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Did you feel it-- feel the world stop on Friday? We all did. I believe that Mother Nature and the entire Universe felt it, too because the events of that day went against every law of nature; another human being doing such unimaginable harm to another, especially our children…our future…our visible reminders of what it means to be blissful, perfectly present, and filled with divine energy and pure love.

The news of the horrific tragedy in Connecticut delivered a punch so hard, that collectively, we all lost our breath. And whenever we lose our breath, we lose our mental balance, and fear instantly takes root in our minds. We become confused, dumbfounded, and paralyzed. This is how I, and I am sure many of us, couldn't help but feel upon hearing the horrific news. But as human beings, especially as mindful mothers, in tragic times like these, we must rise above our fears and ground ourselves in the profound love we have for our children. For our divine connection to our kids reminds us of the power of our love to create miracles. Love begets love. Love is contagious-- but only if our hearts remain open to let it flow freely.


Feel It to Free It

I was awestruck by how quickly reading about the details of that day shut me down. I wept deeply, almost uncontrollably at times. The depth of my emotions were a clear indicator of rampant thoughts of fear running through my head. As frightening as it was, I allowed myself to feel everything; not that I really had a choice. These emotions were no match against my feable attempt to suppress and avoid them. The moment I truly let go and lost myself in the intensity of what I was feeling, I heard a voice. It was crystal clear, and it hovered somewhere above the chaos and the confusion. It was my true voice; the voice of my heart. “Jen….what’s going on? Why is this hitting you so hard?”

This was my mindfulness practice paying off during a pivotal point in the game of life. This simple act of self compassion and present moment awareness enabled me to see past my fear. The moment I noticed and labeled it, I instantly gained clarity. I realized my emotions were so severe because I felt deep grief for the immeasurable loss of precious life, as well as a profound sadness for the parents of the souls lost and children who survived but lost their innocence. But that was not all. The thought that was wreaking the most havoc in my head was, "What if that were my child?" As a parent, anytime this fear flashes through your head, you react as if that were the grave reality. Our bodily response doesn't discern the difference between what's real and fantasy in our minds. Fear feels real, so our bodies react. It was that powerful, primordial, parental fear for the safety of my three young daughters that brought on a flood of uncontrollable emotions. 

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As I stood frozen, staring out of my bedroom window with a tattered Kleenex in hand, the destructive cycle of fear kept taunting me with heart wrenching questions, “What have you done bringing  children into this world?, Do you have the courage to let your girls grow and go?, Would you have the strength to endure the most unimaginable event in a parent’s life if it happened to you?” Fear has this way of shaking you to your core...that is until you recognize exactly what it's gettin' away with. 

Vimala McClure, in the Tao of Motherhood says it best, “When you have your first child, suddenly life become precious. So precious you can strangle it with the tension of holding on. What mother hasn’t had fearful fantasies of losing her child? This is the hardest time to accept letting go as a part of holding on.” When our minds are consumed by fear, it's not only hard to accept that we have to let go of our children, it's unfathomable. But this is exactly fear's ultimate plan-- to trap you in your head, so your heart will not be your guide. Fear wants us to grasp our children with claws of steel because then it has succeeded. Fear is contagious, too! As mothers we need to remember that our fears can be caught by our children. Fear strangles life, hope, love, wisdom, and dreams because it halts the flow of energy. It stops movement forward. Forward motion is life, and it's what's necessary in the face of pain and suffering. We have to move forward to move out of it.

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MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE ~ Choosing love

The practice always starts with allowing ourselves the space to feel all our emotions as they arise. When we allow them to flow, we are better able to witness them as they pass-- and they will pass, for nothing is permanent. Mindfulness enables us to "name it to tame it." Can you recognize your fear? What does fear look like in your body? Get good at identifying the emotions or bodily sensations that indicate that fear has sabotaged your mind. For me-- it’s weeping, feeling out of control, and a general sense of sadness. The INSTANT you see your fear, you’ve regained control of your mind, and it no longer has the power to control you. 

The next step is to intentionally CHOOSE to refocus your attention on Love. Fear may be a natural human “reaction” to pain and suffering, but it’s our divine nature to “respond” with peace, love, and presence (Hamrick). The only place we can respond with peace, love, and presence is in the present moment. We must breathe, pause, and become present of all the love that currently surrounds us. It is always there in abundance, we just have to shift our attention. Where our attention goes, our energy goes. 
 
After learning of the tragic news, the moment I noticed my fear, and felt my body and mind spinning out of control, I paused. I reconnected with my breath. That pause gave me the space to shift my thoughts to love-- immense gratitude for the miracle of the birth of my children, the profound blessing of being able to tuck them into their warm beds, kissing their lips goodnight, and for my ability to see these blessings in my life. My LOVE for my children grounds me every.single.time. Being grounded, I hug my children tighter, I linger in their presence, and I listen more than I speak.

