Many of you may be wondering who I go to for mindfulness coaching. I’ve had many years training at various schools on both coasts, but lately I have undertaken a more grueling mindfulness training program. It’s called Babysitting A Two Year Old. It’s more like an internship than a school. As fortune had it, my niece's babysitter quit unexpectedly around the same time I had openings in my schedule, so I took it as an opportunity to improve my credentials.
If you’re looking for mindfulness development opportunities, I recommend this program with caution; a two year old is effective but not gentle. We recently went on an hour walk and only went about 25 yards. If I walked too fast, she complained. She taught me how to walk very slow, absorbing all the plants and animals with every step. The first 30 minutes was agonizing, but soon my racing mind slowed down to the rhythm of my breath and the pace of my steps.
Sometimes we will sit and stare at a horse or a bird for about five minutes longer than I normally would. At first, it felt like sitting for eternity. But now I can proudly find interest in a simple scene for much longer than before.
I’m not allowed to talk on the phone without her objection. She may be playing on her own or singing along to Anna and Elsa, but her sixth sense will notice when my mind goes to my to do list, or if I try to check my email.
She values repetition in a way that is reminiscent of Mr. Miyagi. We climb up and down the same set of three steps over and over and over again. The only tool I’m allowed to ease my anxiety is my breath. And the more I breath, the more present-centered I become.
She is strict about life balance. I can follow her lead and get the right amount of outside time, inside time, awake time, and rest time. She has a weakness for milk, cheese, and candy, but otherwise has a clear sense of how much and how frequently we should eat.
Exercise usually involves a swift jog while pushing her in a stroller or toddler bike. If I slow down, I am quick to hear her shout “FAST!”
My current challenge is the swings. I have the simple task of pushing her on a swing that hangs from a tree, but simple does not mean it is easy. In order to maintain a satisfactory momentum of the pendulum I need to push the swing at least every third time. This requires me to stay relatively present in the here and now, no matter how “boring” I encounter it. While it may be difficult for me, she is able to stay in a blissful state; sometimes closing her eyes to feel the cool breeze or warmth of the sun. Sometimes we’ll spend 15-30 minutes on the swings. I’m slowly starting to find a consistent sense of ease, usually by bringing my attention to the nature around me and sometimes by closing my eyes and experiencing my breath. Sometimes she catches me listening to a podcast in my wireless earpiece and is quick to attempt to grab it and run away. What can I say, I’m a work in progress.
We also work on mindfulness around organization. While I trust her wisdom enough to let her lead the way, if I don’t maintain consistent stewardship of the space around us, I will have to spend the entire nap time cleaning up a trail of toys, food, and clothes all over the house that I didn’t even notice during my effort to just keep up. So before we begin a new activity, I am sure to require that we clean up the previous. Because she moves so fluidly from one activity to the next, it can be very easy to forget about the previous mess, but I’m getting better. She shows me that cleaning up and staying organized along the way doesn’t have to be a chore. I don’t know the entire lyrics to the “Clean up, clean up” song, but it only takes one or two verses to make staying organized as light-hearted as playing.
The experience is turning out to be more rewarding than exhausting. I’m finding myself more grounded, more at ease, and more connected to my breath than before I began this apprenticeship. Situational matters seem less threatening, and the present moment is becoming more figural. The to-do list in the back of my mind takes a back seat to the here-and-now with greater ease than it used to.
Though the results are self-evident, this is not a training path for everyone. If you’re looking to me for your own mindfulness coach, I promise to be less intense than my own mindfulness coach. (I don’t scratch, bite, or screech if you get off track.) But I have to say, Two-Year-Old Boot Camp has greatly improved my capacity to sit with a mindful presence. I hope at some point in your life, you get the opportunity to relate to your own inner two year old, or a currently two year old person. With the right support, the benefits are worth the time.