Ever feel "grounded"? More importantly, ever feel "ungrounded"? What does that mean, exactly? Everyone says it, but have you ever stopped to think about what being grounded actually means? What does it consist of? Is it like possessing a super-special quality that only certain types of super-special people have? Is it more of an absence of something in particular... like our emotions!? We'll talk all about it here and then discuss a simple exercise for achieving that ever-elusive grounded feeling.
Lets start by talking about what being ungrounded does to us. Being ungrounded can send us into some pretty crazy states of mind: entitlement, jealousy, superiority, confusion, resentment, regret, blame, fury, rage, fear. So many things, people and situations in our lives can seemingly appear to throw us off-balance and into a mood that feels wrong, icky and upside down. What's cool, though, is that it is actually the responsibility of each one of us to stand strong and remain grounded no matter what happens to us in our lives. To uncover what makes you feel ungrounded, it may be worth reflecting on this topic in your own life. For me it's a lack of time for being alone (eg: reading, writing, and just thinking my own thoughts in general), excess noise, an over-packed schedule, and too little exercise.
What throws you off?
"I feel very blessed to have two wonderful, healthy children who keep me completely grounded, sane and throw up on my shoes just before I go to an awards show just so I know to keep it real." -Reese Witherspoon
Ha! Well-said and so applicable to all of us mamas. How often do our kids bring us back to reality when our heads go swimming in the clouds of emotion? All the time! So, then, what does being grounded actually feel like? Again, this sensational reality is different for each and every one of us, but it centers around being conscious in the present moment. Grounding is a state of being balanced, centered and aligned with ourselves. As mothers, being grounded allows us to care for ourselves, our children and our families with patience, compassion and kindness because we are conscious of what is happening now. When we're grounded our heads aren't swimming with thoughts of future "what if's" or regrets of past "oh, crap's!"
If at times you find that fear, anxiety, guilt, overwhelm or resentment is holding you back from living and mothering with an open heart (as all mamas do at times), try out My Tree Has Roots. It's a quick (less than 5 MINUTES!), easy and effective way to release the tension that naturally builds up in our daily lives. For max benefit, this release is best practiced in a calm, centered state. However, the satisfying freedom of this exercise can still be achieved in any moment of your busy day as long as you're able to place just a few minutes of focused attention on it.
You may choose to practice this release at any time of the day (even while driving...seriously!), but try to ground yourself, at the very least, once a day. This technique is also safe and beneficial to practice with your child(ren). Never too early to start teaching effective coping skills :-) So why not give it a try right now? You'll no doubt feel lighter and more centered both immediately afterward and throughout your day. "Too good to be true," you say? Give it a go every day for a week and feel the bliss of being grounded.
My Tree Has Roots gridclub.com
"My body is like a tree."
Begin by finding a comfortable position either standing, sitting or lying down. Take several deep, cleansing breaths... focusing on the flow of your breath as it goes in and out. Imagine that your body is a tree... any type of tree you wish.
"My tree has roots."
Once you can picture your body as a tree, imagine your tree growing roots deep into the ground. These roots can appear either as traditional tree roots or something different: a beam of colorful light, roots that sparkle with glitter and diamonds, watery and flowing roots... anything you wish.
"My roots reach down to the Earth's core."
Reflections of the Earth's beauty and power are evident all around us in every moment. Our planet has an incredibly grounding nature about it. Gardening, hiking, lying on the beach, swimming in the ocean, having a picnic, walking barefoot... all of these activities tune us in to the natural harmony that the Earth possesses. When we seek to feel grounded, we seek to tap in to the grounding nature of the Earth herself; and that nature is strongest at her core. When we envision our roots reaching all the way to the Earth's core, we achieve a connection with the planet that is seldom felt or acknowledged.
Now imagine your roots reaching all the way to the Earth's core. It doesn't have to take long to get down there. Simply imagine a cross section of the planet with you standing, sitting or lying on the surface. Imagine that your roots reach down to the core. This step may seem like overkill, but it actually is the difference between feeling sorta grounded and completely grounded. Also, the more you practice My Tree Has Roots, the faster and easier these steps become.
