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.
My pony tail was dripping with sweat. I couldn’t help it; it was sweltering hot in that room. “Here he comes,” I thought.
As he snaked his way through the sweltering room packed tight with sweaty yogis in Lululemon attire, my intention, my focus was to nail every pose. Oh by the way, I should mention that he was not just any yoga teacher-- he was the yoga teacher; the guy who'd created the teacher training program I just completed.
I had to look graceful, right? I had to be strong, right? I had to stick that reversed half-moon like I was posing for the cover of Yoga Journal, right? I was a yoga teacher now; the stakes were higher. This is the story fear had created in my mind.
We were all in a good flow, moving seamlessly between postures, when I heard his voice coming closer and closer. I tensed up. I wanted to look perfect. As he was nearly right in front of me, I gracefully stepped my right foot forward, ready to sweep my arms up to come into warrior one, when my foot slipped on the sweat on my mat, and I fell.
“Yoga is a practice everyone, not a performance. This is not "Cirque de Yoga." You will fall, you will make mistakes. It’s all part of the journey…” he said calmly, and matter-of-factly.
After I got over the initial freak-out in my mind that he was saying this because he'd just watched me almost take out a full row of fellow yogis in domino fashion, I thought about how great this line was for us, Mindful Mamas! Motherhood-- it's a practice, not a performance!
MOTHERHOOD- A Practice, Not a Performance
This shift in perspective is very powerful. Thinking of motherhood as a practice and not a performance shifts the focus from fear to love. When we think performance, we think perfection. And where perfection is involved, there is always a fear that being less than perfect will result in pain. As mothers, this can be the pain we feel that our imperfections might be screwing up our children-- and we feel bad about that! Fear is the anticipation of future pain.
For example, have you ever noticed how fears about "screwing up" your child are projections into the future? You are worrying about a future child, a future experience, a future event that doesn’t exist today. It isn’t real (even though it feels so real…that's fear’s trick to making itself stick).
Now try this trick: Think about all the times in the past when you feel you totally “screwed up” as a mom (well, don’t dwell on them, otherwise this little activity may back fire). NOW-- step into the present moment. Look at your child TODAY-- right now, at this moment; focus your attention on how wonderful, vibrant, loving, forgiving, resilient, trusting, and well-adjusted your child is NOW! See? It’s always just fine in the present moment. And if it isn’t, I guarantee you are probably doing everything a loving mother would do in this present moment to help your child.
Remember that we are not supposed to be perfect mothers. Motherhood is designed to be a practice and not a performance. This allows us to shift our thoughts out of fear of the future and into the present moment where fearless love is always found.
Motherhood is a practice. We are gonna make mistakes. And with mindfulness and awareness, we trust ourselves that we will do better next time. That's what a practice is-- continual refinement and growth where it is required that we take 3 steps back before we take 1 step forward. Going through the poses of our mothering with this perspective allows us to come to this practice with a sense of relaxation, trust, openness and acceptance. And I just have to say, a funny little thing happens when we approach our mothering this way-- we stress, perfect, and worry less. And as we stress, perfect, and worry less, we tend to naturally do less of those things (like yelling, losing our cool, or getting lost in guilt) that make us "think" we are screwing up our kids.
This is not Cirque de Motherhood. You will fall. You will make mistakes. It's all part of the journey. Don't allow fear of the future to torment you today! Just remember that motherhood is a practice. If you come at it every day with love, perseverance, and awareness, your future (as in your kids) will work itself out beautifully one present moment at a time.
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.
Before I became a mom, I was successful, conventionally speaking. I went to college, got a good job, made good money, got my Master’s degree, went on vacations, wore pretty clothes, drove a new car, yada, yada, yada. In terms of our society’s standards for making it, I was. Then I gave birth. Instantaneously, my life changed. I left my teaching job, gave up my salary, no longer went on vacations, ditched the dry-clean only attire for 100% cotton and 100% washable frocks, and traded in my fancy two door coupe for a minivan. In terms of society’s standards for making it, as a SAHM (stay at home mom), I wasn’t. But I was still happy. I think? Wait….I really can’t remember. My oldest was 17 months old when I gave birth to twins, so I’m serious when I say, for the first 3 years of my new life as a mother, I really had no energy or time to think deep thoughts of who I was or whether or not I was still “successful.” In my new world, success was potty training a toddler while tandem nursing two babies at the same time. But as my girls grew, so did my unoccupied time. And I know you know what happens when you have unoccupied time. You think. So I thought….and…oh yeah, spent more time on Facebook.
