Oof – I didn’t mean to take another week off from blogging. Yet here I am, bashfully reentering the blogosphere. For some reason, writing felt like an insurmountable task. I was bored with the blogging schedule I’ve been following for the last year and couldn’t figure out how to break through the staleness, so today’s post is full of what I’ve been pondering since last Friday’s blog post.
I finished The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh last week and friends – it clicked. In the beginning I was skeptical about many of the ideas he presented – especially about being mindfully present during the most mundane parts of life, such as washing dishes and sweeping the floor. My evening tidying sessions are typically spent with my earbuds in and an audiobook on – I couldn’t imagine that this Buddhist monk would know anything about what it’s like for a stay at home mom who desperately wants a window of time to herself.
But as I continued to read, I began to realize that this is my life. Washing the dishes, folding the laundry, sweeping and mopping the floors, cleaning the toilets, wiping macaroni & cheese smears off the windows… And I’m thankful for it. Why distract myself from it?
That’s part of the reason I’ve pulled back in a lot of ways – because all of that multitasking wasn’t helping me find stillness. I listened to audiobooks while vacuuming, tidying, and folding laundry. So I missed out on those moments of my life, however quotidian they may have been. Every morning while watering flowers, I had my earbuds in. And then I missed out on the joy of noticing the intricacies of my flowers:
It seems like everyone is quilting and sewing right now. So many of my friends are reading like fiends, keeping up with their writing and blogging schedule, joining poetry groups, and talking about books on Zoom. And I’m not. I’m trying not to feel left out which is ridiculous because I’m choosing this stillness, but I’m feeling the fear of missing out really badly right now!
The Miracle of Mindfulness retells a short story by Tolstoy about an Emperor who believed the answers to 3 questions would allow him to live a perfect life:
What is the best time to do each thing?
Who are the most important people to work with?
What is the most important thing to do at all times?
Sounds familiar, I’m sure. My notebooks are full of angst about where I should devote my time and energy. Spoiler alert, this is what the Emperor learned from a hermit:
“Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”
We (I) don’t have to make life so complicated. There’s no need to worry about how to “best” spend my time or rush through any of my chores or responsibilities at home to get to my own evening activity. Whatever is front of me is important enough to get right, whether it’s cooking a dinner or watering the flowers. Giving a child a bath, reading a bedtime story, or recognizing an open half hour for some yoga.
So my priorities right now are simple – my family, my home, and my health. I’ve prioritized exercise in my “free” time over the last couple of weeks and that has felt really good, despite wanting to read a zillion books and sew beautiful quilts. I’m reading when the moments present themselves and not rearranging all of my other tasks to make time for it – I’m trying to remember that it’s all important and it can all energize me, if approached openly.
The Miracle of Mindfulness was the perfect book for me right now. Hands down, it’s the best book I’ve read on meditation and mindfulness. It’s full of mindfulness exercises that I’d heard of tangentially and finally have spelled out for me. I was planning to drop this book at The Little Free Library that’s near my house, but I think I’ll be holding on to it for a while longer because I’m still referencing it. But as soon as it’s run its course, I’ll be leaving this little gem for a neighbor to find. I love sharing books this way!
In the book, Thich Nhat Hanh recommends picking one day a week to spend in mindfulness — no real changes to the structure of your day, other than being fully present to all of your life’s gifts and challenges as they are. Tell me: is this something you practice? Or would/could consider practicing? I’d love to hear about how you make mindfulness a part of your daily life!