How a Suburban Mom Meditates
by L. Lisa Harris
The style in which I was taught to meditate or journey recommends that I find a “quiet place outdoors, facing east, and to perform the journey barefoot if possible.” The teacher who recommends this method obviously isn’t a mother living in the suburbs of Puyallup, Washington. When it isn’t raining, snowing or just plain cold, anyone trying to mediate in my backyard is likely to sit on a slug, which is not conducive to achieving a meditative state. If the weather is nice, the neighbors are out. I can tell you that listening to the CD player next door blasting the Back Street Boys at full volume and the obsessive-compulsive, gasoline-powered weed whacking emanating from the yard on the other side does nothing to relax me. Factor into the equation barking dogs, footballs flying over the fence, the neighbor kids asking, “Chelsea, what’s your Mom doing in the back yard? It looks weird” and the car alarm across the street going off, and it becomes painfully obvious that a quiet place outdoors exists somewhere far from my home.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I move my meditations inside the house, where I can look out the window and see the trees, berry vines and ferns in the woods out back and listen to the soothing sounds of my little stone fountain. The question is, “Where in the house?” Forget the family room, where my almost teenage daughter is listening to pop radio. The living room doesn’t work either, as my dear (and slightly deaf) hubby is watching reruns of Friends at full volume. The girl’s room is too messy and still smells like the hamster she had when she was 10. The office/guest room is out of the question, as hubby runs in and out to check on the music he’s downloading on our painfully slow 28.8 modem and occasionally howls, “Damn them, they terminated the connection.” I’ve tried our bedroom, but whenever I’m in there, hubby can’t resist coming in to “be with me.”
Finally, one night, in an exasperated attempt to find privacy in a small rambler with painfully thin walls, I sought the only refuge mothers have: the bathtub. I had visions of candlelight, incense and the pulsating rhythms of one of my drumming CDs blending with the steam rising from the warm water containing herbs, essential oils and sea salt, as I relaxed in the tub and drifted off into a trance state and had profound visions in my own little sacred cocoon. I was sure this was a brilliant idea.
The first challenge was to get the girl to “go now, or hold her peace.” The only bathroom we have with a bathtub in it is in the hallway, and if the girl uses the one in our room, it echoes through the pipes and heater vents (did I mention the thin walls?). Once my darling daughter spent 30 minutes doing whatever it is adolescent girls do in the bathroom, I started gathering my supplies. The first trick was getting my CD player back, “But Mom, I can’t do the dishes without music,” she whined, as I walked out of the kitchen with it. The next challenge, which took about 15 minutes, was finding my drumming CD, which had mysteriously disappeared from the player and had been replaced by some annoying girl-band album. I found an aromatherapy candle and scrounged up the last of the season’s mugwort to add to my lavender essential oil and sea salt. As soon as my surly adolescent saw me heading into the bathroom with my jar of mugwort, she gave me a look and said, “You’re not going to leave a bunch of green crap in my bathtub again, are you?”
Finally, I got everything I needed together and ran myself a bath. As soon as I settled in and started to become aware of my breathing, I heard something shaking and saw two black paws reaching under the door. As tempting as it was, I knew that telling Bad Kitty to get lost would not only be useless but would violate two major rules of our household that are strictly enforced: There is to be no magick, meditation or energy working in the house without direct supervision by the kitty, and humans are never allowed into a bathroom unescorted by the kitty. I got up out of the tub, dripping all over everything in sight and opened the door to let her in. While I stood shivering, she just sat and looked at me as if to say, “You know better.” Finally, when she was darn good and ready and I was sufficiently cold, she sauntered in and flicked the end of her tail at me as if to say, “That will teach you.”
I eased myself back into the bath, and kitty took her place on the side of the tub, face resting against mine, and fluffy tail dangling in the water. I began to establish the portals to start my journey in earnest. I was startled out of my almost meditative state by a loud knock and a whiny adolescent voice saying, “Mom.” I tried ignoring her, but she just kept at it.
“What are the rules about when I’m in the tub?” I snarled through the door.
“Don’t bug you unless I’m bleeding or something’s on fire,” she answered sullenly. “Can I get on the Internet to do homework?” she added quickly.
“Fine, but no loud music, I’m trying to meditate.” As I found the place in my mediation where I had been disrupted, I drifted back to the portals, reconnecting and resuming my journey. Not long after I stepped through the portal, I heard a sound that made me almost jump out of my skin. I think it originated from our paper shredder and a large object.
“What in the hell are you doing in there?” I shouted through the wall to the next room.
“Um, nothing,” she replied.
“Well, go do it in another room and quietly,” I ordered.
About that time, my dear husband came home from work and proceeded to fire up the computer in the next room. After listening to the Microsoft Windows introduction music at full volume, I asked him though our incredibly thin walls to wear earphones if he was going to play music files. He agreed and then proceeded to type with what have got to be the loudest keystrokes on Earth. He doesn’t do it on purpose; that’s just the way he types. I tried sticking my head under water, but all that did was get water up my nose. Eventually, he finished whatever he was doing, made some noise in the other bathroom for a while and headed out to the living room. “Finally,” I thought to myself, “peace and quiet.”
I drifted back to the land of faery and went to meet up with my animal guide. Raven had come to me that night and was circling my head playfully and swooping down to wrap me in a feathery embrace. This time I was jolted out of my meditation to find Bad Kitty attacking the shower curtain just above my head. I got her furry butt and wet tail out of my face and scolded her. Launching herself off of my shoulder, she took one more leap at the curtain, bound and determined to teach whatever she had seen there a serious lesson. I untangled her from the curtain and unceremoniously dropped her on the bathroom floor. She glared at me as only a cat can, very hurt and frustrated that I didn’t appreciate her attempt to save me from the intruder. I deposited the indignant kitty outside of the bathroom door and turned up the drumming CD to drown out the shaking of the door and her yowling.
As I walked back to the tub shivering, I slipped on the now very wet floor and cracked my shin against the toilet. I limped the rest of the way to the tub and found that my water had become cold. “I am not going to give up,” I told myself, and after running more hot water and settling back in, I counted my breath, backtracked and soon picked up where I had left off. I proceeded to follow my animal guide to the cave, where I anticipated a meeting with another guide. I could feel the gentle breezes, smell the green grass and flowers and hear my husband and daughter in the other room engaging in what sounded like a fight to the death over the remote control.
I proceeded to march out into the living room, draped in a towel, tracking water everywhere. My husband, who normally takes issue with anything dripping on the white carpet, took one look at the expression on my face and the crazed look in my eyes and stopped dead in his tracks. In the calmest, steadiest voice I could muster, I said, “Is it too much to ask to have a few moments of peace in the bathtub once in a while?”
He shook his head and answered, “No, honey.” The girl and the cat sat beside him on the couch, all of them trying not to make any sudden moves that might trigger a predatory response from the tall, wet, angry, redheaded woman, who at that moment resembled her warrior ancestors cloaked in a double-looped cotton towel. Satisfied that my point had been made, I returned to the bathroom, where now no one knocked, meowed or did strange things to the paper shredder in the next room.
I emptied the last of the hot water into the tub, refreshed the herbs and oils and finished my journey. As usual, I received answers to the questions I didn’t ask — and cryptic ones at that. But the answers, and perhaps even the journey itself, weren’t the most important thing I found that night. I found the “holy grail” of motherhood in the suburbs, 20 uninterrupted minutes of peace and quiet in the bathtub.