Tag Archives: battling life’s monsters

Day 3: Stillness, Meditation and Other Weirdness

Quiet is an unnatural state in our world. It is difficult to attain and nearly impossible to hold onto for long. Yet, nearly everyone can agree that it is an important part of emotional and physical health, and a vital aspect of prayer in almost every belief system. The constant noise of modern society, the clatter of opinions, the hiss of my own fears and worries, even the happy rhythm of a full life, can drown the soul.

Even now I can hear an inner voice sneering about the “hippy dippy nonsense” I’m dishing out. Maybe I am laying it on a bit thick. Maybe I wrote and deleted that paragraph several times. This stuff used to be too weird to me. Too other-worldly and nebulous. Too easily filed under “Other’ – new age, Buddhism et cetera (which at the time were not paths I respected).

It’s strange, because there is a long tradition of mindfulness and meditation in both Jewish and Christian traditions. Be still and know that I am God. At some point we’ve lost sight of the discipline of silence. There’s so much we can learn from each other.

I am no longer threatened by the practices of other belief systems. While I choose to remain in the traditions of my youth, I can appreciate and embrace goodness in all its forms. Mindfulness, meditation, even an awkward version of yoga have found their way into my repertoire. Honestly, I’m not sure it could be called yoga at this point, more like clumsy stretching.

The girls and I do Yoga with Adriene – ‘Yoga for Complete Beginners.’ At first B sat on the couch and laughed at us, but eventually she joined in too. She does a mean downward dog. It’s surprisingly hard. And relaxing.

Silence is a rare commodity in my life. Something I need to pursue and protect more. I need to turn the radio off during my commutes. And take walks in the woods by myself.

I’ve found guided meditations are helpful too. Kind of a shortcut to stillness. Especially actual physical escape is impossible.

One of my favourites is this free app – Stop, Breathe and Think. Although it is intended for teenagers (maybe because it is) our family has found it helpful. While in the hospital B would occasionally ask to listen to the “lady” when she felt overwhelmed or had trouble sleeping. It’s like auditory Prozac, soothing and disarming.

‘Relax, Ground and Clear’ is our standard pick. Ostensibly secular, yet I can’t help but experience The Divine through it. For what is God, if not the source of peaceful calmness, the energy of the earth, and the vastness of the sky?


The structured, purely-intellectual prayers I used to aspire to are of very little comfort these days. I can no longer A-C-T-S my way through a list. I am often beyond words.

Instead I sit and listen.

And sometimes I even hear the quiet.

* * *

On a lighter note… here’s a guided meditation for the dark days. For those of you who are comfortable with extreme profanity and morbid humour. Not at all family friendly.




Day 1: Battling the Monsters

Recently, monsters have returned to our house.

The imaginations of my oldest two kids, now teenagers, have long outgrown them. It’s been years since we had to check under beds and sing “God is bigger than the Boogie Man” until they could breathe easy. My what-is-real-and-what-is-not talk is pretty rusty. Also, I feel a little guilty trotting that one out on the same day that the tooth fairy visits.

Our littles, as we call the two youngest, have been more preoccupied with concrete fears. You know, the real terrors of life, like having to wash your hair, or wait your turn, or *gasp* go to bed at nighttime.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that monsters have returned this year amidst the upheaval and struggle and all too often, pain, of childhood leukemia. B herself does not believe in monsters. Nor does she fear them. In fact, she informs me she is “very, very, very brave.” A fact I can attest to. Sadly, her most loyal companion – Pluto the stuffed dog, is quite frightened of monsters. Little brother has caught wind of this and he too will run to mommy shaking and crying for help. And the darn things seem to be popping up more and more often.

Sometimes a hug, a song, a prayer, maybe even a snack is all it takes to vanquish the monsters. Sometimes the kids actually tell me what to say – they know what it is they need and are so much better at asking for that sort of thing than I. The only certainty is that monsters are not meant to be faced alone.

As so often happens, the invisible monsters and the imaginary friend are helping us deal with real things in their lives. Complicated fears. Deep confusion. Issues small and large that are too slippery for little hands to carry.

The kids aren’t the only ones. I’ve got monsters of my own, now more than ever. A few big and scary ones – like Cancer and Fear of My Child Dying. They’ve all but moved in. I’m learning to simply make room. Because this is our life now.

In the day-to-day it’s the little ones that trip me up the most. The thoughts, feelings, and habits that haunt me, intent on dragging me down. I want so badly to be and do better than I actually am. Most of all, I want to make peace with myself in the meantime.

Every person I meet has their own personal demons, some obvious and others deeply hidden – fear, grief, addictions, illness… Then there is society itself, plagued with systemic monsters of rape, racism, violence, greed, extremism… And what about evil itself, as a force of darkness with its own aims and purposes; is that real? Does it matter how it works? Clearly the world is full of monsters, within and without.

Some days it seems frightening. And overwhelming. And the monsters start scratching at my door even louder – perfectionism, fear, defeat, anger… The harder I try, the worse I make it.

These days it takes very little to push me to a complete meltdown. We’ve been in survival mode for so long. Our whole family feels fragile, on edge. We need a battle plan.

The key to battling monsters isn’t what you might think. It’s not a tough-as-nails hard-charging warrior that crushes them into dust. Rather, it’s a flawed-but-improving, overflowing-with-love simple human being that can make them small again. More Mother Theresa than Dirty Harry. That’s what we need. That’s what I’m going for.

So here’s me, for the next 31 days, blogging in the 31 days challenge about: Battling life’s Monsters.


For myself. For my kids. For the world.

Pretty damn heroic, right? Which is the point. Because writing variations on “I’m just trying to get my shit together” for a month sounded lame.

Here goes nothing…

Day 2: One Foot in Front of the Other

Day 3: Stillness, Meditation and other Weirdness

Day 4: Humanity Begins Here

Day 5: Embrace Plan B

Day 6: The Assumption of Agency

Day 7: Delude

Day 8: The Government

Day 10: Letting it Go

Day 11: Making it Enough

Day 14: The Blame Game

Day 15: Honouring Our Losses

Day 17: Four Hugs a Day

Day 21: Hide and Hope to be Found

Day 22: Catharsis: The Cheap Alternative to Complete Meltdown

Day 31: Peace in My Time

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