In the past, I often traveled for work leaving my family at home. I enjoyed being on the road. It felt free. I had a wide selection of meals prepared for me and the cleaning was always done. I could focus my attention on work, my brain, my needs. I loved my work so I thought I was happy. I didn’t mind the pain in my neck and back from too much traveling or the forgetfulness.
When my work contract ended, I found myself home a lot. It was hard to adjust and sometimes painful. Even though I worked on my book and did some job hunting, my daily routine now featured shopping for food, cleaning the house, carpooling, cooking, and caretaking. I became the master of the house. At first, domestic life felt dull and ordinary. I felt disconnected from the real world. I missed talking to busy people working on important projects, teaching and traveling, attending conferences, feeling like I was in the real fight for social justice, you know, saving the planet.
When I got deeper into my research on mindfulness, I came across a lot of Buddhist writers and philosophers including Chögyam Trungpa. I learned that mindfulness starts at home; that the magic of life, and awareness of what can truly help society, arises out of appreciating and valuing ordinary moments and situations. I found this very hard to understand and harder to put into practice. How can I appreciate shopping and washing the dishes? How will this enlighten me, make me feel at peace, make me happy? How does what I do at home, with my family cultivate world peace?
This kind of mindfulness takes discipline, training and time. I read and reread, read and reread the wisdom and practice meditation daily. I sometimes join a Sangha or share my experiences but usually it’s just me.
It has taken me a long time to find calm. To see how patience and compassion does grow. How awareness of the details matter most when it comes to understanding—understanding the self and other human beings and society. Each small detail somehow folds into our understanding of the bigger picture of the world. It’s amazing actually. It’s like discovering the simplicity and complexity of a snowflake. One single snowflake in the world of snow.
Now, I find myself more present and enjoying this space. I think about things like which herbs will enhance my cooking and I’ve even started to grow basil and oregano. I like the taste, the sight and the smell. I think about how all those years on the road, eating and living in hotels, there were people cooking and cleaning and taking care of all those details so that I could be an intellectual, thinking and busy.
I have found new meaning of justice and fairness in all this. Now, it is my turn. My turn to make life easier for my husband and children, knowing that they are out there working, commuting, going to school and navigating the real world, which is often callous and too busy to be sensitive to their needs. I am thinking differently about what we value in life and society, how we assign worth and status to some jobs, how in order be compassionate and careful in our treatment of others we have to live it and breathe it. Isn’t this the beginning of mindfulness and justice?