My baby is a little Buddha. A tiny, super cute & portable meditation teacher.
In simple mindfulness meditation, we learn to bring our attention back to the breath, over and over again. “Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, start preparing dinner, do I have any onion in the house? Oh, I have to write that email, ah – breathe in, out, in, out, in, out – hey what’s that pain in my knee, oo my ear itches – wait – breathe in, breathe out.” And so on. Each time we remember what we’re meant to be doing, mindfulness comes back and we return to the meditation. The longer we’re able to keep our attention on the breath, the more subtleties of sensation reveal themselves to us, and the deeper our concentration and insight grows.
So too with caring for a baby – the more we keep our attention on what’s happening in the here and now, the quicker and more accurately we’re able to respond, and the deeper our connection grows. Even from the very first day, it’s so easy to lose sight of what’s actually happening – especially through the exhaustion, confusion and emotional roller-coaster that comes with a new baby. It’s natural for our minds to wander to all the things we want to get done once the baby finally goes to sleep, to get obsessed with schedules and milk quantities and not waking the neighbors.
But babies don’t care about this stuff, their minds aren’t running around like ours – I presume that doesn’t happen until the development of language. Instead, babies are right there in the moment, always. Just trying to get their needs met, and to work out what the hell is going on out in this strange, dry, new world. And so each and every peep they make, each groan, each cry can be a lesson in stopping the mind babble and coming back to the present moment to see what’s really happening. To investigate it with the patience and curiosity of the deepest, most silent meditation.
Here’s an example – not one I’m proud of, but a good one nonetheless: earlier today I spent almost an hour trying to help a crying Gadi relax and get to sleep. Definitely out of character for a daytime nap, but okay. I tried everything – from singing, patting, humming and “shh”-ing, leaving him for a couple of minutes to try work it out himself, even the dummy he’s never liked – everything. He was not hungry and definitely tired, but here’s the truth – I was starving. Somewhere between noticing that he was tired and putting him down in his bed, my mind had raced ahead to the quinoa and vegetables awaiting me in the kitchen, and I wasn’t really paying attention. I was ignoring the mindfulness alarm screaming at me, loud and clear and flashing red.
When I realized, I felt like a complete moron: He was hot. I took his pants off and the screaming stopped instantly, and a smile spread across his tired little face. And then the next moment was something different again – he was thirsty (not surprising since he’d just spent 40 minutes trying to get his point across!) And so he drank, and he’s still passed out in the middle of our bed now, over 2 hours later.
This new level of mindfulness that he’s teaching reminds me to examine the reality of this very moment – not what came before or what I want to come after – and to deal with just that. To accept the present moment rather than trying in vain to resist or to manipulate, or to take anything for granted. Just because the baby went to sleep easily at 6:45pm last night after a bath, massage, story and feed DOES NOT guarantee that he’s going to do it again tonight, or in fact ever again. He might – but taking the assumption for granted is a surefire recipe for disaster, and for missing signs and igniting a battle of wills between the two of us. Instead, my little mindfulness teacher guides me with his signals – helping me avoid hours of him crying and me feeling like a failure. And every time I slip out of focus, start senselessly expending energy on changing the present moment – he beckons me back with his tiny fingers and his not-so-tiny cry.
All I have to do to learn is watch and listen, now.