Goals

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I have a few goals for the summer.  I tried not to make too many, so as not to set myself up for failure.  My main goal this summer is to be more present.  Everyone seems to talk about the joy, peace, and fulfillment that comes from being present–my yoga teacher, the Dalai Lama, Oprah.  It sounded like a noble goal.  So I said to myself, “Self, let’s spend less time on the smartphone, and less with the obsessive email and Facebook checking.  Let us notice our surroundings.  Let us be in the moment.  Let us soak up this beautiful summer with our beautiful family.”  Apparently when I talk to myself it is in the first person plural.

Being present in the moment is not natural for me.  I live in this whole other world in my head.  Unfortunately it is not a lively, creative, inner world.  I am not like Anne of Green Gables.  I have heard the description of a woman’s mind being like a browser with  dozens of tabs open, and this is exactly how I would describe it.  An endless stream of consciousness that would bore the average person to tears.  A rushing river of pragmatic thoughts.  Picture with me, if you will, me in my pajamas this morning with a thought bubble reflecting my current inner dialogue:

My head hurts.  Why do I always get so many headaches?  Maybe it’s a brain tumor.  No, I had an MRI two years ago, they would have seen it.  I’ll just go grab some ibuprofen.  Do I have to take chicken out of the freezer for dinner?  Where’s Leah?  Has she gone over her screen time limit?  When was the last time she pooped?  Should I send that medicine to overnight camp with her so she doesn’t get backed up?  I would have to get the doctor to sign the stupid form–I don’t have time for that.  Why can’t I sign the form, for heaven’s sake?  Crap, we’re out of trash bags.  I was just at the store yesterday.  Why do I always forget one thing?  Wait–did we miss garbage day?  Oh, we’re ok, it’s delayed a day because of the holiday.  Maybe we should hire an exterminator to spray for bees.  There have been so many wasps around the pool this year.  I bet that’s not cheap.  We have to have the driveway sealed too.  Maybe I should go to yoga today to see if that helps my headache.  Wait, wasn’t I going to go grab some ibuprofen?   

You get the idea.

So being present means what, exactly?  That I flick some kind of inner switch that turns off the cacophony in my brain?   Where is that switch located?  My yoga teacher suggested that I take notice of each thought as it comes, without judgement, and just let it float away like a bubble.  So now I have this internal bubble machine cranking out rapid fire bubbles, which doesn’t really help me be to be present, but instead gives me the vague impression of a bathtub overflowing after your toddler empties out an entire bottle of Mr. Bubble.

So, here are a few real life examples of what being present looks like in my life. A few weeks ago I took the kids to church in the morning.  The hubby was out of town so it was just the three of us on a rainy, dreary Sunday morning.  When we were leaving the kids asked me to pull up the car, since it was raining and we only had one umbrella.  So I walked out to the car, plugged in my phone, quickly checked my email and messages, fired up the windshield wipers, and buckled my seat belt.  As I was pulling out of the parking lot onto the street, I thought, “Wow, the kids are pretty quiet this morning,” and stole a glance in the rearview mirror.  And…. I had forgotten my children.  Apparently I had driven right past them, while they watched in confusion as their mother abandoned them at a house of worship.  It’s OK though, because I turned around and got them.  They won’t need therapy for that, right?  It will probably help them to straighten up and fly right.

Then last week I went to yoga on the lake with my friend Mary.  She just finished yoga instructor school, so she is extremely present.  I felt the sunshine on my downward dog, and listened to the waves as they lapped gently against the dock.  I set my drishti on a beautiful, majestic tree as my bubble machine released all thoughts of trash bags and driveway sealing.  After we finished, Mary and I agreed to meet at a little cafe for an iced tea so we could catch up.  I got in my car and, lo and behold, my gas light was on.  Why don’t I ever notice that I’m low on gas until my gas light comes on?  I don’t know why.  Because I’m an oblivious airhead, apparently.  So my gas light is on, and I’m in an unfamiliar part of town, and, oh–look at that, I forgot my wallet.  Hmmm.  What a pickle I have gotten myself into, once again.  So I find a gas station nearby, hoping I can pay wth the app on my phone, but no, the gas station I found doesn’t do that.  There’s another gas station several miles away, but at this point the gas light has been on for a while and I don’t know how far I can make it.  So I drive toward the next gas station in a panicky state (which really killed my yoga buzz, by the way), praying that they will let me pay with my phone and that I won’t run out of gas on the way there.  (Don’t worry, mom, I made it and I was able to pay with my phone!). Mary sat in the cafe, patiently waiting for me, probably being extremely present as she received my anxious texts about my latest predicament.  She was not surprised, I am sure.  And after I got there, she bought me an iced tea.  Because I forgot my wallet.

So in regard to my goal of being more present, it’s going pretty well, as you can see.  Today I said to myself, “Self, perhaps we should lower our expectations about being present, and work on just keeping the car filled with gas.”

My new summer goal is to keep the car filled with gas.

