I read an article in The Atlantic a couple years ago that shared the secret to a happy marriage. I have re-read the article several times since then, which isn't really a normal thing for me. I need to inoculate myself against apathy and to assure myself that it really is as simple as I remember.
So simple and profound is the answer: pay attention.
We all know it's true. Like proven by science true.
But we don't do it.
What keeps us from paying attention, real attention to our dearest ones? Our worries we are missing out on something better. Our selfishness. Our belief that our thing is so much more important than that other person's thing. Facebook. The game. That big client.
Really, it's bullshit.
We assign importance to things based on some labels and rules imposed on us by systems outside of our control. We are manipulated into believing that every 'like' is a check mark next to our value as a human being. We take for granted that beautiful being sitting next to us. We are blind to the impermanence of everything.
Everything falls away. Everything ends. Everyone dies. Everyone. You even.
As scary as it is to contemplate impermanence, we must in order to be free of these delusions that there will always be time to catch up with a friend or read that book with our children. But it's more than giving time. We must give our true and whole attention to our beloveds.
The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. - Thich Nhat Hanh
My brother died suddenly at the age of 49. I never got to say goodbye to him. This is one of the deepest pains of my life.
In our last exchange, we promised to spend more time together. He had recently quit a job he hated that required him to be out of the country for weeks at a time. I was a working mom with young kids facing separation. We had excuses. We had reasons to postpone the phone call. To wait until Spring to visit.
I never got the chance.
It feels scary to hold all of this together in your mind. But mindfulness meditation can help. It will help. Meditation and mindfulness help us create some space and distance from our thoughts and our perceptions. Space allows for us to see things for what they are. Space allows us to see our children, our partner, our friends for who they are, not the labels we have assigned to them.
Space allows us the time to be present fully in this moment.
Not every moment. But some of them. With more practice, we can stitch more moments together. Eventually, we can be in a mindful state more than we are not. Ok, maybe not all of us.
So I'm going to put down this laptop and go help my kids get ready for school in the most mindful way possible. Which really means I'll do my best to get through the whole thing without yelling at anyone.