In the words of Carrie Bradshaw (you know, Sex and the City Carrie Bradshaw):
I got to thinking about relationships. You have those that open you up to something new and exotic; those that are old and familiar; those that bring up lots of questions; those that bring you somewhere unexpected; those that bring you far from where you started. But the most exciting, challenging, significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself…
Here’s our focus for this blog, ladies-- that exciting, challenging, significant relationship you have with yourself. Talking about self-love simply has to be a part of our discussion about if we want to become mindful mamas. See, mindfulness allows us to “take charge of the direction and quality of our lives, including our relationships within the family…and most fundamentally, our relationship with ourself as a person” (Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are). This blog post is going to get you thinking about how watching your emotions gives you insight into the thoughts you are thinking, AND how your emotional state and inner thoughts directly impact the relationship you have with the absolute most important person in your life--YOU!
WATCHING YOUR THOUGHTS
Scary concept, I know. What’s so scary about it, you say? Well, if you don’t love or even like yourself, it may be very difficult to watch your thoughts because, let’s face it, you are probably not thinking very nice things about yourself or your capabilities as a mother. Watching your thoughts is a lot like looking at your face in the mirror; except, you are looking at your “inner face.”
Now, I know that you are practicing watching your thoughts, so I have to ask--What do you see? Do you see pretty thoughts that encourage your soul? Do you see kind thoughts of gratitude for your amazing personality? Do you see beautiful thoughts of loving kindness toward your physical body (you remember--the body that created, nurtured, protected, and birthed your children)?
Or, when you gaze at your inner thoughts, do you see unattractive thoughts of criticism towards how you relate to your children or your husband? Do you see unattractive thoughts of self-doubt that tend to arise as “shoulds,” (as in, I should have done X… or I shouldn’t have ever...)? Do you see unattractive thoughts of judgment about your post-baby body?
Last week, you were encouraged to start watching the thoughts you had about yourself. Now, I know. You are new to this “practice.” Until watching your thoughts becomes more of a habit, let me give you
WATCH YOUR EMOTIONS
That’s it. This week, at some point every day, stop and think… “How am I feeling right now?” Now, this needs to be a genuine inquiry into your emotional state. When you stop and ask yourself how you are feeling, you can focus on a couple things:
1) Your emotional state at that exact moment. Let’s say you are sitting on the couch, the kids are in bed, you have your wine, and you are watching your favorite show. Chances are good that your immediate emotional state is probably pretty positive. You are relaxed, calm, and rested.
Okay-- this is good. But go deeper. It is entirely possible to be sitting on the couch with your favorite chardonnay in hand, while watching Project Runway, your husband rubbing your feet, and still not be happy. I know. How could that be! Go beyond your emotional state at that exact moment and get honest with yourself. It just might be so.
2) Your emotional state for that week, month, 6 months, or even the year. What I mean is… even if in that one particular moment you are happy and relaxed, explore your emotions for any nagging thoughts underneath this calm surface. For example, in general, are you happy with your life right now? Are you happy with your decision to stay at home full-time or work outside of the home? Are you happy with your relationship with your husband? Are you happy with who you are aside from being a mom? Are you happy with how you look and your physical appearance?
Being “happy” about all these elements of your life is absolutely essential. But remember, life is all about balance. Mothering is all about balance. Loving yourself is all about balance. The point is not to have every aspect of your life be perfect at the exact same time. It’s impossible to be the perfect mother, perfect friend, perfect wife, perfect daughter, perfect sister, or your own best friend all the time. Rather, the point is making it a habit to watch your emotions and explore your habitual thoughts (especially the negative ones) so that you can have an open and honest conversation with yourself about what you want out of life and whether or not you are currently living the life you dream of. Having this conversation with yourself will continually bring you into balance.
The relationship you have with yourself is just like any other relationship you have with the people you love and greatly admire in your life. For these relationships to function optimally, communication, openness, honesty, and forgiveness are essential elements. So, in terms of nurturing a healthy relationship with yourself, you have to continually communicate with your deepest self every day. You have to continually forgive your deepest self every day. And you have to continually be honest with your deepest self every day. Why? Because the only way to grow into your best self (the self when you are most happy and content) and live the life of your dreams (through manifestation) is by knowing what the hell that woman wants! Your emotions will guide you if you listen. I promise.