My relationship with Facebook is, how shall I put it… complicated... classic love/hate. (Of course, this does not include our Mindful Moms Network page or other positive, inspirational pages and Facebook communities!) What I love about Facebook is how connected I feel; connected to friends that I haven’t seen in the flesh for over a decade just by checking out the newest pics in their photo album, or by being able affirm their funny stories or show my support during their hard times with the click of a “like” button. But it’s the weirdest thing. For as much as I Iove how Facebook allows me to feel connected to my friends, I "hate" how it sometimes makes me feel disconnected from myself. The longer I peruse image after image of exotic trips taken to Bali or Bora Bora, the most recent Coach purse purchase, the new 45 ft boat used for sensuous sunbathing, or the wild girls’ weekend in Vegas, it's easy to begin to feel a little depressed. (Gosh, maybe this is why I like to drink a glass of wine as I surf Facebook... numbs the pain a bit.) Everyone's lives look so flashly, so exciting with all their stuff that only moolah can buy. Last time I checked, I am not actually getting paid the $112,962 that the most recent issue of RealSimple says that as a SAHM, I would earn. So I can't help but go there, (perhaps you know where there is) feeling not good enough or that I don't have enough; feeling that they are making it. They are a success. And, I’m not.
DELIBERATLY FOCUSING ON THE GOOD
My misadventures on Facebook have been a profound teacher, it turns out. The last time I was on Facebook (sans wine ‘cause I wanted to feel all the pain), I did something crazy. I watched my thoughts of envy, fear, doubt, and failure flow through my brain without attaching to them. I just noticed them. I didn’t judge them. I didn’t push them away. I didn’t react to them by feeling bad. In this mode of acceptance, I saw with a clear mind and a clear heart something amazing. My unhappy feelings weren’t a result from wanting what others had. No, my unhappiness came from using an deeply flawed measurement tool to assess my “success” in life, especially in my new life as a mom. The moment I got this was the moment I realized I wasn't flawed. The assessment tool I was using was. The longer I (unconsciously, of course) continued to use external measures to quantify my worth, the longer I would feel lack, unhappiness, and a general discontentment with my life. This was the moment the shift to focusing on the good happened. It was the moment I realized that in order to be happy-- truly happy-- I had to redefine success for myself.
(gotta love Dr. Robert Holden)
This shift in perspective changed my life. Instead of unconsciously using a measuring device, one that focused on lack and fear, I would consciously use a device that focused on abundance and love to measure my success. I made the decision to measure success not on what I acquired on the outside, but rather, from what I obtained on the inside-- how present to love I am in my life.
In the book, What Happy People Know, the very first of the “12 Qualities of Happiness” is love. “We often think that being loved is the best feeling in world, but it’s the second best. The best is loving someone else.” It takes presence to love someone else. When we are not unconsciously caught by wanting to do more, be more, get more, we can be present with ourselves and the ones we love. Based on my new definition of success, how present I am in my life to love, I’m rock’n it. I love my girls wildly, unconditionally, and contagiously. When my daughter asks me to dance with her while I am in the middle of preparing dinner (while also texting, emailing, or talking on the phone), and I seize the moment to sweep her up in my arms and twirl her around the kitchen, I am present to love. When she’s having a bad day, and her emotions have gotten the best of her (and I, myself, just want to scream), and I seize the moment to kneel down and give her a big hug, I am present to love. Every time I am about leave the house (I am running really, really late), and I seize the moment to respond to my girls’ calls for yet another hug and kiss, I am present to love. And just the other day, when I was present enough to hear my three daughters playing house upstairs, and my oldest said to her younger sister, “No, Izzy. You don’t have to change out of that dress. You look beautiful just the way you are,” I am present to feel such amazing love and appreciation for the awesome opportunity of motherhood I’ve been blessed with.