"I release fear (tension, stress, anxiety, guilt, anger, etc.)."
Once you feel your roots have made a connection to the core, you can say, "I release fear," or whatever it is you'd like to release. As you say this, picture the stress leaving your body through your roots. Feel the tension draining out of you. Saying a prayer for assistance in releasing emotions is also very helpful here. Tune in to your breathing and continue to repeat this mantra until you feel "done" or "clear." The human body is a miraculous and intelligent presence. When your mind thinks or says something that you believe in, your body naturally follows suit. So... tell your body to release the stress and it will.
When we are free and clear of tension, stress and fear, we naturally live and mother from a more positive, productive place within ourselves. When we feel more "grounded," we have the ability to be more mindful of our emotions; thereby enabling us to breeze by more of life's pot holes and hurdles with grace. Even more importantly, getting grounded enables us mamas to model effective and appropriate ways of dealing with strong emotions and situations for our children.
I had to laugh out loud. I was in my car, on my way to a yoga class, in tears because of an unrelenting week of attending to the constant demands of my three small children. No Doubt’s, Don’t Speak was doing a fine job of causing a sense of temporary amnesia as I sang along. When the song came to an end, the DJ announced, “Here’s an interesting tidbit about the band; Gwen Stefani (lead singer) admits to shutting herself in her closet to get away from her kids every now and again.” That’s when I had to LOL.
I’m not sure why I was laughing. Perhaps it was because I couldn’t help but picture Gwen Stefani sitting in a fetal position in her totally amazing closet while her children beat relentlessly on the door, or because I was in the middle of a “get me the hell out of here” crisis of my own; and identifying with Gwen Stefani felt really good.
Either way, I concluded that the Universe was speaking directly to me: it’s okay to put a little space between myself, my kids, and my mothering. All moms (even super famous ones who probably have housekeepers, chefs, and nannies) need their space.
Wide Open Spaces
Gwen needs it, you need it, I need it, and most importantly, our kids need it, too: SPACE.
It's easy to underestimate the importance of space, I think, because it's not tangible; it isn't something we can see, touch, taste, or grab. But just because we can't quantify it doesn't mean it doesn't have tremendous value. For instance, consider the importance of the space between music notes, bites of food, sunrise and sunset, contractions during birth, or words on a page. Without the space between, none of these things would be the things that they are. Music would be one sound, food would have no taste, days would have no end or beginning, one big contraction would be…well, hell, and if all the words on this page ran together, they’d have no meaning.
Space is essential because it allows for physical things to be defined. Space allows for things (including you, me, and our kids) to be what they are.
Since this idea of space is rather illusive, it's importance in relationships can be looked over. After the DJ exposed Gwen’s "confession" of retreating to her closet for a little space from her kids, he went on to say that in a recent survey (of what, I have no idea), several working mothers openly admitted to looking forward to business trips and going to work. “Yeah, and….,” I thought. There was something about the way the DJ talked about these confessions, or guilty pleas, of mothers that perpetuated the myth that it is taboo for us to admit that we all need a little space away from the demands of motherhood, and yes, the sometimes slightly annoying behaviors of our kids.
As mindful mamas, we know our perceptions of things impact how we feel and how we mother. Thus we choose to perceive space in our mothering, not as something that’s “bad” or something to feel guilty about (I have in the past, I totally admit it), but as something that is essential for both the growth and development our children and ourselves!
Thus, as mindful mamas, we intentionally create space between ourselves and our kids because we know that when we create space for our children to be heard, express themselves, explore their emotions, do things on their own, struggle (the good kind), and create, we allow them to define themselves. Not only that, space in a relationship allows the other person to feel seen, heard, and understood because they are given the space to express themselves. It's strange paradox, but space in a relationship actually brings people closer together!
