The world loves the big breakthroughs – but what if the change you are hoping for is much more about the subtle shifts each day?
Sometimes, we can’t see just how far we’ve come.
The changes we’ve made might be subtle, or the effect it’s had on our lives not as profound as we thought. We expect small changes to make loud noises: cutting out sugar will revolutionise our world; deleting Facebook from our phone will heal our relationship.
And sometimes it does.
But not always. Sometimes, it can feel like a long and slow slog. Day in, day out, showing up as best you can. Those around you seem to be having their own mini break-throughs, but you… you wonder when lightning will strike.
Changes don’t always make a bang. Sometimes, that decision you made a year ago to start to do things differently was like a tiny pebble in a lake: it did start a change, it’s just taking it’s time for those ripples to reach out to the edge.
That’s how meditation works.
Recently, I was sitting on the floor with my three year old, trying to coax a single bite of his dinner into his mouth. He was bent over a stool, head dangling towards the floor, ensuring that his mouth was as far away from the spoon as possible. He was crying, repeating ‘I don’t want any dinner’ over and over, while I gently negotiated (with not much success) with him to take just three bites.
We’d been up since 4.45am. And we’d been awake a number of times overnight.
I once made a joke that my little boy is ensuring that I keep connected with my audience – even though he’s three now, he still constantly reminds me what it’s like to run on broken sleep. And when he does finally produce a long stretch of good nights, his sisters often step in. Between the three of them, I’m certainly staying close to my readers’ lives with at least a couple of midnight shifts a week.
(Remember this when you hear someone declaring that their baby is sleeping through already, mamas. They’ve got about five years ahead of them before they get full bragging rights.)
So there I was, with an over-tired little guy, and two chatty girls at the dinner table playing footsie instead of eating.
I could have lost it. The voice in my head could have hung on with a death grip to the thought that if he doesn’t eat again he won’t sleep again – something that goes through my head a lot with my exceptionally fussy toddler.
I could have screamed at the girls to eat their dinner, as their level of noise was adding to the little guy’s refusals like nails on a blackboard.
Instead, as I sat cross-legged on the floor next to my dining table, my girlfriend (who was staying overnight with us and was probably questioning her decision to bunk on our floor about now) smiled knowingly at me and said…
‘And this is why we meditate.’
It was a lightbulb moment. As illuminating as turning the light on in the darkness, I could see – really see – that all the years of slowing chipping away at the Superwoman addiction, the Inner Mean Mama, the short fuse and quick temper had worked.
Somehow, somewhere inside my exhausted mind that day, there was a neural pathway that had been slowly building over the past few years, that allowed me to find my calm in the middle of the chaos. The ripple effect had finally reached the edge.
Michael Bernard Beckwith calls this ‘Kensho’. It’s the slow movement towards enlightenment that may not feel like much at the time, but does in fact bring you to the same destination as the big ‘aha’ moments. It’s the marathon of growth rather than the fast sprint triggered by a suddenly clarity.
The world loves the big moments. And, if we’re honest, we crave them, even if they often come with deep sadness, heart-break or hitting rock bottom. But we must honour and celebrate the slow and steady tortoise-esque growth too.
Those little changes you are starting to make is making a difference.
The podcasts you are listening to and the deep breathes you are taking in the middle of a meltdown are slowly but surely shifting something inside you.
One day, very soon, you will notice that you’re calmer than you used to be.
You’ll realise you’re no longer craving that sugar hit at 4pm.
You’ll acknowledge that you and your partner haven’t snapped at each other in a while.
You’ll finding you can do that pose in yoga that you couldn’t this time last year.
Slow changes. Little bit by little bit. As long as we keep showing up.
And then, before you know it, you’re the calm presence in the storm of mamahood you always longed to be.
You can start your meditation practice with these simple, ten minute, mama-focused mindfulness recordings.