In the past few years, I have tried very hard to learn new ways of thinking, new ways of being. I have tried to make myself a more positive person, and I’ve tried very hard to get control of my attitudes and moods and reactions. I have tried so hard to be calm.
Life is a stressful journey! Sometimes I find myself so swept up in the worries and frustrations of the day that I lose my ability to enjoy that day. I find that my mind gets stuck in one narrow groove, like the needle on an old phonograph, playing the same irritation over and over and over until I find myself unable to sleep, unable to unclench my jaws, unable to take in a good deep breath.
I’ve tried to learn how to be mindful. To be awake and alive in each moment. I’ve tried to force myself to notice the beauty and the grace all around me. I have tried to let go of the petty frustrations that really have no meaning.
I’ll be honest, though; when I was still rushing off every morning to my classroom, I found it incredibly difficult to achieve that level of mindful acceptance of each moment that I craved. I found myself reaching for artificial and forced moments, just so that I could cross the words “be mindful of beauty” off of my to-do list.
Do you know what I mean? There were days when I would be stuck in a snarl of winter morning traffic, worried about my literacy lesson for the day, anxious about every lost minute that meant I’d be behind in my copying and filing. I would think the words, “Be mindful!” and force myself to look out the window at the slush covered roadside. “OK! A blue jay sitting on a pine branch! How lovely!” and I would put a tiny check mark on my internal list.
Its just that I didn’t really live that moment of grace; I simply observed it and noted it, then moved on.
I never did truly achieve that goal of gentle mindfulness. I never really managed to be fully present in every moment.
Now I spend my days looking into this face, into these beautiful eyes. Now I have someone to teach me how to be truly mindful.
Ellie soaks in every part of every minute while she is awake. She gazes in awe at the colorful glass chimes that hang in my window. She listens to the dog’s bark as if it is the most fantastic sound in the universe. She is riveted on my face when I talk to her in words that are pure nonsense. Every second is a new adventure for Ellie. She is totally attuned to every puff of air, every change in texture, every new color. A bird flying off the feeder makes her open her mouth in awe. The feel of cool air on her bare skin makes her crow and coo and wiggle in pure delight.
And when she sleeps, she goes so deeply into that secret place inside of her that her whole being is engaged in the miraculous act of resting and renewing. I can almost hear her body growing as I hold her close.
To hold a baby, I have learned, is to be finally free of every other thought or worry or idea. No words pass through my brain when I am breathing in her breath. No fear or anxiety touches my heart when I feel hers beating against me. I hold her close. I feel her fingers touching my neck. I look at the perfect tiny crescents of her lashes, at her rosy lips, her tiny nose. I can think of nothing in those moments except for her: Ellie. Our Ellie. All I can do is sit and rock and feel the love that shakes every cell of my body.
This is true mindfulness, I am sure. Nothing in the universe matters to me at moments like this. I am wholly open and receptive and so incredibly grateful for the beautiful gift that is this little girl in my arms and in my life.
Ellie is teaching me to live in the moment, and I am so grateful to have her as my teacher!