Mindful Mama Practice
Creating space takes practice, mindful moms! Test, tweak, and try out these tips that will help you create a little space to grow (that means both you and your kids!):
Create Space AWAY:
Finding physical space away from our kids is mutually beneficial. It was a bit of a hard pill to swallow, but I had to admit to myself that my kids were not only just fine without me being there all the time, but that they actually flourished in my absence.
Interacting and being with other loving individuals in their lives (like their dad, grandparents, teachers, and babysitters) allowed them to discover more about themselves. Interacting with different people in different situations helps us to grow into ourselves because we discover things about ourselves that only these people and circumstance are able to teach us. We act differently in different settings around different people.
Same holds true for you, too! You are still growing into yourself everyday. Get out there and meet new people and do new things. As you create the space for your children to be taken care of by someone else, seize the opportunity to get out and expose yourself to new situations that teach you more about who you are continually becoming.
Create Space to Just BE:
It’s important that as mothers we protect our children’s schedules so there is space for them to just be themselves with only themselves. This space looks different at different ages of our kids. When my girls were babies, I gave them space to self sooth and to entertain themselves even if that meant lying on their backs and watching the mobile spin around for 20 minutes. (Okay, quick confession-- about 90% of the time back then, I felt totally guilty about it.).
Today, with a new shift in perspective, I am so much better about just setting out craft material for my preschoolers and getting out of the way for them to create-- that means, I no longer hover over them, asking incessant questions about their choice of color combinations, suggesting they do X with Y, or overly praise every action they perform. Other times, I'll just say, "go play." That's it. "Go play," encourages them to create, imagine, be free, discover, have fun, and explore...just be. When you create the space for them, you create the space for yourself, too. As they are spending time with themselves, what are you going to do with your space?
At every age, our children (and us, too) need space to be alone, to just be with ourselves. So when your teenager comes home from school and slams the bedroom door behind himself, just give him some space (without the probing questions and unsolicited advice). He knows you are there even though you are not right there. When our children are given time to process their thougths and feelings on their own, not only do they learn incredible things about themselves, they become empowered to solve their own problems in (mostly likely) more creative and unique ways than we could have ever come up with.
Create Space in the PRESENCE of Your Kids:
We can also create space in the presence of our kids every single day. The biggest way I’ve been practicing this lately is by being a good listener.
Every time I am intentional about listening to my daughter when she speaks, that means not internally judging and analyzing and then externally advising, I create the space for her to be heard, validated, and empowered to solve her own problems. In this space of my seemingly “non-doing,” I am doing so very much.
I have this tendency to do too much or say too much because of my desire for my girls to feel noticed. Ironically, the more I do and say, the less space I create for their thoughts and ideas; the less I actually notice them.
Create a little space between your instant reaction to solve their problems, offer advice, do a specific task for them, or to discipline. It may sound counter-intuitive but try talking less, asking fewer questions, explaining less, and offering advice only when asked. You may notice, as I did, that your children naturally open up more, share more, inquire more, explore their emotions more, and do more for themselves. Crazy, I tell ya!
Create space, mama. That's really all you have to do! Gently release your grip on doing everything, being everything, controlling everything for your child (yes, I'm exaggerating to make a point). Create the space and notice how darn good it FEELS to be free-- free from the pressure you put on yourself to perfect every situation, interaction, and moment with your children. I bet you'll find when you intentionally create the some space in your relationship with your child, they feel this freedom, too; a freedom to discover, explore, and just be themselves in a loving, accepting, and safe space of your heart.
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.
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 Holidays
, Potluck Christmas Party
, White 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.
If you were to take a peek inside my life during the day, you'd probably find me scurrying. Scurrying to make meals, clean the kitchen, change diapers, disable the temper tantrums, take phone calls, do the laundry, run errands... sound familiar? And amidst all the scurrying, there is something deep inside me that desires (no, yearns!) for peace, quiet, and calm.
