Over the last three weeks my life changed dramatically. In this short space of time I signed a contract for a new job 711 km (441.795 miles) from home. I drove to the new town and found an apartment; I drove back home and packed up a carload of clothes and provisions; I drove back to my new town, moved in to the apartment and started the new job in 24 hours. And I pretty much cried through the whole experience.
I was sad to be leaving my beloved home and friends and my husband who has his own great job. I was sad to be leaving the beautiful countryside of Quebec’s Eastern Townships and the large rocks on our property that inspired my painting and grounded my soul for the past three years. I was moving to a new city and to a new BIG job and I felt like I was on a roller coaster. But as crazy as it all felt, it also felt clearly that I should not say “No” to the universe’s offer. So when the opportunity pulled up, I hopped in and said, “Let’s go.”
I try and meditate on a daily basis but when there is this much transformation and activity going on it becomes impossible to do my sitting practice. Inspired by a little list of Zen Things I found on the internet, I realized there was another way that I could centre, ground and nourish myself each morning. I call it The Oatmeal Meditation.
Every morning my husband and I ate a bowl of oatmeal and my usual morning routine was all about multitasking. I would get the pot boiling, stir in the oatmeal while I filled the bowls with oatmeal accessories, made the tea or coffee, checked my email, threw in a load of laundry, wrote in my journal or picked a daily tarot card, made my lunch. Far too often, I would forget the pot of oatmeal and save it just at the last second from being a pot of burned muck.
Recently, I begin to make the oatmeal and something compels me to stay with it. Instead of dashing about the kitchen, I decide to stay present to the pot of oatmeal. I pour the water into the pot and measure out the oatmeal. I turn up the burner and then I wait with the pot until the water boils. I pour in the small hard grains of steel cut oats, stir once, lower the heat and then remain present to the process of the oats becoming my morning nourishment. I notice how the small grains are tossed and tumbled in the water. I feel I am also being tossed around with new experience and new geography. I watch how the small grains do not resist the tumble; no they tumble and slowly absorb their new environment into themselves growing fuller and softer as they do. I notice how many times I resist the urge to do something else.
I watch as the water and oats merge and become thick. I watch each new bubble slowly come to the surface, fill and then release its steam. I think of how often I don’t release, how I hold onto the steam of my thoughts, allowing them to fill more and more with judgement and concern. I practice letting my thoughts become the bubbles of oatmeal, releasing them into the air, each pop giving my mind and my heart space to just be.
Occasionally I stir the pot or lower the heat but for most of the 20 minutes it takes for the oatmeal to be ready I just stand, staying present to the process that becomes my breakfast.
I pride myself in my ability to multitask, and society rewards those of us that do. But by doing too much, too fast, we become disconnected from the little moments that make up our lives. If we do not stop, now and again, to be present to some of the infinite moments in our day, we run the risk of missing our life altogether. The city is bustling; I am learning a new job and meeting new people. The Oatmeal Meditation gives me an opportunity to slow down, to look and to give thanks. I notice the reflection of the window on the apartment wall and give thanks. I hear the hum of the refrigerator and I give thanks. I reply to the friends who email from home and wish me well and I give thanks. I embrace the Skype calls that connect me to my husband and I give thanks. I am touched by the generous welcome from my new co-workers and I give thanks. And I taste the delicious bowl of oatmeal filled with berries and nuts, honey and cinnamon, and I give thanks.