I need to be honest with myself. I’m not going to give up chocolate this year. Or wheat. Or alcohol. Despite what all the covers of food magazines will say, there will be no January cleanse. Not for me.
Even though I’ve tried in the past, winter deterge never made sense, especially not now with two small children holed up in the chilly months of January and February. This is prime time for baking bread and cookies, for slurping mini marshmallows off the top of hot cocoa. After a long winter’s day with but a sliver of sunlight, my body craves a rich meal and the warming effects of a full-bodied red, or hoppy beer.
As I look out my window and see the trees stripped to their sticks, exposed to the winds and wear of weather, I pull inward. Winter calls on me to examine my life, to tap into the reserves inside myself and ask the question: how do I want to begin the year? What do I need? What do I crave? Sure enough I respond with a hankering, although it’s not just for fatty foods and carbohydrates. It’s for something else entirely, something more elusive. It’s my soul hunger for a little more quiet, a little more stillness, a little more of less.
I used to be such a good n’ earnest yogini. This was pre-kids in NYC when I’d attend evening meditations at the Shambala center, go to 4 yoga classes a week, when I’d burn candles in every corner of my apartment, blast Krishna Das around the clock, forbid any sugary food or gluten tainted pastry to pass the threshold of my lips. I had cultivated a beautiful atmosphere of stillness and high vibes in my life. I was practically levitating in a bubble of bliss.
Then I had children and that bubble burst. Its contents spilled out beyond me and out of my control. No longer was I the center of my life. My family was the center. And what a relief that was. The irony of my spiritual single days was that I’d actually locked myself up in the restraints of perfection, of right thought and action as a form of discipline.
Looking back, it was a lack of self-acceptance that drove me to strive so hard to be so good. Then the minute my first child arrived my whole paradigm shifted because I saw that from birth we are already good. We are already enough. That realization changed me. As a mother, my health and well being still mattered but now it was in the context of being the lifeline to a human that in my eyes embodied total perfection, total love and acceptance.
That’s when my attempts at super-yogini went out the window. Being a parent forced me to let go, required me to surrender to the whirlwind of activity, diapers, scraped knees, spilled milk, runny noses, half eaten snacks, unfinished projects, mounds of laundry, laughter and tears. Both theirs and mine. My life shifted into full-speed ahead, feeling it all, all the time. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Except, if only I could step on the breaks, if only I could slow it all down, and savor the chaos of parenthood a little more. Now here is where my early, meditative – though none the wiser – days comes in. I want some of that stillness back. And while I don’t want to blow a big bubble around myself ever again, I do want take deeper breaths; I do want to bring space and more mindfulness into my life.
January 1st, 2016 is when the resolution begins to incorporate less instead of eliminating more. First, I’m buying an alarm clock so that I won’t have to look at my phone first thing in the morning. I’ll set it for 6:35 instead of 6:40 a.m. When it rings I’ll prop myself up in bed and there I’ll sit for 300 seconds focused on the in and out of my breath. Five minutes every morning, for the month.
Sure, there will be a day I sleep in or wake up to the kids crawling over me hungry for breakfast. No big deal. I’ll find time later in the parking lot after drop-off, or before taking lunch, or maybe I’ll turn a 10-minute walk into a meditation.
Throughout the day I’ll make a point to steep myself in the things that I find balancing. I’ll dust off the old Krishna Das albums, download a free meditation app, listen to the Pema Chodron teachings that I love. I’ll keep my lavender roll-on handy, limit my time scrolling instagram. I’ll be on high alert for things that delight me and invite me to be in the moment. If at the end of the day I’ve missed all my chances and fall asleep without taking the time to do less, I won’t berate myself. I’ll laugh it off, and try again the next.
Those early days of my spiritual practice served a great purpose by laying the groundwork for a lifetime of looking within. Not to say it’s easier now – as a parent finding time is an enormous challenge – but there’s muscle memory when it comes to meditation. It will always feel familiar. Only this time round, I’ll bring a little more experience and a little more kindness to my seat. Even if my attempts are spotty at best, 2016 will start from a good place – from within. Who knows, by the time May rolls around I might even be ready for a spring cleanse.