Go and Love Myself

The metta project has taken an interesting turn. That is, I’m still finding myself lost in the first phase: sending and receiving love for myself. I intended to focus on this part for approximately a week. Instead it has been several weeks now, because I’m feeling stuck.

I am struggling to give myself unconditional love.

Here’s the thing: I try to love myself in various ways every day, but mostly that love is based on a number of conditions. I want to give myself time for me, but only if everyone else is taken care of first. I want to nourish my body with healthy food, but sometimes it feels easiest just to eat whatever (convenient) treats are in front of me. Sometimes that feels like loving myself… but is it?

So I’m spending a lot of time asking myself what happens when I don’t meet my own expectations. Can I love me even when I have disappointed myself? What about when I make a mistake? What about when I’m weak or needy? What about when my house is messy? What happens when I’ve been an imperfect mother or wife? What if I have a zit? Or gain 5 pounds?

Truly, none of those issues – or anything, for that matter – could make me love my own children less. I love them without reserve, without exception, without limits.

Is it possible for me to love myself the same way?

How can I show myself love?

What does that look like?

They’re Listening

It’s been one hectic day. Between running errands, Easter prep, and a weirdish spring ice storm that left us damp and without hydro at random intervals, it was all I could do to hold myself together. I picked my daughter up from school early, and she was full of questions about life in general, and also brimming with energy since they hadn’t been let outside for recess all day long (thanks to the aforementioned weather situation).

While I tried to prepare dinner, our house was in chaos with kids screaming and playing wildly, a radio blasting, and my phone buzzing with text messages.

By the time bedtime arrived, I felt overwhelmed by the day’s events. As I laid down beside her, I could see Violet was still feeling the effects too: she wiggled and squirmed, bopped around and twirled her stuffed animal.

Finally, in an attempt to distract and quiet her mind, I threw my arms around her and said, “OK, my love. What was the very best part of the day?”

She was thoughtful as she laid in my arms and snuggled against me. I tried to guess what she would choose as her favourite moment: maybe our trip to the bakery. Maybe when we danced in the kitchen to our new favourite song. Maybe our visit this afternoon with the Syrian family we’ve recently helped to resettle here.

Finally she answered, “Right now. This is the best part of the day.”


And I think to myself, you are wise, tiny zen master.

I don’t know whether I’ve taught you well, or whether you already know everything I’m just learning. Either way, I bow to you.

Moments of Clarity

I had a brief moment of clarity this morning, when I opened the car door to get my baby out of his car seat. He smiled at me, and I just felt so overwhelmed with love. All at once, I was aware of his tiny-ness, and how brief this moment in time is.

How many minutes – hours! days! – do I wish away? When I’m tired and ready for bed time, when I’m frustrated and happy to hand my kids off to someone else, when I’m just distracted by the computer or my phone or any other thing… Yet I’m sure there will come a time in life when I’ll remember these days so fondly, and long to hold my precious tiny kids again (who will by then be grown).

I don’t believe it’s possible to appreciate every single minute. But I am grateful for these quick glimpses at reality, when I can view my own life as a neutral witness, and realize how beautiful it all is.

Ladybug Ladybug


What a beautiful gift from the universe today: TWO ladybugs came to visit on my window sill altar! I was so amused with them!

Knowing that a typical ladybug’s lifespan is only four weeks, I was reminded to appreciate the present moment. I watched them slowly exploring their surroundings, and reminded myself to slow down as well. Eventually I watched them fly away, out my window, and I smiled.


Simple Days Perfect Days

There is something about a quiet morning at home that really lends itself to mindfulness.

It’s the start of March Break, and we have a pretty full week of activities ahead of us, but I decided to keep Monday empty on our calendar. The kids stayed in their pyjamas late into the morning, had a lazy breakfast, and played happily while I worked around the house. It left us room for questions and conversation, and countless drawings. We even made a spontaneous trip to the museum.

I listened to them laughing together in the backseat, and I felt so grateful for the moment. I know life won’t always be this uncomplicated (it isn’t that easy most of the time, even now!), but maybe that helps me to appreciate my little family – knowing where they are, for the time being, safe in the car with me.

In that simple moment there was nowhere I would have rather been.


Sweeping Practice

One of my least favourite tasks around the house is sweeping our foyer. Like Sisyphus with his boulder, it often feels that I’m prescribed to an eternity of never-ending floor-cleaning. Truly, each time I sweep our foyer clean, a new layer of sand and pebbles have returned by the time I’ve put my broom away.

But today I decided to approach the job with a different perspective. Instead of feeling frustrated by the futility of it, today I figured I might as well make friends with the situation.

First I considered why it is that I sweep the foyer.

It feels very unpleasant to step on stones when I enter or exit the house, so partly I sweep for my own benefit.

