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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.

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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.

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Courageous Mothering 
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
*as trustworthy


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.

 
 
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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!

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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.

 
 
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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.

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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.

 
 
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Have you ever noticed a smile silhouetted in the clouds?  A tiny heart-shaped rock as you’re walking along?  Maybe you see a bouquet of your very favorite flowers in a shop window, or a colorful wall mural catches your eye as you're speeding by in a taxi.  When you're in a bad mood and all in a frump about something, have you ever witnessed how your child will laugh at the silliest, most preposterous things and you can’t help but smile?  These seemingly small, insignificant things are there for a reason.  They are quiet little reminders of happiness, and they are there just for you. If we take notice, these little happiness markers can also be powerful tools on our journey toward a life filled with appreciation and gratitude.

Gratitude is a state of being that has been scientifically linked with countless positive health and emotional benefits. In his essay, Why Gratitude is Good, Robert Emmons of The Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) at the University of California, Berkeley lists the many, many, MANY reasons why both spiritual leaders and scientists alike condone a heartfelt gratitude practice in daily life.  Studies at GGSC have found that the benefits of practicing gratitude consistently can include: a stronger immune system, longer and better quality sleep, higher levels of positive emotions, and an attitude that is more helpful, generous, compassionate and forgiving overall.  

There are obviously numerous incentives to practice gratitude, so why is it still so darn hard to do sometimes?!  Two reasons:

First, sometimes it feels so good to be in a bad mood!  If you’ll notice, it is energetically easier to be mad, resentful, or disappointed at the outset of a negative situation than it is to search for what is positive about it.  This means ...argh!... putting mindful attention into seeking out what is good and happy about the moment.  However, it takes a LOT MORE energy and effort to stay in a bad mood for a prolonged period of time than it does to leave it behind and move on.  Therefore, why not expend a little extra energy at the very beginning and find something to be grateful for... some “hidden happiness” that is just waiting to be discovered?  And as we all know, the more energy we have in the moment, the more we’re able to enjoy it with our kids!

In his article, Taking in the Good, Psychologist Rick Hanson explains in three simple steps how to “foster positive experiences” and, in particular, how to allow your positive experiences to sink in “so they become a permanent part of you.” The benefits of gratitude also have a special benefit for the little ones in our lives.  Hanson notes, “...taking in the good has a special payoff for kids at either the spirited or the anxious end of the temperament spectrum.  Spirited children usually zip along to the next thing before good feelings have a chance to consolidate in the brain, and anxious children tend to ignore or downplay good news.”  Being grateful for life’s little joys is such a simple, yet powerful, gift we can both model for and give to our kids each and every day.   

And secondly, gratitude has a BIG impact on our attitudes when it is practiced in the raw, spontaneous moments of our daily lives. This is where those little, serendipitous reminders of happiness come into play. As we give little signs of happiness our attention and recognition (the smiley face bumper sticker on the car in front of us, a warm hug from our child, a feather floating on the breeze, the sound of a baby laughing, I could go on and on...) we can stop, savor the moment, say a prayer of thanks if we're drawn to, and practice gratitude right in the moment.

So the next time you’re in a mood, having “one of those days,” or feeling overwhelmed with an over-packed schedule; try looking for a simple reminder of happiness in the moment.  It will be there and it was put there just for you.

<3, Caroline

 
 
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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:

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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.

<3 Caroline

 
 
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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….

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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.

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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. 

 Jen

 
 
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.

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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.

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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.

 
 
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THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
Motherhood is a sacrifice... but you already knew that. Have you ever noticed how the sacrificing starts out rather small and insignificant-- alcohol, caffeine (okay, this is significant), your skinny jeans. Then, as your belly swells and that baby arrives, the sacrifices ramp up a bit. Hello baby, good-bye-- body, sleep, mojo, social life, rationality, a tidy home, silence, and for some moms, careers, financial independence, 401K contributions…(whew~I'm outta breath). 
  
