No Mud, No Daffodil: An Ode To Mornings, Part 1

I have always been a morning person, and I miss my mornings. Oh, the days when I was single and living alone with my dog, and I’d wake with the sun and meditate for a half hour, then walk the dog as the world woke up, slowly sip my coffee on my perch in my studio apartment and take in the world, slowly.


Mornings now start when the baby wakes up – a few tosses, then she sits straight up with a smile and a wave, ready to start the day. It is, of course, also a glorious way to wake up. An unbelievably exquisite way to wake up. She fully embodies the teaching: Waking up in the morning, I smile! 24 brand new hours lie before me. I vow to live them deeply and look at all beings with the eyes of compassion.

She is my most wonderful teacher.

But still, sometimes I miss my quiet mornings. If I want alone time, me time, meditation time, slow time, I’d need to wake up before her, which I try to do sometimes, but she’s been waking up earlier and I can’t sacrifice any more sleep than I already do. I can’t get any less sleep than I already do, to function as a human being.

There are limits to sleep deprivation. Through the direct experience of pregnancy insomnia and the wakefulness of early motherhood, I’ve found that sleep is a baseline criteria for happiness and well-being. When you don’t have enough, consistently, it affects everything. It is hard to feel happy and healthy when you are chronically sleep-deprived.

Motherhood – perhaps specifically early motherhood, but maybe it pertains to all (I haven’t gotten there yet) – is so exquisite and  and so muddy. Simultaneously exalted and in the trenches. Divine and Dirty. One of my teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s most famous teachings is No Mud, No Lotus: the beautiful lotus cannot exist without the mud. Our joy cannot exist without our pain, and so on. All things inter-are. When you can see this, you can see the beauty in the mud, too, and you can skillfully transform your mud into lotus flowers with the tools of mindfulness, of presence, of looking deeply, of practice. Motherhood is the mud and the lotus, so palpably. Motherhood is definitely a practice.

For us, it might be: no mud, no daffodil (we call her daffodil – that’s her nickname. Our sweet, shining Daffodil Junebug).

The mud of early motherhood, for me, is mostly the exhaustion. While the dirty diapers might make a better metaphor for the mud, they’re really no big deal. I could change dirty diapers with a smile all day long. The exhaustion is the mud. They physical body has limits, and exhaustion, at the very least, makes me less patient and, at a certain point, has me feeling like I’m going to lose my mind.

Mindfulness practice would teach us to rest when we need to rest, but that’s just not always realistically possible when you are chasing around a walking 9-month old all day. This is where I bump up against the teachings a bit. To rest, right now, feels like a luxury I can’t always afford (and side note: telling an exhausted parent they look tired, or they should get more rest, is pretty much the least helpful thing you can do. No shit, I need more rest. Seriously).

But the daffodil – the reason I am exhausted, when it comes down to it – is sheer exquisiteness: her heaviness and  her soft breathing while she sleeps, delighting in her delight, her smile when she takes steps, when she wakes up, when she sees me or her daddy, or her doggy (there’s a very specific squeal of joy reserved for the dog). The treasures of her beauty are beyond words. She absolutely makes the exhaustion worth it, but the exhaustion is still real.

If practice helps us transform mud into beautiful lotus flowers, how might I transform my exhaustion into the joy and happiness and awareness of my beautiful daffodil, who is always there?

Perhaps I can find ways to rest amidst the busyness. While I might not be able to sleep as much as I’d like, can I find a restful way to run around with her? Can I rest when I’m feeding her, or doing the dishes? Can I soften just a bit, hold a little less tension when I’m trying to keep her safe, from eating things she shouldn’t or trying to keep her away from electrical outlets and plugs?

Breathing in, I am aware of my exhaustion. Breathing out, I smile to my exhaustion.
Breathing in, I am aware of the way exhaustion feels in my body. Breathing out, I smile to my body. Breathing in, I am aware of all that my body does for me, including bringing this beautiful being into the world and continuing to nourish her. Breathing out,  I am grateful to my body, sending gratitude to every cell.
Breathing in, I am aware of my exhaustion. Breathing out, I am aware that my exhaustion is impermanent (I hope? 😉
Breathing in, I am aware of my beautiful baby. Breathing out, I am aware of the impermanence of this phase, that she will grow and I will miss this phase – even the exhaustion that comes with it.

Breathing in, I am aware of my exhaustion and my baby. Breathing out, I am aware my exhaustion and baby interare.

Breathing in, I am aware that I am exhausted. Breathing out, I am aware that I am not only exhausted, that I am more than just exhausted, that there are not-exhausted elements within me. I smile to the non-exhausted elements within me 🙂

Breathing in, I smile to the present moment. Breathing out, I know that even with my exhaustion, it is a wonderful moment.

But, at a certain point, you need a nap. Or at least deep relaxation (I love using the recordings on the Plum Village app and Insight Timer).

Click here to read An Ode to Mornings, Part 2