Reacting with Laughter – Imagine the Possibilities…

“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

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Gratitude by spilled yoghurt

Everybody knows there’s no use crying over spilled milk… but how about spilled yoghurt? A few evenings ago, I was in the kitchen with my 2 ½ yr-old son. We were getting dinner ready when he asks his favourite kitchen question: “Can I look in the fridge?” ‘Please wait a moment,’ I reply. In he goes (I guess he didn’t hear me…:-) and before you know it, SPLAT. Yoghurt is all over the floor and kitchen rug. He looks at me. I look at him. With wide eyes, he does nothing but waits for my reaction. Surprisingly, I do the same. I wait. No deep breath, no counting to ten, just waiting, still. But while I am waiting, I am not reacting.

After a few moments, much to my (pleasant) surprise, I laugh. Laughter becomes my reaction and I then see my son relax into laughter as well. I am so pleased that I didn’t automatically react to a toddler’s accidental mess with anger and frustration. I sure wouldn’t want someone to do the same to me. I spill things all the time – and mostly don’t get scolded… Accidents happen and it makes sense that they will happen more with toddlers who are still learning about gravity and basic physics.

Had I automatically reacted, it would have been about so much more than spilled yoghurt! The rest of my stressful day would have been layered into the reaction – stress over having to face up to a mistake I made at work, stress about finances, stress about the uncertainty about my future professional direction – just a few small issues, to say the least! And my sweet son, who just happened to spill some yoghurt, would have been the recipient of much of the other stress I was feeling that day. How is that fair?!?

Instead, I opted for another possibility – laughter. I don’t know if it was a conscious choice, but by not automatically reacting, a moment opened up for more possibilities to emerge. I laughed. My son laughed. We cleaned up the yoghurt mess together – I had to remind him on numerous occasions that we clean up yoghurt with a cloth and not our feet – and then we went outside and played ball for a while. The yoghurt washed away much quicker and easier than the potential guilt that would have followed from a more automatic, angry reaction. Laughter instead of anger -just imagine the possibilities that this kind of reaction to frustrating moments could open up! After this incident, much of the stress of the day washed away as well…

And now I am left feeling a little grateful for the spilled yoghurt. But mostly, grateful for the lovely evening that followed with my son.

The little things… or are they?

“Enjoy the little things for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” — Robert Brault

Who better to remind us of this than a toddler, for whom B and the bugso much of life is new, exciting and BIG! They see the world with a beginner’s mind, and the seemingly ‘little things’ that go unnoticed in the busyness of our lives become the biggest and best things to them. And now, they can put words to it!

One morning last week, our 2 ½ year old son ran into my bedroom to wake me up (he is an EARLY riser, so daddy takes the 2nd morning shift while I go back to sleep). He comes in yelling with pure glee, “Mummy, there was a snail on my chair! And it was moving!”

He was beaming. Sheer excitement. Vivid, visceral delight. My mirror neurons couldn’t help but start firing with his delight. What a lovely way to be woken up!

Reflecting back on this moment, I can’t help but wonder how I might have responded – or perhaps it is more accurate to say ‘reacted’ – had their been a snail on my chair. I would like to think that if my son were around, I would have shown it to him.  More likely, I would have thoughtlessly removed it and perhaps been irritated. Most likely it wouldn’t have registered as a noteworthy event, but instead just been one of the myriad occurrences throughout the day that go unnoticed, and yet are rich with potential if we take a moment to notice.

But, a toddler, taking delight in watching a snail… observing it moving…slowly… What a reminder that each moment offers us a possibility for slowing down and experiencing delight in the simplest of things. A moment free from the worries of work, bills, childcare planning (oh wait, that’s me, not him!).

How many seemingly insignificant events occur in our lives each day and go unnoticed?  These are events that are filled with possibility when we actually do notice them.

This morning, before finishing this post, our son ran inside from the front yard, once again yelling with delight, “Mummy, look! A Ladybug!” Another seemingly little, yet oh-so-big thing.

All we have to do is notice.

