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.
Fear feels so real, doesn't it? In only thousandths of a second, it can consume our emotions, take over our body's systems, bring a flood of memories up from the past, and unleash an anxiety-avalanche of "worst case scenarios." Now please bear with me here for a little experiment:
1) Car accident... hurricane... hunger... losing a job... foreclosure...
When we think about each of these, what comes up inside of us? Fear.
2) Full-blown tantrum in a restaurant... meltdown on a plane... the 500th parent-teacher conference in a year... detention... your teenager dating one of the "bad boys" or 'bad girls"... flunking out of school... What comes up? Fear.
Ok, let's do a reset (and then I'll get to my point!). Imagine you're in the bright sunshine, laying on a beach, feeling the warm sand under your feet, hearing the waves crash, hearing the seagulls cry, sipping on a cool drink with an umbrella, feelin' the love... Hahhh, ok we're back now. Sorry about that up there. Those negative scenarios are no fun to think about, but what's important to realize here is that what comes up with each of these is fearful thought which causes the body to react physically. Whether the scenario is major or minor, threatening or non-threatening, when you experience these different types of fearful thoughts your body has the same reaction: constrict, shut down, flee, survive. It basically shouts, "Nooooo!" Not good, especially when our bodies regularly experience these types of responses in situations where we aren't actually in any danger.
Millions of years of evolution have brought us to this state... this place where it sometimes feels like fear runs the show in our lives. Our bodies actually change physiologically in response to fearful emotions, whether perceived or actual. We find ourselves in non-threatening situations with our children all the time where we think a thought and the fear floods in. It literally may feel like the worst case scenario is just around the corner. It feels so real because that is how are bodies are designed. Our bodies tell us: Fear = Take Action... Now! This formula is spot on if we happen to be faced with a hungry grizzly bear as we jog down the street. However, when all we're having is one of those pesky, non-threatening, fearful thoughts (that all moms do) we gotta revamp the formula.
Our new Mindful Mama fear formula: Fear = Respond with Love... Now!
The following three shifts in perspective can help you to approach any situation you're faced with from a place of love (maybe even that grizzly bear).
Shift #1: Fear Is Not Real
Fear is not real. Take a good, long, mindful look at it the next time you catch yourself having a fearful thought about a "worst case scenario." If you look at it long enough it eventually dissipates and disappears. See? Fear is not real. It is a product of the ego and therefore is only real if we make it real by unconsciously reacting to it. In this cleared space, we can then focus on the good, bring ourselves back around and get grounded.
Shift #2: Fear and Love Cannot Coexist
Fear and love cannot coexist in the same space. Just as we cannot think more than one thought at a time, the same is true with thoughts of fear. If fear is there, love is not. Better yet, when loving, trustful and grateful thoughts are there, fearful ones are not. Many of the fearful scenarios described above happen when we are unconscious and not mindful of the tricks our minds are playing on us.
Shift #3: Love That Fear
Mindfulness has the power to transform our fears into love. Once we realize that fear is not real, and once we remember that fear and love cannot coexist, which thought will we then choose? Which path will we continue along? Fearful or loving? Something you hate or something to be grateful for in the moment?
Fear is something that we can (and SHOULD) learn to transform into love. Every... single... time. Love is real. Choosing a loving thought or action will bring us toward peace and happiness. Love is where we want to mother from and where our true and best selves lie. Love is when we feel connected to our hearts, not our egos. When we "love that fear", we are basically telling our egos to (lovingly) step aside so that our hearts can guide us. I've been fascinated lately with looking directly at my fears in an effort to try and transform them. So, I did a little experiment. With the guidance of our pal, The Joyful Mother, I took one fear and focused on it for four days. The fear I chose was "a fear of self-love." Whenever this fear came up I marked it down on a piece of paper. You know what I found? I found that I thought about it A LOT! And being more mindful of my fearful thoughts in general, I found that an uncomfortable amount of my thoughts are fear-based throughout the day. Yikes! Now c'mon... I know that fear is not real, and fear and love cannot coexist. So, hmmm... what does this little experiment say about how I've been livin'? How I've been manifestin'? How I've been co-creatin'? How I've been motherin'?! Fearfully, not lovingly. Try it out for yourself. Pick a fear that you have, big or small, and place mindful attention on it for four days. Keep track of it and see if it is something that you can let go of... something you are willing to transform into love.
As mothers, we experience situations everyday that hand us the opportunity to grow and learn and evolve. I think that's why it's sometimes referred to as "the toughest job you'll ever love!" When our Fear = Respond with Love... Now!, we will find ourselves mothering from a more peaceful, productive space. We can let go of the fear, knowing that we are choosing the right path. <3 Carolineps: If you have a tip or technique on how to overcome your fears, please leave it in the comments below. We always love to hear and learn from our mindful mamas!
Did you feel it-- feel the world stop on Friday? We all did. I believe that Mother Nature and the entire Universe felt it, too because the events of that day went against every law of nature; another human being doing such unimaginable harm to another, especially our children…our future…our visible reminders of what it means to be blissful, perfectly present, and filled with divine energy and pure love.
