meditation

Silas happy with ballooon_5215 Photos courtesy of the Eleven O’Clock Dad

Answering to the name of “Goose,” the youngest member of our family frequently struggles with a problem common to many otherwise healthy eleven year olds. I call it the I Stink At Everything Syndrome, and it manifests thusly.

One. Said eleven year old scores two goals for his team during a soccer game, let’s say. During the second half of the game, when he is put in as goalie, the other team scores two goals. The only post-game thoughts of which this boy is now capable include self-torturing variations of “It’s like I didn’t even score in the first half!” or “Gah!!–how could I have let those balls get past me??” or “I stink as goalie . . . WHY did coach leave me in for so long??”

Silas starts kicking the balloon_5150

Two. Said eleven year old is required to write an essay for a testing exercise at school, let’s say, an endeavor that results in an outbreak of self-doubt and accompanying self-flagellation likely to mortify even the most pitiable Dan Brown character (i.e., Da Vinci Code’s crazy monk).

Three. Said eleven year old notices that a couple of neighborhood friends have congregated for some outdoor playtime–without him. Ipso facto, this means that he has permanently fallen out of favor, that our doorbell will never ring again, that some vague conspiracy has begun whose stated goal is “Leave Goose Out Of The Fun, Forever.”

I ask you: what is a mother to do?

Well, I’ve pondered that question long and hard, and I’ll tell you what doesn’t work–like suggesting that such patterns (failing to catch soccer balls arcing over your head, for instance) are merely temporary. Wow, big mistake. All this does is reinforce a child’s certainty that his mother doesn’t have a clue what it’s like to be the victim of an unhappy fate. Another thing that never works?–suggesting that there might be some valuable take-away or learning that could put everything into meaningful perspective (completing an essay on a topic you loathe, for example, which then serves as a lever for teaching you that you actually can do hard things, and do them well). The fact that a mother has logic and wisdom on her side doesn’t make a lick of difference to a kid who has convinced himself that his is the Worst Life Ever. And finally, one thing that really doesn’t work is suggesting that perhaps the neighborhood chums aren’t deliberately leaving anyone out; they’ve just gotten something going, and now it’s, well, going. It happens all the time, I pointed out one day not too long ago. Nobody’s fault, I added. Go join the game, I urged. (Note: advice like this is often met with The Stare, which communicates a child’s contempt for motherly wisdom as surely as if he’d said, “Could you BE any thicker?”)

Silas_5070

And then, recently–maybe a month ago–I took up a meditation practice. I’d gone in fits and starts over the years–flirted with it, in other words. But I’d never been consistent. So it was with the most profound sense of humility and delight that I realized: If a mother can a) quiet her mind long enough to connect with her bliss, and b) do it for upwards of thirty days, why couldn’t she teach her eleven year old to do it, too? Stranger things have been attempted, am I right??

Silas ambling with balloon_5210

And so, maybe a week ago, I began in earnest, my primary objective being to stage a moment of effective meditation with/for Mr. Goose. Starting out, I had three very simple goals. One, teach him how to breathe and how to attend to his breathing. Two, help him experience the bliss of escaping from thinking patterns that sabotage healthy self-esteem and well-being. Three, like it well enough to want to do it again.

The good news. He not only liked it, he LOVED it! The equally good news. His sudden fascination with the art of quieting the mind promises to keep my imagination busy and my skills sharp for many weeks to come.

Tomorrow: three crucial tips for a successful meditation session with your child.

Silas walking along with balloon_5207

Check out the post from which these photos were taken, featuring Goose with an abandoned, yellow balloon in the town of St. Remy, in Provence, France.

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IMG_1806

Inspired by one of my favorite features of the Oprah magazine, the very beautiful “Breathing Space” spread, I thought I’d give us all an image to meditate on today. My husband took this photo several months back, just outside Regensberg, Germany, on the Danube.

Looking at it, I feel, well, quiet. Which is unusual. My mind is seldom a quiet place.

Recently, I was reading an interview–Gwyneth Paltrow having a conversation with mindfulness guru-turned-author Andy Puddicombe–where a meaningful idea came together for me.  He points out that if we’ve always had a busy mind, we may wonder whether it could ever be any different.  He goes on to say that busy minds often dwell on the past or the future and as a result never access the freedom that comes from settling into the present moment.  I thought about that, about where my thoughts seem to go when they’re picking up speed.  And guess what?–guilty!  I’m habitually in the future, trying to goal-set, plan, project forward.  Not bad, except . . . what about the moment I’m IN?

