‘The Buddha is crying in the next room.’ – Susan Stiffelman
There is a saying, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher appears.’
My 2-month old baby boy, is my greatest mindfulness teacher.
Even though I have had a mindfulness practice for years, the experience of being a new parent has taken the practice to a much a deeper level.
I am not only relearning old lessons anew, but I am learning these lessons in different and more subtle ways.
The lessons are the same but then there is a second, deeper lesson that emerges as well.
Has this happened to you? Often when we go through a major transition in life, we can relearn old lessons, in a deeper way.
Here are 4 mindfulness lessons I have (re)learned from my new baby, that can apply to any life transition:
1. Life is full of uncertainty (Relax the need to know).
‘The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.’- Seneca
When you have a new baby, there is so much uncertainty. We don’t all know how to be parents once our children are born, so we learn as we go.
Sometimes our babies cry, and we have no idea why, or what to do about it.
Even during my pregnancy, my baby was helping me experience this idea in a much deeper way. There are so many unknowns about pregnancy, and each trimester brings with it a new set of joys, fears, and physical changes.
I have learned that we don’t have to know what to do, right now. It’s okay, to not have the answer.
We can stop planning and preparing, and step into the unknown.
We can relax the need to know.
Relaxing into ambivalence, can bring us closer to the answer.
We can have acceptance of things just as they are. Right here. Right now. In this moment.
Acceptance is what enables us to enjoy our lives in the present without leaping to answer the question, “What next?” or “What do I do now?”
It is what enables us to “go with the flow” when circumstances change.
2. Change is the only constant in life (Learn to trust yourself).
‘Go after whatever it is that creates meaning in your life, and trust yourself to handle the stress that follows.’ – Kelly McGonigal
For a baby, dozens of emotions can cross their little face in an instant – sadness, fear, happiness, excitement, awe. Each moment brings something new.
During these early months of infancy, sleep is irregular and constantly changing. One night I will get a long stretch of sleep and feel amazing in the morning, the next night my baby will be up every few hours leaving me lethargic all day.
My new baby reminds me, again and again, that change is constant.
Understanding that change is the only thing that is constant in life, is a key aspect of mindful living. It is fine to make a plan, but be prepared for it to change.
To embrace change, we must learn to trust ourselves.
There is a space deep within each of us, that knows what to do. Our job is to listen. To not rush to find the answer. The quieter we become the more we will hear.
One day at a time. One moment at a time. One breath at a time.
3. We can experience both positive and negative emotions at the same time (Get curious).
‘All of our emotions are our babies. Treat them tenderly, care for them. Be with them. Understanding and compassion will ultimately transform them.’ – Thich Nhat Hanh.
From the very start of my pregnancy I experienced a range of both negative and positive emotions – both fear and joy would well up inside of me at the same time.
Now, being a new mom with a newborn – it is the same. I can feel annoyed and tired, but also joyful and content at the same time.
To embrace these emotions fully, I became curious about them.
Like a new baby exploring the world – we can start to learn about and understand our emotions more fully.
By being curious about our emotions, we can start to have compassion for ourselves.
Get curious. Welcome all of your emotions in.
4. Each time we notice our thoughts have drifted, is a moment of awareness (Keep practicing).
In her beautiful essay ‘Goodbye Dr. Spock’, Anna Quindlen reflects on mothering her three children and writes, ‘But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough…. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.’
When we are in a time of transition, we are always thinking about what is up next for us. Trying to be one step ahead.
During my pregnancy, and in the first few months of motherhood, living in the present moment has been extremely difficult.
I have found myself constantly having to pull myself back into the present moment, again and again. There is always something to plan for, something on the to-do list to figure out.
However, each time we catch ourselves slipping away from the present moment, is an opportunity to tune in, to become aware.
We can use each simple moment as an opportunity to practice being fully present.
Looking into your child’s eyes. Watching them sleep. Watching them wake up.
Each moment is a chance to deepen our practice.
Our lives are filled with simple moments. Use these moments to tune in.
Keep practicing. Again and again.
Life is our greatest teacher
Teachers come in all forms – our greatest teachers can be our mistakes and failures, our successes, our family members, our co-workers, even folks who rub us the wrong way.
Look around you. Embrace all of the teachers in your life.
What can we learn from our teachers today?
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