Look closely at the image to the left... what do you see? Can you see the duck? Can you see the bunny? Can you see both the duck and the bunny at the same time?
What we actually see depends on where we focus our attention. You see a duck in this picture, when you focus your attention on seeing a duck. You see a bunny in this picture when you focus your attention on seeing a bunny. And did you notice how you can't see both the duck and the bunny at the same time? Isn't it interesting how our brains work?
I love this little experiment because it shows us 1) that one thing can be seen in many different ways, 2) what we intend on seeing is what we will see in reality, and 3) that we have the power to shift our attention and see something completely different simply by changing our perception.
As Mindful Mamas, this is powerful stuff, especially as it relates to how we see our children. The thoughts we think about our children will directly impact how we see them. How we see our children impacts how we interact with them and the expectations we set for them, ultimately shaping how they come to see themselves.
The Eyes of Fear Versus The Eyes of Love
"A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love-- from a belief in what is not real, to faith in that which is. This shift in perception changes everything" (Marianne Williamson).
Shifts in perception-- this is what Mindful Mothering is all about! Mindfulness is our practice of noticing; noticing when our thoughts have fallen into the grips of ego (aka- fear), letting those thoughts go without reacting to them, and then choosing to return to love. Just like you only see the duck or the bunny (not both at the same time), there are only two ways to see our children-- through the eyes of love or the eyes of fear. Marianne Williamson reminds us that "[l]ove is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here." This reminds us that love is the only thing that is real and fear is an illusion.
As Mindful Mamas, our practice is to routinely get back to our center point of love when we notice that our fearful thoughts have pulled us away. Our mindfulness practice is the daily dedication to noticing our fearful thoughts about our children and situations they are in and work to "unlearn fear" so that the divine, limitless love that emanates from our Truth is what guides our thoughts, actions, and words in our mothering.
There are countless moments in our everyday lives when our fears for our kids get triggered. And when our fears get triggered, our thoughts and actions seek to limit, confine, control, and constrict the full expression of our children. We don't do it on purpose and, many times, we don't even realize when we are doing it. This is how fear works; it likes to fly undetected...that's how it maintains its power. When our fears for our children take control, how we see them changes; and how we see makes all the difference in how our kids come to see themselves.
Seeing your kids as capable, smart, resilient, and trustworthy
Courageous mothering is choosing to see your children through the eyes of love even when you are tempted to see through the eyes of fear. It's choosing to see them (in even the most scary situations, like when your "baby" is leaving for college) as capable, intelligent, resilient, and trustworthy. It's choosing to return to love when fear has taken you away.
Remember that fear will trick you. Without your awareness, your fears will trick you into seeing your kids as unable, needing your constant care, attention, and protection. Think about why mothers overprotect their kids (I am raising my hand here-- I've totally done this!). They are afraid their children will get hurt (emotionally and/or physically)-- and they won't be able to handle it. They are afraid of what pain their kids will feel-- and they won't be able to handle it. More so, mothers are afraid of what they will feel when they see their child experiencing pain-- and are afraid that they won't be able to handle it!
In the end, our fears cause us to overprotect our kids (in other words, limit the full expression of themselves) because we are afraid that we are not strong enough, capable enough, or resilient enough to handle it! If we are not Mindful Mamas, its easy to project our perceptions about ourselves on our children. When we are not aware that we are seeing our children (and ourselves) through the eyes of fear, our words and actions towards our kids can reinforce the false belief that they are not capable, not strong enough, or not trustworthy.
Our Mindful Mama Practice
Courageous mothering requires a powerful shift in perspective (that's mindfulness)-- choosing to see our children through the eyes of love rather than fear. It's choosing to see our children:
*as 100% capable of anything they attempt to do, beginning at birth
*as possessing infinite intelligence. Our role is then to create opportunities for them to display it.
*as "born hardwired for struggle" (lovely quote by Brené Brown), strong, and resilient
These steps will give you the power to turn any fearful thought back to love. Sometimes it is easy, other times, not so much. Practice makes perfect. I've found it more challenging to "return to love" when my girls are doing something I see as dangerous (ahem-- scaling a climbing wall that looks 50 feet high), so I've started to practice these steps when I "fear" they are not able to do something for themselves.
Step 1) NOTICE when your brain starts to see through the eyes of fear. You may feel compelled to do something for your child they are completely able to do themselves (thinking they lack the ability, or fear that there isn't enough time, so you want to do it yourself) or you may feel the urge to stop certain behaviors to discourage them from doing something that scares you (fears for their safety).