Mindfulness simply means knowing something about who you are. Being mindful helps you to see that your destiny and direction of your life is in your hands. You can deliberately choose to think the thoughts that get you closer to living the life you most desire as well as deliberately let go of those thoughts that serve as major roadblocks to your happiness.
All in all, paying attention to your emotions helps you to witness the negative thoughts that wreak havoc in your life. And by wreaking havoc, I mean the way that negative thoughts, criticizing thoughts, and condescending thoughts damage the relationship you have with yourself. If you are the person who hurts yourself the most, this is a problem. The first way to go about fixing the problem is watching your thoughts, challenging them, and then changing them.
Just remember, “you are not the possessing entity-- the thinker,” he is saying that the woman who goes about her day in an unconscious state, simply reacting to the habitual thoughts that run through her head is not the TRUE you. Rather, that “thinker” is the “unconscious” version of you. The TRUE you is the woman who is the watcher. This woman is the one who is in the background, witnessing her emotions, witnessing the stressful thoughts that are conditioned to run through her head, and she is the one questioning and changing them. THIS “INNER” WOMAN EXISTS INSIDE OF YOU. And, that inner woman is all-powerful, wise, and connected to a higher-source. If you connect with her on a daily basis, and make it a priority to cultivate a relationship with her that is open, honest, and forgiving, I promise she won’t let you down. She loves you too much. She is you.
Did you know that J.K. Rowling was a single mother, and, in her own words, “as poor as it is possible to be in Modern Britain without being homeless,” when she wrote her first Harry Potter book? That’s right. The idea for the book “simply feel into her head” as she was waiting for a late train. When she started writing the novel, she was a single, working mother, who squeezed in her writing when her infant daughter was asleep-- writing an hour here and there every day. The rest is history. That woman is now a billionaire. Oh… did I mention the manuscript of Harry Potter was immediately rejected by the first publisher she sent it to, and several other publishers rejected it just the same.
TWO LESSONS LEARNED FROM J.K. ROWLING
1.) Moms are creative human beings who can manifest their dreams while raising children.
Even though J.K. Rowling was a working mum with very little time on her hands, she found an hour or two every day (while her infant daughter slept) to focus on cultivating her unique self and talents.
2.) She didn’t let negative habits of the mind, like doubt and fear, convince her she wasn’t good enough or trick her into thinking she was a failure.
Thus, she managed her thinking (we’ll talk more about this), and it paid off, both literally and figuratively!
So what do the lessons from J.K. Rowling’s story have to do with “mindfulness” and your mommy mind? A lot, actually. Here’s how it all shakes out-- without mindfulness or being mindful, you can’t watch your thinking. If you don’t stop to witness your thinking, thus recognizing those pesky negative thoughts that play over and over in your head, it will be difficult to hear the whispers of your inner-voice. Listening to your inner-voice is important because it speaks divine wisdom that shapes how we take care of our kids and ourselves.
YOU ARE NOT THE THINKER
The biggest revelation for me in regards to coming to understand the power of witnessing my thoughts came when Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, said, “[t]he beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the thinker.” What he means is you are not your thoughts. When thoughts run through your head, you (the “true” you) are the person who watches them, and as that witnessing presence, you have the freedom to choose the ones you want to believe and let the others pass on by. Trust me, you can do this!
If you only remember one thing from this blog today, remember this… YOUR THOUGHTS ARE JUST THINGS! They have no power until YOU chose to believe them. Otherwise, it’s just a thought. And if it’s a negative thought like, I’m a bad mom because I scream every now and again…,or I don’t spend enough time engaging with my children on a daily basis…,or Every other mom probably knows what to do when…, just think that thought and then let it go. Yes-- LET IT GO! Pretend it’s one of those balloon bubbles that pops into your head, you see it, you decide this thought doesn’t serve you, so like a child letting go of a balloon, let that thought simply float away. Letting go is actually the easy part. Ya wanna know the hard part? The hard part is becoming conscious of when you are thinking negative thoughts.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when as a mother (and when I think about my dreams aside from mothering) I simply do let my fears and negative thoughts become “truths” too quickly. When this happens, it almost instantaneously paralyzes me. If I don’t recognize my negative thoughts right away and consciously make the decision to “let them go,” they take a hold of my brain, and before I know it, my bad mood has gotten 10 x worse.