Mirror in Mirror

I always seem to be so busy, even when I am not…Holding Hands

I have a fourteen month-old son, and with my partner’s support, I have decided to work part-time until our son is in school so that I can spend more time with him.  The days that I work outside of the home are very busy… In the morning, getting ready, switching gears to professional mode, getting in a nurse before I leave and then an hour commute each way. By the time I get home, I have to somehow magically getting dinner on the table in 15 minutes so that we are on track for bath and bed-time routine; definitely busy…

And weekends, they are also busy – mostly catching up on everything that didn’t get done during the week. I work a half day on Saturdays and my partner works a half day on Sundays; then shopping and cooking for the week, laundry, maybe some cleaning, more laundry and hopefully a little socializing. It is busy. But those two days during the week when I don’t work outside of the home, they are not busy. Or at least they don’t have to be… that is really up to me…

And yet I often find myself acting as if they are – rushing around, planning my way through one activity so that I can get on with the next. Today however, was different.

I set an intention to slow down and not rush. My body is a cue — I have noticed that I often get tense in my shoulders and more shallow in my breathing when I am feeling rushed. This feeling can come during any activity – when making carrot soup, putting on boots, cleaning up toys, changing diapers, walking down the street… and why? Habit? Necessity? On these days, there is no rush, no ones schedule to adhere to but our own. I have found that when I notice this tension, a deep conscious breath can help bring me back to what’s happening now rather than what happens next.

I held onto this intention throughout the morning, while my son was napping. I let go of the “got-to-get-THIS-done-before-he-wakes-up,” because really, there are always thing that need to get done… and always will be. I just stopped being busy. I did the same activities – cooking soup, getting a snack for my son, making a mess with toys, cleaning up toys, changing diapers, getting lunch together – but without being busy. And I got the same things accomplished except today, I was more relaxed. I was maybe a little later moving onto the next activity, but so what? It doesn’t matter on these days. Yes, we have a plan and a routine for our days together, but for these two days I have the luxury of no external time pressures or deadlines. Today I embraced this knowing, rather than imposing timelines that aren’t really there. And how wonderful was the outcome! New possibilities seemed to emerge through slowing down – or perhaps I slowed down just enough to notice them.

On these two days with my son, I frequently listen to a morning classical music program on CBC called Tempo. On this particular day, the host, Julie Nasrallah, was talking about just how busy everyone is all the time. Perhaps her words were a subliminal invitation to me to set the intention to let go of busyness.

My son and I had a lovely morning. I held a more relaxed, calm presence with my son, which is something I strive for since our children are magnets for our states of being. When he called for my attention, rather than responding with, “wait just-a-minute” (an all too common phrase coming out of my mouth), I stopped stirring the soup or chopping the kale and gave him a little hug. He then went happily back to emptying and refilling drawers.  I sat on the kitchen floor and ate my lunch while my son played with his blocks next to me.  He had already eaten, but was curious about what was in my bowl and so crawled on my lap to have a taste. He lingered there after we had finished. I was kissing his velvety head while a gorgeous violin and piano duet floated out from the radio; each instrument matching the others softness and of tone; both with an equal sense of mastery and vulnerability.  Perfectly in sync; coming together to make a beautiful song. We would occasionally gaze at each other in this non-busy moment, a moment of presence and connection sitting together on the kitchen floor. To outside observers, it might appear that we were not ‘doing’ anything in particular, and yet it was one of the most significant tasks of the day. Tuning into each other.

A precious moment on an ordinary day, where busy-ness didn’t get in the way of connection. Where I fully participated in each activity – something my son does naturally – rather than being halfway into the next. The song ended. The host announced the title, “Spiegel Im Spiegel” – Mirror in Mirror. A perfect description of this experience of slowing down and being fully present with my son. I was my son’s mirror and he was mine.  We saw ourselves in the other and had moments of connection, little moments, beautiful moments; precious moments that are available to us every day if we slow down enough to notice.

(originally written in February, 2012, when my son was 14 months old)