Whole Life Magazine

August/September 2013

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Page 49 of 51

backwords NOTHING DOING By Tracy Chait Having a baby taught me how to sit I started practicing mindfulness meditation a few years ago after a trip to India, inspired by the serene Tibetan monks with whom I sat and sat and lost feeling in my hindquarters in a cold and incense-filled monastery. Several months later, amidst snarls of traffic back in Los Angeles and a clog dancer for an upstairs neighbor, the only proof of my latent practice was a pair of buckwheat zafu cushions covered in dog hair, fading fast in the California sun. It took big life changes to get me back on the cushion: first the non-appearance of a baby and then the sudden rush into the life of one. Knowing I had this writhing little being watching my every move, I wanted to get it right, and not in that abstract almost-30 way I'd wanted before. I had great intentions of being a peaceful, easy parent who would always live in the moment. I'd be able to say that time wasn't so fleeting for me and my growing baby, that we were hanging on to it piece by piece because of my renewed practice and her natural babyBuddha-ness. But finding chunks of time on my own to sit and do nothing… nothing? I felt lucky to get my teeth brushed in those early days, felt not just indulgent but a little silly taking time to sit. And yet I made the time, not always, but often. Sometimes I sat for just 10 minutes. I also found a local meditation center and sat with a group once a week when the sun was still low in the sky. My husband would go running with our daughter during that time, and we were both better off for the exercise. Each day when (if!) my daughter lay down for a nap, I knelt on my purple cushions and set the timer on my computer, a pink lotus icon bouncing happily on the screen when I clicked it, and then the series of chimes that helped me settle down. Dutifully, I tried to focus on my breath as one or both of my dogs meandered in and sniffed the baby monitor that tracked the muffled sounds of midday sleep. A lot of times I cheated. I made mental grocery lists and thought about where my daughter should go to preschool, pictured the cabin I wanted to rent in the woods for the holidays, oh, hold on a second—had both dogs had their rabies shots or just one of them? Then I would bring my mind back to the present, albeit gently, like letting a summer evening at the beach linger, even as the sun set and a baby's bedtime loomed. I recognized that I might not become a paragon of meditation and motherhood, but that 50 wholelifetimesmagazine.com the practice felt worth doing. I'd succeeded in carving out precious slivers of time when I could sit quietly and be more and less than a new mother who worried her every sippy cup purchase was a highly consequential parenting choice. After a period of real dedication, classes and almost daily sessions of concentrated breath, I did not feel connected to some sacred thread I imagined spooling freely among the minds of the enlightened. Letting go of various worries and unnecessary tasks was becoming easier, though, and I was able to understand how genuinely happy I was each day sitting on a blanket with my daughter and a few of her toys, just being with her. Just being with her might be the real trick of good parenting, I thought, as long as I could hold out against the laundry and the emails for another moment, and then another. My practice helped me remember that there would be time later for those things, that now it was good to look up at the sky and leave the dishes, lean down to kiss my girl's cheek and breathe in fully that achingly sweet breath I know will one day disappear. My great intentions as a meditator and a mother haven't always come to pass. I'm still cranky in traffic and my daughter has witnessed me losing my patience and fretting unreasonably about her kale intake and the havoc the plastics in our shower curtain are wreaking. But what I've found along the way are what I remember the poet William Wordsworth calling spots of time: minutes, sometimes only seconds that I have been able to inhabit fully with my child, with the present, and with myself, alone on the fading cushions. These are the moments that rejuvenate me, bind me to her, to time and memory, and the knowledge that searching for more than that would be worse than sitting, doing nothing.

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