A cup of tea tastes so good at the end of a long, day, especially if it is a Friday. It is especially wonderful on the days when there is nothing on the mind – no complaints, no grievances, no ‘I wish I had’, or ‘I should have’. Just peace. I’m coming to appreciate just how hard earned this peace can be.
Each day seems to have certain crucial moments when the choices I make will decide the course of the day. Many times, these moments have to do with tiredness and my relationship to it. Moments when my tired mind, if unnoticed, slips into reactivity and spirals out of control.
One such moment that occurs often is when I’m giving Anjali, our eighteen-month old daughter, a bath. By that time of the evening, I’ve either spent all day with her or been at work and then spent the last couple of hours with her non-stop. I’m tired and hungry. And if I’m not mindful, soon I’m caught in my own stories – of judgment and blame. In that moment, these stories seem as real as anything else. And they are not pleasant. Tiredness is really not half as bad, as the suffering created by my own drama.
On the days, when I take the bait in that moment, a long tedious battle ensues between my mind and my heart – each one tugging in opposite directions. It reminds me of Rumi’s words, “Thirst is angry with water. Hunger bitter with bread. The cave wants nothing to do with the sun. This is dumb, the self- defeating way we’ve been”.
Yes, it is self-defeating! And how apt that Rumi uses hunger and thirst as metaphors! After watching this play out over and over again, I’ve come to admire the importance and immediacy of this critical juncture in time when my evening could go one way or the other. It could go south, into a full-blown movie, or it could go north.
There are possibilities in the north, and compassion. All it takes is one moment of mindfulness. In that moment, when I lose my attention, I realize what is happening and I come back. I come back first to the feeling of my feet touching the floor. I come back to that smile of my little one playing in the water, joyful as only a child can be. I come back to the sparkle in her eye, and I say a silent prayer that she can’t read my thoughts. And I silently acknowledge: this is what tiredness feels like, and this is what hunger feels like. And all the stories end there.
It is not often that I have the capacity to be present enough to act this skillfully. But on the days that I do make this wise choice, I come down to a loving husband and warm cooked food and then feet up the couch. I rest in the love that my heart feels for Anjali – recounting all the joyful and special moments of the day – most of them simple and yet precious as they can only be for a parent. And the love I feel to have someone to put my feet on and recount my mom stories. And on these days, I feel profoundly grateful, and I remember Rumi’s words: “ You are the source of my life. You separate essence from mud. You honor my soul. You bring rivers from the mountain springs. You brighten my eyes. The wine you offer takes me out of myself into the self we share. Doing that is religion.”
With Love, S.