Life is Good

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My son left for sleep away camp last weekend. It’s his first time away for 2 weeks. He’s been away for sleepovers, two nights to Astro Camp but not two weeks. He showed interest earlier this year, or maybe it was last summer, I’m not sure, but when he asked if he could go, I was fairly confident that he was ready. He’s eleven and, as he’d tell you, almost all of his fellow 5th graders have been away for sleepover camp.

We found a camp from a friend so it came highly recommended. We signed him up in February and then waited. As we were approaching the departure date, we started having conversations about nervousness, homesickness and just being in a new place. He showed healthy signs of nerves and excitement. We pulled everything on his packing list together and packed together so he’d know what he has. I consulted my “village” to see if there was anything special I should be doing (I never went away to camp). I got some very good advice and followed many of the suggestions.

I also asked him if there was anything I could do to help him feel more comfortable. He said he’d like news from home every day so I am writing him every day.

The night before we were to take him to the bus, I lay in bed and tried to do my “before bed mindfulness” and had such a hard time! I found it very hard to stay in the moment and not think about my little boy growing up, going away, being ok, having everything he needs to be comfortable, etc. Phew. It was a little rough but I continued. I countered all my thoughts with my usual anchor (back to breath) and did so over and over. I finally fell asleep. I woke up tired from not enough sleep but excited for him.

On our way to the bus I realized I forgot to pack him a water bottle so we stopped at the store and got him one for the road. I also realized that there is something that is very good for all of us. It’s good to be unprepared. That way we have a chance of figuring out how to fix the problem and there in lies growth. So, maybe I forgot a few things but I have great confidence in my son that he will work it out. He’s good like that.

The first morning without him here was a little weird. My husband and I got up early because he had to go to work. We went downstairs and sat outside and had a few Mindful moments together. What an incredible way to start the day. Doing it with someone. I usually practice in the afternoon and by myself. This was so nice.

All week, my mindfulness practice has been an incredible challenge. Wow. It’s true, when things are good, things are easy and when we have struggles, we struggle. I keep trying to practice. Every day. It has not been great but I keep trying. And in the trying comes the growth. That’s what I think.

I leave for a retreat on Sunday to kick off my yearlong mindfulness certification program. I am beyond excited! It’s for a week. There are no screens of any kind and the first 2½ days are silent. Can you imagine? Not having to make small talk, just soaking everything in, really working on my practice and getting help with it as well. My hopes are simple- that I can be present for it, that I can learn from it and that I can grow from it. I want to be open to all the experiences and absorb all I can. I guess I’m going to camp too! My son and I will have a lot to catch up on when we reunite next weekend!

Life is good. The missing, the heartache, the love that I feel reminds me that I have a good life. And by that I mean I have people in my life with whom I am incredibly connected. Lucky me.

Some Mindfulness Resources

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I love books. I know it’s a little old fashioned at this point but I still love books. I do have a Kindle so I get the convenience of reading on a device but for me nothing replaces that book in my hand.

I have acquired a little library of books on Mindfulness so I thought I would share with you some of my favorites. If you have a favorite that’s not listed, please leave the title in the comments. I’d love to check them out.

I’ve included links to Amazon for any books that are available through their website. There are only two that are not. I hope this makes it easier for you.

CHILDREN
These 3 books are great for visualization meditations. I read these to my son before bed and now make up my own. These are a great inspiration. They’re all by Maureen Garth

STARBRIGHT
MOONBEAM
EARTHLIGHT

This book gives a child appropriate explanation of the brain and how certain sections of the brain work. I’ve found that kids like knowing how their body works:
YOUR FANTASTIC ELASTIC BRAIN, Stretch it, Shape it, by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D.

This book was sent to my son and it’s great. These are meditations written by four siblings. They are so sweet and they really touched my son. The kids also did the illustrations:
MEDITATIONS FOR KIDS BY KIDS, by Jarrah, Tahnaya, Ky & Jessica Wynne

These two are short picture books that are good for young children 4-8:
TAKE THE TIME, Mindfulness for Kids, by Maud Roegiers
YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS, by Brian Despard

The following titles are a little longer but are still good for young children. My eleven year old liked them. We don’t read many picture books anymore but these are beautiful and touch on some great topics: Feelings, Mindful Eating, Mindful Walking and Being Present:
VISITING FEELINGS, by Lauren Rubenstein
NO ORDINARY APPLE, A Story About Mindful Eating, by Sara Marlowe
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE PRESENT, by Rana DiOrio
THE LISTENING WALK, by Paul Showers