I've waited patiently for calmness to settle down softly onto my surroundings for years. That's a long time to wait patiently. Too long! As if I'm going to wake up one day and serenity has simply arrived like a package at my doorstep. I unwrap it and there it is: my children (ages 4 and 13 months) playing happily and quietly together on the rug; a clean, orderly, well-decorated, home; plenty of extra time during the day to paint my toenails and read several chapters out of the hottest new "nail-biter;" and me... looking and feeling fabulous, sane, healthy, fit and fashionable. Hahhhh...
Eventually, out of pure weariness, I came to the abrupt realization that this fantasy life is not going to simply occur spontaneously, no matter how patiently I wait. And as I pondered this, I began to brainstorm some options for bringing more peace, quiet and calm into my life: wake up at 6am (more ME time), focus my attention on helping my pre-schooler learn how to better listen to me (more sanity), get my 13 month old out of the house more so he doesn't simply run circles in "destruction mode" (a more orderly home), and go to bed every night at 9pm (more "nail-biter" time). However, as I put my options into practice, I found that, although these were all "logical" solutions, they were not at all realistic when bundled together. Shocker!
What I realized is that not only do I have to let go of this perfect fantasy life, I have to intentionally CREATE this peaceful vision for myself; I have to bring this creation into reality within each and every moment of my day. Every day. And that, dear Mamas, begins with ACCEPTANCE. As I accept all of every moment, the beauty, the mess, the smile, the tantrum, the butterfly kisses, the time wasted, the sweet baby cheeks, the embarrassment, the LOVE; and as I feel all of every moment, I find I am able to create a little bit of peace, quiet and calm within me...even if only for a moment. Here's how I do it:
Look Within, Not Without
The calmness is within me, not without. And it is also within you. And by that I mean if we look outside ourselves for objects, people and situations to bring us peace and happiness, then we are looking in the wrong place altogether. If we wait for our lives to magically become peaceful, quiet, or (...fill in your own favorite adjective here), then we will be waiting forever. However, peace is something we can cultivate within our hearts. More than 2500 years ago the Buddha said, "Peace comes from within, not without." And we can practice peace by applying acceptance to all of our moments each and every day. Very naturally, the outcomes of acceptance are: true enjoyment of and gratitude for all that is beautiful within a moment, an ever-increasing ability to let go of all that is undesirable in a moment, and a more clear cut path toward infinite, loving possibilites in terms of how we respond to a moment.
For me, this translates into a deep gratitude for the value and worth of my life and the lives of all those around me, the courage to let go of undesireable moments WAY more easily, the invaluable ability to have fun and be silly in the moment with my kids and husband, and the understanding that life will never be perfect. I'm okay with that now, and it is actually comforting in a way, you know?
I can remember a time not so long ago when I would sit by the fire in the early evening reading a book with a glass of wine, blissfully unaware of the peace and beauty of that moment... unaware of the many details about that moment to be grateful for, and possibly not even intentionally enjoying that moment at all. As I practice acceptance every day, I know I'll let fewer and fewer of these moments simply slip by me. After all, life can be enjoyment and calmness can be within.
ON THE COUCH
I agree with Bréne Brown when she says, “You know who you are when you call your friends and say, ‘I think I need to see someone.’”
Let's just say, I know myself very well. So there I sat on my therapist’s couch, gaze down, fiddling with my scarf, confessing, “I feel foolish for even being here,” I said.“I really have nothing to complain about. I have my health, my husband has a job that allows me to stay home, and my girls are healthy and happy. I should be happy, right?”
She just sat in silence, not giving me what I secretly wanted-- any verbal or nonverbal validation of my line of reasoning.
“The worst part,” I rambled on, “is that I know all about mindfulness.” (Oh, yes. She was well aware of my passion project MMN!) “I study it. I read about it all the time. I watch my thinking, and I’m just seeing a bunch of unhappy, angry thoughts. I can’t think my way out of this.”
Like any really good therapist, she still didn’t say a word.
Two seconds later, wanting to fill the uncomfortable silence with something…anything… I said, “Ya know, I just have a hard time accepting that this is my life. I want so much to be different.”
That’s when she smiled. “You may know a lot about acceptance, but maybe you are not actually practicing it in your life," she said calmly.