I’ll give you a concrete example to prove my point, and perhaps as you chuckle, you’ll identify with it:
A couple months ago, I made the decision that I needed to get out of the house more with the girls, and I wanted to be in the company of other moms. I was craving commiserating with other women who were also experiencing the challenges of staying sane with multiple children under the age of 3 in one household (remember-- I have a 3 yr. old and twin 2 yr. olds-- ouch). My grand plan was to start attending the local MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group. I found a local MOPS group, and the timing was perfect; they were meeting the very next day! That night I crawled into bed, took a deep breath to calm my mind, and then they appeared-- those darn negative thoughts. This time, here is what they said:
That should be fun tomorrow. How nice to get some time to speak to other moms. I really need that. And, the girls will be able to meet other kids. Wait, did she say there were one or two babysitters to watch the kids? How many kids total will be there? Are these babysitters capable adults or are they like kids themselves? Can they handle my three girls let alone others in addition? Did she say the playroom was downstairs and our meeting room was upstairs? What if I can’t see my girls? What if someone off the street came in, went to the playroom, told one of the babysitters that they were there to get the girls for me, and took them? The girls are still so little. They probably wouldn’t put up a fight. Oh my god, what if I went downstairs to get them and they were gone. Uhh… kids disappear all the time like that… one minute they are there, then they are gone! I don’t think I could survive if that happened to me. Oh my god, what would someone like that do….”
Okay. I’ll stop there and not even get into the horrendous things I envisioned a child snatcher might do to my children (it upsets me to much even think about it now). Long story short, within 2 minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I was balling! Balling! My husband woke up and was like, "What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
I wanted to say, “No! No, I am not sick. I’m mental!” But rather, I proceeded to tell him, choking back tears, all about the horrible mental-movie in my head. As I babbled on, I said, “I’m not ready for this. I’m not going tomorrow. I will never let the girls out of my site with people I don’t know!”
True to my word, I didn’t go to MOPS the next morning. We didn’t go, and we totally missed out on the much-needed fellowship with other mothers that I so desperately wanted and the building of friendship my girls needed because of my unchecked thinking!! Moral of the story-- it’s not necessarily what you think that’s bad. What’s bad is whether or not you chose to believe the thoughts that cause you pain. In this instance, I chose to believe my irrational fears, and they held me…I mean…they held us back.
IT IS ALL ABOUT YOU
The path to self-awareness is never straight, well-lit, or smooth. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start the journey. In fact, it’s the challenges in life that make us stronger.
Self-discovery is essential to being a mindful mama. Why? Because when you shed light on the dark corners of your mind and beliefs that hold you back from being your most enlightened self, you take one step closer to living your life in alignment with your most authentic self. Think about how you would mother differently living your life from your Truth as opposed to attempting to mother from what society says you “should” do.
Wanna find that inner-wisdom? This week try to stop your thinking. If you are new to this, you might need a sign to help you to remember to stop and “look at” your thoughts. Maybe tonight, when you are washing the dishes, stop your thinking. Stop for a minute and recall the thoughts that were just streaming through your head. What were you just thinking about? Were your thoughts stressful: How is it already 7:00 pm?! I have so much work to do tonight… I gotta…I will never get this all done. Were your thoughts worrisome: I can’t believe I spanked her today. I am such horrible mom. I swore I would never spank…. Now I feel bad about showing her how angry I was. No wonder she acts the way she does…. Or, were your thoughts calm: Ahh… my second glass of wine… keep on screaming kids, doesn’t bother me. We actually had a nice day today. It was so sweet when…
Just a tip-- designate one particular time of the day (e.g., doing the dishes, making dinner, whenever you wash your hands, the moment you get into bed…) to remind yourself to stop and reflect on your thinking. For one week, every day, at that particular time, try to watch your thoughts for just a couple seconds until watching the thinker becomes more of a habit.
Come on back later this week, and post a comment on how this is going for you. What are you finding out about yourself? We’d love to hear!