Feels like a lot, doesn’t it? It is a lot. However, if you think about it, all these things are only temporary sacrifices. Okay, my boobs are forever gone, but no worries! Thank you Victoria's Secret Bombshell Bra. Seriously  though, I bet if 100 moms made a list of all the sacrifices they've made for motherhood, most would agree that what they’ve given up for what they’ve gotten is totally worth it. Hear, hear.

But there is one thing on my list that I am intentionally working to remove, and perhaps it's on your list, too. It's something that shouldn’t be there. One thing that isn’t designed to be (even temporarily) sacrificed.

ME

"When you give to others to the degree you sacrifice yourself, you make others a thief. They are stealing from you what you need, and they don’t even know it." 
~ Iyanla Vanzant

Okay, I'll come out with it. I'm totally guilty of this! But, I can explain. I never meant for this to happen. Seriously. I love being a mom. Love it. But without my awareness, this love for my girls morphed into an unhealthy, unrealistic expectation that I could and should be everything to them all the time. I created this unrealistic expectation in my mind. Thus, I always put off “me time” for when everyone else was good. Yes, I know...you can laugh out loud. That moment has never come.


The challenge as I see it is that motherhood is a 24/7 job, with no built-in breaks (coffee, bathroom, or otherwise), vaca's, or boundaries. This means that our job is infinite. Our kids always need something. Thus, it's so easy to fall into the mental trap of thinking we'll take care of ourselves later. Alas, "later" never comes. Every time we miss an opportunity to meet our own needs, we forget how good it feels to reconnect with ourselves. We forget how good it feels to mother from a rejuvenated heart. When we forget, we easily fall into the habit of completely neglecting ourselves-- making the ultimate sacrifice-- day after day.
 
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MORE THAN A FEELING
Feeling good is essential to mothering. Not only because our kids are so intuitive that we simply can’t hide our inner-emotional states from them, but because the way we feel directly impacts how we mother. 
 
I’ve  noticed that I can sacrifice all the things I’ve listed in that first paragraph and not feel bad about losing any of them. Perhaps it's because I know these things are not me. My boobs, my career, my body don't define me. They don’t make me, me. 
  
But the minute, no, the instant, I feel like I am sacrificing myself, I feel awful. Anger, resentment, and bitterness paralyze my emotional state and undermine all the giving and doing I do for my girls. Feeling this way tells me that sacrificing myself isn’t supposed to happen. 
 
The thing is mama, it would be easier (and you’d free up more time) if you could actually sacrifice yourself entirely for the next 15-18 years while you raise your kids. But moms are not designed to function this way. Why? Because YOU are the power source of the greatest power in the Universe: LOVE. Your passions, your dreams, your purposes, your desires, your talents are “you”-- YOUR LOVE.  This “you” is not sacrificial because if you lose this passion, this you-ness, you lose the love. And this love, your love, is the greatest power in the Universe.

“Love is the positive force of life! Love is the cause of everything positive and good. Without love, there is no life.” 
~ Rhonda Byrne, The Power

Because of the power of your love, sacrificing your you-ness, your passions, your desires, your dreams, isn’t an option in motherhood. Every time you neglect yourself, your needs, your wants, your loves, you diminish the vibrancy and magic of your love. The only way your love gets recharged and replenished is by the love you generate for yourself and turn inward.

Meeting your needs, showing self-compassion, taking a break from the work of motherhood, taking time for yourself, forgiving yourself for whatever guilts you, and engaging in your passions are all examples of ways to shine your love inward so that it can radiate outward more brilliantly. It’s your love that allows you to mother from your heart. It’s your love that allows you to give joyfully to your children. It’s your love that inspires your children to love themselves. YOUR love does all of this. YOUR love.

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YOUR MINDFUL MOTHERING PRACTICE
You've simply got to cultivate the love in your heart to be able to give to your children freely and joyfully.

