This summerI decided to go the extra mile and rashly booked myself on a buddhist retreat led by Thich Nhat Hahn,(Tay) the Zen Master nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize. Rather oddly it was being held in Nottingham – so I felt it was too good an opportunity to miss.
His approach to Buddhism is based on mindfulness in Western society. I practise meditation and try to mindful but it is a challenge with a business and two small children so I thought that Tay could show me where the holy grail of mindfulness exists.
So I bundled my two children aged 3 & 4 into a car, with my mother, and whizzed off for a week of noble silences and mindfulness. What was I thinking? Does the universe truly send us lessons to learn – if so this was a week I wouldn’t forget. The first two days the children had a tummy bug, there was nowhere that I could contain the children and there was no tv to give a desparate mum a break. To add to the challenge we had to keep the children calm and occupied while near on 700 people were practising silence for the week.
I don’t think I have ever faced a tougher challenge. After frustration, tears shed and two very lively explorative children things started to settle. Only able to talk to the children in quiet voices, they reacted more calmly. In fact I don’t think I raised my voice once during the week.
Without external distractions I was able to focus on them more closely and respond differently. I sensed that the children sensed this and it became transformative. Ok so they didn’t eat their meals in silence, but they sat down whispered, ate well and drank water for a week. Not a glass of blackcurrent in sight-nor did they ask.
When Tay came into a talk, Fin, my 4 year old, whispered “I like him a lot” and just settled. It made me think about how by being mindful, aware and focussed in the present moment I should be able to see a reflection of that tranquilty in my son.
We learnt some fantastic, simple meditations that can be used before school or work that I’ll be doing with him as he starts school this week.
Mia and myself will be adapting some of the wonderful meditations for our Mindful Mamma classes. These meditations can help you contemplate the miracle of birth and your role as a mum to be – understanding that you and your behaviour is reflected in the baby growing inside you – that by being emotionally strong, calm and tranquil you have the space to grow peacefully through your pregnancy and birth and to be at one with your baby.
Be mindful that during the birth not just a baby is born, but a mother and a father are born too.
And so did Tay show me the holy grail mindfulness? Perhaps not but it certainly set me off on a more mindful journey to discover it.
Have a mindful day!