Then I thought about my loved ones: my husband, my daughter, and my baby. I sweep to care for their comfort as well.

I also thought about the guests who might enter. I recognized that I sweep the foyer to honour all of these dear people.

Then I felt grateful for the foyer, the entrance to our home. Like the breath, it acts as a bridge between the inner and outer world! How fortunate we are to have this space. I sweep the foyer also to respect, and show gratitude, for our home.

As I swept my way across each tile, I poured my energy into the task. Brushing away the pebbles and debris, I envisioned cleaning the air and energy in the space as well. I realized with my sweeping, I can transform our foyer into a space that feels calm and safe for all those who enter.

I noticed my body too – arms moving, body swaying – and steady breath. I felt very present in my body, in my sweeping.

And I felt grateful for the task, which had allowed me this chance to practice mindfulness.


Stressing about stressing

The baby has been sick again. Yesterday he woke up early and refused any form of bottle/nourishment, and seemed to have an upset tummy. We weren’t surprised because Violet had been home with a stomach bug earlier in the week.

Immediately a feeling of panic set in. I knew the illness would pass. I knew he wasn’t in need of medical help. I realized that my fear wasn’t related to Arlo’s health. It was about how I would handle it. Would I be able to comfort a crying baby all day long? Would I manage to get him to sleep? Would I manage to feed him something so I could rest easy?

I went about my day, taking advantage of any quiet moments to accomplish my own tasks, and to breathe. It made the more difficult moments bearable to feel that I had cared for myself.

By afternoon I was able to observe the situation with less judgement. It was a tough day… but not nearly as bad as I had worried it would be. I recognized that the baby wasn’t as difficult to manage as I had feared, and I had still managed to accomplish most of my to-do list.

My own fear and anxiety about the situation – the emotions *surrounding* the issue itself – were the bigger discomfort. The sick baby hadn’t really been a problem at all. It was the feelings I had projected about that issue had made me feel stressed and made the day less enjoyable. And even if the day had been awful, my feeling of stress about it would have made me feel even worse.

It’s amazing how emotions compound other emotions. Our emotions compound problems.

It was a reminder for me about the importance of observing without judgement. Without trying to change the situation, I can choose not to react to it. With equanimity, I can accept what comes my way, whether I perceive it to be positive or negative, and just live in the reality of the moment without letting my emotions take up extra space.

On Death

I’ve been focusing so much on the feeling of love lately, and noticing how it makes me feel very “alive.” But the opposite is also true – the feeling of deep sadness also puts us in touch with the essence of life. If you really allow yourself to feel it, grief, in all its pain and difficulty, awakens the root of what it is to be human.

At my aunt’s funeral yesterday, my heart was heavy. I felt sad. But I also felt thoughtful and peaceful, and connected to my loved ones in our loss. Family was all around me, and that felt good. There were hugs, plans made for future visits, and words that aren’t spoken often enough: I love you. I miss you.

And in the heart of all that was my own deep questioning. Where is her spirit now? How long, or how little time, do we all have left on this earth? Have I made the most of my time so far? Have I appreciated my family as much as I can? What if I really knew that my time was limited?

We all know on some level that our time here is finite, but to really acknowledge that deadline is truly awakening.

It is a traditional buddhist practice to contemplate, even meditate on, death. In part, this is related to the doctrine of impermanence. It is only by recognizing how precious and how short life is that we are most likely to make it meaningful and to live it fully.

“We have to learn how to die in every moment in order to be fully alive.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

“If we really understood and remembered that life was impermanent, we would do everything we could to make the other person happy right here and right now.” -Thich Nhat Hanh

Metta to Me

When I was first introduced to metta meditation, the aspect I appreciated most was the idea of sending metta out into the universe. Especially when difficult events were happening in the world, when I felt hopeless about the state of the earth, sending my  lovingkindness outward was something tangible that I could do.

We are able – as individuals even! – to change the energy in the world. It feels very good to offer metta outward.

As I continue with the early stages of my metta practice, I notice how different it feels to focus this lovingkindness on myself. I don’t find it challenging, but certainly more intimate, less exciting. It’s ‘quieter’ to focus my metta inward.

As I go about my day, silently repeating my phrases to myself, the words feel like magic to my soul, the remedy for my standard guilt and expectations, forgiveness for my shortcomings. I concentrate on the words and try to feel them deeply.

May I be happy.
May I be well.
May I be free from suffering.
May I know love.
May I be peaceful.

I am reminded of the teachings of the Venerable Dhammarakkhita:

“We can’t rely on metta from an external source, from another being. However, if you develop lovingkindness for yourself, then you can depend upon that, you can rely upon that. Your own lovingkindness is the only certain or sure and dependable lovingkindness in the universe.”