looking at these photos from our visit to nashville this past july, i’m struck by the gentleness of this morning moment. i had gotten ramona from the crib she was in and brought her into bed with me for more snuggles. she brought along the magna doodle she had recently discovered and sat there engrossed in it for quite some time. and i sat with her. in the moment. just us and morning light and crisp sheets.
this doesn’t always happen as often as i’d like. as often it needs to happen. i’ve been reading thich nhat hanh’s book, the miracle of mindfulness, and the part i keep coming back to is “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” by this he means: be fully present in the moment you are in. if you rush through a moment in order to move on to the next, then you miss out on a lot of living. thoughts, ideas, intentional breathing, revelations… these can all happen during moments of mundane tasks or seemingly unproductive down times if the tasks and moments are done intentionally, with care.
i still hate doing dishes but i have found a way to do them and do them well without trying to rush it all. being mindful of what my hands are actually doing slows my heart and calms my breath. and then i try to transfer this to moments with my family: instead of always compartmentalizing which moments are mine (alone time during ramona’s nap or after she’s gone to bed or when i can drop her off at daycare) i try to take advantage of all moments –making them all mine by being present in all of them–, savoring the time and being aware of reading her a book to read a book, or helping her put on her clothes to put on her clothes, or playing tea time to play tea time, or eating breakfast to eat breakfast, or snuggling in bed with papa in the morning to snuggle in bed with papa in the morning. one more thing will always be happening after this thing is done. but there’s no need to always be looking ahead at that next moment.
i know, as parents, it is quite hard to savor every moment: there are so many things that have to get done on top of the things we want to do with our little ones. there are timelines and nap times and family events and laundry and play dates and personal needs for self-improvement and quiet time. i am never going to be blissed out every single second of parenthood. but i can try and see the grace and peace in time spent doing what i would rather not be doing. and take extra joy when i get to do exactly what it is i want to do. after all, i have a little girl watching my every move and i’d love for her to grow up as one who is never too old to stop and smell the flowers or observe marching ants and is never too proud or lazy to pick up after herself or take time for what others might need more time for.
if you cannot find joy in peace in these moments of sitting, then the future itself will only flow by as a river flows by, you will not be able to hold it back, you will be incapable of living the future when it has become the present. -thich nhat hanh, the miracle of mindfulness, p. 36.
I love this. I think I need that book in my life.
Lovely post, Emily. I have had, and continue to have many “zen” moments with dishwashing, and other housekeeping tasks. The reward is so temporary, so ephemeral…
Nice to read this now, as I’m about to clean up from dinner and just wishing the whole bed/bath part of my night was over so I could land on the couch…instead I’m taking in all the sounds and being present. After all, this IS my life! 🙂
I really needed to read this today. I have been trying, but it is a constant struggle for a busy-body like me. I am happiest when I am working hard hauling firewood or outside in the garden with my kids beside me- those are the moments when I feel the most present and forgiving. But what you said- “compartmentalizing which moments are mine…” really struck a chord. I think I do that too often also… thinking of when I will finally put my youngest down for a nap so I can have my own time, or when it is time to put the kids to bed. Coming up on the slower, indoor months, I am determined to live more in the moment. Such a great post!
Thank you for this reminder. It has been enough to keep me more present for a week. Such a simple concept – it’s amazing how often I forget it!