This morning I woke up, cracked my back, popped my knuckles, worked out the crick in my neck and felt a little swelling in the knees (must be the rain). When you have a kid closer to 40, you definitely feel the after shocks of carrying around the little thirty-pounder on your shoulders, crawling around on the floor playing trains and trying to curl up under the table in a rousing game of hide and seek. Some mornings I wake up and wonder, did I sleep walk and get run over by a mack truck? Where did that bruise come from? Why do my shins hurt so much? I’m definitely getting older. And now, another year has passed and it’s 2016. What?! I can’t believe it! Where does the time go?
Travis and I aren’t huge New Year’s Eve fans. I can’t remember the last time we went out on the town or stayed awake to watch the ball drop . . . on the East Coast. We usually hang with some friends, I drink too much wine, and we go to bed early, before Anderson Cooper even counts it down. However, we have some of our best conversations in the first few days of the new year (after my headache subsides). We love the idea of setting goals, starting fresh and seeing the possibilities in the upcoming year. I am super excited and can’t wait for this year’s conversation. I’m ready. I even did homework this year. How geeky am I?
As many of you know, I’m starting my spiritual cleanse. This is the year that I get some answers — the year that I become the “grounded Papa”.
I’ve got little questions.
Why are we not allowed to wake a sleeping baby, BUT, when said baby is ready to wake up, it’s ok for them to poke you in the eye, squeeze your nose closed so you can’t breathe, headbutt you, pull your ears and demand that you get out of bed?
I’ve got big questions.
Is it time for Parker to have a baby brother or sister? Do we want a second child? What’s the impact on Parker either way?
I’ve got some “holy cow, how will I ever get the answers to those kinds of questions” questions.
What’s the meaning of life? How can I make the biggest impact in this world? What’s my calling in life? How can I leave this world a little bit better when I go?
We’ve got pretty big decisions to make this year as a family. So, I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach. And, Travis gets to try it with me. How lucky is he? Don’t ask him.
This year, I’m not going to set any goals . . . just yet. I’m not going to make any major declarations or create my typical laundry list of resolutions — most of which survive for about two weeks. No, I’m going to use the month of January to simply listen. And, it’s not going to be easy. I have the patience of a gnat (that was the runt of the litter). While I am an introvert, and I adore my alone time, it’s almost impossible for me to turn off my phone, thoughts or judgements. My brain is constantly going.
When I was finishing my graduate work, one of my final courses took place at St. Andrew’s Abbey in Southern California. We studied the Benedictine monks and their way of life. We observed their rhythm and interaction with their surroundings, their community and life. It was a week of quiet, solitude and reflection. It was really hard to be alone in that environment. There was no TV or Facebook. Yikes! It was also one of the most fulfilling times of my life. One of the things I learned about was lectio devina “the divine reading.” It’s an ancient practice of actually listening to the scriptures. During lectio divina, the monks listen with the "ear of the heart," as if they’re in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion.
I like this concept.
So, I’ve decided to listen with the an open heart. I’m not sure what this year will hold for me, or the family; however, I’m beyond excited about the unknown. To kickstart the year (and my cleanse), I just want to listen. I need lots of help with this, so I ordered the book by Sharon Salzburg, “Real Happiness. The Power of Meditation.” It’s a 28-day program designed to help people “defuse stress, experience greater tranquility, find a sense of wholeness, strengthen our relationships and face our fears.” Those are all of the things that I’ve been searching for, so I’m going for it! But, a 28-day meditation program? That's intimidating as hell.
I’ve lightly dipped my toe in the meditation pool. I blame it on the fact that I now live on the West Coast. Living on the "left" coast has also resulted in me dipping my toe in the organic, gluten free pool of veganism, but that’s another story. I share this to say that I like the idea of becoming someone that consistently and prolifically meditates. I believe in the practice of it. I trust it. But, I don’t think I’m good at it. Before writing this post, I started my morning with a 20 minute meditation, and I’m still not sure I fully comprehend what’s supposed to happen during that time. According to the book, that feeling is normal, and is a part of the journey.
I really connect with Sharon Salzburg’s approach. I’ve listened to several of her podcasts, and I like her. But, just so we’re clear, there’s no real reason that I selected her program over others, other than it felt good in my gut. That’s how I make a lot of my decisions in life — gut. So, full disclosure, I didn’t do a great deal of research on different meditation teachers and programs. I just liked this one.
I do want to more fully understand the practice of meditation. Like I said, I’m a super green novice when it comes to the art of mindfulness, so I’ve got a long way to go. But, here’s what I’ve learned/observed so far:
- I like Deepak Chopra's explanation of the difference between prayer and meditation. It helps me reconcile some of my religious roots with my West Coast spirituality. He said, “Prayer is speaking to God, and meditation is allowing the Spirit to speak to you.” Ok, so there's room for both if you choose.
- Sharon Salzburg says that meditation doesn’t have to be about spirituality or religion. It can be just about stillness, presence and paying attention to life. Cool. I'm good with that.
- I attended a program at work through a company called Awake Mindfulness. And, I loved it. Meditation really can fit into any schedule. Through this program, I was introduced to some cool apps, like Headspace and Stop, Breathe & Think that help guide you and teach you.
- Meditation doesn’t have to be done sitting down on a mat at an altar with your legs crossed while incense is burning. It can be done while doing daily tasks, running, walking, or during the morning commute.
- There are a lot of scientific studies on the health impact of meditation. I’ve skimmed a couple. I promise I’ll read some and report back.
This is just the beginning. I’m a big work in progress. I should probably carry around some orange cones and a caution sign. However, I wholeheartedly believe that this 28 day program will give me a good foundation for an ongoing meditation practice. I trust that I’ll get some of the answers to the questions I've been pondering. And, I hope to become more centered and grounded through this challenge.
Ultimately, I want to be more present for Parker and Travis. I haven’t been good at that recently. In fact, I remember people saying, “enjoy Parker while you can, it goes by so fast,” and I always thought that was silly. Now that we’re 20 months in, that’s probably the most brilliant advice anyone’s ever given me. I can’t slow down time, or stop him from growing up, but, I can be more present and really participate in his life, our life.
I think I'm starting to get it.
So, here’s to 2016 and 28 days of listening! If you want to follow along and go on the meditation journey with me, I’m going to be sharing daily updates and things that I’m learning on Twitter. If you want to join in on the 28-day challenge, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE that! Book club anyone? Otherwise, I’ll post a blog update at the end of the month to let you know how it's going.
Happy New Year!