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3.12.2018

Learning Mindfulness from my Toddlar

When my toddler, my 2 1/2 year old, and I spend time together, he requires 100% of me to be present. He pulls me into the moment and is easily aware when I start to drift or multitask. Sometimes I think I can multitask but every time  I start to disappear into myself, he yanks me out and expects me to be there in the moment with him.

Today, I realized that when I play with my son, I surrender myself completely to him. When I allow myself to be in the moment I find true joy without having to look for it. Recently, when spending time with him, I have found that I want to multi task; be on my phone, do laundry, think about work. But then I'm not 100% there with him enjoying our time together. Now that I have become aware of my doing this, I've also come to observe others who do it, and I realize,  I despise it. It's not that I want someone else's time all of the time, it's just that when we are sharing a moment, we both need to be present in order to truly benefit from it. If not, we are just constantly scattered and never really feel satisfied from our time spent together.

When our playtime began, I so badly wanted to get on my phone and check email, text someone, go on social media. These were things that could easily be done at another time. There was no urgency. I could allow myself to enter the world of my toddler.

No distractions, no mind wandering, or list making, laundry will have to wait, just pure enjoyment of spending this time with my son and exploring where his mind takes us. As I watched him set up our pretend cars, I realized, I didn't want to rush through this moment. I wanted to enjoy it with him. I began to think about mindfulness and  how this very situation was an example of how I could learn to practice it more often in other areas of my life. Honestly, when your doctor starts prescribing mindfulness, perhaps it's time to make some changes.

Does anyone ever truly surrender themselves to a person or a situation? Don't we all allow the many things in our lives to enter our mind as they choose. Considering this all happens in the privacy of our mind, we tend to think we have some sort of control over these thoughts coming and going as they please, but we really don't. The way I see meditation, is similar to this situation with my son. In order to benefit from it, I need to deliver myself completely and an hour of uninterrupted playtime is exactly what the doctor ordered.

My son told me to get into my car,  a red rectangular container, which  I could not fit into of course but that's the point of using your imagination, and then handed me a green cone and said that was my steering wheel.
He got into his red car, the same rectangle container, and said "OK! Let's go!"
"Where are we going?" I asked, while examining my green cone and learning to accept this was my new steering wheel.
"To Nana's!" He shouted with excitement.
"To Nana's!" I shouted back, "You lead us there."
"OK!" He and I both began to make race car sounds. All the thoughts and distractions that made me who I thought I was, was beginning to drown out to the sound of our engines. My phone, which sat on the end of his mattress was appearing smaller and smaller and disappearing in the horizon as we began our journey to Nana's. It was perfect.

Meditation is supposed to help with mindfulness. I've been struggling with the concept of surrendering myself while meditating. Taking a moment to just be and allow everything else to not exist. This 20 minutes..., 15 minutes..., 5 minutes... of not doing, anything, is hard. There's so much that has to get done, who has time to just do nothing? I struggle with this also because letting go means letting go of any control I think I may have.

After a few minutes of driving in our pretend cars, we made our first stop. We needed to eat. Playtime with pretend food is my favorite activity. He made us burgers with cheese and a sauce he made up, not too spicy. We had drinks and shared strawberry and chocolate cookies. We got back in our cars after our satisfying break. I was full from our pretend meal and delighted with how my guide provided for us.

Sometimes it's hard to allow ourselves to just be. If we are not our clothes, our jobs, our finances, our homes, our cars, our stuff, our thoughts, then, who are we? Being in the moment isn't always about whats on the outside.  Sometimes just being is falling into the deep dark silence within and releasing your physical world.

We were back on the road, driving at high speeds. My little guide, being the thoughtful tot he is, realized we should stop and pick up some food to go in case we get hungry on the road again. At this pit stop, we came across a puppy friend who was also hungry and in need of a ride. We ordered our food to go and got back in our cars, this time with a passenger. He drove with our food while I drove with puppy.  Caleb thought I would be best to drive his loving puppy because he had already had to flat tires. We were back on the road and Nana's was finally coming into sight.

My concern is that if I meditate, what if I don't come back. What if I float away? Not literally, more similar to this moment with Caleb. What if the laundry doesn't get done? What if I don't make that super important list of things to do, I may forget something. I may forget an idea. All of these thoughts and concerns have made me realize I am just an anxious mess and maybe, the bigger picture is, I do need to get lost in doing nothing. I do need to take that mental break because in the end, I'll realize a greater benefit.

We finally reached our destination. I sat in my car watching my guide take the food out of his car and begin to set up a picnic at Nana's. He came over to me and said, "OK, we're here. Come on. Come to Nana's." He grabbed puppy and set him up with his meal. He sat down and asked that I sit across from him. We ate our meal and afterwards had a dessert of cookies that looked like lettuce. He remembered that he brought toy cars for us to play with while we ate. As I played with the car he gave me, I pointed out some interesting characteristics about the car. He was so happy to see my interest in something he adored. He then turned to me and put his hand on mine and said, "Mommy, I love playing with you."

I delivered myself as a whole to him. In return, we made a connection that is now hard wired in his brain. This moment, will last forever, even if he doesn't remember the specifics, it will remain in his heart. We've made this connection many times. At such a young age, it amazes me how he is able to to teach me so many lessons.

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