My wife and I are new parents. Our daughter arrived in April with dark glimmering eyes, a head full of brown hair, and a swarming host of needs that instantly toppled my well-fortified routines.
After 42 years on this bright blue spinning orb, we joined in that great human tradition of passing on the gift of Life to another.
Life On Planet Parent
Needless to say we are enchanted, overwhelmed, grateful, awash in the bliss-inducing love potion called oxytocin, and at the same time sagging and flagging under the weight of sustained sleep deprivation (FYI it’s perfectly clear to me now why the CIA uses this to break people under interrogation).
For the post-modern parent, especially a newbie like me, it appears that welcoming a newborn into the family can also mean (at least temporarily) bidding farewell to one’s cherished mental and physical health habits and routines.
I’ve managed to keep my exercise practice on life support in the wee hours, and that’s helped a lot. But meditation practice? Forget it. Gone. Kaputzky.
The Benefits of Meditation
I’ve been meditating consistently for over 20 years. I spent 14 of those years living and training in a yoga and meditation ashram. Meditation is one of my deepest habits.
For me, meditation is the battery that charges my mindful advance through the world. It helps me to peer through the dross that inevitably gathers like plaque on my perspective.
Meditation reminds me that life is always infinitely more than I can see and feel. And at times, it plunges me into the quiet and revitalizing essence of things where I can sit still and silent and dissolve into the utterly magical flow of existence.
And I guess it’s also true that meditation, at times, gives me a reference point outside myself. I think this quote sums up the importance of that kind of reference point pretty well.
“The human mind is like a ship at sea that is unable to correct its direction without a compass or an external source of reference, such as the stars. It is important to realize that a system is only correctible when it has access to an external point of reference (like a global positioning system) that serves as the Absolute by which all other data are compared.“— David R. Hawkins, Dissolving the Ego, Realizing the Self
These days, I have to settle for small surges of silence and stillness. My meditation GPS is not hooked up at the moment, so I have to make do.
I work from home and every spare moment not spent on client work is devoted to cooking, tidying, nurturing, playing, and processing with my partner this post-sleep life of poop, pumping, spit-up, and pervasive clutter.
How to Maintain Your Meditation Practice
How do I maintain my meditation practice after the arrival of my child five months ago? So far, I don’t. But this is what I do instead.
When my wife and I retreat from our urban apartment into the local wilderness, we stop during our hikes and stand very still in the silence. We listen carefully for that sound beneath all the other sounds, knowing that it will penetrate us and leave us with slow-blooming gifts if we attend to it.
When I sit in the doctor’s office waiting, I close my eyes and pay attention to the sounds and silently chant a mantra to myself. On the weekend, we play a soundtrack of sacred music to help diffuse the tension from the week because music, like meditation, can cut through the manic machinations of the mind and dance in our depths.
And sometimes I think about my fondest memories of meditation. Moments when I let everything go and abandon myself to the current of Life. Occasionally, that’s enough to carry me there again…into that space of ease and letting everything be as it is.
For me, having a child has meant—for the moment—letting go of my meditation practice too. And you know what? Maybe this is exactly what all that training was preparing me for anyways.