The Path to Mindfulness

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I started a meditation practice today.

I love starting new things on the first of the month. It’s like 12 chances at New Year’s Resolutions. And, ok, often they go about as well. But I still try.

I find making myself follow a rule helps. I suppose if your nature is to rebel against rules, this might not work, but for me, rules give me an extra boost of discipline, even if I’m the one creating the rule.

My new rule: I have to get up at 5am. Every day. No exceptions. Doesn’t matter if I go to bed late, if a small person crawls into my bed in the middle of the night, if it’s cold. My alarm goes off and I get up within five minutes, with the intention of being sitting by 5:15. Today it was 5:17, not bad. Then I meditate for 15 minutes, at minimum.

I do have an “out,” however. While the goal, of course, is to stay up and get other things done, if I still want to go back to bed after I meditate, I can. I just need to keep my meditation “appointment” first.

This morning, settling in was tough. I have a hard time keeping my mind centered. I started by quietly speaking a word as I breathe in and out, but I have the unfortunate ability of being able to speak one thing and think another (same happens with reading, even out loud, which is why although I have always been a strong reader, my reading comprehension is terrible). I tried imagining a candle and focusing on it, but that didn’t really work either.

However, I recognize that this is part of the process of practicing meditation. Part of the point is the continual returning of the mind to the center. Knowing this didn’t fully stop me from getting a bit antsy and frustrated, but it did keep me going. When I finally landed on something that worked to keep my attention, I was surprised when my timer went off; the time had actually seemed to pass more quickly than I expected!

Here’s what worked: I started at my toes and moved bit by bit up my body, filling myself with joy. I don’t exactly recall whether I was noting that I observed joy or experienced it, or the precise words, but the gist was “There is joy in my toes. There is joy in my feet. There is joy in my ankles. There is joy in my shin. There is joy in my calf.” And so on.

Honestly, I actually felt a physical sensation in each body part as I named it, and it left me feeling quite peaceful and optimistic about my day.

That lasted about two hours. There was yelling and crying and foot stomping. My three year old was grumpy, too.

Apparently, when I get up at 5am, I need to eat before 8. Hanger is real, and it’s not pretty. I guess I need to be mindful of my physical needs as well, and fill my stomach with more than just joy. Sigh.

Prayer of a PK*

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*PK is the nickname for children of clergy…pastor’s kid, or preacher’s kid, depending on the tradition.

I don’t pray with my kids. Weird, I guess, for a mom who prays professionally, but we didn’t pray together as a family in my home growing up, so it’s just not an embedded practice for me. Heck, I have enough time creating a habit of praying by myself, nevermind involving my children.

Also, my offspring do not currently attend church. The teens have been mainly raised in a secular home, and though they’ve visited a past congregation with me a few times, it’s just not their thing. Plus, Sundays they go with their mom. The littles started out strong. I wore both of them while I preached for their first six months. They came with me to meetings and napped on pews. I started at my current congregation about 15 months ago, and the boys tagged along with me most Sunday mornings, hanging out with a couple teenagers and acting as tiny acolytes. Rowan, who is currently five, even joined the choir to sing sometimes and loved chatting with his “buddies,” a group of older gentlemen. Robbie, now three, often toddled his way up to the chancel to hang out while I led worship. The adults just adored them, and truly welcomed us.

Then the pandemic hit.

It doesn’t really work for the boys to attend church with me online. We tried, in the beginning, but they loved seeing themselves on the computer screen a bit too much for me to be able to concentrate on leading worship, so they haven’t been to worship in almost a year. They miss it; they’ve told me. Yet with everything else going on, I just haven’t had the bandwidth to create any kind of spiritual practice or religious education for them as a replacement. Pastor mama fail.

And yet.

Tonight at dinner, somehow the topic of a couple recently-deceased chickens came up. We talked a bit about them, what they were like, what happened to them (fox), how they felt. Rowan looked at me and said, “I’d like to say a little prayer for Poe and Hei-Hei.” I looked at him, honestly a little taken aback, and told him that of course he could. I told him he could always talk to God about anything. It felt a little weird, actually, to say it like that, with my husband right there.

Oh, did I mention that I married an atheist?

Anyway, conversation continued, seconds of food were requested and procured, and then suddenly I looked over and Rowan had his eyes closed, his head bowed, and his hands pressed together. “Dear God, I wish Poe and Hei-Hei hadn’t been killed by the fox. Amen.”

He looked over to me. I affirmed that it was a fine prayer, and we moved right along to cleaning up dishes and getting ready for bed. Potty, teeth, jammies, a couple stories, hugs and kisses, music on, and lights out.

No prayers. Maybe tomorrow night.