This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by hosted by Kelly of Becoming Crunchy and Zoie of TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts about what mindfulness mean to them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
“If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, “This is not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, “This is enow
Unto itself – ’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.”
~ Sir Thomas Browne, as quoted in A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle
Mindfulness…meditation…they mean different things to me (and I daresay all of us) at different times and different places in life.
I quoted the above passage because Madeleine L’Engle is one of the people who has made me think most about what being mindful means, and the book it’s from talks a lot about meditation and the release of ‘self’ to simply ‘be’.
I’ll have more to say on that shortly, but first I wanted to explain my title – what do I mean by derailed?
Well, it’s pretty much how I’ve felt about just about everything over the past month or so!
Before I returned to work, I had something of a routine; I was able to focus on changes/improvements I wanted to make in our family and home, I had all the time in the world to spend with Bean, and I regularly contributed to this blog – my creative outlet – while being encouraged and challenged by the community here.
As a new parent, it was an invaluable time for me to have that year to pretty much do only those things…but I also left myself ill-prepared to jump feet first back into the world of crazy busy-ness that used to be second nature to me!
In many ways, it’s been good. I very much enjoy my job and the people who work there; the scheduling and location are perfect for us and I’ve been getting many more hours than originally anticipated, which we need. Bean loves spending time with her grandparents during the day and while I miss her like crazy, co-sleeping and spending our mornings and evenings together help me maintain my relationship with her.
Blogging (as you may have noticed) has kind of gone kaput, and that’s been very difficult for me – I miss it and I miss you all!
But while I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off over the past months, things do seem to be – slowly, gradually – calming down… and as I’m easing into getting back on track from feeling completely derailed for awhile there, I’ve been thinking a lot about what mindfulness truly means to me and what I want it to look like in my life – especially during this time that I’ve really needed it.
I wanted to share another passage from A Ring of Endless Light here – a conversation between the main character (Vicki) and her Grandfather (p. 209-210):
“What is meditation, Grandfather? How do you do it?”
“It isn’t exactly something you do.”
…”You like to go down to the cove by yourself, don’t you, Vicky? And sit on the rock and look out to sea?”
“Yes, and usually at the wrong moment, when Mother or Daddy needs me to do something else.”
“But you need to go down to the rock and look out to sea, don’t you?”
“Yes, and sometimes I think you’re the only one who understands why.”
“What do you do when you go to the rock?”
“I don’t do anything. I sit.”
“Do you think?”
“Sometimes. But those aren’t the best times.”
“What are the best times?”
“When I sit on the rock – and I feel – somehow – part of the rock and part of the sky and part of the sea.”
“And you’re very aware of the rock and the sky and the sea?”
“Sometimes it seems to go beyond that.”
“And then what is it like?”
I thought for a moment. “It’s hard to explain because it’s beyond words. It’s as though I’m out on the other side of myself…And it’s being part of everything, part of the rock and the sky and the sea and the wind and the rain and the sun and the stars…”
“And you, Vicky? Are you still there?”
No. Yes. How do you explain no and yes at the same time?
“I’m there – but it’s as though I’m out on the other side of myself – I’m not in the way.”
“There’s your answer. That’s meditation.”
Madeleine is no stranger to mindfulness – it’s something she explores often in her works (I’ve rarely come across a book written by her that doesn’t in some way explore the concept), but this passage and the poem quoted at the beginning have always stuck out to me, especially lately.
The moments where I have noticed and observed myself being the most ‘mindful’ over the past weeks have been when I’ve been able to empty myself of self, giving over completely to something else…whether it be caring for Bean, hearing – and moving totally into – a song I love, reading or listening to someone else…I’ve found myself ‘being’ in those moments more than at any other time.
I’ve experienced some powerful living in those moments. I’ve felt palpable joy and indescribable sadness. I’ve entered into the stories of others and felt and loved and cried and laughed with them…at times in their presence, at times simply sitting here at my computer or listening to the radio in traffic.
I’ve had such experiences before but never really focused on them or defined them in terms of ‘mindfulness’…though in searching for a way to find mindfulness in action in my life, I’ve had almost a heightened sense in all of these moments…it’s been pretty mind blowing to be honest.
It’s also been hard!
At times I find myself emotionally exhausted, entering so fully into these experiences through the letting go of self. And I’m selfish, most often still ‘replete with very me’…and it can feel like a wrench to go between the two states. Easier, in truth, to keep myself from opening to being filled.
But in the end, taking everything into consideration…I want this to be my norm. I want to lose myself my thoughts my worries my vanity my head that fills up with talk talk talk all the time…
…I want to just BE.
I want to breathe, and be in the moment, and be part of it all.
As I come away from a time of being stressed and pulled in many directions, moving back into a pattern and a rhythm and a way of being, I want to give myself over to something greater than myself.
I want to be a mindful mama.
My sincere thanks to Madeleine L’Engle for being one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had…
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- An Alternative Approach to Parenting Mindfully Through Present Moment Awareness Amy at Peace 4 Parents offers an experience of present moment awareness as a pathway to mindful parenting.
- Define: Mindful Alicia C. at McCrenshaw describes the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings for Engaged Buddhism and attempts to describe how she can apply them to her non-Buddhist life on her new journey toward mindfulness.
- This is what mindfulness looks like in my life Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama describes what mindfulness looks like in her life in the form of poetry.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Becoming a Mindful Mother Erin at it’s OK shares her definition of mindfulness, and her struggle to develop a regular practice.
- How Meditation Makes Me a More Mindful Mother Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her methods for sneaking meditation into each and every day in an effort to dig deep and be the most mindful mother possible.
- A Simple Practice Kat at My Mental Oddities outlines a simple practice with children
- Our Family Mission Statement Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how living mindfully means living intentionally. She created her Family Mission Statement to help her family stay focused on their goals and values.
- I REALLY Miss Being Mindful! Tracie at Purposeful Practices shares what it’s like to find and then lose your mindfulness practice.
- My Job Made Me a Mindful Mother Amy at Anktangle tells a story about how a mindfulness practice she used to utilize in her job as a nurse still impacts the way she mothers her son today.
- Now Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro shows how mindfulness is all about living in the moment.
- Stepping into the Unknown To Rachael at The Variegated Life, mindfulness is a way of stepping into the unknown.
- Derailed Kelly of Becoming Crunchy explores what mindfulness looks like in her new, somewhat more hectic life.
- Mindful Mama: The Places That Scare Me Zoie at TouchstoneZ learns to stop struggling by being present with uncomfortable realizations.