May I jump to our children for a moment?  My happiest moments with my kids involve just sinking into joy, to borrow a phrase from the amazing Brene Brown.  Today, on my way to the library four blocks away, I had a daughter on either arm.  There we were, the three of us, walking together to the library, joined at the elbows.  For a moment, my thoughts leaped to the future, and I wondered, “Will we always be this way?  Just strolling, our arms linked, our strides matching?” and I felt anxious.  Then I smiled as a wise little voice inside me said something almost exactly like this:  “Think about the way this feels, these girls’ arms intertwined with yours.  Just be here, with them, on this street, on this bright fall day.”  And for a brief moment, I heeded that voice.

Back to rivers.  Happy, the Danube, no?  A good place to breathe deeply.

And happy us, when we’re able to knit ourselves into the present, a place where children often await.

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Zandvoort_8548

Sometimes you can’t see the beach for the shells, you know what I mean? This is a function of what I like to call RTS (Racing Thoughts Syndrome), where your mind races out of control, your thoughts jauntily boomerang-ing (I just made that word up!) at the speed of light while the rest of you moves in ultra-slow-mo, like you’re wading through wet sand.  (Picture me raising my hand to admit that yes, this describes me, perfectly.)

I most certainly have RTS.  In fact, I think that if folks could actually see the lightning storm of chaotic electrical activity going on inside my head, they’d politely say, “Um, I’ve got somewhere I’ve got to be right now,” then run away, as fast as their legs could carry them.  According to one group of researchers, we have around 70,000 thoughts a day!  Mindblowing, no?  I figure that, given how much time I spend thinking about my kids, roughtly 69,950 (give or take) of those thoughts have to do with how to mother them.  (I am rather manic, however, so a thought that gets stuck in my head and starts looping probably makes the rounds 30,000 or-so times before I manage to reset with a second one.)

Examples of thoughts that fall into the “30,000 plus” category.  How will Miss Z. move forward with her vocal music in Spain, without her teacher and without a piano??  (Multiply that single, potent thought by 30,000.  There–you get the idea.)  Or, How how how how how (times this by 6,000, since I already lined up five iterations of the thought at the beginning of the sentence) is Miss Lavender going to finish her online physics class given how passionately she hates the subject and how impossible it is to connect with the tutors back in the states?  Or HOW (times this one by 30,000, plus a migraine, indicated by all CAPS) am I going to send a proper Christmas package to our young Mr. Beethoven back in the states, without filling it with nonsense he won’t need and without spending  hundreds of dollars to get it there??

See what I mean?

If you, too, are a victim of racing, looping thoughts that seem to be a function, ironically, of your love for your children, I suggest a brief moment of meditation.  I’ve tried meditating before, by the way.  I am not good at it, for the aforementioned reasons.  BUT when I see a beautiful image, I can sometimes manage to lock on and go to that place, which frees me momentarily from the scary math going on inside my head.  Likewise, when I hear a cool piece of music, I can lock onto that, too.  I plan to step up my meditating in the weeks and months to come, eventually (and hopefully) segue-ing to the proper–i.e., more quiet–kind.  I know this will require significant discipline, especially because those darn times tables are constantly sabotaging my efforts to slow down and smooth out my thoughts.  (I also know this may require a full brain transplant, so I’ll keep you posted.)

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I invite you to let your thoughts return for a moment to a place you found restful. For me, that would be Zandvoort, on the Dutch Coast, where, back on July 3rd, three of the Eleven O’Clock kids looked as meditative as I’ve ever seen them.  Must be something in the air in the Netherlands.

I also invite you to check out some music that helps me chill.  What would I do without Yo-Yo Ma’s immortal Obrigado Brazil album?  (Not everyone’s thing, but the combination of classical and jazz totally works for me.)

Finally, I invite you to share your thoughts . . . about racing thoughts!  And about your meditative practices.  I’d love to know what you do to increase the productivity of your mothering efforts and to decrease the chances that such efforts will be undercut by old habits of thinking, let’s say, or just those rogue thoughts that run away with us!  And if you have ideas for music, by all means, share!

May your morning be peaceful.  May your thoughts be yours to direct, especially as you embrace another day of mothering!

 

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