My pony tail was dripping with sweat. I couldn’t help it; it was sweltering hot in that room. “Here he comes,” I thought.
As he snaked his way through the sweltering room packed tight with sweaty yogis in Lululemon attire, my intention, my focus was to nail every pose. Oh by the way, I should mention that he was not just any yoga teacher-- he was the yoga teacher; the guy who'd created the teacher training program I just completed.
I had to look graceful, right? I had to be strong, right? I had to stick that reversed half-moon like I was posing for the cover of Yoga Journal, right? I was a yoga teacher now; the stakes were higher. This is the story fear had created in my mind.
We were all in a good flow, moving seamlessly between postures, when I heard his voice coming closer and closer. I tensed up. I wanted to look perfect. As he was nearly right in front of me, I gracefully stepped my right foot forward, ready to sweep my arms up to come into warrior one, when my foot slipped on the sweat on my mat, and I fell.
“Yoga is a practice everyone, not a performance. This is not "Cirque de Yoga." You will fall, you will make mistakes. It’s all part of the journey…” he said calmly, and matter-of-factly.
After I got over the initial freak-out in my mind that he was saying this because he'd just watched me almost take out a full row of fellow yogis in domino fashion, I thought about how great this line was for us, Mindful Mamas! Motherhood-- it's a practice, not a performance!
MOTHERHOOD- A Practice, Not a Performance
This shift in perspective is very powerful. Thinking of motherhood as a practice and not a performance shifts the focus from fear to love. When we think performance, we think perfection. And where perfection is involved, there is always a fear that being less than perfect will result in pain. As mothers, this can be the pain we feel that our imperfections might be screwing up our children-- and we feel bad about that! Fear is the anticipation of future pain.
For example, have you ever noticed how fears about "screwing up" your child are projections into the future? You are worrying about a future child, a future experience, a future event that doesn’t exist today. It isn’t real (even though it feels so real…that's fear’s trick to making itself stick).
Now try this trick: Think about all the times in the past when you feel you totally “screwed up” as a mom (well, don’t dwell on them, otherwise this little activity may back fire). NOW-- step into the present moment. Look at your child TODAY-- right now, at this moment; focus your attention on how wonderful, vibrant, loving, forgiving, resilient, trusting, and well-adjusted your child is NOW! See? It’s always just fine in the present moment. And if it isn’t, I guarantee you are probably doing everything a loving mother would do in this present moment to help your child.
Remember that we are not supposed to be perfect mothers. Motherhood is designed to be a practice and not a performance. This allows us to shift our thoughts out of fear of the future and into the present moment where fearless love is always found.
Motherhood is a practice. We are gonna make mistakes. And with mindfulness and awareness, we trust ourselves that we will do better next time. That's what a practice is-- continual refinement and growth where it is required that we take 3 steps back before we take 1 step forward. Going through the poses of our mothering with this perspective allows us to come to this practice with a sense of relaxation, trust, openness and acceptance. And I just have to say, a funny little thing happens when we approach our mothering this way-- we stress, perfect, and worry less. And as we stress, perfect, and worry less, we tend to naturally do less of those things (like yelling, losing our cool, or getting lost in guilt) that make us "think" we are screwing up our kids.
This is not Cirque de Motherhood. You will fall. You will make mistakes. It's all part of the journey. Don't allow fear of the future to torment you today! Just remember that motherhood is a practice. If you come at it every day with love, perseverance, and awareness, your future (as in your kids) will work itself out beautifully one present moment at a time.
Fear feels so real, doesn't it? In only thousandths of a second, it can consume our emotions, take over our body's systems, bring a flood of memories up from the past, and unleash an anxiety-avalanche of "worst case scenarios." Now please bear with me here for a little experiment:
1) Car accident... hurricane... hunger... losing a job... foreclosure...
When we think about each of these, what comes up inside of us? Fear.
2) Full-blown tantrum in a restaurant... meltdown on a plane... the 500th parent-teacher conference in a year... detention... your teenager dating one of the "bad boys" or 'bad girls"... flunking out of school... What comes up? Fear.
