You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection. -Buddha
As the caregiver of a special needs child, one of the most frustrating pieces of advice that I hear on a regular basis is, “You’ve got to take time for yourself.” “Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.” “Take time to pamper yourself. You deserve it.”
It’s not that I don’t agree. I totally agree. But, when I hear this I generally just want to yell, “When?”. How in the heck am I supposed to find time for myself with all the other stuff I have to manage? What should I sacrifice? Work? Neurologist appointments? Trips to the pharmacy to refill medications? IEP meetings at the school? Orthodontist visits for my teen? Grocery store? Sleep? Perhaps you noticed the rather long gap between this blog post and my last one.
I could probably let go of some of the housework, but we do actually need clean clothes to wear and did I mention that I have an undergraduate degree in microbiology? Shall I describe the potential diseases caused by the gunk growing on those dirty dishes piled up in the sink? Contrary to what my teenaged daughter would tell you, I’m not really a neat freak. You could write the Great American Novel in the dust accumulated on my furniture. However, I do insist on at least a minimum of sanitation in our home.
So, the question remains – When? And, if I did find some free time, what would I do? The truth is, I can’t set aside a lot of time and money for a gym membership or day at the spa. Fancy manicures aren’t really compatible with my line of work. I’m not much of a materialist, so shopping doesn’t appeal to me. A week hiking in the mountains sounds lovely, but is pretty much out of the question. I need something relaxing and cheap with a flexible schedule.
For a while I had a membership for a monthly discount massage. It was pretty relaxing to get a regular massage, but the nearest clinic was over 30 minutes away. With commuting, that was 2 hours out of my only day off and I just couldn’t keep it up. I try to go to a yoga class once a week, but often don’t make it for the same reasons I had to give up the massages.
The only thing I have found that is relaxing and also fits my chaotic schedule is meditation. It’s free and can be done in whatever amount of time you have, whether it’s 5 minutes or an hour. It can also be done pretty much anywhere. Your neighbors might think you’re a bit weird if you sit with your eyes closed in the lotus position in public, but you can find a park bench, put on your sunglasses and pop in your ear buds and no one’s the wiser. At home, I will occasionally bribe my teen to play with Sarah for 30 minutes while I meditate in the bedroom wearing my noise-canceling headphones. Most days, I do set my alarm clock 30 minutes ahead and meditate while everyone else is asleep. I also program the coffee-pot the night before because, as far as I’m concerned, meditation before coffee is called sleeping.
My teacher, Randy Gribbin, has a wonderful perspective on meditation. He says, “During this time there is nowhere you have to go, nothing you have to do, and no one special you have to be.” In the act of sitting mindfully, you experience life just as it is in that moment without adding anything to it. You can let go of planning, worrying, remembering and just listen to the birds sing, the wind blow, or the distant sound of traffic. For me, it’s a time to give my poor over-worked adrenal glands a break from constantly secreting stress hormones. It’s a time out for grown-ups.
Although the practice is to follow the breath and let go of thinking, I do sometimes find that, during my time on the cushion, solutions to worrying problems may present themselves. After meditating, I am calmer and less reactive to minor stressors. When I’ve been meditating regularly, I find myself better able to catch those times when I’m letting my thoughts run wild, building up what would otherwise be small issues. So, as my gift to myself, I spend 30 minutes meditating every morning.
As a gift to you, I offer a 15 minute river meditation. I took this video when on retreat at the Vallecitos Mountain Ranch in New Mexico. It was my way of bringing home a small souvenir of the great peace that can be found in nature. I occasionally put in my ear buds, close my eyes, and listen to this during my lunch break at work, reminding myself that, even though I am at the office in the middle of a hectic work day, somewhere in the mountains, this stream continues its merry journey.
I also invite you to listen to the guided meditations recorded by my teacher, IMS trained Community Dharma Leader, Randy Gribbin.