“I am making a spell”
“What is the spell for?” I ask.
“It’s a spell to stop the world from breaking”
This is the conversation I had with my 5-year-old grandson last weekend. We were on a beach and he was mixing sand, seawater, seaweed, shells and stones in a bucket with his spade.
I expected him to create a wish for something for himself, like a toy or event. So, his response surprised me, as did his creating a spell in the first place. His parents and I have no idea what inspired his spell or where he had got the idea from. Watching Meg and Mog on TV maybe.
On this day on the beach I was aware that I had carried the vastness of space I had felt whilst sitting with a friend at the end of his life just a week ago. Here I was just one week later making spells on a beach with my young grandson with this spacious feeling still with me.
What struck me in this moment, was that I was able to just sit with this 5-year-old boy, doing repetitive activities for hours on end. Once I noticed this, I was curious. Surely, I should be bored, or resentful of the time I was spending with him instead of doing something for myself.
This intrigued me as I didn’t have any feelings of frustration at all. I just sat with this vastness, in the moment. Of sounds, the feel of the wind and sun, being outside, colours, freshness, big sea, big sky, dogs barking, people passing. The granularity of sand the immensity of the sky, side by side.
It took me a while to realise that I was actually doing a mindfulness practice. My grandson was playing independently, in his own world. Watching him became my support and sitting with him became my practice. Of just being. 20% of my attention was on him – to keep him safe – and me curious. The other 80% was on just being.
As I sat there, thoughts popped into my mind – triggered by his spell. Fear of a broken world seemed to be looming in the news about climate change and fear of political direction and Brexit. Images and news clips started to play in my mind like a news reel. I noticed it then came back to my support.
Then suddenly something I had learned from reading the Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh dropped into my mind – but I held it and explored it. It felt like a message sent to remind me of something important about my practice.
When studying for the MSc Studies in Mindfulness, I had explored in my journals how I sought solace and time for myself because so many people put demands on my time.
In the book reference is made to a man with a sick wife looking after their child. He had very little time for himself. He told Thich Nhat Hanh that he had discovered a way to have more time. He explains that in the past he used to look at his time as if it were divided into several parts – for example, one for the child, one for his wife, another for chores etc., and anything left over for himself. This was clearly causing him suffering and frustration.
He found a way of looking at things differently. He explained that he no longer divides his time. By observing his experience of being with his wife or child or doing other activities without preference or judgement, he found that this time spent was also his time. He began to feel joy as he had the insight that he now has unlimited time for himself. Because all his time, is actually his time.
This helped me no end in my daily life practice. It’s taken time – buy hey, practice makes perfect and I am certainly work in progress.
The insight just dropped in like a gift, sitting there on the beach, watching my grandson in his own creative world, just free and playing. Hanh states that “freedom is necessary for a child’s development.” So he had his freedom and I had my time.
Having processed these gifts of insight that dropped in I realised that I had come some way in allowing everything to be my time. This is especially true when looking after my grandson. I notice that he teaches me things about life as I observe my total experience of being with him and looking after him. Yes, sometimes he’s a bit overwhelming or tired or hungry or excited and that might trigger a behaviour I find irritating, but I note that. Instead of being irritated and longing for ‘my own time’, I take it all in as part of my experience. All of it my time. Not separate.
And so, back to the spell, words with supposed magical power with an intention from a 5 year old for the world not to break. I asked him to elaborate as this wasn’t the first time he had spoken these words. He explained that he wanted all the world and all the animals and trees to be ok. His Loving Kindness intention without even knowing or understanding Mindfulness.
So here I was again, learning mindfulness from an innocent child. It seemed for a moment that my intention to be mindful and joyful had cast its own spell on me. I was reminded once again, that mindfulness is magic.
This week’s challenge is to reflect on how you divide your time between being with others, working, doing chores and having time to yourself. Are you able to see ways in which you can begin to see it all as your time? I’d be interested to know how you get on so please leave me a comment after this post or email me at email@example.com .
Wishing you a mindfully magical week ahead.
Jacky will be co-teaching Level 1 – Being Present with Alan Hughes at Samye Ling 13 – 15 March 2020 and on the Level 2 – Responding with Compassion with Heather Regan-Addis at Samye Ling Summer 2020.
We’d love to see you there.
Jacky has contributed a chapter to the Mindful Heroes Book entitled “Turning Empathic Distress into Compassion – A Hero’s Journey for Family Carers”. You can hear an extract from the chapter where she talks about the results of her MSc Studies in Mindfulness on Compassion & Family Carers. You can download a free sample of Jacky’s chapter here.
Hanh, T.N., 2016. The miracle of mindfulness: An introduction to the practice of meditation. Beacon Press.