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Today in yoga, I had a thought. Yeah, I know… I shouldn’t have. At least that’s the whole point of practicing yoga, right-- focus on your breath and fluid movements to stop the incessant line of thinking running through your head. Anyway, I had a thought-- actually, two thoughts: first, I realized how cyclical the yoga practice is (e.g., movement, rest, movement, rest, movement…) and how important rest or “non-doing” is in this cycle, and second, that the yoga cycle can teach us something very important about mothering. 

FEELING THE FIRE
Now, if you have ever practiced yoga, you know that you willingly put yourself through intense poses and movements which make your body feel like it is on fire. In fact, this tends to be what you remember most about your yoga session; the intensity, the trembling muscles, the burn. Well, as you know (or if you don’t) after every intense pose in yoga, you ALWAYS rest. After every moment when you feel that inner fire, and it feels like your body is about to collapse, you rest. You lie face down, arms by your side, sink into the floor, and you breath-- smelling that odd scent that the yoga mat puts off-- then the next pose begins.

It was during one of the rest poses that I had my “ah-ha” moment. This thought arrived in response to something in particular that my yoga teacher said, in the softest, most gentle voice you can imagine a yoga teacher having. As we lay there perfectly still, our ever-so-wise yoga instructor reminded our class of the importance of rest in the yoga practice. Evidently during these brief 5 second rest periods, the energy we just created throughout our movement is cycling, it’s still working throughout our body. 

This is when her words fell on fertile soil in my mind and thoughts and connections immediately sprouted. All of a sudden I realized that I had been perceiving rest time all wrong. Silly me. See, I used to think that when I rested in yoga, I literally did nothing. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that before having this profound realization, I would lay lifelessly on the floor and think: “C’mon. Let’s go. I gotta get more of a workout here! Let’s keep this sh*%$ moving!” Tisk, tisk, tisk. 

A-HA!
So, here is the epiphany that I had: the cycle of yoga-- movement, REST, movement, REST, movement,REST… is a great metaphor for us as mothers. I know that as a mother of a three year old and twin two year olds, I typically don’t make a lot of time to “rest.” My day is: movement, movement, movement, movement, movement, movement… collapse into bed. Not only do I have physical movement, movement, movement, I have mental movement, movement, movement. This isn’t good, and to be honest, I am feeling the fatigue both mentally and physically (especially mentally!).

Now, this is no one’s fault but my very own. I have the power to control my thinking that pushes me too far physically and mentally. I have the power to control the thinking that causes me to feel like I have to do 50 things that day, thus never sit down on the couch until 9 pm. 

IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU
Think about your daily, cyclical process of mothering. Like yoga, mothering gets intense (especially if you are home full-time with pre-school children or you are trying to balance the competing demands of your work and home life.) For example, I easily feel the fire of mothering several times a day-- the frustration and anger that accompanies dealing with irritable, whiney children; the intense mental burden of feeling that I have too much to do and too little amount of concentrated time to get any one thing done with quality; the intense feeling that I am doing this mothering thing all wrong-- that I “should” be better at how I react to my girls’ whining, that I “should” be doing something more as a financial provider, that I “should” be putting out (way more than I typically do) for my husband. This is the fire! But unlike yoga, my mothering cycle has no rest time build in. Probably not good…

There are multiple, beyond multiple, benefits of systematically incorporating “non-doing” or rest in our mothering. Jon Kabat-Zinn reminds us that “it is very important not think that this non-doing is synonymous with doing nothing…has nothing to do with being indolent or passive.” In fact, when we slow our physical bodies and our mental minds and rest, we are doing a lot. We are becoming still (in body and mind). In this stillness, we are able to witness the beauty of the present moment. Next time your kids are playing, sit down on the couch and just watch them. Notice their voice, their laughter, their creativity. Remind yourself that YOU made them. You actually made this human being in your body who is now laughing and experiencing life. You manifested their existence! Reconnect with the awe of that thought. Doing so makes you feel intense compassion and love for your child. Personally, since I am knee-deep in raising three children in the “terrible two’s” and the “three is the new two” phase, I have to create these moments where I stop, watch my children in their purest form, and witness the intense thoughts of love that I have for them. If I don’t actively remind myself to be mindful and be present in these precious, everyday moments, the predominate experiences I have with them revolve around whining, crying, and my utter frustration with this behavior. 


GROW YOUR MOTHERING MUSCLE
As a mother, when you stop and rest your body and mind, you rejuvenate and grow your mothering muscle. You give yourself time for the fire of mothering to subside so that you can grow stronger mentally and find that emotional balance that is critical to being a mindful mama. For me, I find that in those brief, far too few moments, when I rest, I reflect on how lucky I am to be home with my daughters, that this time will really go by very fast in the grand scheme of things, and that I am fulfilling one of my primary goals in my life. This feels good. Rest time allows me a mental break that serves to help me find emotional balance when it comes to how I think about mothering. 

