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.

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Me Time

I had to fight my mom guilt today. It was hard for me to kiss my family goodbye and leave the house. I’m grateful to have a supportive husband who recognizes my needs, but as usual, it is my own set of expectations that holds me back.

Eventually, I did pack up and head out though.

It’s taken me a long time to acknowledge and honour my own spirit. Not my mom-ness, not my wife-ness, but my individuality. I am more than a wife, a mother and a homemaker. I’m also a writer, a meditator, and a human with interests. But it is curious how easy it is for me to ‘sacrifice’ myself and give in to the needs and wishes of my family. (Or my perception of their needs and wishes.)

What is difficult is to treat myself – my own needs and wishes – with the same amount of love and respect.

In the wise words of Sharon Salzberg, “Authentic intimacy is not brought about by denying our own desire to be happy in unhappy deference to others, nor by denying others in narcissistic deference to ourselves…To truly walk the Middle Way of the Buddha, to avoid the extremes of addiction and self-hatred, we must walk in friendship with ourselves as well as with all beings.”

Or, as the ever-insightful Axl Rose teaches us:

“Sometimes I need some time…on my own.
Sometimes I need some time…all alone.
Everybody needs some time… on their own.
Don’t you know you need some time…all alone.”

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Snow Day

There is no better feeling than having my whole family at home when the weather is really bad.

They have been calling for a big storm, but this morning the skies were calm, so we enjoyed the walk to school. By the time the snow started flying I had already managed to get out and run a few errands, stock up on some groceries, etc. Baby boy is feeling much better today, so I had a chance to get dinner in the slowcooker while he played too.

Around midday the roads started to get pretty messy, and I was so relieved when hubby’s work dismissed everyone early. He got home in time to watch Arlo while I ran out to pick Violet up from school.

We came home to a warm house, the smell of dinner cooking, and the boys asleep together on the couch. Now I can smile at the snow and wind outside my window – we are all safe at home together.

There is so much to be thankful for.

My Practice

I had been feeling unsatisfied with life, and feeling guilty for it. I knew how fortunate I was: I had a wonderful, supportive husband, two perfect children, a lovely home, and the luxury of staying at home to raise my kids. Yet somehow, it all added up to “not enough”.

I had been a student of buddhism for years, but all the reading, the hours I had logged meditating, none of it furnished me with enough compassion to give all of myself away. Being a full time mother and a wife had – to me – meant being everything to everyone but myself.

How do you laugh and play with your child when you have forgotten who you are? How do you smile at your baby when you only want to cry over the part of you that has died?

The answer did not come to me in an epiphany, but instead as a low, slow sound I heard in the background of my every day.

I discovered there is no way to be happy when you have put your own life aside. I had to begin to remember who I was, at a deep, human level. It meant letting go. It meant asking myself what I wanted from life. It meant trusting my husband to parent our children sometimes, while I gave myself some much-needed time to breathe. That oxygen began to nourish my body and my soul.

And I saw that I hadn’t been able to live in the present moment. I knew in my mind that there were many conditions for happiness available around me, but I wasn’t actively practicing seeing these things.

It is admirable to study what others teach about mindfulness. It is beneficial to meditate, and strengthen our ability to be present. But more than anything else, we must practice living in the here and now.