Step 2) SHIFT to seeing through the eyes of love. See them as capable, smart, and "hardwired for struggle." Say, "I trust you." "I know you can do this." "You are more capable than you realize." "I believe in you.". Your words form their belief system about themselves.
Step 3) ACCEPT and ACKNOWLEDGE how they do things. Compliment them on a job well done, about how imaginative they are, and how well they approach the problem. Draw their attention to their uniqueness, ability, and intelligence.
How we see our children makes all difference in how they come to see themselves. Practice shifting your perspective from fear to love in those mothering moments that tend to trigger your deepest fears and notice how your hopes for your children start to outweigh your fears. Notice how your connection to your child deepens and strengthens because it's based on faith and not fear. Notice how they respond to your positive expectations. Notice how they shine and come into their true selves-- starting to see themselves exactly the way you see them...through the eyes of love.
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.
It’s that time of year…cold and flu season. And this year, they are predicting it to be bad. Yep. Didn’t need to read the headlines to know this one. 4 of the 5 of us in my own family have it at this very moment.
That said, I’ve been practicing my mindful mama techniques like mad! Here are my favorite 4 that will make your next run-in with sickness more manageable and (believe it or not) actually bring out your most fanatically calm and compassionate mindful mothering self. (Seriously, we mindful mamas are masters at making the most out of difficult situations!)
1) SWITCH out of guilt mode
Upon hearing that first cough, feeling that hot forehead, or hearing the dreaded, “Mommy, my stomach hurts,” notice if your mind goes to guilt. I've noticed my tendency to beat myself up for my kids getting sick. That first cough sets my mind into action; I immediately chronicle all the recent places I took them: the gym child care center, the indoor community play structure (aka-- the McDonalds play structure on major steroids), or the moms group with all the kiddos running around where they most likely picked up the bug.
Just notice when you are tempted to take responsibility for stuff that isn’t your fault. We know it's not realistic to live in a bubble, and our kids are going to be subjected to germs no matter how much we attempt to avoid it. So if your thoughts go to guilt, a mindful mama switches them around to a more realistic and productive thought: “This just makes their bodies stronger.” It’s true. Challenges in our lives make us emotionally more resilient and sickness in our bodies make our bodies more resilient. Seek the silver lining here, mama.
2) SURRENDER to the moment
This may be the hardest for moms to do. It takes incredible mindfulness and awareness to let go of our everyday, high expectations for how things “should be” in our mothering and allow them to be as they are, especially when our kids are sick.
If, for days on end, your child has been in their pj’s (you, too for that matter), has had nothing to eat but popsicles and ice cream ('cause that's all that feels good on that sore throat), and has watched unlimited television (because that’s the only activity they can muster the energy to do), LET IT BE.
Notice when your thoughts start to resist the present moment and shift to how you think they should be. As you notice them, let them pass like clouds across a blue sky without emotionally reacting to them.
3) SLOW DOWN the speed of life
When anyone in the family gets sick, it’s such a good time to get back to basics. During these long days of caring for your sick child, continually ask yourself: “What’s really important right now?”
As a mindful mama, notice your temptation or desire to keep pace with your “to do” list. Your child will most likely be calling out for your attention every 30 seconds, and if your mind is situated on getting other things done, you are going to get very frustrated, and may inadvertently take it out on your child.
Finding your focus--comforting and caring for your child-- will help you acknowledge the fact that you may not get much of anything else done in the next several days. You might just notice that this break is kinda nice. It’s a great reminder that we tend to do too much anyways.
4) STOP and take a break
How long does it take you to hit your wall? You know, the “I can’t take this anymore” wall. We all hit our walls at different times (I think I lasted about 3 days before I hit mine this time). We all have breaking points. Pay attention to yourself and how you feel. Your body will give you cues that you need to rest.
Caring for a sick child takes constant attention, compassion, and kindness. Maintaining this level of attention is really, really hard day after day, sleepless night after sleepless night. You simply must give yourself permission to take a break! We can’t maintain the levels of compassion that our children need when we are totally depleted. Do anything, something other than caring for someone else, for some part of your day. It will help you to remember the most important mindful mama mantra of all: This too shall pass. It always does. Repeating this mantra at 3 am as I respond to the cries of my sick child really helps me mother in the moment.
Being mindful during stressful times like our child's illness, we are able to give them the ultimate medicine-- attention+love+compassion.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
So, the spirit of “do less, accomplish more,” I’ll stop.