Start with paying attention to how you feel. When you feel that desire to do something for yourself, or you feel yucky emotions like stress, anxiety, anger and frustration, it’s a sign you need to direct your love inward. The more you practice paying attention to yourself, the better you’ll get at meeting your needs before you become completely depleted. Mindful mamas strive for steady, balanced emotional states, instead of extreme highs and extreme lows.
 
Get into the habit of asking yourself, “What do I need," then take ACTION. Ask yourself this question every hour if you must. The smallest acts of love directed inward multiply and make a profound impact. If you need a cup of tea, make one. If you need to hit the gym after work, just do it. If you need to  choose a happier thought, choose it. If you need to plop the kids in front of the t.v. so you can put on your make-up and do your hair, plop away. If you need to order pizza for dinner tonight to give yourself a break, make the call. If you need to ask for help, for everyone's sake, ask.

Create "WIN/WIN" scenarios in your life. It's not selfish to meet your needs ALONG with meeting the needs of your family. This is how everybody wins. Remember, your needs are important, too. In fact, you are glue that holds the whole family together (my husband's exact words to me one day). If you come  unglued....well, you know what happens. Being a mindful mama, pay attention to when you begin putting your needs off for a later date. I've found it helpful to operate under the, "one for you, one for me," principle. Meet their needs, then yours, then theirs, then yours.

BALANCE the needs, mama. Keep your balance, and you'll allow the the greatest power in the Universe to flow freely from your heart and into the hearts of those you love.

 
 
A NEW STRATEGY
An inconsolable infant, a tantrum throwing toddler, a temperamental teenager; what do each of these situations have in common? Hummm, let’s see….they are all frustrating, maddening, and (let’s be real) aggravating! Not to mention, {sigh} they are inevitable in motherhood. 

Mothering is jam packed with moments that serve to trigger our anger and irritation. There is no avoiding it. It just is. But even though we have little control over the occurrence of these moments in our lives, we have total control over our response to them.

I know. I know. You're skeptical. I was, too. Every time my children ignored my 50th request to pick up their toys, moved at a glacial speed to get out the door, whined about, well, anything, I reacted. I got angry. I got mad. I yelled. I threatened. I resisted. And as we mindful mama's know-- (chorus, please) what we resist, always persists!

But, I have been employing a new strategy in my mothering lately. No, this strategy hasn’t put an end to those maddening mothering moments (just accept them, mama), but it has remarkably transformed my (over)reaction to them. The strategy is... compassion.

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I See YOU 
Our children want so very badly to be seen, to be validated, to be heard. Compassion covers these bases. Compassion is all about having empathy for another’s suffering coupled with a desire to alleviate their pain.

Okay. Let’s relate this to mothering and our kids. Consider those mothering moments that instantly ignite your anger and frustration. In my personal experience, a majority of these moments have to do with my child’s “suffering.” For example, when my daughter has a full blown meltdown, she is suffering in her own way. Something is not right in her world. Something is upsetting her. She so badly wants something to happen that isn’t, and she expresses this inner suffering by acting out. 

In this meltdown moment, I have two choices. #1: View the situation from my perspective, focusing on how annoyed I am and how difficult she is making my life, or, #2: view the situation from her perspective, seeing through her eyes and empathizing with her thoughts and feelings. 

Every single time I make the deliberate choice to put myself in her shoes, I act compassionately. Instantly, I am transformed. I become patient, kind, a good listener, attentive, emotionally available, empathetic, understanding, peaceful, and calm.

COMPASSION IN ACTION
The next time you are face to face with one of those maddening mothering moments, test out these simple steps and witness the transformational power of compassion:

Step 1) SHIFT YOUR PERSPECTIVE: Instead of seeing the situation from your perspective, as in, "This is annoying the hell out of me," CHOOSE to see what your child is going through from their perspective. Switch your point of reference from you to them. This is empathy.

