Sitting just to sit (An ode to mornings, part 2)
This morning I got to sit.
My teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, talks about the pleasure and joy of sitting just to sit. And I don’t think I fully understood this until I became a mother. Or maybe I just appreciate it now on a whole new level, now that sitting just to sit is hard to come by.
Pre-baby, I could sit whenever I wanted. I would wake up and start the day with 30 minutes of sitting. Sometimes the dog would be pawing at me to take her out, but more often than not, she would join me.
I could sit whenever I wanted. I sat in the mornings because I enjoyed waking up that way, and also because of self-discipline (or lack thereof): I knew if I put it off to later in the day I might not get to it. But mostly, it’s how I loved to start my days, usually as the sun was coming up, in the quiet, the city slowly coming to life. Sometimes I’d sit midday or in the evening, too.
Now, as a mother to a walking, energetic 9-month old, I sit when I can sit. It may not be first thing in the morning if my daughter wakes up before me. And it may not happen at all. I sit when I can make it happen, and it feels…precious. I treasure the moments of quiet, to myself, coming home to myself and my body and reiki and the moon and ancestors and the sounds around me and my breath. To return, again and again, to my cushion home, my breath home, my body home. To the quiet space in my heart that is always there but that I can forget or lose touch with if I don’t take the time to consciously connect.
This morning I sat. I don’t know how long I sat for. It may have been 20, 25 minutes before the baby woke up for the day. But I treasured it. I treasured watching my busy mind, thinking about what I’d write later, thinking about what I had to do and wanted to do. Getting lost and coming back again and again, to my breath and my body and sitting, just to sit.
Sometimes I get frustrated by spiritual teachings as I struggle to apply them to motherhood. Sometimes it feels – or becomes painfully apparent – that the people who wrote them or said them were not parents, or were not actively taking care of babies or children at the time they wrote them. There is a void of teachings adapted for parents who are in the trenches, who are struggling to pee let alone eat let alone shower let alone meditate. My path right now is to connect the very valuable teachings, which have served me so well in my greatest joys and struggles, to the realities of being in those trenches.
But, the teachings also tell us that everything is practice, and everything can be done mindfully, and mindfulness is always mindful of something, so it can be mindfulness of breastfeeding or soothing a crying baby or changing a diaper or cleaning up the messy kitchen. While cushion time is definitely its own important practice – and helps facilitate the “off the cushion practices” – it’s possible to practice anywhere, under any circumstances.
This is what I tell myself as I sit here typing, shoving some crackers in my mouth (is it mindfulness if I am aware that I am eating unmindfully?), while dad tries to entertain baby long enough for mommy to write a few sentences. Have a few sips of (much needed) coffee. Have a few treasured moments at my desk.
My desk is my other cushion. It’s where I read and write and try to get “work” done (as if everything else that happens in the day is not “work” – but that’s a story for another day). I love to sit here with my journal or computer, surrounded by my favorite books and files and treasure a few moments to think.
The precious 9-month old toddles by with her sippy cup of water, her steps filled with joy and pride and amazement.
It’s time to stop now – my time is up. She needs me. And there is a deep peace in her needing me, a treasure in that too. She won’t need me like this forever, and someday she probably won’t need me at all, and I might miss the days when I would try to sit at my desk for 5 minutes and write, or struggle to get to the cushion, and couldn’t because she needed me. She needed my milk and my cuddles and my attention. And that is today, and that is what I will do, happily.
So I will delight in knowing that today, I had the chance to sit, and today, my baby needs me, and we are all healthy and safe. And she is going outside to feel how the cold walkway feels on her bare feet, probably for the first time.
To be simultaneously aware that these moments are fleeting and hard.
To be aware that these moments are treasures, and it is still hard when she’s tired and won’t go to sleep and we are exhausted.
To be simultaneously aware of the preciousness of this phase, which changes everyday, but when it’s still hard to pee or sleep or feel clean or take care of my basic needs, and to be able to smile to it all.
To be aware that I think I can only say that- have room to say that – because I had the chance to sit, because I’m drinking coffee, and because she took a nap 🙂