Ok, let's do a reset (and then I'll get to my point!). Imagine you're in the bright sunshine, laying on a beach, feeling the warm sand under your feet, hearing the waves crash, hearing the seagulls cry, sipping on a cool drink with an umbrella, feelin' the love... Hahhh, ok we're back now. Sorry about that up there. Those negative scenarios are no fun to think about, but what's important to realize here is that what comes up with each of these is fearful thought which causes the body to react physically. Whether the scenario is major or minor, threatening or non-threatening, when you experience these different types of fearful thoughts your body has the same reaction: constrict, shut down, flee, survive. It basically shouts, "Nooooo!" Not good, especially when our bodies regularly experience these types of responses in situations where we aren't actually in any danger.
Millions of years of evolution have brought us to this state... this place where it sometimes feels like fear runs the show in our lives. Our bodies actually change physiologically in response to fearful emotions, whether perceived or actual. We find ourselves in non-threatening situations with our children all the time where we think a thought and the fear floods in. It literally may feel like the worst case scenario is just around the corner. It feels so real because that is how are bodies are designed. Our bodies tell us: Fear = Take Action... Now! This formula is spot on if we happen to be faced with a hungry grizzly bear as we jog down the street. However, when all we're having is one of those pesky, non-threatening, fearful thoughts (that all moms do) we gotta revamp the formula.
Our new Mindful Mama fear formula: Fear = Respond with Love... Now!
The following three shifts in perspective can help you to approach any situation you're faced with from a place of love (maybe even that grizzly bear).
Shift #1: Fear Is Not Real
Fear is not real. Take a good, long, mindful look at it the next time you catch yourself having a fearful thought about a "worst case scenario." If you look at it long enough it eventually dissipates and disappears. See? Fear is not real. It is a product of the ego and therefore is only real if we make it real by unconsciously reacting to it. In this cleared space, we can then focus on the good, bring ourselves back around and get grounded.
Shift #2: Fear and Love Cannot Coexist
Fear and love cannot coexist in the same space. Just as we cannot think more than one thought at a time, the same is true with thoughts of fear. If fear is there, love is not. Better yet, when loving, trustful and grateful thoughts are there, fearful ones are not. Many of the fearful scenarios described above happen when we are unconscious and not mindful of the tricks our minds are playing on us.
Shift #3: Love That Fear
Mindfulness has the power to transform our fears into love. Once we realize that fear is not real, and once we remember that fear and love cannot coexist, which thought will we then choose? Which path will we continue along? Fearful or loving? Something you hate or something to be grateful for in the moment?
Fear is something that we can (and SHOULD) learn to transform into love. Every... single... time. Love is real. Choosing a loving thought or action will bring us toward peace and happiness. Love is where we want to mother from and where our true and best selves lie. Love is when we feel connected to our hearts, not our egos. When we "love that fear", we are basically telling our egos to (lovingly) step aside so that our hearts can guide us. I've been fascinated lately with looking directly at my fears in an effort to try and transform them. So, I did a little experiment. With the guidance of our pal, The Joyful Mother, I took one fear and focused on it for four days. The fear I chose was "a fear of self-love." Whenever this fear came up I marked it down on a piece of paper. You know what I found? I found that I thought about it A LOT! And being more mindful of my fearful thoughts in general, I found that an uncomfortable amount of my thoughts are fear-based throughout the day. Yikes! Now c'mon... I know that fear is not real, and fear and love cannot coexist. So, hmmm... what does this little experiment say about how I've been livin'? How I've been manifestin'? How I've been co-creatin'? How I've been motherin'?! Fearfully, not lovingly. Try it out for yourself. Pick a fear that you have, big or small, and place mindful attention on it for four days. Keep track of it and see if it is something that you can let go of... something you are willing to transform into love.
As mothers, we experience situations everyday that hand us the opportunity to grow and learn and evolve. I think that's why it's sometimes referred to as "the toughest job you'll ever love!" When our Fear = Respond with Love... Now!, we will find ourselves mothering from a more peaceful, productive space. We can let go of the fear, knowing that we are choosing the right path. <3 Carolineps: If you have a tip or technique on how to overcome your fears, please leave it in the comments below. We always love to hear and learn from our mindful mamas!