It was one of those mornings. My children seemed hell-bent on antagonizing each other– and me in the process. My two eldest daughters were having a WWWF fight over who gets to wear the white jean jacket. My youngest daughter decided that it was a spectacular idea to toss all the books from her bookshelf onto her bedroom floor instead of eating breakfast. The lunches are half-made, the house is a wreck. And the clock is ticking.
At this moment, I became aware that I wanted to jump right into the fray—yell, take away TV time, etc. This is typically where I go. The idea of venting frustration and maybe even getting them to halt is a tantalizing one. I will also, however, feel guilty for yelling, regret losing my cool– and wonder if I’m modeling for my children the exact behavior I wish to extinguish. Somehow, the pain of anticipating these future emotions gives me pause.
And then this rogue thought grabs me by the temples. I don’t have to fix it. I don’t have to fix the clothing war, the books will get picked up (eventually) and the children will get to school (eventually). So, I shift my goal from “fixing” the external chaos, to working on maintaining my peace of mind. What the heck, its worth a try.
Cause, let’s face it. They might arrive a minute after the bell rings, but if I’m a screaming mess, the damage of that experience (for myself included) far outweighs the damage of being tardy every now and again.
I focus on my breath, making it fuller on the inhale and slower on the exhale. I internally emphasize staying calm, rather than running like a crazy woman through my house at 8 in the morning. And an amazing thing happened: The kids began to settle down. Which lasted for precisely one and a half minutes.
If children are our greatest teachers, they can also be demanding and somewhat unreasonable. It was when they went back at it that I had to really pull up my spiritual sleeves. This is where many of us, myself included, can fall off the train. We initially make an effort, but if it doesn’t succeed, throw up our hands in resignation–“see, doesn’t work!” But, it does work. It just took recommitting again and again to my peace of mind (and again and again).
So, here’s the four part-solution I’m working on—work in progress to be sure, but here goes:
1) Become aware of your internal state (anger, disappointment, etc). Awareness is Gold. It gives us distance between the situation and ourselves. That really helps when tackling #3.
2) Take a deep breath in and a long slow breath out. Like the shampoo bottle says, rinse and repeat.
3) Commit to your peace of mind, or calm state, or whatever captures it for you. The goal can’t be to fix anything externally, it must be about cultivating a certain state of mind;
4) Recommit to #3. Again and again, and then some more.
Keeping it real—you won’t see me in a Steppford-wife apron anytime soon. My house is somewhat constantly dishelved and we absolutely run late some days. But, I’m working on recommitting to deepening the groove of internal calm and peace. It won’t always work, but then again, that will become another opportunity to forgive ourselves.
What would happen if the next time the band of crazies banged its drum on your door (whether it’s a kid thing or a work thing, or extended family thing), you committed and then recommitted to your internal peace? Maybe it’ll be an utter failure– but maybe it’ll be exactly the crack in the mountainside that lets in a little more space, more light, a trickle of calm and energy. With the holidays fast approaching, wouldn’t it be amazing if a commitment to our internal peace is all that was necessary to get us through? I enjoy The Beatles, but I’m not sure Love is all we need. I think it helps. At this stage of life, at this moment in history, maybe Peace of Mind is what we need.