Friday, August 3, 2018

Oatmeal and Meditation

I've been on an oatmeal-for-breakfast kick for the past month. I load it up with too much brown sugar, coconut, pecans, and a splash of milk. Most mornings, I race against the timer as the oatmeal bubbles to wash dishes, change out the laundry, pack my lunch.

I know and have experienced the benefits of meditation. But most of the time, I find that moving meditation works best for me. You know, like yoga, taking a walk, or walking the labyrinth.

I also like to find the sacred in the most common, mundane moments of my day—brushing my teeth, blow drying my hair. Those moments are always short enough that I can't get rankled if my chattery, monkey mind takes over.

As I've been writing about, my yoga teacher training is testing the limits of my anxiety coping skills. I feel low-grade panic when I'm doing other things besides study, and then the low-grade rachets up to higher intensity when I do study and it's not going smoothly.

One morning this week, when I was feeling particularly frenzied (it wasn't even 8:00 am!), I decided to meditate over my cooking oatmeal. I set the timer for five minutes and watched the water and oatmeal do their thing. As the mixture bubbled I let the thoughts that arose flicker across the front of my mind like headlines at the bottom of a news broadcast. I saw them and then returned to the oatmeal. What am I going to say in this blog post? Let it go. Are you sure about the leopard print dress and turquoise cardigan you're wearing? Yes, now let it go. I really need to wipe down the stove surface. Yep, let it go.

You get the idea.

I stood there watching my breakfast cook. I stirred the pot occasionally as per the directions, and I rocked slowly on my left foot, thigh into oven door, and back to my heel. But otherwise, I did not move. I did not even look at the timer. I gazed at the stove top knowing the five minutes would end—eventually. When the timer dinged, I turned it off, removed the pot from the heat, placed the lid over it, turned off the burner, and reset the timer.

The meditation continued at the kitchen table where I sat down and closed my eyes. When the timer went off three minutes later, my chattery mind was quieter. I didn't feel so frenzied, and I knew I was on to something. Eight minutes, that's all it took for me to re-center, to ground myself for the day ahead.

I have learned that in eight minutes a kitchen can be tidied. But I have also learned that what looks unproductive—moments of quiet stillness—can also be the best way to start a day.

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