Practice Space

I used to be quite attached to my meditation space. Especially in the early days of my practice, I leaned heavily on the familiarity of my surroundings, my cushion, my blanket. And I do think there is some real value in consistency when it comes to sitting. A dedicated meditation space not only makes practice easy (everything is already set up!), but serves as a constant reminder to make the time to sit, and allows one to slip more quickly and easily into that mental space.

But more recently I’ve started to appreciate a more fluid style. In simple terms, my home doesn’t have the square footage for a meditation room. My life – and schedule – isn’t always predictable with two young children. My days are full and time is precious. Alone time is virtually unheard of.

It occurred to me one day to set up my window altar, with the hopes that I would be reminded to take the time to breathe whenever a quiet moment presented itself. Or, that while doing the dishes, preparing food, etc., I might gaze down and remember to pause. Or, that sometimes when I’m in the midst of chaos, I can simply retreat to my kitchen window and take a deep breath

Now sometimes when my house gets crazy, one of us – either me, my husband, or even our daughter – rings the singing bowl and everyone smiles. It’s our little joke, but it is a real signal to each other to quiet our hearts and minds for just a moment.

Lately my sweet 1-year old boy has decided to protest any and all forms of sleep… so once he crashes out in the car while we’re running errands, I’ve been doing a lot of driving around and/or sitting in a parking lot. It has totally kaiboshed my regular at-home practice time. So no bother. Today, this was the view from my ‘cushion’ (ie. drivers’ side car seat):

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I’ll take my meditation time wherever I can get it.

Metta Here, Metta There

My heart has been heavy lately, so it felt really wonderful to sit with a heart full of love last night, and lead a metta for a room of friends and strangers.

My passion for the practice grows every day as I see how it transforms people, and how it transforms me. It is such a profound honour to introduce people to this work, and to share in sending and receiving the energy of lovingkindness together as a group.

What I know is that love can change the world.

I know that love can change an outlook, a relationship, a moment, a life.

It is easy to be mindful when the present is so fulfilling.

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Metta to Jude

Loss is one of those things that really puts life into perspective.

A mom I know lost her little boy on Friday. She put him down for his afternoon nap, and he never woke up. He was only two and a half.

My mindful/buddhist background reminds me that nothing is permanent, and as morbid as it seems, witnessing death around me helps me to be more present and appreciative in my day to day life.

There is also a strange comfort in recognizing that some things are simply out of our control. I cannot protect my kids against everything. It’s horrifying and also freeing.

That’s what my brain tells me.

But the truth is, Jude’s death has rocked my world. I cannot sleep. I cannot stop thinking about him, his sweet little face. And his mama, Jill. And how easily this could be us. And I question how I could survive a tragedy so horrible. This really touches on all of my worst fears: that you can put your baby down to sleep, and have them never wake up again. There is no rhyme or reason, and no way to protect or predict. It’s terrifying.

It makes me acutely aware that I’m wholly and desperately attached to my children. How can you not be? How can you tell yourself to “let go,” when the letting go is about the life of your baby?

I believe that loved ones do not leave us, but their energy lives on in the words they spoke, the things they did, and the memories we hold… But when a sweet child is only 2, there’s so very little to take comfort in. No stories or songs, only love.

I can’t even go on. There are no words.

Metta to that dear, grieving family.

Metta to Jude.

Good Morning Sunshine

My daughter used to wake up at crazy hours of the morning. I remember starting my day in the dark of night countless times, accomplishing more before 9am than anyone should. Then she reached an age where she could (mostly) understand logic, and we started convincing her that 7am was an appropriate wake-up time.

Of course, when our son arrived last year, he wasn’t interested in participating in this routine. His ideal wake-up time would be sometime between 5- 6am, although I could often manage to snuggle and rock him in a half-sleep sort of state for at least an extra hour each morning. He’s not exactly an early bird, but he has a lot of learning and playing to do, you see.

Since his birthday though, Arlo’s been fairly insistent about getting up early, and only accepts a small amount of cuddling before he’s fighting me to get out of bed.

Fighting, I say, because I am working hard to convince him that we should keep sleeping (or at least resting) as long as possible, while he plays, talks, and finally tries to push/crawl away from me.

I cannot explain why every fiber of my being resists getting out of bed before 6:30 with two busy children around me. Perhaps it’s because I don’t go to bed early enough at night, or perhaps it’s the prospect of entertaining the kids for an extra 2 hours before we have to leave for school, or perhaps just the fear of having a tired, cranky baby on my hands… But in any case, I recognize my attachment to “sleeping in”.

Something interesting has happened this week, however. This week I’ve challenged myself to let go of my attachment and make peace with the situation. I’ve decided just to accept getting up early.

It’s been a surprising difference. I have observed that a big part of the discomfort of waking up early is simply my attitude. Nothing miserable happens between the hours of 5 and 7am… it’s really just my own grumpiness that’s painful, and I’m the biggest victim of my own emotions.

Today I decided to appreciate the luxury of having so much time to get ready. I drank a coffee and made myself a nice breakfast while the kids played. I cleaned up a couple loose ends around the house. I sat on the floor and played blocks and laughed with my babies.

I really watched them as they built, and chatted, and bickered. And I was able to notice how tiny they are, and how fleeting this moment.

Imagine how sad it would have been to sleep through that.

Where “I” Begin and End

This past weekend I did a past life regression hypnosis session. It was a magical opportunity to step outside my current life – with all its joy and stress – and catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. Whatever your belief system, level of skepticism, etc., the important thing is that this experience left me with a couple of lingering thoughts/questions.