P.S.-I wrote this post this morning, and then this afternoon I went to the library, and instead of discarding my snack wrapper I threw my keys in the trash. Then of course I couldn’t find my keys, so my daughter and I, along with three concerned librarians, searched high and low until I remembered that there was a big garbage can at the entrance to the library and that sometimes I throw important things away by accident.

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Questions for Deepak Chopra

The other day I was listening to a podcast, in which Oprah was interviewing Deepak Chopra on the subject of meditation.  They spent some time talking about the well-established benefits of meditation, in addition to how Deepak himself practices daily. Though some Christians would criticize a practice of meditation as being “new age” or in some way counter to their faith, he explained how it is actually a vehicle we can use that allows our mind to be quiet enough to hear the voice of God.  I enjoyed this part of the conversation, and as someone who started practicing yoga a little over a year ago, I can fully see the benefit of learning to turn down the background noise in order to pay attention to that “still small voice”.

Of the benefits that he himself experienced, he said that he had no one he needs to forgive, and he does not have any stress.  When queried, Deepak told Oprah that he meditates for 2 hours in the morning, in addition to a half- hour to one hour in the afternoon.  [insert record scratch sound]

Wait, what?

OK, now I just have a lot of questions.  I know Deepak probably doesn’t read my blog (YET!).  However, I am still going to raise these questions directly to you, Deepak. I feel it will be the most direct way for me to try to get to the truth of the matter.

First of all, Deepak, you said that in order to meditate effectively one must be well-rested, or else one will find themselves falling asleep.  This makes perfect sense.  However, you then went on to tell us that you meditated from 4-6 AM every morning.  This, for me, was the most troubling section of the podcast.  Four in the morning, Deepak?  Deepak, what is your bedtime?  According to my calculations, this would mean that in order to get enough sleep to be adequately prepared for a 4 AM wake up call, you would have to get your peaceful butt in bed by 8 PM, maybe 8:30 at the latest.

And Deepak, if your bedtime is indeed between 8-8:30 pm, this raises a whole other set of questions for me.  Like, when do you fold your laundry?

What time do you eat dinner?  Are you one of those people that shows up at restaurants at 4:30 PM for the early bird special?  I’m just asking because you know it’s not really good for your digestion to lie down to sleep right after dinner.  So if you eat at 6:30 or 7 PM and then you have to go to bed an hour later, I’m just worried you’re going to get indigestion or something.

When do you watch Homeland and Breaking Bad and House of  Cards and all those other swear-y TV shows that are inappropriate to watch in front of young children so you have to wait until they go to bed?

Speaking of children, when your kids were young, what time did they go to bed?  Did you go to bed before them?  When they were doing the bedtime stalling thing where they get up and down 17 times for water and one more hug and please close my closet door, and I’m scared and et cetera, did this interfere with your pre-meditation sleep sesh?  What if they had a bad dream or puked in their bed in the middle of the night or something like that?  This adequate rest + waking at 4 AM thing is not adding up for me.  I feel confident that I could do either of those things individually, but not both at the same time.  How do you do both, Deepak?

Do you ever hit snooze and skip the meditation in favor of sleep?  If so, approximately how often does this happen?

Is coffee allowed at morning meditation?

I don’t know about you Deepak, but my children have this uncanny ability that causes them to know when I am awake.  Maybe they are light sleepers simply responding to the faint creaking of the stairs underfoot, or perhaps something more calculated is occurring.  Either way, I am quite certain I would have some inquires at some point along the lines of, “what are you doing mom?”  If this happens, say, an hour into my two-hour session, do I have to start all over, Deepak?  If I get agitated about my meditation getting interrupted by small people, does this negate the benefits for me?  Can I still successfully meditate with two people watching me and asking me rapid-fire questions?


In regard to your afternoon meditation session, my question is this:  Deepak, do you have a cloak of invisibility?  Like the one from Harry Potter?  If not, how do you get people to leave you alone for that length of time?  How is it that no one interrupts you?  I’m just asking because I myself have not had an uninterrupted shower in over a decade, and even attempts at defecation are, in the eyes of the people I live with, perfectly good opportunities to ask me questions such as, “Do you know what the weather is going to be like today?”, or “Can you toast me a bagel?”

Does lying on your side in the fetal position whilst seething with resentment count as “meditation”, Deepak?  Asking for a friend.

I know you’re probably too busy to respond directly to my inquiries, Deepak, what with being a doctor, an author , a sought-after speaker, and a spiritual guru, in addition to your time-consuming meditation schedule.  I think you would probably tell me to start with small increments of time and work my way up, and I think this is sound advice.  So right now I am playing hide-and-seek with the family and I found a really good hiding spot, and I am being as quiet as I can.  Hopefully this will last 3 whole minutes before someone finds me, so if the Divine voice has anything to say to me, He better do it quick.  Full disclosure:  I didn’t actually tell my family  we were playing hide-and-seek.  I just hid.  Is that a good start, Deepak?

I admire you Deepak, I really do.  Maybe one day you and I can meditate together, and you can show me how your cloak of invisibility works.  Let’s do it at your house, OK?  My house is a little crazy.