by Judy Brennan
I was sitting in my kitchen feeling down about difficulties our family was experiencing. A friend of my daughter’s had recently passed away and a close family member was in the midst of severe health problems.
My 18-year-old daughter was home from college and walked into the kitchen and noticed my deflated posture. I looked up at her with an expressionless face. “It’s OK Mom” she said, “You've been perfect long enough.”
“You've been perfect long enough”, I silently repeated to myself. My children since birth have always been my teachers with their candid remarks and observations. Another example popped into my mind, when my son was six years old and adjusting to the transition from a half-day kindergarten schedule to a full-day first grade schedule, I picked him up after school and excitingly told him I had signed him up for an extracurricular activity. I will always remember the disappointed look on his face and his words “Mom, I just want to go home and rest. That activity is for you not for me.” Wow, he was right. What was I thinking? We went home, had lunch together, he rested and played. This was much better than running off to another activity that would have surely not served him in an already exhausted state.
What was this message from my daughter? I thought about how our lives had always been so ‘perfect’, full of family, friends, vacations, a nice home in a safe neighborhood, good schools, food and clothing readily available. We always think nothing bad will happen. That every day should be a good one without the bad ones, but life is not like that. Stuff happens and we feel less than adequate when it does. It’s how we deal with the tough times that keep us sane. And, it’s during the tough times that I am grateful for my mindfulness practices. What is mindfulness?
According to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California Berkeley, mindfulness is the practice of “Living in the present moment without judgment and awakening to the experience.” Taking the time every day to slow down, to sit, to breathe, and to just be. To be aware of how we treat others, animals, the planet, and ourselves. There is a quote I love describing the mindfulness practice of meditation that says it beautifully:
Real meditation is the highest form of intelligence:
It is not a matter of sitting cross-legged in a corner with your eyes shut or standing on your head or whatever it is you do.
To meditate is to be completely aware as you are walking, as you are riding in the bus, as you are working in your office or in your kitchen—completely aware of the words you use, the gestures you make, the manner of your talk, the way you eat, and how you push people around.
To be choicelessly aware of everything about you and within you is meditation.
If you are aware of the many influences about you, you will see how quickly you understand and are free of every influence as you come into contact with it.
- Jiddu Krishnamurti
So how does this relate to spring? Spring is a time of change, new growth, and reflection. Change will happen. It is the one thing we can be certain of. For me, I need to realize that life is not perfect and it has its ups and downs. It’s how we handle these situations that come to us that is important. And, it’s how we respond during difficult times that will ripple out and affect those around us. We can choose to be role models or not. Mindfulness gives us awareness and that awareness allows us to act instead of react. When we slow down and calm our nervous systems with meditation and our own breath, we are able to think more clearly and formulate a plan with grace.
Some tools I use to help me slow down and be mindful include:
Insight Timer: A free App you can use to help you slow down and breath and learn the mindfulness practice of meditation, that includes a timer, beautiful guided meditations with topics you can choose based on your current need (topic examples include - surrender to silence, our power to heal and repair, and unconditional love). Two of my favorite teachers who offer guided meditations in this App are Thich Nhat Hanh and Davidji.
The Mindful Life Journal: Created by Justin R. Adams and published by Better Life Journals, is a wonderful simple daily journal and introduction to mindfulness that takes just seven minutes a day (a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the evening).
Relax Kids, The Wishing Star: 52 Meditations for Children (ages 5+): For children, I recommend this guided meditation book, great for reading to children and even teens to help them peacefully drift off to sleep or anytime they are in need of calm in their lives.
So thank you to my beautiful daughter for reminding me that I can’t expect to be perfect and that life is not perfect. Life has its ups and downs. It’s how we deal with those ups and downs that will affect us, both in body and mind.
Judy Brennan is a Health & Wellness Educator and Speaker certified through the Chopra Center for Wellbeing and is the owner of YogaforLife located in the Bay Area. For more information on Judy and her services visit www.YogaforLife.guru