Right now, my younger children are playing nicely-together!-in the other room. My oldest is quietly reading a book. Right now, I’m unloading the dishwasher. And I’m trying really hard not to rush-even though I’m worried that the twins will start fighting, someone to be hungry, and someone to finish their book before I finish. I’m trying not to drop anything because I’m thinking about something I said yesterday or what errands I have to run tomorrow.
So right now, I’m just unloading the dishwasher. One spoon at a time.
When Jackson was about a year old I had the amazing opportunity to take a meditation course in Mindfulness based stress reduction. I’m not even going to try to explain mindfulness based stress management/meditation in depth. I took a semester long course on the topic, have been striving for a sitting meditation practice 4-5 times a week for five years, and am still figuring it out. I’ll suggest the book Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn as a good starting place. And breathing. Start with breathing.
So, the spoons. When first leaned how to meditate, I was struggling. I was going through a lot of spasticity related pain from my MS and I was exhausted and anxious from mothering a baby with health issues. I e-mailed my meditation teacher (from the airport, on the way to an academic conference) and explained my issues. I told him that I didn’t understand how to connect my actual sitting meditation practice to my everyday life. My teacher was an MD who specialized in mindfulness for cancer patients and their caregivers, so he had a lot of ideas. The one that stuck with me was, “Think about mindfulness based meditation like unloading the dishwasher. When you unload the dishwasher, just unload the dishwasher. Focus on the weight of the dishes, and the feeling of putting the spoons in the drawer one by one. Acknowledge any pain or thoughts that might come into your head, let them float away, and go back to unloading the dishwasher.”
I learned to unload the dishwasher one spoon at a time as part of my mindfulness practice. It might sound silly, but I used to rush through the dishes as I was worrying about bedtime routines or tomorrows chores. I’d rush through life because I would panic when I focused on my pain-both mental and physical. Now
when I unload the dishwasher I’m focusing on the weight of the plate. The placement of the spoon in the silverware drawer. I focus on my breath through this process, and somehow when I place that last glass in the cabinet I’m calmer. I’m less resentful. I’m a little more rested. A little more ready to deal.
It takes me a very long time to unload to dishwasher, but I don’t mind. It also has the benefit that I, a self-proclaimed klutz-have dropped fewer dishes.
I still work every day to focus on the Right Now.
I focus too much on the future. How will I ever get this done? Tomorrow is going to be a rough day. I just know my husband has that late meeting so he will miss bedtime. What will I do when the twins go to kindergarten? (they are currently 3 1/2). My leg hurts-what if I can’t drive to swimming lessons later?
And I focus on the past. Why did I write that post last week? I can’t believe I said that thing yesterday. I felt so lousy the other day. Remember that time when my husband got home late and I missed that meeting? The last time I did this my youngest lost his sh%t.
I feel like I’m always saying to my children, “just give me a second.” To which they reply “one” (as in 1 second. Such literal darlings.) But I don’t mean a second. I mean a moment. I need the opportunity to catch my breath (I’m the one being literal here), and choose mindfulness.
Sometimes it feels like taking it day by day is too much. Even taking it minute by minute can be a struggle. So I’m taking it moment by moment. Breathing in and out, and realizing that right now, I’m just unloading the dishwasher. One spoon at a time.