What about you? Does your mothering cycle resemble A, B, or C:

A) movement, movement, movement, movement, movement….collapse

B) movement, movement, movement, rest, movement, movement, rest, movement, movement, movement,rest

C) rest, movement, rest, movement, rest, movement, rest, movement, rest

YOUR PATH
Here’s your task for this week, my over-worked, doing way too much, moms: every day, and I mean every day, take time to rest both physically and mentally. Consider “good mothering” as a cyclical process:movement, rest, movement, rest, movement, rest… It’s not a luxury to think of mothering in this way; it’s a necessity. After feeling the fire of daily mothering, you need the rest to rejuvenate and recharge your mothering muscle.
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Yes, you read that right!

I recently came across this simple yet profound saying written in the front flap of my book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. Since it was my handwriting and all, I must have liked this quote enough to place it predominantly on the first blank page of the text. Yet, as insightful I must have found these words to be, I can say with certainty I have not necessarily adhered to this straightforward declaration. I mean, c’mon. You’ve read my posts! They are anything but “less” right? Okay-- I am working on that…. you’ll see.

Since I am knee deep in thinking about mindfulness, mothering, finding our true selves, etc…, when I reread this one-liner, I couldn’t help but relate it to the topics in our blog. I initially thought that doing less to achieve more was not at possible when it came to mothering. I don’t have to tell you-- there is always way more to do than the time we have to do it. But then on second thought, in terms of mindfulness and mothering, perhaps this quippy quote is rather profound. 

As it pertains to mindfulness (paying attention in a particular way-- on purpose and nonjudgmentally), I think that “do less and accomplish more” directly relates to mindful mothering by doing less “thinking” to accomplish more peace, calm, and contentment. Yes. Ahhh… this I can do-- or attempt to do. 

The way I am thinking about thinking is in reference to those uninvited thoughts that enter your stream of consciousness daily. You know the ones-- the “shoulds,” the judgmental ones, the criticizing ones, the ones that worry. Seeking clarity in thinking about my thinking, I recently discovered this great site, SuccessConsciousness.com. They used a great metaphor for these types of thoughts I am speaking of. Imagine your true essence (like the one I talked about as the TRUE you being the watcher, not the thinker) as being the clear blue sky. Now, these uninvited thoughts are like clouds floating through your sky. Like clouds, they drift, they cover-up your true essence, and they float away. I guess as we think about “doing less thinking” to “achieve more clarity and calm,” I ask-- how cloudy is your day today? How cloudy is it every day? Is it continually overcast in your mind? Do you have patchy cloud coverage today? Or is your sky as clear as the eye can see?

Do less…. indulging in uninvited thoughts that keep you from finding happiness and calm. But how? 

“We enjoy freedom only when we are able to still the mind and choose our thoughts” (SuccessConsciousness.com). Okay. Sounds easy enough, right? Then why is this so hard? Well, it’s hard because as mothers, we have so many uninvited thoughts streaming through our consciousness, or clouding up our sky, that we don’t know when one ends and other one begins. Why is this the case?

Well, because our mind is like a filter. Think about that one. Your filter, your mind, was created, shaped, and built over time by what people have said to you, your daily experiences, and societal expecations. As SuccessConsciousness.com points out, every event in our lives has shaped our filter (the way we perceive the world and how we think about it). Now, before you start to freak out (like I did) and feel like your life, your perspective on life, and your thoughts are all out of your control and indirectly controlled by forces beyond you, it turns out that you have the power refine your filtration system. 

Essentially, your mind’s filter serves to either accept or reject certain thoughts. This makes sense. For instance, why do some mothers feel obsessed about keeping their house looking like it’s about to be photographed for Architectural Digest, while other mothers could really care less if magazines are strewn about, dust is about an inch thick, and loads of laundry are sitting waiting to be folded in laundry baskets? Why do some moms, myself included, feel this pressure to always engage their children in organized, structured, educational play throughout the day while other moms recognize the value of letting kids play on their own and use their imaginations? 

The point is we all have different filter settings. I love metaphors--so here is one more. Did you know that Gmail has a function where you can literally create a filter for your incoming messages? You can create a fancy-dancy filter that will allow you to automatically label, archive, delete, star or forward a message to your inbox. Imagine if you implemented this type of filtration system on your mind-- your inbox. Why not create a filter that deletes uninvited message of worry and criticism? Why not create a filter that forwards to the junk mail file, thoughts of negativity doubt? Why not create a filter that “stars” or highlights thoughts of appreciation and acceptance of the present moment-- and replays these over and over? You have the power to do this! This power lies in what we have talked about-- watching your emotions and watching your thinking. The power to reshape, refashion, and recreate your filtration system resides in present moment awareness.

As my new favorite website, SuccessConsciousness.com (no, I’m not getting paid to mention them this much) says, “Stopping the flow of thoughts may look infeasible, but constant training and exercising with concentration exercises and meditation, eventually lead to this condition. The mind is like an untamed animal. It can be taught self-discipline and obedience to a higher power.”

Love this...

So, the spirit of “do less, accomplish more,” I’ll stop.
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