Then I smiled. That’s the moment it clicked.
So there it was-- my AHA!! My anger, anxiety, and general discontent was a result of wanting things to be different than what they were.
"Now what," I thought? It was painfully obvious I needed to start practicing acceptance, like pronto, but I didn’t have the first clue how to do it. How do I accept things, people and situations that seem totally unacceptable? Isn’t acceptance just giving up? Won’t acceptance simply keep me stuck in the undesirable situations that I am trying so hard to get out of and avoid?
These were all questions I immediately sought to answer the second my session was over. So for the next 4 months, I made a commitment to truly do this acceptance thing; practicing it in as many moments as I could... every day. And this is what I learned….
1) ACCEPTANCE is not what we think it is:
Our egos trick us into thinking that acceptance means defeat, total resignation, and failure. When we unconsciously believe that acceptance is weakness, giving up, or condoning, we want to resist what is. Our egos want us to think that acceptance is the way of weak because the moment we truly accept a situation, person, or event, we no longer have a negative emotional reaction to it. Our egos are rooted in fear, doubt, anger, and resistance-- our negative emotional reactions. Cease reacting (as in unconscious, habitual reaction), cease ego's control.
Acceptance is the act of incredible, conscious, compassionate awareness.
2) RESISTANCE never leads to positive change:
I used to think that if I resisted (got mad and angry) about things that I found unacceptable, that would lead to positive change. But every time I have yelled at my daughter to stop crying, she just cried harder and longer. Never has punishing my body with intense workout regimens and restrictive diets ever brought about a healthy self-image and love for myself. Never has pressuring my husband to get a different job or be something other than he was motivated him to change. If anything, all the negativity, resistance, and anger I infused in each of these situations only created bigger problems.
We teach our children about the power of acceptance all the time! Every time our kids are fighting, you say to the one being taunted, “Just ignore your older brother. The minute you stop reacting to him, he’ll stop pestering you.” For you know the longer your little guy whines, “stop it, stop it,” to his older brother, the longer (and with increased gusto) the older brother keeps up the pestering.
We think that our resistance will create positive change, yet it never, ever does. In fact, when resistance doesn’t create that positive change in our lives, we tighten more and attempt to control harder! The more we tighten and control, the more we narrow our mental focus (as in, we obsess about what we don’t want) and the less we are able to get out of our heads and see other possibilities for positive change.
What we resist persists.
3) ACCEPTANCE is not emotionally reacting (which allows you freedom to choose your response):
When my child is throwing a tantrum, and I don’t react with anger and frustration, I practice acceptance. When I am calm, I see a whole host of other options for responding that I never saw when I got caught in my anger. In my calm response, I kneel down, look her in the eyes, and give her a hug. She stops the tantrum almost immediately.
When I see another mother living the life I dream about, and I don’t react with critical self-comparison and envy, I practice acceptance. In my calm response, I see how much I already have in life. I feel gratitude for the life I’ve created, and I’m inspired and motivated to evolve and grow.
Non-reaction is always the best action.
MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE
Mindfulness and mindful mothering is all about expanding our perception of things because an expanded perception empowers us with options. When we expand our perception, people, situations, or events, no longer need to change for us to be happy because we have the power to change our thoughts about them. The most direct way to expanding and changing our perception is through acceptance-- non emotional reaction.
Resistance arises when we direct massive amounts of mental energy towards wanting things to be different than what they are. When we do this, we focus on lack; we focus on what's missing. The result is missing all the things (people, events...) that are really the most important because we get so caught up in negative emotions that always end up disconnecting us. You can harness the tremendous power of love and positive energy by practicing acceptance. I have a sneaky suspicion you will find that the moment you choose to not emotionally react to those seemingly "unacceptable" situations, they will change right before your very eyes.
LETTING GO IS NOT EASY
Our kids are gonna leave us.
