I thought I might continue my theme of spiritual exercises for parents of newborns with a little post on meditation, based on a great podcast I just listened to on different forms of meditation (both secular and spiritual), from which I’ve gleaned what I consider to be a few gems (love a mixed metaphor) for the harried parent.
Here’s some Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (you’ll see the relevance later) to get you in the mood….
One of those interviewed was a nun in the Theravada Buddhist tradition who runs Vipassana meditation classes. She described her six hours classes, in which the students alternate between 15 minute sitting meditations, where they concentrate on their breath, and 15 minute walking meditations, where they concentrate on the soles of their feet.
Given that sitting (holding a sleeping baby) and walking (pushing a pram containing a sleeping baby) are the activities that occupy most of my time the moment, my plan is to make these techniques cornerstones of my spiritual programme. I’m not sure that Baby Kit Kat is going to let me walk slowly enough to do the walking meditation properly, but as the Buddha liked to say, ‘Don’t sweat the technique!’.
Another noteworthy section of the podcast involved a teacher of mindfulness who suggested that the best place to start cultivating mindfulness in your life was mindful eating. Being a fan of both eating and the practice of saying grace, this really appealed to me. Both activities have become quite mindless for me at the moment (especially since my focus at mealtimes is usually split between getting Tilly to eat the sauce rather than just the pasta, and the frantic attempt to wolf down my own food before Kit Kat wakes up from one of her 3 minute power naps). So mindful eating (teamed with the mindful practice of gratitude) will be the third cornerstone of my spiritual programme.
The fourth is something that I hope to do with Tilly, and is inspired by the Sufi tradition of singing/chanting meditations accompanied by music (hence the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan). My understanding is that in Sufi chanting/singing, as in the example you’re listening to, the idea is to repeat over and over one of the names of Allah in an attempt to achieve some kind of unity with him. Tilly (being a toddler) is already a bit fan of shouting the same phrase over and over. On top of this, she also loves moving to music, and is even learning a bit of Arabic at daycare (I kid you not!). So it’s really just a matter of putting it all together. The added bonus of this, is that it will provide this family with the young, female, muslim mystic it desperately needs.
I am typing this with one hand, as I hold the sleeping Kit Kat in the other, and thus squandering a golden opportunity to meditate. I’ll sign off then, and stop to focus on my breath in the hope of attaining a small measure of enlightenment by the time she wakes. We are moving into arsenic hour now, so when she does return from snooze town, I’ll be needing all the detachment I can muster.