My family and I have begun our first day of vacation. I have always found maintaining my meditation practice on vacation with kids to be particularly challenging. This vacation I have vowed to meditate every morning. Well, if you saw me this morning, you would have seen someone quietly sitting on the hotel couch with eyes closed and back upright and relaxed. How peaceful she looks, you might say, just like an Instagram photo. If only you could have seen and heard what was going on in my body and mind. The kids were wrestling and screeching, the television was on with Sunday news shows and my husband was in the shower. Previous to sitting, I tried to get my kids to pack up their belongings and get dressed to no avail. My grip on controlling my environment and those in it’s vicinity was tight. Irritation was moving through my body at lightening speed. The previous day was a long travel day and we still had a few hours to go until our final destination. I was tired and fell into my habitual response of “I want things stable, on time, and my way.” Who am I kidding? It never works out that way. Nonetheless, I felt this desire flowing through my body and the tone of my words were not reflective of my intention to be kind, flexible and understanding. I knew meditation was necessary to help me relate to all that is happening with this intention.
So there I sat for 20 minutes in silence, almost. Housekeeping knocked on the door and my son wanted to share something about a video game he was playing. How is one to meditate in these circumstances? My kids are not babies, so I can say, “Give me this time, I’m meditating,” and they usually leave me be. As I sat, I focused on my body sitting, my in and out breath, and noting every noise that took away my attention. About half way through I started to feel more relaxed and the phrase “release your grip” arose in my mind. It’s a phrase I’ll repeat when I notice that I’m in inflexible control mode. Prior to all this practice, I would have lost my sh**.
As we individuals grow in resilience–as we become better at staying conscious and not losing heart–we will be able to remain strong in challenging conditions for the long haul.Pema Chodron, Welcoming the Unwelcome
Now, I won’t claim that the next hour or so after meditating was peaceful and chill. Perhaps if I were alone it would have been, but I was in close proximity with two kids and a spouse. However, meditating did give me time to tune in and consider how I was responding, how I wanted to show up for my family, and just enough time to sit without needing to do anything (even if only for 15 minutes since the first 5 were interrupted). This reprieve supported the integration of my intention to be kind, flexible and understanding with my family and myself. It helped to shift my relationship to my emotions so that I would be more likely to show up for the day in the way I intended.
It is not always easy to find time to meditate with our busy schedules and the demands of our family, but the effort is worth it. Even if you have to meditate in the bathroom so no one bothers you – your body, mind, heart and family will reap the benefits of kind awareness and compassionate response.
Mindfulness, as described by Frank Ostaseki in his book The Five Invitations, “illuminates how our relationship to our experience can either cause suffering or cultivate wisdom. This enables us to nurture a different, more helpful response the next time we encounter a challenging situation, person or thought. It helps us to remain calm and grounded when in the midst of an argument with a child, neighbor, boss, or partner, when we confront illness; when we face loss. We can draw on our cultivated tranquility and access a wiser inner guidance.” I needed to access that wise inner guidance and will continue to throughout this vacation.
May you find the time, as brief as it may be, to cultivate mindfulness so that you can be present for and respond to your experience with kindness and compassion.