Today I paid a visit to my mother, who has been living with Alzheimers for twelve years. It takes me three hours to drive to her nursing home. I try not to go with expectations, but that’s hard, since the drive itself is a commitment (kind of like sitting down to meditate) and I want my visits to go well.

But it’s hard to define “well” when my mother doesn’t know who I am, and when she seems to deteriorate in between my visits. I try to slip into a zen state when I interact with her.
Sometimes (as with my meditation practice) I fear that I have made a mistake. I fear that I’m veering out of a meditative state. It’s challenging to make conversation with my mother. After complimenting her on her haircut, kissing her hand, and noting that her cough didn’t seem too bad, today I found myself asking “What are you thinking about?”

Oops.

That’s certainly a question I try not to ask myself when I’m meditating. I’d slipped out of my zen state, but my mother stayed right where she was. “It’s hard to tell,” she answered. Closing her eyes, she drifted, or meditated, or noted the thoughts passing through her mind.

Or not.

It’s hard to tell.