Every moment I am truly present, hence not stuck in my head with thoughts of what's missing, worry, stress, anxiety, or fear, my capacity to love is increased exponentially. The more I love, the more I focus on the good in my life. The more I focus on the good and all the abunance (of love) that surrounds me, I experience deep happiness. As a mom who wants her greatest legacy to her children to be happiness and health, I define success as how present I am to love. It may not be flashy, and it's definitely not something I can take a picture of and post on Facebook.
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.
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!
RUNNING ON EMPTY
We're moms. We've all been there. Completely, utterly, totally....depleted. But this is good! In terms of our Mindful Mama practice, we can learn something in this space. I had just put my twin toddlers down for naps (thank goodness, at age 3, they still do this) and put my 4 year old in her room for her own alone time when I collapsed on the couch. I knew I was tired when I quickly abandoned my feeble attempt to reach the remote to catch up on a couple missed episodes of Giuliana & Bill. All I could muster the energy to do was stare blindly at the ceiling and breathe.
“So…how are you doing? How’s everything going over there,” Ronelle asked. She knows me well. This girl can correctly identify my overall emotional state from a one word text message. She also knows major changes are headed my way. In light of my husband’s new job, we're uprooting our family and moving to a brand new city, a new home, and a new life several states away. That means more chaos, more messes, and more work on top of the already rather chaotic, messy workload of being home full time with three kids age 4 and under.
“I think I just have to lower my expectations,” I sighed, defeated.
It’s only till I get completely run-down and exhausted that I realize how high my everyday operating expectations are for myself. Essentially what I was saying to Ronelle was, “I can’t spend a hour every day giving each child one-on-one attention with educational activities...," “I can’t make every single meal...,” “I can’t meet everyone’s demands the minute they want them met...,” and “I can’t keep the bathrooms spick and span, the kitchen floor gleaming, and the dust from forming a thick layer on the entertainment center...” without losing my mind!
(but in a GOOD way!)
Step one was becoming AWARE of my slightly lofty expectations. I’ve noticed that it’s these self-imposed, rigid “shoulds” that I unconsciously attach to on a day to day basis.
Then came step two-- SURRENDER (which is much easier when exhausted, am I right?). This is the lesson exhaustion teaches us. Surrender. Wave the white flag. Throw in the towel, what have you. The moment we surrender, we release the grip our “shoulds” have on us. We let go of our expectations. We detach from thinking we have to do all the extra crap we think must
do in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. The act of surrendering that comes so naturally when exhausted allows us to cease clinging to what “needs” to happen and allow what is
happening to actually happen…without judgment. “Fatigue is a gift. Like many of the gifts that come to mothers, it is not one you would choose...Fatigue helps you forget. When you are tired, you let go. You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again. You slow down. You grow quiet. You take comfort. You appreciate the smallest things. You stop fighting.”
(Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen)
YOUR MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE
You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again.
What you do let go of when you are so tired you can barely muster the energy to brush your teeth? Pay attention next time (or maybe that time is now). Pay attention to the standards, things, events, ideals, or activities you let go of. Then ask yourself if you really need to ever pick those up again.
As for me, I am not suggesting that I’m not going “pick up”spending one-on-one time with my girls, meeting my family’s needs, or cooking/ cleaning (wait…I’d actually love to not pick up cleaning again!). Rather, what I won’t pick up is my unhealthy attachment to my thoughts about doing these things.
A Mindful Mama is sometimes just too darn tired to label, judge, or react. This is surrender! This is acceptance! When you are too tired to strive to make the moment any different than it is, you’ve just embodied mindfulness to its fullest extent. Make this your practice. Practice this mindset when you are exhausted and then practice it when you are functioning at full speed. You might just find that when you fully embrace not forcing things to be a certain way or pushing yourself so hard, you spend a lot less time being exhausted in the first place.
When you are tired, let go. Changes are pretty good that you won’t let go of anything worth fighting for.