When the world stopped on Friday, it provided us with an incredible opportunity to pause, catch our breath, and refocus our attention on what matters most-- the love we have for each other. As mothers, you and I have incredible powers to transform the world with our love, and we do it by loving our kids. Focusing on this love calms and clears our minds. The most selfless gift we can ever give another human being, especially our children when they are suffering, is our peaceful, calm presence. When we are calm and present, our hearts are wide open, and we can literally (through energetic means) transfer love and compassion into the depths of their soul. The love that emanates from an open heart is the greatest antidote to pain and suffering. At times like these, as we draw our kids close, linger in their presence, and show them respect and compassion, may our love multiply not only in their hearts, but ours as well. The love we generate from loving our kids can heal the world.

Our love is contagious.
 

 
 

by guest contributor Sandra Seibert

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When I was 27 years old, I decided to travel with camels in the White Desert of Egypt. I spent two weeks with a small group of other travelers and three guides in this wonderful, fascinating part of the world. The only things I had in my backpack were a journal and pen, some clothes, two books, two towels, wipes, a basic first aid kit and a sleeping bag.

For the first three days, I thought I was going to go crazy. Every night I went to sleep under the big sky of Egypt, looking up at the stars. It was so quiet in the desert that I could hear my own blood pulsing through my veins. During the day, as I rode along on my camel in a slow and steady rhythm, my eyes rested on a sparse landscape of sand dunes, rocks and small bushes. There was nothing but stillness.

 With every day of that simple life in nature, I became calmer and more relaxed. Although the heat was exhausting and there was no iced drink, no cold water or shower to refresh myself, I found so much peace in just being there and letting go of all the stress and pressure from my life at home. There were no luxuries, no shopping malls, no computers, no electricity, no distractions—nothing but the simplicity of nature far away from the modern, technology-based world. Simple meals cooked over an open fire, bread baked under the coals in the sand, sleeping on a mat... Looking back, I call this experience "my journey to simplicity." Never have I felt more connected to my inner being. It was on this trip that I began really listening to that quiet voice within—my intuition and inner wisdom.

Despite the busyness of our daily lives, it is possible to capture the same stillness to reconnect with ourselves.

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Living simply means SAYING NO to overwhelming schedules and outside demands. I value the needs of my family and of myself by setting boundaries and creating space and time. Saying no to others and their expectations is often a big challenge but is essential for slowing down and inviting simplicity into my life. Less is more - less stress, fewer appointments, less pressure, less "I should/must/need" leads to more awareness, relaxation, time, peace and balance. Saying no means listening to my intuition and gut feeling, and doing what I feel is right for me and my loved ones. In being connected to myself I become aware of the times when too much is going on and when it is time to slow down. Allowing myself to do that is a big step.

Saying no means setting priorities: What is really important NOW, today or over the coming weeks? As a mom I am a role model for my sons. When I am stressed out, exhausted and running low on energy, or I run around like crazy in order to get
everything done, I am not supporting my boys because I am too stressed out and tense to be fully present. By prioritizing and rethinking my schedule, my to-do list and my own expectations, I am able to free up time for us as a family: time to spend with the boys playing games together and doing fun activities, time to talk and listen, time to catch up and connect with my husband. 
 
During the holidays it’s especially important to slow down, reflect on the past year and our experiences so that we can prepare for the New Year, and spend time with our loved ones without worrying about the decorations, table settings, meals, baking, gifts, etc. This year I chose simplicity: I decorated less but enough to create a nice atmosphere in our home, I bought a wonderful advent wreath at a local flower store instead of making my own, and I took time to play with the
kids instead of baking cookies myself. Letting go of the perfectionist in myself empowers me to slow down and take a break, to become aware of what is really important and what I want to let go of. When I choose simplicity in my life, I cease striving for more, faster, better and bigger and I find balance and peace.

Living simply also means SAYING YES to my own needs. As a mother I give and share my love all the time. In order to charge my batteries, I need to say yes to myself and practice self care. I say yes to slowing down and nourishing my soul with things I enjoy doing without feeling guilty or bad. I love to read fiction books and watch movies, to  treat myself with facials and enjoy a cup of hot tea. By allowing myself to recharge, I connect with my intuition and my own essence, which is essential for balanced and mindful living and parenting. 

As a mindful mom, I also say yes to what serves my family. I create healthy structures and routines based on simplicity. I schedule family time by having dinner together at home and arrange for times when we can talk without doing a thousand other things. I establish bedtime routines and morning routines. Young children and tweens especially need daily routines and structures. It creates a secure and safe foundation from which they can approach their daily challenges with a more balanced mindset. 

Simplicity is a lifelong journey to ourselves. Cleaning out the mental clutter and focusing on the positive simplifies our state of mind and enables us to live consciously. Living in the present moment without worrying about the past or future, and simply being without attachment to "things," old beliefs or unhealthy structures, gives us the freedom to become our true selves. When we celebrate our imperfections we can live authentically and enjoy the simple things in life even more. 

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Simplicity for me is embracing what is. Finding peace with what is. Being grateful for the simple things in life.  Simply being - joyful, authentic, free from clutter and baggage, without fear and worry, present, balanced, connected with yourself, in peace with life.

What does simplicity mean to you and how do you integrate it into your life? Feel free to share your thoughts.

