“Earth’s crammed with heaven…
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.”
–Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Rushing seems to be a way of life. No matter how well I try to plan, I seem to be running late or running out or trying to run away. But my Little Wonder has a way of keeping me grounded. And listening to life.
One night last week I asked Ev to go ask his sister what kind of pasta she wanted with dinner. He trounces back down the stairs and announces:
“Lizi says I should pick the kind of gluten free pasta for dinner tonight,” he looks carefully at his choices, “Hmmm…I pick the penne pasta.”
Picking up the package and examining it he exclaims, “Yes, this is the one.”
A big, cheesy grin spreads over his face and I can see he is totally lost in the moment of penne pasta.
“This pasta is stellar! Just stellar!”
Ev’s ability to tune out everything else but the moment at hand is remarkable to me, a person whose brain usually is running eight tracks all at the same time. My mind has a constant hum; it is never ever silent. Like the energizer bunny, my brain keeps going even when my body stops.
But running without ever stopping is not a healthy way to live. Chaos on the inside does not help me deal with chaos on the outside, and this week I seem to have had more than my fair share of reminders to be still and mindful of the “now.”
The first reminder was from Netflix.
I watched an incredible and inspiring film called, “Freedom Writers”. The movie reminded me again why prejudice is insidious, how buying into labels damages everyone, and why the way things appear on the outside are not always reflective of the inside truth. Ms. Gruwell, a young teacher, did not accept the public opinion that due to outward appearances and circumstances, her students were unteachable and incapable of learning. Instead she taught them how to look deep within themselves and pay attention—pay attention to the now and choose wisely in the present in order to ensure a better future for themselves.
Her students not only graduated high school, over half went on to study at the university level. Ms. Gruwell helped her students learn to create inner calm in the midst of a completely chaotic society (L.A. In the nineties).
Hmmm….inner calm during times of outward chaos…maybe Ms. Gruwell was on to something.
A few days later, I had a second reminder when a friend posted an article/video from NPR of how low-income schools are seeing big benefits from teaching mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability “to have stillness, pay attention, stay on task, regulate and make good choices,” according to teacher Jean-Gabrielle Larochette. The article stated that practicing mindfulness—even just a few minutes every day—was shown to improve student self-control, respect for others and even self-acceptance.
“The other thing we know mindfulness does with the brain is it increases the activity in the prefrontal cortex,” said Vicki Zakrzewski, education director at the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, which studies the science behind mindfulness. “This is where we make our decisions, how we plan, our abstract thinking,” she said. Thus the reason for a decrease in absenteeism and even suspensions in schools where mindfulness is taught and practiced.
Hmmm…perhaps I’d be less likely to wish I could run away if I practiced some mindfulness myself…
I wondered what mindfulness might look like in my life as a mom and how it might change the way I parent. As I reflected, my thoughts went to Jesus. Jesus never bought into the labels or even outward appearances. His focus was always on the inner person. I thought about all those who reached out to Jesus in the now, those who chose to be present with him regardless of their circumstances—the woman at the well, the woman who washed his feet with her tears, Mary; for all of them, in the spaces where they were mindful, transformation happened.
Hmmm…reaching out to Jesus in the present leads me to His transformative Presence…
Ev has taught me the importance of mindfulness perhaps more than my other children. He brings me to a quiet and restful place of now when he leans in just to tell me he loves me or when he smiles his infectious smile and says, “Mom you look beautiful” or when he invites me to “hang out” with him in his room (one of my personal favorite nows).
When I choose to embrace the beauty of those moments, all of my worries slide away and my cares disappear; I am taken back to when Ev was an infant. In the still of the night, I would listen to his rhythmic breathing as he ate and watch his little fingers clutch the ribbon on my blue nightgown–I would be mindful of how he smelled and the sound of his sucking and the feel of his fingers on my skin. No matter what external chaos was happening in my life, in those moments I only knew peace.
Hmm…letting go of the busyness and focusing on the now…brings me to peace.
Lisa, a photographer friend of mine and mother of a two year old, gave me my third reminder this week. She is doing a photography journal for 2014—one photo each day for the whole year. As I follow her photo journal, I have come to appreciate how she captures in word and picture the very essence of mindfulness. Here is her photo and post for Day 24:
“Project 365: Day 24. When this picture was taken, I was running around with a laundry basket collecting clothes that were strewn about the house. I am pretty sure I was grumbling as well. And then, while trying to cram my massive clothes pile into the too-small washing machine, I realized that I hadn’t heard Ella make a peep in at least 10 minutes. That certainly could not be a good sign. So I walked to her bedroom, and this is what I found. She had put “Oogie” on her toy chest so he could look at the snow blowing outside. Her favorite book, “Haunted House” was open on the floor, and her other toys were flung about in only the way a two year old can fling them. A few months ago, I probably would not have paid attention to the adorableness of this scene. I probably would have continued grumbling while rushing to pick everything up and put it in its place. But it’s funny how quickly things change. Today, I walked by her room and saw the beauty of ‘now’. One day, she won’t carry Oogie around anymore or want to read that spooky, silly pop-up book every chance she gets. But today, she did…and it made my heart happy.”
Hmmm….Being still is a learned ability.
It’s not only good for my mothering, it’s good for my spirit as well. I am transformed not in the roar or the hustle and bustle or the chaos. I am transformed in the quiet spaces of mindfulness and intention…
In the beauty of now.
Movie Cover for Freedom Writers – watch it on Netflix tonight!
Joseph John Kaniewski - grandson of my friend, Lois Groat (whose arms are also in the photo).
Lisa Mulder and her daughter Ella’s room.