Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Decibel Level: Meditating Amidst My Children's Noise

Sometimes the noise in this house drives me bonkers.

As a mother who tries my darnedest to open my heart to as much energy as my children have to share with me, and as a mother who values the creative clamor that comes from instruments and pretending and singing and laughing and joking, and as the mother of a really ear-piercingly screechy Baby #6 who never took a pacifier and has now grown into a really ear-piercingly screechy 23-month-old...

I expect a lot of noise.

But wow. Sometimes...

And the decibel level follows me wherever I go. I feel like a noise magnet...especially when I'm cooking dinner or on the phone or in the bathroom. I don't think I've successfully ducked away to the bathroom in the last 10 years without hearing, "Mom...Maahuum...!!!"

I find that the noise level is hardest to handle when my mind is busy thinking and churning over something deep and personal and bothersome. When my brain needs time and space to solve a major (or minor) life issue, I crave quiet.

But quiet is hard to come by in my neck of the woods.

So, what's a mother to do?

The other day I sat in the middle of our living room floor like a zombie because my mind was full of some big, worrisome thoughts. I just couldn't bear to let more chaos into my body and I felt like exploding when trumpet noise and piano noise and "Mom, how do you spell..." noise and "Mom, listen to this" noise and "Mom, can you..." noise and "Whaaaa!!" noise all echoed off my ear drums at once.

I almost screamed, "Why in the world are we all in the same room together??!!"

The thought of retreating behind a closed door...for just a few moments (or until Daddy came home)...seemed like the only solution. Instead, I shut down right in the middle of my bouncing children and I built a mental wall to protect myself from all of the noise, noise, and more noise.

I knew my children noticed (because children always do), so I added guilt to my list of emotions.

But then an idea came to me.

Is it possible to meditate in the middle of noisy, needy chaos?

I summoned my executive prefrontal cortex brain cells (PFC) and together we decided to stop building a defensive protection from the innocent noise surrounding us...and instead welcome it in.

My natural mind objected and argued that an all-out invasion would threaten my peace in unthinkable ways. It reminded me that self-defense was the only weapon I had complete control over and therefore the only way to fight for personal peace. But my PFC and I felt determined to take a stand nonetheless and try something different...something selfless.

So I set my personal struggles aside for a moment and...

I turned my attention to my son playing his trumpet. I watched him carefully. His eyes were focused. His fingers moved fluidly. He struggled on a few notes. He tried again. He smiled when he finished his piece. My eyes softened and agreed with his...success after many attempts IS so satisfying.

Next, my mind shifted to my daughter playing the piano. Her feet dangled at the bench. Her self-created pig tails swayed gently back and forth. The song she was playing...I clearly recognized was the one that was such a challenge several weeks ago. When she turned to share her triumph with me, I was already watching her.

"I love listening to you play," I smiled.

Then my six-year-old...what was she writing anyways? Was it a thank you note? A birthday card? Ahh, this time her creation was a pretend math worksheet. She's been watching her older brother a lot lately. Such diligence in that mind of hers. I admired her fingers for a moment or two longer as she formed a line at the top of the page and wrote "Name" and then I turned my focus to...

Miss Cienna. A few minutes earlier she had asked me if she could pretend to be my dog in real life. This is a question I'd answered at least a hundred times in the last month, so "Yes" came spilling out of my mouth without me really noticing at all. Satisfied with my half-answer, she was now crawling around on the floor and talking to herself and several of her stuffed animals. She barked occasionally.

"Cotton," I called. "Come here, Cotton! I want to give my cute doggy a nice back scratch." She bounded over with her tongue hanging out and a very large grin on her face. She panted happily. Wow was it easy to make her day. And having a mind that's quick to forgive, quick to accept, and quick to share simple joy must feel so enlightening.

Finally, my MaryAnn (Kenny was away at school). MaryAnn squirmed on my lap, making irritating whiny sounds which indicated that she, too, was wrestling with how to digest all of the chaos in the room. (I don't blame her...she doesn't have much of a prefrontal cortex yet to have the option of choosing something other than self-defense.) She could also sense my attention on her siblings and naturally yearned for a piece of it. I rolled backwards onto the carpet and pulled her on top of me. My eyes met hers. Her face lit up. "What is she thinking?" I wondered. The one the thing she cares about most in life is getting her mama's attention. So simple, so sweet, so pure.

As I turned from my inner noise to truly focus on the noises my children were making, what a houseful of lovely surprises I found. When thoughts of chaos threatened to return and take over during this meditative experiment, I noticed their existence and politely asked those thoughts to wait while I focused on something that would strengthen me in my time of amazing children.

Later, I still churned over whatever challenges needed churning...but my children's decibel level that I had been protecting myself from became the very healing balm I had needed to sooth my heart and face those tough adult-issues again.

<This is my Mother's Day breakfast in bed. I used to think of Mother's Day as the one day I deserved a retreat...away from my children. But over the years I have noticed the innocent enthusiasm of my children as they climb in bed next to me to proudly show me which part of breakfast their little hands had prepared. Then they naturally reach over to share my orange juice and eat some eggs. They seem to cuddle me with extra hugs all day long to show their gratitude for having a mother. I have realized that isolating myself on a day when my children are bubbling with celebration for ME would cause me to miss out on a whole lot of love. So, now I expect (and love) that Mother's Day is a day where my children are glued to me all the more. I will soak in these types of Mother's Days because some day these children of mine--the very reasons I am called a "mother"-- will be too big to squeeze all together onto my bed with me. I will miss that.>

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