The other day, my young son asked me, “Mom, can you sit slower?”
The answer, of course, is yes—probably.
Regular readers know that I stay pretty busy, with family, writing, blogging, teaching, and volunteerism—to say nothing of the usual requirements to maintain a nice home, to care for myself, to keep up with reading, and to maintain friendships.
I’m probably no different than most people reading this, except that I add blogging to the mix—and I have no particular skill for juggling.
Look, I’m nearly fifty, and there are things I want to do. I want to raise thoughtful kids, and to fulfill my personal potential, and to achieve artistic and financial goals. It would be great to do this in a well maintained home, inside a healthy body, with a still and centered mind, and within a mutually supportive relationship. I do fairly well in most areas, but sometimes a few things slip. I disappoint someone; I don’t make time for my creative self; my belongings arrange themselves into piles.
I do what I can, and then I collapse into a chair—and that’s when my little guy comes along with his question.
Can I sit “slower”? Since he has asked, it has been the most important question on my mind.
Meditation is one way to slow down my sitting. A meditation practice forces us to sit more slowly and to quietly observe how our breath feels going in and out of our lungs, and, I have imagined when really focused, how our blood feels pumping through the body.
Sometimes for me meditation doesn’t slow things, though, and I get snagged in the trying. I hear the furnace kick on in real time. I hear the cat scratching in his box. My list of things to do rolls like movie credits in the black screen of my brain. But the attempt is useful, and the more I try, the better I get at controlling the clock and making it work in service to me, instead of vice versa.
What does a three-year-old mean when he asks us to sit more slowly? It’s nothing he could articulate, but I have a guess. In part, I think he would like for me to sit longer—to linger with him in real kid time. He wants me not to be a moving target, but to be present for him, and to observe.
I think he may also recognize a lack of stillness at my core. I worry about things—when will I find time to grade this stack of essays? When will I get to an editing project? How will I pay a particular bill? What should I do with that essay I’ve been struggling with? I’m eternally restless, and he knows it—and he loves me. He wants me to rest, because rest is a kind of home, and it feels so good.
And I also suspect he’d like to sit with me, so that we can slow ourselves together, and synchronize our internal clocks, and fully occupy the moment. Young children seem like they’re always on the move, but I think they’re generally present. If they’re playing with Legos, they are about Legos. If they are offering a morning cuddle, they are about cuddling. Total attention is given to the alphabet song, or to a cartoon, or to saying goodnight to the moon.
When he asks me to sit slower, he’s asking me to be all the way with him. And my answer to his question is that I don’t know if I can. But I know I can do better, and I know it’s right to try.