It must be about 15 years ago now that I went to my first yoga class. I had finished law school and landed a job at the University of Toronto, where I would stay for awhile before becoming a litigator. The Associate Dean of the law school was my supervisor, a bright light at the school whose work ethic and good judgment was jettisoning her career at rapid speed. This type of life is predictably stressful, and it was she who recommended that I try yoga, because it had done wonders for her: “It sounds cliche, but it’s transformative,” she said.
This wasn’t an endorsement that I could ignore so I went. And shoot, it wasn’t transformative. I just felt twisty and disconnected and wondered what the deep rumbly noises all around me were (ujjayi breathing). In other words, I had no idea what I was doing or why, which kind of means that I really wasn’t there.
Gratefully I tried again, with a very good friend who introduced me to an Indian teacher from whom she first learned in India, and who she continued to follow when he moved to Canada. And the classes were, well, transformative. It was my first real foray into meditation, or less loftily, simple calming the mind (I’m pretty sure he would not call those classes meditation by a long shot, but it’s me writing the post). My body was doing all kinds of interesting things, but focusing on one’s breathing for an hour and a half (even when it’s raggedy and you should cool it a bit with the pose), is profoundly restful for the mind.
Mindfulness is a pretty catchy term, which is always a signal that one should explain what one’s definition of it is. For me, it means being more awake to my surroundings and my choices, to live more intentionally. I have been doing this for quite a few years now, sometimes with great success, and sometimes not. At the moment, I am operating in a less successful window. I could cite some reasons, but why bother – I’m just (over-)busy, much like you.
But if my hold on being mindful were stronger, I would know that it is precisely during such times when meditation and a calm mind is most needed and most helpful. I woke up yesterday really feeling like a shift was due, and set my sights on a 30 minute window for a mindful meditation. An unexpected turn in my husband’s schedule eliminated this possibility; I was with my 3 year old until the end of the school day, when I’d have my boys on my own until bedtime.
I’m vulnerable to being plowed under when best laid plans like these don’t materialize, but in one of my better moves, I noticed that the weather was clear and warm-for-fall, and my boy and I went outside. I finally set up the cages for my mushroom logs (best-tasting mushrooms ever, by the way) to keep the darn raccoons away, and the neglected garden got some attention, with some of it put to bed (not the kale though, it’s still going strong). We were outside for a long time, my little guy sometimes helping me, sometimes doing his own thing, almost always talking to me. We worked. I worked, but I stopped often to see his centipede, or to find the wet hat lost in the summer, or to pick chamomile. We came into the house hungry and happy and settled.
It was not a meditation, but it was mindful, and it felt like a breather for an over-active mind. I was active and productive at home, and yet the world slowed down for me, and the conscious choosing of my time felt grounded and right. The benefits felt similar to those from meditation, and I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on mindfulness when my allocated 30 minutes of meditation slipped away, because there was still a whole day remaining.
It won’t do for the purists I know, but maybe meditation or at least its benefits can come in different forms, and maybe it’s not quite elusive this way. A walking meditation maybe, a listening meditation, a gardening meditation, a playing meditation. Just actually noticing where you are and making the most of it meditation.
Yesterday this happened. Today is a new day. I’m going to try.