These two are Mindful movement books:
MY DADDY IS A PRETZEL, Yoga for Parents and Kids, by Baron Baptiste
MINDFUL MOVEMENTS, Ten Exercise for Well-Being, by Thich Nhat Hanh

This last one is for High School or College kids:
MASTER THE ART OF LEARNING, Dancing With Your Books, The Zen Way of Studying, by J.J. Gibbs

 

ADULTS
Classic:
COMING TO YOUR SENSES, Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness, by Jon Kabat-Zinn

A daily meditation book:
THE BOOK OF AWAKENING, Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have, by Mark Nepo

Two titles by Thich Nhat Hanh:
THE MIRACLE OF MINDFULNESS, An Introduction of Mindfulness
TEACHINGS ON LOVE

Two titles by Pema Chodron:
WHEN THINGS FALL APART, Heart Advice for Difficult Times
THE PLACES THAT SCARE YOU, A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

The following are two books that you can use with your children:
PLANTING SEEDS, Practicing Mindfulness With Children, by Thich Nhat Hanh
SITTING STILL LIKE A FROG, Mindfulness Exercise for Kids (And Their Parents), Simple mindfulness practices to help your child deal with anxiety, improve concentration, and handle difficult emotions, by Eline Snel

There is so much good stuff here. Try one book at a time otherwise it can get a little overwhelming. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Let me know what you think if you read one and let me know if you have any you’d love to share. Just leave it in the “comments” section!

Is Mercury in Retrograde?

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I ask because I’ve had a couple of incidents in the last week with my cell phone. First, my son accidentally got my phone jammed in the cup holder of my car. We tried and tried but couldn’t get it out. It was only stuck in there for about 30 hours but I found myself a little stressed out. But I quickly realized that it was a relief. I, like most of us, have become dependent on my phone for a lot of things. While I could make calls in the car through the Bluetooth, I couldn’t do anything else. I finally took it to the dealer who, after an hour and a half and $150, got it out.

Then today I ran out of the house to go to a couple of doctors’ appointments without my phone. It was much too late to go back so I accepted the fact that I was going to be waiting in doctors’ offices without my phone and without anything to read. My first thought was, “What the heck am I going to do while I wait for the doctors!?” And “What if my mother-in-law, who’s watching my son, needs to reach me?”

I continued on and got to the first doctor’s office 10 minutes early. I sat down to wait. I just sat there. Then I decided to clean out my purse cause you know I haven’t done that for a while! When I was done, I was still waiting. So I decided to close my eyes and practice a little mindfulness. I took a few deep breaths. I listened to the sounds around me. I noticed my breathing. I lifted my eyelids just a little and noticed my surroundings. There were three other people in the waiting room and I just observed them, all together and all on a phone or other device. I continued to be in a mindful state until my name was called 15 minutes after my appointment time. And to tell the truth, I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the time that I spent waiting.

Next, I had to drive all the way to the other side of town. I usually try to make phone calls when I drive but not today. I turned on the radio and started listening to NPR. The signal was fuzzy so I turned it off and drove in silence. I observed the other cars around me. I observed the trees. I enjoyed the silence.

At the next doctor’s office I was 15 minutes early (I know, I have a problem with being early!). But I just continued what I had been doing at the first office. I took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and went to a mindful place. I was alone at first but eventually someone joined me in the waiting room. She sat down and took out her phone and started surfing. Don’t get me wrong, if I had had my phone I would probably be playing Solitaire but I didn’t so I wasn’t. Not having my phone enabled me to observe and really notice the people around me and how it seemed like everyone was on some sort of device even while walking. There are times when I would be that person but today made me realize that I don’t want to be. When I wait for someone, I want to just sit and enjoy my surroundings, observe people, look out the window, connect with the world around me. I feel good when I connect to the people and the world around me. Sometimes I forget and today I was reminded. I felt good. I felt relaxed. I felt connected.

When I got home, I found my phone and noticed that I had not one single text, not one single phone call and about 10 junk emails. What the heck was I missing? Nothing.

I encourage you to try waiting without pulling out your phone. Try it. It will be difficult at first but you may have a nice experience and we all know that those emails and Facebook posts can wait a few minutes, right? Sit and take a few breaths. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable. Listen to the sounds around you. Notice your surroundings. Are there any good smells? Do you feel warm? Cold? If you are so inclined to share, please post a comment. I’d love to hear how it felt for you.