I sit down with a groan. My body is sore from an hour in the garage training with weights, trying to keep my body (formerly known as strong) in semi decent shape. I am achy and exhausted. It has been a long week with no breaks and I am hoping that my daughter decides to take her first nap in 7 days, today.
I tuck my legs in, let out a grumble, “Oh man am I sore,” and I push my back up into the base of the couch settling in to the moment. My thighs and knees sink into the grey carpet, my back protests from over exertion and my hands relax in my lap. Raising my shoulders up and relaxing them, I sigh.
I just need a few minutes.
I breathe in.
I breathe out.
I call to her in mild irritation, wishing that sleep would fall on her manically, over-tired toddler frame.
“I need more kiki in my bottle!” Kiki is how she says kefir. I give her a small amount at nap time to calm her down; although lately, a better choice may be a nip of whisky.
I get up, moving more like a senior citizen than a 40 year old powerlifter. Shuffling into her room, I kiss her head and take her bottle. “I want the orange one,” she says, signaling that she wants peach flavored kefir.
I go put in another 4 ounces of kefir and mix it with a little water. “Here you go sweetie.” She reaches out for the bottle with a gleam in her eyes and I wonder how I am ever gonna wean her off of this plastic demigod. I cover her back up and give her another kiss; “Get some sleep sweetie.”
I make my way back to the living room floor once again, groaning and folding myself into a halfway decent meditation position. Running through my routine again with a sigh, unclenching the tight muscles in my shoulders and neck and settling into the moment, I begin to watch my breathe.In
She jumps out of the hallway with a scream. That settles it, I am going to have to start meditating with a diaper on because she just scared the crap out of me. Running at me full speed, she launches herself into my arms.
“I love you daddy!”
Instantly, every tight muscle and clenched mental thought falls loose around me. She wraps her small arms around my neck, kisses my cheek and says, “Okay daddy, I go to bed now.” With that she walks back into her room, closing the door I didn’t hear her open (maybe the ninja life is in her future) and climbs up into her bed. Sitting for a moment between laughter and tears I realize that it is not the practice that makes us or me or whomever, Buddhists, or even just better people. It is our engagement with the moment.
All the sitting in the world is irrelevant if I am unable to watch my reactions to each momentary encounter. To settle into my daughters hug, to feel the lid on her bottle open in my two hands that work without flaw, or the simple feeling of my groans as I settle down to meditate.
We often get lost in the sense that our mala, our meditation cushion and position—or our image of being spiritual—will somehow bring us happiness and make us better people. We are in fact, just getting caught up in what Chogyam Trungpa called spiritual materialism: a grandiose sense of self because we practice.
The practice, though, is little more than a recharge for the battery. It holds no meaning— negative nor positive—if we do not use it in our everyday engagements. It is right view and right action we seek, not am I doing this cushion thing right?
I settle back into it, though, and begin to breathe again because I was only looking for five minutes anyway.
Eventually I come out of my meditation and smile. I get my creaky body up off of the floor (now more sore from sitting like this) and walk into my daughter’s room. She is semi-awake and I see her blossom into a smile around the nipple of her bottle. I crawl into bed with her and kiss her little head. “I love you too, sweetie,” I say.
We both sink into nap time.