Step 2) IMAGINE THEIR PAIN: Put yourself in their shoes. Find commonalities in your child’s behavior and how you’d feel if you were them. Often times I say to my girls,"I understand what you are feeling. I would feel upset, too, if..."

Step 3) TAKE ACTION: You can't practice compassion without empathy + action. Once you have shifted your perspective and imagined their pain, you have just created the space to respond in the exact way your child needs you to. Trust that any action taken from this space will always be the “right action.” 

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YOUR MINDFUL MOTHERING PRACTICE
Compassion takes practice. Daily practice. Good thing motherhood provides us with countless occasions every day to refine the art of compassion.  

It's tempting to resist stressful and chaotic moments of motherhood. But the secret is it's these moments that give us the opportunity to demonstrate one of our most important, influential, and powerful mothering tools-- compassion

Compassion IS kindness, love, forgiveness, empathy, and acceptance. Compassion is all the divine traits of mothering wrapped up into one graceful action.

Set a daily intention for the rest of the week to show compassion to your child when they need it most. Be mindful, be aware, be compassionate, and be prepared to witness the amazing transformation that occurs in yourself and your mothering.

 
 
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LETTING GO OF CONTROL
It’s true. Sometimes not being in control is the most beautiful thing in the world. Why? Because fear fosters control. And every single time we release the power fear has over us, life becomes beautiful!

Think about those times you’ve tried to control situations in your life or in your child’s life. This impulse to control stems from the fear of not wanting something to occur or from wanting to protect yourself or your child from experiencing pain, hurt, or disappointment. Control and manipulation are not derivatives of love. They are derivatives of fear. Each moment we live our lives or mother from a place of fear, we unintentionally impede the flow of love from emanating from us out into our lives and towards our children.


LOVE is the opposite of fear. TRUST is the opposite of control. Every time you make the conscious decision to trust yourself in your mothering, trust your child to do something for herself, or trust this moment to be perfectly placed in your life, you become a shining beacon of love (kinda like a lighthouse that projects light out into the foggy night). This is the beauty that arises when you allow yourself to not be in total control of every single aspect of your life or your child’s life.

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CHOOSING TRUST
"A wise mother does not unnecessarily interfere with her child's life. Your children have their own process-- their own thoughts, feelings, and reactions-- which must be allowed to unfold. If you do not trust your children's process, your children will not trust anyone or anything. Your confidence in them builds their confidence in themselves." 
(Vimala McClure, The Tao of Motherhood)

Being aware of our habit (and egoic desire) to control is important to mindful mothering. It’s only in this awareness that we grant ourselves the ability to make the choice to let go of just the right amount of control at just the right time. Trust yourself as a mama, and you’ll instinctively know when you should allow your child to rely on himself in certain situations.

When it comes to our kids, each time we make the choice to trust and not control, we allow our child’s confidence and self-pride to grow. Self-confidence is the bedrock of trust. When we believe in ourselves and our abilities, we trust ourselves. It’s only when we truly trust ourselves that we can then begin to trust other people and the moments of our lives. When you LET GO of control, you ALLOW for your child’s confidence to grow.

YOUR MINDFUL MOTHERING PRACTICE
Trust is an expression of divine love. This week in your mindful mothering practice, pay attention to your urge to control. When that urge strikes, draw your attention to the fearful thoughts that underlie it. Choose to think a different thought. Remember the beautiful tradeoff that occurs every time you choose trust over control. Trust instills confidence, love, and hope-- in your child, yourself, and the moments in your life. And just like your mindfulness practice is built by small actions over time, so is trust.

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As a community of Mindful Mamas, we want to know:

How have you let go of control and trusted 
your child recently?
How have you let go of control and trusted 

yourself recently?

or...

How have you let go of control and trusted 

a moment in your life recently?

Drop us a line in the comment section below and inspire us! You'll be entered in a drawing for a FREE copy of one of our all-time favorite mothering books, The Balanced Mom, by Bria Simpson. Gotta love a giveaway!!!