"Nobody else can really begin to sort out for you what to accept and what to reject in terms of what wakes you up and what makes you fall asleep. No one else can really sort out for you what to accept - what opens up your world - and what to reject - what seems to keep you going round and round in some kind of repetitive misery." - Pema Chodron
We got our computer room painted. Or I should say, the back bedroom where our computer resides had paint dropping off the ceiling, so after many entreaties, our landlord finally came in one cold Saturday and painted it an institutional green color, then closed the windows tight and left. So we have been airing out the room for the past week, exhausting out the chemical gasses with fans and open windows in chilly fall temperatures. Which means that I have been unable to blog and unable to go online at all, which, in a way, has been great.
While blogging is something that I would like to cultivate as it helps keep me on the path of mindfulness and compassion, being online in general is something I really really need to cut down on, or reject, to use dharma terms. We don't have a television, so I use the computer as my source of mindless (as in makes me lose all mindfulness/awareness) entertainment. This kind of indulgence or cultivation of mindlessness in turn makes me feel sluggish, resentful, unmotivated and just squashes my lungta, or chi. Even worse, when I am online, my children want to go online also. My infant wants to know what is magnetizing me in the middle of a playtime and my toddler really wants to watch a Thomas the Train video on the web. And how can I say no to them when I am there, glued to the screen, scrolling through my email? I may only spend five minutes doing that, but that is enough for my children to become distracted. So the mindlessness spreads, as do its attendant symptoms.
As a practitioner of mindfulness, I have often been admonished by my teachers to be aware of what I am cultivating in my heartmind. Am I watering the seeds of compassion and wisdom or am I watering those of ignorance and aggression? This awareness of what we are cultivating internally can extend out into our external lives as well. What are we putting our attention on, what are choosing to bring into our day to day lives with our children? Is what we are bringing in encouraging sanity, clarity, compassion, and joy in their lives? Or is it watering the seeds of distraction, dissatisfaction, anxiety? Are we encouraging their nourishment or their ill health? What I have found is that if something in our daily lives is nourishing us, it gives us energy, connection and contentment. And if it is not nourishing us, it leaves us cranky, drained and checked out.
When I was pregnant with my children I was very conscious of what I was eating, as whatever I ingested would enter into their growing brains and bodies as they waited within me, readying for their births. Now that they are in this realm, I sometimes am not so conscious of what I am feeding them in terms of daily nurturing. With small children, a habit can be acquired extremely quickly, as they cling to routine and sameness. Hence, my toddler now expects a cookie from the corner Italian deli every Tuesday after library storytime- all due to the fact I had to buy lunch there two weeks in a row and the deli man kindly offered him a cookie when he saw my son was impatient. And if he sees me on the computer, he expects to be able to watch a video.
These aren't big, terrible habits. But within them I see the seeds of habitual tendencies that can lead to closing up rather than opening. And I see as one of my main jobs as a mama to be the tender encouragement of opening to the world and other beings. So this week I am beginning to focus on what I can accept into our world that will assist us in this opening, and what I need to reject. What leaves us energized and what leaves us checked out? I made this list of things to accept and cultivate. I think it really helps to look at these kinds of lists as things that nourish us and help us in our sanity, rather than things we should be doing:
1) daily meditation and contemplation: for me with two under 2, this means having my toddler ring my meditation gong in the morning, doing a short morning chant and letting him and my infant play in my lap while I sit quietly for a few minutes. If they are not having it, then just the gong and the chant is enough.
2) keeping the radio, music and videos off until after naps in the afternoon, when we can use them for a transition time of about 30 minutes. This is a hard one for us, as my toddler is really habituated now to waking up and watching a video as I check my email. This means mama is no longer online until the children are asleep at night.
3) saving treats like cookies, cake etc. for special occasions or at the most once per week. This is also hard as I am a former professional baker and chocolatier. Which means I still bake, a lot. Ahem.
4) continuing to cultivate mindful speech around my children and with others. This also means speaking with gentleness. This too has been hard lately, as my toddler has been entering the defiant stage known as the terrible twos.
5) going to bed at a decent hour. This means mama as well. Being offline this week really helped me with that as my old tendency was to stay up to all hours surfing the net while my children dozed.
It is interesting to note the pull towards those habits which do not nourish, but keep us distracted and closed down. I have noticed it all week - the pull to the computer in the poisoned paint room! Look at what it took to keep me out - noxious fumes! What are your lists? What do you want to cultivate in your daily life with your children, and what to you want to reject? As with all things on the path, just remember to relax with it all, to be gentle with yourselves, and keep walking along.