable for me to transform a walk in the woods into a mindful experience. But an unusual activity proved itself to be hard for me to execute mindfully, yet opened my eyes to situations when mindfulness is really helpful: one of my daughters had a harder time dealing with all the changes brought by divorce, and needed lots of time feeling heard. When I write lots of time, I mean it: hours and hours of something similar to therapy sessions. She did see a therapist for a few months, but soon I realized I would not have enough funds to pay for more or even any sessions with the therapist she liked, so I decided to take the job into my own hands, or at least it was the best I could do in that situation. I had learned from past experiences that if I tried to solve all the problems she brought while ranting, she would stop talking in only a few minutes, because all she wanted was to tell her story to someone, which helps her digest her feelings toward it. The next time my daughter came home from school and needed to vent, I told her I would become a therapist and simply listen. What a lesson for me! It was pretty hard to not try to present a solution or suggestion on how to handle the issue she was talking about. So, I had to learn to keep my opinions to myself, and simply mirror what she was telling me. That took a lot of mindfulness to accomplish! To help me with that task, I usually wore a hat and a special coat to remind me I was stepping out of fixer-upper-mom’s mind and into a therapist who took notes in her notebook to repeat to her client, so she could realize how she was perceiving her own story. Every time my daughter said something that triggered judgment or solution production in me, I would look at my notebook and remember my job was to simply keep writing what I heard instead of my opinions about it. I also chose to notice her body language while being attentive about my own, so I still looked interested, and not disappointed or frustrated.
From a bigger perspective, being mindful as head of household has enabled me to be present with whatever I have to deal with in each moment. That does not mean I can fold the laundry any better, but it helps me remain calm when dealing with difficult tasks, an overwhelming to-do list, or even being there for someone who is struggling to handle their own emotions. Practicing mindfulness as a way of meditation has helped me continue to work on becoming a better person even while I am performing a task in a busy life. In other words, mindfulness has become a way of living, as I remind myself over and over during the day to be present with my current task.