Ugh. Just this thought rips my heart to pieces. Yet, I know that letting go of my girls, baby-step by baby-step, is the deal. It’s what I signed up for, but it’s so hard to do! As a mom, it doesn’t matter if your child is taking her first big girl step into those pre-school doors, or your grown “little man” is hopping into his overstuffed car heading off to college. In moments like these, every mother experiences a range of emotions anywhere from fear and worry to excitement, pride, and hope.
Letting go is an essential part of mothering, and we Mindful Mamas continually refine the art of doing it gracefully (if not for our sake and sanity, for our child’s well being). We have to love our children enough to let them go. They are not ours. They never were. They are their own entities, and our job is to protect and guide them as they become strong, independent, and capable. Clinging to their youth or to our identity as their mother only brings us pain and suffering. So not mindful, am I right?! Anytime we experience pain, fear, worry, anxiety, or a desire to control when it comes to letting go of our kids, we are reminded of the work we need to do on ourselves.
IT’S ALWAYS BEEN A MATTER OF TRUST
Letting go is a crucial part of mindful mothering. Negative emotions like worry and fear always take us out of the present moment-- almost instantaneously. It’s impossible to “be in the moment,” exuding peace and acceptance when your head is projecting into the future events that scare the sh*% out of you! You are never capable of handling future events that aren’t real, and worry and fear are always about the future.
Worry. Worrisome and fearful thoughts always paralyze us because when we project into the future, we feel a tremendous sense of loss of control. And no mama enjoys feeling a loss of control when it comes to her kids.
The secret is that you are always, always, always capable of handling any situation that occurs in the present moment. Always. The way you get yourself out of the mental trap that fear and worry has propelled you into is to rationalize with yourself that if that disastrous moment were to really occur (and we all know that the chances of it happening are highly unlikely), you’d be able to handle it. For you always have, haven’t you? I venture to guess that as a mother, you have a proven track record of handling many worst-case-scenarios in the moments they arise. Remind yourself of that. Trust yourself.
Yet, it’s so easy to forget. Letting go is easier said than done. I know. But we have to do it. We have to let go-- gracefully. Otherwise our minds rage like a toddler who is starving and sleep deprived. And every time this happens, we disconnect from the moment. And every time we disconnect from the moment, we disconnect from our lives, our kids, and ourselves. Since we recognize the power of mothering in the moment, letting of control, worry, and fear as we let go of our kids is what we have to do.
So what’s the worst that could happen if you intentionally let go of control, fear, and worry? My Ego tells me that if I don’t control enough, or worry enough, that bad stuff will surely happen. (If only that were the magic formula-- just worry and then bad stuff won’t happen.) In reality, the worst that could happen is the best thing that could happen… you’d stop letting fear and worry control you and how you mother.
Consider this little secret: when you let go of control and fear, you don’t actually lose anything (not anything worth having, anyway). Rather, you gain something in return-- trust. When we don’t unnecessarily interfere with our kids’ lives, we trust them. Trust is love. It’s a felt emotion. When your child feels trusted, they gain self-confidence and learn to trust others. When you trust yourself and your ability to handle any situation in the present moment, you gain self-confidence and trust life. When you trust the moments of your life, your ability to mother from a place of serenity and love is greatly enlarged.
YOUR MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE
“Fear is love inverted, or your own mental power turned against you.”
~ Marianne Williamson, A Course in Weight Loss
Give it 5 minutes, and you’ll be faced with a situation concerning your child where fear will strike your heart, and you’ll need to let go gracefully. Instead of turning your power against yourself by entertaining thoughts of fear and worry, choose hope. Choose trust. Hope and trust ground you in the present moment. Choose to trust your child, their strength, their wisdom, their spunky attitude they inherited from you. Let your hopes for your child outweigh your fears. Let go gracefully. For in letting go gracefully we remind our hearts that when it comes to letting our kids go, nothing is really lost and everything is gained.
Moms, are you ready to master the fine art of letting go of your unhealthy attachments in your parenting? In our latest installment of Mindful Moms TV, Jen vlogs about how we can accept our powerlessness and choose FAITH over fear. Check it out!
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.
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
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.
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.