Sixteen seconds of pleasure. That’s what I’m practicing for the next month. First thing when I wake up. No, not that kind of pleasure. Though it could be. Today was day two, and something amazing happened already. And yes, it’s parenting-related. Stay with me for a moment.
Mindfulness does not ask that you never binge watch TV or eat potato chips, enjoy a glass of wine, or get raging mad about something. Mindfulness asks only that when you do, you pay attention. I am practicing sixteen seconds of pleasure not to avoid, dismiss, step over, deny pain (or anything else)— but as a practice of the quality of your life depends on the focus of your attention. I could get up and sit (meditate) — often that’s how I start my day — but this month I’m playing with pleasure. My intentional creation of it, and how it feeds my connection to abundance in my life. Joy, ease, relaxation, love, money, well-being, my relationship to my kids. This is not in place of my meditation practice, but in addition to it.
This morning music was part of my sixteen seconds of pleasure.
Thinking my way into pleasure often doesn’t work for me. My mind does not like to be told what to do and when I (or anyone) tries, the part of me who I call, “rebel,” kicks in and just wants to tell everyone to fuck off. Don’t tell me to be happy. I don’t wanna be happy. Yeah, she’s kinda like how we’ve come to see teenagers or two-year-olds. She often feels misunderstood, this part of me, and as a result, pissed off.
So I feel my way into pleasure.
Day one, I didn’t wake up feeling particularly cheerful: I was tired, didn’t sleep well. Didn’t want to get out of bed. I grabbed my ukulele, which was next to my bed and played one song, singing along, under the covers. It was more than sixteen seconds. It was pleasurable. I was feeling groovy, giggly even. A sweet way to meet myself and the day.
Back to parenting. I was driving my kids to school today (them with their headphones on, which I sometimes feel grumpy about because they are tuned out), and realized they weren’t tuning out; they were tuning in. To their own pleasure for a few short minutes before school. I glanced over at my son in the passenger seat. He was wearing the most delicious smile. Whatever he was listening to was bringing him pleasure.
I’m not advocating for headphones, video games, phones and computers 24/7. We talk often in our home about how much is too much. Are they “escaping”, and if so, what are they escaping? Are they creating? Are they mindful about what they want to create and how these habits impact those things? I try (sometimes in vain) to get them off their screens an hour before bedtime. In vain, because often it’s homework they are finishing or they just go straight to bed when I remind them it’s time to wrap up.
What I’m thinking about a lot these days is trusting their ability to plug in. Plug into their own guidance system. That when they are feeling centered and connected, they make good choices. Choices that bring them pleasure that I may not choose or even understand. When I step-in with all my parental wisdom, thinking I know better, I know what’s best, I shut down their wisdom, their words, their ability to manage their lives, I become in that moment, what disconnects them from their guidance system.
When we are being mindful and gentle and curious, we can see when a habit leaves us feeling yucky, and that’s just as valuable as feeling good. It’s the can’t do it wrong of mindfulness practice. We are not only trying to feel good, we are being with all that is. The icing on that cake, is that being with what is can feel pretty good.
What I’m being reminded, pretty much every day, is that it all starts with my relationship with myself. Kindness with the raging teenager who lives in me, leads to kindness with the teenagers I live with. Getting connected to my inner guidance system, allows me to support my kids in getting connected to theirs. When they get lost, my job is to guide them back to their own inner wisdom. This might be through sharing experiences I’ve had. It might be through giving them more autonomy. It might be through tighter boundaries if things are feeling unsafe. It will be about process (the how) and always changing and messy and we’ll all have lots of opportunities to connect and reconnect. What it will not be about, is doing it right.
For the record, this doesn’t mean “letting everything fly”. I’ve seen that kind of no-boundary/freedom in action first hand and it’s a recipe for disaster. Next week I’ll dive into boundaries. It took me over forty years, a career in humanistic education, therapy and meditation to find mine. No joke. This one’s a game changer.
In the meantime, what’s your experience of tuning out and plugging in with your kids? How about plugging into your own inner guidance? I’d love to hear your challenges and victories.
P.S. If you’re curious about some of my inspiration for this post, below are two Abraham/Hicks videos that informed my practice this week. My friend Geri is obsessed with them and is taking me along for the ride by sending me her favorites. Talk about abundance. What a gift! In the spirit of yes, I’m exploring how being a creator of my life connects to my practice of mindfulness and radical compassionate acceptance. There is a part of me that says this is some woo woo shit and a part of me that keeps coming back to it anyway. The serious mindfulness teacher in me feels like I might not be taken seriously if I share this. In the spirit love over fear, here it is!