Mindfulness and Messiness

If there is one thing we can count on it is that things will change and our lives will go sideways when we least expect it. Sometimes it’s just something mundane like the grocery store is out of the peanut butter our kids like (how rude) and other times the “you know what” really hits the fan and someone in our family gets injured. As we practice mindfulness, we learn to meet each moment with a sort of equanimity, not taking it all so personally.

The mess of life will present itself over and over again. We can count on it. So what if instead of pushing away the icky parts and only welcoming the pleasant experiences we learned to embrace all of them? Jon Kabat-Zinn, who happens to be one of my favorite teachers, wrote a book over 25 years ago called “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness.” When I saw the title I nearly dropped to my knees. The first time I read this book I was single and not even thinking about a family. Reading it again so many years later after having two children, the message once again soothed my soul but for such different reasons.

It was clear to me that so much of my suffering as a parent came from the stress and anxiety of worrying that I might be screwing up my kids, and that I’m not a good parent. I was also a professional at wanting things to be different when they didn’t go my way. What I’ve learned over the years is that it is precisely when things don’t go my way that I have the most lessons to learn. This is the gift the mess gives me.

Now, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I certainly prefer when it’s humming along smoothly in all the right directions. I mean… duh. But over time, instead of cringing when life started to go sideways, I began to get curious and interested in what life lesson may be awaiting me. This is not a path for the feint of heart. The mess of our lives can seriously suck. However, as it turns out, embracing reality is a much more peaceful way to live.