Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Coming Back to Mindfulness

I haven't written in a long while, wrapped up in my little pregnancy bubble, focused on acquiring information and just gestating, as it were.  I also had the idea that I would start another blog just about pregnancy and parenting issues, since they seemed off-topic for the mindfulness blog I intended this to be. 

But I recently came across a couple of books that have helped to remind me that it's all connected. The first is called "Momma Zen:  Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood,"  by a Zen Buddhist priest named Karen Maezen Miller.  It was truly inspiring, with lots of short, easy-to-read vignettes full of great insights into parenting as an endless series of opportunities for spiritual practice.   I also just started "Mindful Motherhood:  Practical Tools for Staying Sane During Pregnancy and Childbirth" by Cassandra Vieten.  I haven't gotten very far yet, and so far it seems geared more towards people who are new to mindfulness.  But her suggestions about incorporating moments of mindfulness into daily life whenever you can will certainly become all the more vital once the baby comes and I'll have a lot less free time.  

More than anything, these books made clear that my spiritual practice is fed by whatever is happening in my life in 'this moment.'  For example, I attended my first retreat at Plum Village in large part to deal with anger, and have continued to practice in Thich Nhat Hahn's tradition with a local sangha in order to find more calm and clarity.  One of the outcomes of my practice was finally being able to take the decision to make a baby, after years of uncertainty and doubt.  And we actually conceived after I returned from a 2-day mindfulness retreat, peaceful and present.

So my pregnancy is a direct result of my previous spiritual practice, and has now become my current spiritual practice - though I didn't realize that until recently.  I was actually feeling a bit down on myself for not meditating much anymore, since I haven't been attending the Tuesday meditation sessions that are just too late at night for me now. And I haven't sat on my cushion much these past few months either. 

But part of what's interesting about pregnancy is that it's so physical, so embodied.  At Plum Village they use a mindfulness bell to bring you back to the present moment - each time you hear the bell (or a phone, or a clock chiming) you pause and come back to your breath for a count of 3.  While I haven't been using a bell myself, I do have a very active baby inside of me who keeps bringing me back to the here and now with one breathtaking kick in the ribs.  I'm not consciously choosing to practice mindfulness with him, but the little guy doesn't let me get away with being elsewhere for very long.  When he reminds me of his presence, he brings me back to the present.  And the present moment is both wondrous and miraculous, and sometimes even a little bit freaky. Each and every one of his wiggles and kicks is exciting, no matter how uncomfortable; as well as reassuring, since it means he's doing well.  And I'm still awestruck (and a bit weirded out) whenever I actually see him undulating under my skin like some kind of alien invader straight out of a sci-fi movie.  I never get tired of seeing and feeling him move, which keeps bringing me back over and over again to how crazy and magical it is to be carrying another life inside of me. 

While my recent reads have brought me back to a more conscious form of mindfulness, it's nice to realize that I never really stopped practicing.  My practice has just taken a different form, shifting from my meditation cushion to my growing belly.  And once baby arrives my practice will certainly shift again in ways that I can't possibly even fathom yet.  But I don't want to think too much about that yet, since I still have six more weeks of pregnancy moments to enjoy.   

Here's a recent picture of the belly at 32 weeks:


camilyn said...


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Mano said...


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