Sandra

Sandra Seibert, ACC, CPC, is the Joyful Growth Coach for women, parents and expat families. She is passionate about helping women and mothers master change with joy and grace. Her philosophy is that the only constant in life is change; each challenge presents valuable opportunities to grow personally and experience transformation. Sandra believes in the importance of achieving inner balance to maintain physical, emotional and mental health in a fast paced and very technology-focused world. Her professional and personal backgrounds complement her coaching service, which she offers globally in English and German.

You can learn more about Sandra Seibert at http://joyfulgrowthcoach.com/or join her community on facebook 'Sandra Seibert -The Joyful Growth Coach'.

A gift for Mindful Mothers - join a FREE group call: "End of the  Year - Reflection ~ Make peace with 2012 and get ready for  2013."

Email her to get more information or for registration or visit: 
http://joyfulgrowthcoach.com/portfolio-items/end-of-the-year-reflection-make-peace-with-2012/


 
 
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As the holidays ramp up, it's so fun to focus our attention on all of the good times that are on the way. The joy that this time of year brings can be quite contagious. And as requests for our time and attention start rolling in, it makes it hard to say "NO" to those requests that come from loved ones who are also energized by the spirit of the season. Therefore, getting hoodwinked with an over-packed schedule of commitments can happen in a glittery, ribbon-wrapped flash! 

Baking, decorating, shopping, wrapping, volunteering, school performances, holiday parties, family responsibilities, traveling, caroling and general merriment... it all sounds like a blast!  However, when I think about all the things I'm going to attempt to cram into my schedule before the year is through, I actually feel a bit tired and anxious. How about you? Is this reflective of what the holidays are like for your family? How does a stuffed schedule make us feel? For some moms, the busyness is energizing. But for me, holiday busyness can sneakily steal my energy and attention away from living in the moment.    

On my journey toward more mindful moments, I've found it is important to sit with irksome feelings as they arise, such as feeling overwhelmed or anxious instead of ignoring them. And boy can that be uncomfortable! I am a stubborn Capricorn, so giving thought to bending the rules of "Christmas Tradition" is far from easy for me. Honestly, giving it any thought whatsoever sends my insides into a mess of knots and anxiety.  Part of me says, "This is just how it is! It's always gonna be crazy! It'll be fine. My friends and family (and children!!) have expectations, I can't let them down!" But I find that sometimes those kinds of excuses don't lead to good "end results." 

Rather than side-stepping a problem, having a mindfulness practice has taught me the power of seeing my problems clearly so that I can better "see" a new perspective; one that is full of love, acceptance, forgiveness, letting go, and (during this holiday season) plenty of strategies for simplification.       

So, I went on the hunt for ways to simplify the holiday experience (and life as a Mom, in general!). And in the spirit of simplicity, I'll list what I found in a "no frills" sorta way. Hope you enjoy {{jingle, jingle}}

Simplicity
The Four Laws of Simplicity | Zen Habits
Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ways... | Zen Habits
Simplify the Holidays eBooklet | The Center for a New American Dream
Preventing Holiday Fatigue | Greater Good Science Center
When In Doubt, Simplify | Zen Habits
Surviving the Holidays | Greater Good Science Center

Traditions
Holiday Traditions That Raise Happiness | Greater Good Science Center
Walking the Talk: Happiness is... a Holiday Tradition | Greater Good Science Center
Unusual Holiday Traditions | Ladies Home Journal
Treasured Holiday Traditions | Baby Center

Save Some Dough
The Buy Nothing Holiday Survival Guide | Zen Habits
The Best Online Sites for Bartering | TLC
1 Simple Strategy to Save... | Far Beyond the Stars
A Non-Consumer Christmas: Simple Gifts for Kids and Grown Ups | Get Rich Slowly
Christmas Budget Worksheet | Life Your Way
Holiday Printables | Life Your Way

Gift Giving
35 Gifts Your Children Will Never Forget | Becoming Minimalist
Kids Who Are Giftless are Gifted | Zen Habits
The Ultimate Clutter-Free Gift Guide | Slow Your Home
This Christmas, Give Peace | Becoming Minimalist
Three Ways to Help Students Give Meaningful Gifts | Greater Good Science Center
Big Hearted Families

Entertaining
Planning a Potluck Christmas Party | eHow
The White Elephant Party | WikiHow

Decorating 
Minimalist Christmas Tree | Everyday Minimalist
Pinterest

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Since Christmas and the holidays are about the joy of sharing abundantly with those you love, to me, it's all about being present to the joy within the moment... not about being overwhelmed and stressed! 

Therefore, I'm committing to incorporate a few of these strategies into my family's holiday experience this year: When In Doubt Simplify, Surviving the HolidaysPotluck Christmas PartyWhite Elephant Gift Exchange, and homemade gifts (most likely found on Pinterest) :)     

Simplicity is a way of life that can help us to find more peace and love within our moments this season and all year long. Let's spread simplicity along with cheer! What simplicity strategies work especially well for you this time of year? We'd really love to hear. Simply drop us a line in the comments section below.  

<3 Caroline