Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mindful

In Zen, a popular saying goes something like, "Before enlightenment, wash dishes. After enlightenment, wash dishes." The difference between the two is not in the act but in the approach. Before enlightenment, you practice washing dishes mindfully. With focus, with presence, with joy and with wonder at the small miracles of warm water, soap suds, clean dish surfaces. After enlightenment, it is said the art of mindfully washing dishes is no longer a practice, it's just the way. As for me,  I like practicing. For the first time, I am enjoying practicing something I may never master. 


I may never bake the perfect loaf of sourdough bread, but I have been practicing! It took almost a week to let the starter ferment. Each day I fed it and stirred it, taking note of the nice, sour odour that gives the bread its name. I mindfully kneaded the dough, once it was ready, shaped the baguettes and let them rise in their own time. It was pretty delicious, and I was really pleased to return to a habit I once kept in my time up North.


Mindfulness is supposed to mean being aware of reactions, of sensations and conditions in the present. Often life at home with toddlers means I am more or less coasting on survival mode than I am taking it all in. Thankfully, there is the magic of photography, and the time I am granted during quiet nap times to sit and study pictures. I notice Robin's posing ham face, showing off the ponytails she has been asking me to do in her hair every morning for the last few weeks. Her hair so thin and blond, baby-like in its wispy quality. Her face that looks so much like her twin sister, but with subtleties I can detect in a moment's glance.


Abby and I worked at a craft that require patience and mindfulness, a winter sun catcher. It called for three freezing stages, securing a middle layer of natural winter treasures. (Pinecones, evergreen clippings, winter berries, a twig with tiny hardened buds that Abby had found and a sliced lemon.) When it was ready and the sun was high, we went out in the cold (it's been -25 lately) to hang our sun catcher from a branch on our evergreen in the front yard. As long as the weather is cold, our art will remain intact. 

I've been reading a lot about mindfulness, and finding little nuggets that really resonate with me at this stage of my life, at home with young children. I realize, more and more, that my efforts are producing fruits. My smiles feel genuine and happen with more frequency. My girls see me slow down when I am frustrated, and in turn, they practice doing the same. Maybe not with the same control and frequency I try to, but I can cut them some slack. They've only been alive a few years.  I catch myself feeling gratitude and wonder at the tiny little miracles happening around me.


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