Updated: Jun 3, 2021
As a working mom of two boys with an essential worker husband who is not home for 96 hours out of the week, it's hard for me to have downtime, let alone find ZEN.
I search for it though. I try and find it in the bushes as I drop my kids off at 7 am for school. On the hour-long commute to work. In the 3rd cup of coffee I pour myself to get through the day. In the school pick up line. The grocery store, cooking dinner, meal prepping, feeding children, housing chickens, bathtime, brushing teeth, bedtime, and that 30-second window where I am lying in bed thinking about the day before I pass out only to hear my alarm at 5 am the next.
Zen is somewhere playing the world's longest game of hide and seek.
"It's unhealthy to not have calm present in your life" I have been told. "You need to do something for yourself. Care for yourself. Otherwise, you will run yourself into the ground."
I will admit that it hit home when the loving cigarette sales lady behind the gas station booth passed along these enduring words of encouragement.
I should listen and I should find something for myself.
So I signed up for Yoga. Once a week, because frankly, who has more time than an hour.
So after half a week of lunch boxes packed, ouchies kissed, work projects completed (or half-completed) on top of teaching my 7-year-old dog new tricks (A wonderful new endeavor I decided to pick up thanks to the internet) I got into my yoga pants, pulled on a wavey top and headed my way to the gym, 6 minutes late for class.
I reel into the parking lot, grab my mat, clutch my water bottle in hand (it’s important for self-care to stay hydrated) and march into the gym, ready to find my zen.
I scan for an empty space, lay out my mat, and sit cross-legged with my eyes closed in a large emptied kickboxing classroom. Waterfalls and chirping birds swell with the harmonious music piped in through the sound system.
Zen was going to find me. I could just tell.
No. Zen didn't. Instead, Shirley did. A grouchy old lady, also carrying a yoga mat who comes waltzing up to me in front of the entire echoing classroom. She pronounced to the world,
"I just thought you were going to run me over, driving through that parking lot like that!"
My mind reeled. I looked to see if she was joking and couldn't tell. So I half smiled and apologized in a whisper. She turned and went to lay out her mat (and proceeded to stretch and flex better than any 80-year old I have ever seen!)
As the music grew louder, I rolled my shoulders and breathed deeply, all I could fixate on was the fact that I couldn’t for the life of me remember seeing that little old lady in the parking lot! I didn't see a car, I didn't see a human! For all I knew I could have run over 5 baby rabbits on my way here and not even have blinked an eye. My day was already a blur. What if I HAD hit her in the parking lot and didn't even know it until I left the yoga class to an ambulance and a dent in my hood! Was I so focused on finding zen that I had let all matter of human decency fly out the window?
I let the thoughts breathe deep in me and I breathed them out with a swan dive bend. Then I breathed them in again thinking of all the times I brainlessly driven to the store and didn't even remember who I might have left in the wake of a Walmart parking lot.
How stressful it was to think of the double life I was living. And all the crimes I must commit every day due to my lack of zen!
I took a breath and released my plank hold. Standing to tree pose, I relaxed, looking out the wall-length window. I watched the light glimmer off a faraway tree thinking of solid ground and roots growing from my feet into the floor.
That’s when the yoga instructor braved the mandated Corona Virus 6-feet apart rule and walked upright in front of me. The still room seemed to spotlight on me as 12 elderly yoga patrons turned to see what had caused the disruption of the class.
"YOU SEEM TO BE TENSING YOUR SHOULDERS TOO MUCH--" the teacher yelled at me and to the room. "YOU NEED TO MAKE YOUR POSITIONS BETTER AND NOT RUIN THEM BY SHRUGGING YOUR SHOULDERS" she then demonstrated what must have been an over-exaggeration of my condition. "YOU NEED TO RELEASE AND NOT BE STRESSED."
I half smiled and tried to laugh. "I feel like I spend my entire life like that."
"YES WELL YOUNG MOTHERS NOW ADAYS TEND TO BE OVER STRESSED."
I "laughed" again. The entire room laughed actually. Due to hilarity, understanding of my predicament (Or was it menace coming from Shirley?).
I glanced at the clock across the room as everyone straightened and breathed. I had 10 minutes left to find zen.
I spent 8 trying to think of all the reasons why I shrug my shoulders and carry stress in them. 1 minute and 30 seconds chastizing myself on why I couldn't stop shrugging and 30 seconds in the fetal position just accepting that it wasn't going to happen today.
On the drive home I chugged a gallon of water and contemplated the act of letting go of zen. Of living without it and focusing on the road. On the squirrels dogging my tires and on hydration.
How much calmer my life would be if I didn't have to worry every second of the day about not being stressed and not having to fight for 'self-care'. Perhaps this new age world trend of being free from stress was another gimmick. A stunt pulled to make gyms popular and Amazon stay in business with stretch bands and aromatherapy diffusers. Maybe Zen was like Cereal. It says it's an important part of a healthy diet, but really, it's over rated.