Since my session, I have been overwhelmingly caught up in realizing that the “me” I experience 95% of the time isn’t really more than a shell. I know this on a fairly deep level anyway – that I am more than just “a wife”, “a mother”, “a buddhist”, “a writer”, or any of the other labels I give myself. When I quit my job, I knew I was still “myself”. If I colour my hair, or lose weight, or move to a different country, I still recognize that I’m my same self. Even beyond my wife/mother labels, I recognize that there is a distinct and separate “self.” I can easily see that the essence of me is much deeper than any of that. But it’s interesting that some labels are more difficult to put aside. I’m also more than my insecurities, my strengths or my weaknesses, or the core characteristics I would typically name for my soul: that I am artistic, or spiritual, or loving. These labels are just ways I define myself in this current situation. Imagining the view from another body really helped me to internalize that I am more (or less) than all of that too. What if I wasn’t artistic? Or spiritual? Or loving? Would I still be me?

It left me wondering about where these labels begin and end. What really does exist at the core of me?

It left me thinking about how all of our soul cores are so much less complicated than we make them, so beautifully simple.

I also realized how much easier it is to love myself when I strip away all the labels. All of the things I dislike about myself are transitory, and none of those surface-level qualities define me, or make me lovable/unlovable. It is much easier to love the spirit of me.

Recognizing that everyone around me is also much more than they appear, I wonder how it’s possible to dislike anyone at all. It is much easier to love the spirit of all other beings.

We are all beautiful souls walking around in these bodies, equally worthy of love respect.

Metta to All Travelers

Two of my very favourite things: the city of Toronto, and airports. Imagine my joy then, when we got to stay at the Hilton directly across from Pearson this week while hubby attended a conference. (It was Arlo’s birthday! So we decided to tag along and spend a couple days visiting friends and walking the Toronto zoo to celebrate our big boy!)

So many minutes – hours, even – were spent standing at the window with the kids, watching planes take off and land. As I tucked them in at night, I laid in bed watching the sky grow dark, the moon come out, and the blinking lights of airplanes arriving at their destination, or jetting off into new lands. It is very soothing and exciting to me all at once to remember how much world exists outside my bubble. I love remembering that there are so many places left for me to explore, that there is more to life than what I see on a daily basis.

I also happen to really like (for the most part) city driving. If I’m passenger, I like to really investigate the people in cars that pass. I like to notice whether they appear happy or sad, anxious, or angry, and I like to smile at them. If I’m driving, my interest is more general, watching the cars weaving in and out, and reminding myself that each vehicle is carrying another human being, with loved ones, and lives of their own.

So this week has been full of wonderful observation and noticing for me, and sending of loving energy.

As I watched the planes, and as I drove down highways, I noticed all the people traveling to one place or another, anxious about the day ahead, and I sent them love. It feels really good to give this energy out: tiny blessings to all beings I encounter.

May all travelers around me be happy.
May they be well.
May they be free from suffering.
May they be peaceful.
May they know love.

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Accepting Love

Do you notice how easy it is to dwell on criticism? Whether self-inflicted, or handed down from another (perhaps even well-meaning) individual, I for one, carry a list in my head of every shortcoming I’ve ever become aware of. My parenting mistakes. My appearance. The horrible job interview I bombed. My tendency to over-share…. The list could go on.

Interestingly though, I don’t dwell the same way on every compliment I’ve ever received.

It can be hard to accept kindness, and it can be hard to accept love.

In my recent effort to love myself more completely, I’ve started noticing how often I feel closed off to receiving this energy. I notice that I regularly shoulder discomfort, or sacrifice joy, in order to make life easier for myself or others. I notice how difficult it can be to open myself to receiving love.

The other night, my husband gave me the most amazing – LONG – massage! It had been a rough week in our household, and his sweet gesture felt almost “too good to be true” on my tired muscles. But after a couple minutes, strangely, I noticed guilt feelings creeping into my mind! I was thinking how he must be tired and exhausted too, and questioned why I was deserving of receiving his effort.

And then I reminded myself that he loves me. Because of his love, I am deserving. And because of my own love, I am deserving.

Especially as a parent, I think we learn to give our love without question, or expectation. Logically, I know that my children love me, but I don’t often really *feel* that love, or pay attention to their expression of it. For example, this morning my daughter gave me the 300th drawing of the week. At that moment, I was in the middle of making her breakfast and packing her lunch at the same time while baby Arlo used my pant leg to practice his standing skills. “Look mama! This is for you!” Violet proudly shouted at me. I took a quick glance, and shouted back, “Wow! It’s so lovely! Thanks!” Then, as I reflected there, I reminded myself that her drawings really are her gifts to me – the only things she has to give. Her drawings are her way of showing me that she loves me. So, I stopped what I was doing, took a moment to really appreciate her work, crouched down beside her and gave her a big hug. Her love feels wonderful.

In the midst of our rough week (Arlo was super sick), when I was feeling completely maxed out and overwhelmed, my husband reminded me of how much he (my baby) loves me. It caught me a bit off guard. My baby needs me. But does he LOVE me? “You should see how he looks at you when you walk into the room after being gone,” my husband told me. So today I’m really tuning in to his smiles. I’m appreciating his snuggles, and the way he reaches out for me. Like his sister’s artwork, these little gestures are the only gifts he has to give me. I’m opening myself to that love, and it feels really good.