- Claire Leslie Johnson
Meditation & Multiples
I wake up at 4:50am and can’t fall back to sleep. Being 25 weeks (6 months) pregnant with twins, this is not unusual. Frequent leg cramps and bathroom breaks pull me out of sleep, and ruminating thoughts prevent me from settling back down.
This morning my thoughts are particularly tempting. I watch them bubble up and taunt me. This new memory foam pillow smells weird. What is memory foam, anyways? Is it bad for me to breathe in these fumes? Oh god, it’s probably going to give me and the babies health problems. Then a quick pivot: How are we going to manage caring for twins in the middle of the night? Will I be able to feed them both at once, or will Danny have to get up every time to help? Where should we feed them? The bedroom? The living room?
I’ve learned that spinning around with my thoughts in this way doesn’t really accomplish much, so after 10-15 minutes I get out of bed. And now I know it’s time to start my meditation practice. Sometimes I procrastinate (maybe I will just look up what memory foam is made out of, really quick). But, my mind is clear enough to know what’s best for me and willpower is there, so I begin the process of getting to my meditation cushion.
Small comforts and rituals set me on the path for practice. I make a cup of tea, light a candle, and get settled in front of a simple altar to which I can direct my attention. In a pinch, a candle on a windowsill or fireplace mantle is altar enough.
Sometimes I turn on a meditation podcast*. Today, I embrace the silence on my own. Cross-legged on my meditation cushion, it takes time for my mind to become spacious. At first, I am pulled back down the narrow corridor of obsessive thinking, but as I notice this, I gently redirect myself to the present moment: the sound of my cat quietly padding across the house; my breath, moving light and free in my body; the flame flickering behind my eyelids. After 10 minutes, I am surprised by how much tension has lifted, how much lighter I feel. The silence starts to feel safe and comforting, soothing.
Meditation is a beautiful thing. Like an old friend, it is always there for me. It has provided me deep insight and learning about myself and the world over the years. But practice for me takes on many forms: cross country skiing through a quiet snowy wood, sitting in front of a crackling fire, joining my yoga community for a live stream class, brisk lunch-hour walks with my rascally pup.
As these long quiet winter months plod on, those of us who are privileged enough to have our basic needs met find that we can use our extra time—previously occupied by social engagements, commuting, and errands—for practice. This “Winter of The Pandemic,” what does your practice look like? How do you let in the suffering and isolation? How do you open up to stillness and neutrality? When spring arrives and flowers bloom and babies are born and vaccines are distributed, what will we have learned? Who will we have become?
I’m slowly starting to see what a gift this time has been—an extended retreat I didn’t ask for. I feel myself becoming clearer-headed, patient, intentional, and more connected with the people and issues I care about. In a couple months, when my world turns upside-down, and I myself am reborn as a mother for a second (and third) time, I know that the inner fortitude I am cultivating now will be a source of strength for me and my babies. My practice will take on a totally different form—it will ebb and flow and struggle to manifest over late night feedings and sleepy cuddles—but it will be sustained by the wisdom and momentum I am gaining today.
Claire Leslie Johnson
Admin & Program Director, One Yoga
*I primarily use the Common Ground Meditation Center podcast to access audio talks and meditations. Common Ground is a wonderful community meditation center located in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. You can find their podcast by searching “Common Ground Meditation” in your podcast app. There is also an enormous library of audio talks and meditations freely available at dharmaseed.org.