The news of the horrific tragedy in Connecticut delivered a punch so hard, that collectively, we all lost our breath. And whenever we lose our breath, we lose our mental balance, and fear instantly takes root in our minds. We become confused, dumbfounded, and paralyzed. This is how I, and I am sure many of us, couldn't help but feel upon hearing the horrific news. But as human beings, especially as mindful mothers, in tragic times like these, we must rise above our fears and ground ourselves in the profound love we have for our children. For our divine connection to our kids reminds us of the power of our love to create miracles. Love begets love. Love is contagious-- but only if our hearts remain open to let it flow freely.
Feel It to Free It
I was awestruck by how quickly reading about the details of that day shut me down. I wept deeply, almost uncontrollably at times. The depth of my emotions were a clear indicator of rampant thoughts of fear running through my head. As frightening as it was, I allowed myself to feel everything; not that I really had a choice. These emotions were no match against my feable attempt to suppress and avoid them. The moment I truly let go and lost myself in the intensity of what I was feeling, I heard a voice. It was crystal clear, and it hovered somewhere above the chaos and the confusion. It was my true voice; the voice of my heart. “Jen….what’s going on? Why is this hitting you so hard?”
This was my mindfulness practice paying off during a pivotal point in the game of life. This simple act of self compassion and present moment awareness enabled me to see past my fear. The moment I noticed and labeled it, I instantly gained clarity. I realized my emotions were so severe because I felt deep grief for the immeasurable loss of precious life, as well as a profound sadness for the parents of the souls lost and children who survived but lost their innocence. But that was not all. The thought that was wreaking the most havoc in my head was, "What if that were my child?" As a parent, anytime this fear flashes through your head, you react as if that were the grave reality. Our bodily response doesn't discern the difference between what's real and fantasy in our minds. Fear feels real, so our bodies react. It was that powerful, primordial, parental fear for the safety of my three young daughters that brought on a flood of uncontrollable emotions.
As I stood frozen, staring out of my bedroom window with a tattered Kleenex in hand, the destructive cycle of fear kept taunting me with heart wrenching questions, “What have you done bringing children into this world?, Do you have the courage to let your girls grow and go?, Would you have the strength to endure the most unimaginable event in a parent’s life if it happened to you?” Fear has this way of shaking you to your core...that is until you recognize exactly what it's gettin' away with.
Vimala McClure, in the Tao of Motherhood says it best, “When you have your first child, suddenly life become precious. So precious you can strangle it with the tension of holding on. What mother hasn’t had fearful fantasies of losing her child? This is the hardest time to accept letting go as a part of holding on.” When our minds are consumed by fear, it's not only hard to accept that we have to let go of our children, it's unfathomable. But this is exactly fear's ultimate plan-- to trap you in your head, so your heart will not be your guide. Fear wants us to grasp our children with claws of steel because then it has succeeded. Fear is contagious, too! As mothers we need to remember that our fears can be caught by our children. Fear strangles life, hope, love, wisdom, and dreams because it halts the flow of energy. It stops movement forward. Forward motion is life, and it's what's necessary in the face of pain and suffering. We have to move forward to move out of it.
MINDFUL MAMA PRACTICE ~ Choosing love
The practice always starts with allowing ourselves the space to feel all our emotions as they arise. When we allow them to flow, we are better able to witness them as they pass-- and they will pass, for nothing is permanent. Mindfulness enables us to "name it to tame it." Can you recognize your fear? What does fear look like in your body? Get good at identifying the emotions or bodily sensations that indicate that fear has sabotaged your mind. For me-- it’s weeping, feeling out of control, and a general sense of sadness. The INSTANT you see your fear, you’ve regained control of your mind, and it no longer has the power to control you.
The next step is to intentionally CHOOSE to refocus your attention on Love. Fear may be a natural human “reaction” to pain and suffering, but it’s our divine nature to “respond” with peace, love, and presence (Hamrick). The only place we can respond with peace, love, and presence is in the present moment. We must breathe, pause, and become present of all the love that currently surrounds us. It is always there in abundance, we just have to shift our attention. Where our attention goes, our energy goes.
After learning of the tragic news, the moment I noticed my fear, and felt my body and mind spinning out of control, I paused. I reconnected with my breath. That pause gave me the space to shift my thoughts to love-- immense gratitude for the miracle of the birth of my children, the profound blessing of being able to tuck them into their warm beds, kissing their lips goodnight, and for my ability to see these blessings in my life. My LOVE for my children grounds me every.single.time. Being grounded, I hug my children tighter, I linger in their presence, and I listen more than I speak.
When the world stopped on Friday, it provided us with an incredible opportunity to pause, catch our breath, and refocus our attention on what matters most-- the love we have for each other. As mothers, you and I have incredible powers to transform the world with our love, and we do it by loving our kids. Focusing on this love calms and clears our minds. The most selfless gift we can ever give another human being, especially our children when they are suffering, is our peaceful, calm presence. When we are calm and present, our hearts are wide open, and we can literally (through energetic means) transfer love and compassion into the depths of their soul. The love that emanates from an open heart is the greatest antidote to pain and suffering. At times like these, as we draw our kids close, linger in their presence, and show them respect and compassion, may our love multiply not only in their hearts, but ours as well. The love we generate from loving our kids can heal the world.
Our love is contagious.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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!