Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Your life is your practice"

My Saturday retreat with Karen Maezen Miller, Zen Buddhist priest and author of Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, was nothing short of inspiring, relaxing, and forgiving.

Why forgiving? Because we all say or do things as parents that sometimes we wish we could take back. But with Maezen's guidance that day, those of us in attendance were reminded that we get to "start over" at any given moment, whenever we want, returning ourselves more fully to mindful parenting.

It's like meditation. When your mind begins to wande
r, gently bring it back to your breath. So it is with parenting. When your kids are driving you batty, breathe. When you're not getting enough sleep, breathe (and maybe cry... but breathe, too). When you need to let go of worry, exhale. Being mindful of your breath keeps you planted in the present moment—and doesn't that always lead to better decision making, parenting or otherwise?

Several other Blooma teachers and moms attended Maezen's Rochester retreat, too. What a luxury it was to spend a whole day for ourselves, taking time for yoga, for talking with other women, for learning from Maezen, for meditation, and for wandering the beautiful grounds of the Assisi Heights retreat center (pictured here).

For a quick fix of wisdom, Maezen-style, check her blog, Cheerio Road. Today's posting, "The Parent's Little List of Letting Go" is, as she puts it, "a seasonal refrain sung to the tune of a deep exhalation."

What have you done to pay attention to your breath today? Since I'm no Zen master, but can attest to how good it feels to meditate—even briefly—I'll pass along a few tips that Maezen gave during our retreat:

• Find just 5 minutes (you can do it!) and set the kitchen timer.
• Sit still, spine straight, palms open. Relax.
• Keep your eyes open and let your gentle gaze fall about 3 feet in front of you. (Eyes open because Zen meditation isn't about closing out distractions but meditating through them.)
• Inhale
• Exhale

Pretty simple, eh? If your mind wanders and you need something to focus on, count to two on your inhale, then four on your exhale. With regular practice, you'll find yourself more focused, more relaxed, and ready for anything your kids throw your way when your 5-minute timer dings.

Alisa, Sarah & the women of Blooma

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