The master in diapers

My friend R confessed yesterday that she yelled at her baby in the middle of the night after being up for over an hour trying to settle her back, “What do you want?!” ”

“And then [my husband] took her away,” she said.

I was relieved to hear her confession, as two nights ago, I found myself at wits end at 5am in the morning. After an hour and a half of multiple diaper changes, many nursing sessions, bouncing on the exercise ball, rocking in the glider, and holding O upright, sideways and every which way, I put him down on my bed, looked up and said “What the @#%& does he want!”

Compassion, patience, and loving kindness went out the door in the wee hours of the morning. And so I was relieved to read an excerpt of the article “Mothering as Meditation Practice” by Anne Cushman in the book Buddhism for Mothers. In the following quote, she draws the analogy between nighttime parenting her newborn and intensive meditation retreats:

It had all the elements, I told myself: the long hours of silent sitting; the walking back and forth, going nowhere; the grueling schedule and sleep deprivation…

…And at the center of it, of course, was the crazy wisdom teacher in diapers, who assigned more demanding practices than I had encountered in all my travels in India- like ‘Tonight you will circumambulate the living room for two hours with the master in your arms, doing a deep-knee bend at every other step, and chanting, `Dooty-dooty-doot-doot-doo…’ Or `At midnight you will carry the sleeping master with you to the bathroom and answer this koan: How do you lower your pajama bottoms without using your hands?’

Is my baby a zen master in diapers, teaching me to transform resentment and frustration into meditation practice? A week ago, I had found myself in a similar situation. I had been up for over an hour before the birds even peeped, danced the same dance, sang the same songs, and reach the end of the same rope.  To no one in particular, I made a plea to get me through the next hour in any way possible. Right after that, I decided to just be present and to stop resenting yet another hole in the shredded fabric of my sleep. Then I noticed that I wasn’t as deliriously tired as I had thought I was. I was able to watch him peacefully and enjoy my time with him.

Was it a shot of adrenalin that got me through it? Or someone above answering my cry for help? It didn’t matter, I felt calmer and more focused and somehow, O did end up eventually sleeping.

In Instructions to the Cook, Bernard Glassman writes:

Usually we function with a split between what we want to do and what we’re actually doing, between what we wish we had and what we have. This division creates a loss of time and energy, and that loss actually wears us down. Since the mind wants something other than what’s happening, it creates the delusion that there’s not enough time or that time is running out.

But when we eliminate the gap between our expectations and what we’re doing, our energies all go into what we’re doing at the moment. We’re not wasting our energy on what we think we should be doing. At that point, all of a sudden, the notion of time disappears…

The magic secret is to do just one thing at a time. We do what we’re doing when we do it.

One night, I had been able to tap that secret. Two nights ago, I wasn’t able to find it again. Tonight is another night. Wish me luck.


One Reply to “The master in diapers”

  1. Oh don’t I know these night time exercises.. We had to alternate carrying her (bouncing on the exercise ball etc.) since on a couple of the worst nights we were able to get her to sleep ON THE BED at 8 AM.. When my husband was already working, we had a deal that I would wake him up to take a turn when I started to feel at the end of my patience. I nursed her at night until she was 1 year and 4 months- until it got unbearable with her waking me up every hour.. I agree it is so much easier when you can just be in the moment, but when you are tired and all you want to do is sleep it’s very hard. Otherwise I try to do this with my daughter, when I feed her or do whatever, take our time, we are not in a hurry to do the next thing. I wish you strength and some sleep!

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