Once upon a time I awoke each morning before my daughter, my husband, and the sun to meditate for thirty continuous, peaceful moments. Only on the rarest of occasions was this time interrupted by the outside world or my little slumbering family.
As is always the case with meditation, my mind drifted off countless times in those thirty minutes, but I could almost guarantee that no one in my home would voluntarily stir at such an ungodly hour. And so for that much-loved half of an hour it was just me, myself, my wandering thoughts, and I.
Then my son was born. Cue the ear-piercing sound of the old record player needle screeching across vinyl.
Goodbye meditation as I once knew it. Hello, new normal.
Take this morning, for example.
It is a bit after 5 a.m. and I am sitting in the hushed darkness of our living room, the crickets outside and the dog by my side my only companions. As I settle in to notice the steady inhale and exhale of my breath — in, out, in, out — I’m startled to hear a tiny, yet mighty voice yell from the upstairs bedroom, “Hello…?! Hello…?! I’m firsty… I’m firsty!” I sigh as I heave myself up off the floor and my meditation cushion.
My little guy would love to begin his day now, but it is entirely too early. In order to buy myself some time, I move swiftly up the stairs, sit down on his bed, place him tenderly on my lap, and pop the milk-filled sippy cup squarely in his mouth. He relaxes back against my chest, contentedly drinking away.
As a beginning meditator, this interruption would’ve caused me great frustration, as in, “he ruined my precious half-hour!” Likewise, it is common for beginners to think that there is some sought-after perfect meditation. Not so. Never the case. Each meditation is however it is that day — peaceful or anxiety-ridden or sleepy or restless or all of the above, in turn. Always perfect in its imperfection and never more so as when we add children to our lives.
It has taken some time, but I have learned to allow, and even relax into, these imperfect moments. I still prefer the uninterrupted time, but now, instead, this time with my boy becomes my practice.
Meditation is kindly training our minds to repeatedly come back to the present moment, accepting whatever arises. Our children can be our greatest teachers, if we allow it.
Snuggled on the bed with my boy, I gently pull myself out of my thoughts and notice what is (literally) right in front of me. I sense the weight of his muscular little body on my lap. I place my hand on his bird-like ribcage, feeling the strong beat of the heart that has stolen mine. I notice his warmth, the still baby-like softness of the skin as I caress his face. I hold that tiny hand in mine and am in awe of those small, lovely fingers. He gently grips my hand and my heart swells. I notice my breath — in, out, in, out.
I imagine the future when there will be no interruptions, bittersweet in its’ peacefulness. But for now, it is silent. I am here. After all, no meditation is perfect. Some are decidedly less so. And some, my friends, are downright heavenly.
So, whether it is meditation, eating healthier, or taking time for yourself, don’t wait for the perfect conditions to begin. Start small and start now. Let go of expectations and preconceived notions. Embrace the messiness of this life, in all its imperfection.Sometimes that is precisely where the biggest gifts reside.