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I am here in the Kindermusik studio, having arrived late for what I thought was an 11:30 class. But arriving at 11:35 for a class that actually started at 11 wasn’t my proudest parenting moment, as my daughter was very disappointed to spend all of 3 minutes with Ms. Carol. Fortunately, she actually belongs in the 12:30 class, so we in fact arrived early. A lot early. I guess this means I’ll have time to run up to the store and get toilet paper (because, though we might need other things in our house, our toilet paper supply has reached critical status).
This, on top of everything else I’m trying to get done. I found out yesterday that one of my cousins died, so I’m headed to San Francisco in 2 days. Which means that all that time that I was counting on to practice my guitar for our band’s gig next week, plus plan my son’s birthday party, has quickly vanished.
Meanwhile, someone keeps getting all the dishes in my house dirty (oh, right! That would be me and the kids!) and the laundry keeps piling up.
There is nothing like death, however, to help me think about life—I’d bet this is probably a universal reaction to such news. We contemplate how we spend our time, about how quickly it may be over. Or even about how, from one phone call to the next, our lives can change on a dime. And do I really want to spend the time that I have, stressed about laundry or getting to the right Kindermusik class for the first week of the new year? Maybe it’s OK that my daughter is wearing a nightgown today (her choice), because in the grand scheme of things it’s just not that important to worry about my preschooler’s clothes.
One of the most powerful tools I’ve learned to help me deal with stress is the art and practice of being mindful. I probably don’t sound very relaxed today, but if I had written this blog a year ago, you would have seen a difference.
I have learned that when I spend my time thinking about the past, in an obsessive sort of way, I waste away the only moment that I actually have (now). And I can spend my time in anxiety, worrying about what might happen in the future. But even that’s a pretty good waste of the immediate present, since thinking about what might happen means I will probably miss what’s actually happening right now.
Steering my thoughts towards things I can’t control will ensure that the moments that carry me through any tragedy will be wasted. The joy of looking at the sunflowers as my girl and I drive in the car to get here, or the time that I take from writing this post to read a few words to her (she now patiently awaits the 12:30 class) bring meaning to my life. Especially since my life is made up of moments, if I’m not aware of the soap on my hands as I wash dishes or the feel of the sheets on my skin as I lay down to bed (at least every once in awhile), I find myself unaware of much of my own life.
For me, one of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to spend some time in meditation thinking about my breathing. Jon Kabbat-Zinn teaches, “Breathing is central to every aspect of meditation training. It’s a wonderful place to focus in training the mind to be calm and concentrated.” Or, my favorite quote of his, “Remember as long as you are breathing there is more right with you than wrong with you,” though that seems sort of dark to include today.
Have you noticed, if you have an older child in Kindermusik, that we start doing some breathing arms? Ms. Carol always says, “OK, friends, let’s do some breathing arms. Breathing arms up. . . . breathing arms down.” I love that we can take this moment at the start of class to simply exist for a moment. It sets our children in the frame of mind to learn, to be present in class. Since one of my favorite reasons to come to Kindermusik is that it allows us to spend time just being with our kids (without worrying about the laundry), it seems appropriate that we start class this way.
Merely noticing our breathing slows it down and allows us to breathe more deeply. It reduces stress, and, especially when kids are super-upset, helps stabilize their emotions. There are so many benefits, you can check more out here.
May you enjoy the moments that present themselves today, and use one or two of them to give hugs to those you love.