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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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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. 

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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.

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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.
 

 
 
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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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YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY
I remember how shocked I was when I found out Whitney Houston passed away. Upon reading the tragic news, I quickly Googled her to find out what happened. I mean, it was Whitney Houston! As a preteen, I was captivated by her beauty, her voice, and her totally awesome 80’s hair and outfits in the video, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Oh, how I wanted to have that body, that permed hair, those clothes!
 
As I skimmed the featured MSN article that explained the sad details of her death, I stopped reading when I came across something she said in an interview in 2002:

“The biggest devil is me. I’m either my best friend or my worst enemy.”
Whitney Houston

As I sat back in my chair, I exhaled audibly. “I sooooo get that I,” thought. I am no stranger to being my own worst enemy.
 
For instance, despite my best intentions, I become my own worst enemy every time I take on too much in order to please the people I love, which inevitably leaves me depleted and overwhelmed. I become my own worst enemy every time I indulge feelings of doubt, fear, and worry and allow them to dictate my life. I become my own worst enemy every time I make a situation more difficult than it really needs to be (I swear it’s almost as if I have something to prove to myself). I do this all... to myself. 

Suffering is part of the human condition. Perhaps it's safe to say we all do this to ourselves at some point in time-- inflict suffering upon ourselves, intentionally or unintentionally. I am not 100% sure why, but I think it might have to do with the misguided belief that if we punish ourselves, we’ll be motivated to do better, be better. But this never works. It never works because inflicting pain and suffering upon ourselves seldom brings about positive change because it doesn’t come from a positive place. The most effective way to do better, be better is come from a place of love-- a place of self-compassion. 

Love begets love.

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ON YOUR OWN SIDE 
When was the last time you considered your needs? No, no. Don’t read on. Answer the question, missy. When was the last time you considered your needs? Wait…wait. What’s that I hear? Are those crickets chirping in the dead silence? Sorry, I’m totally projecting. That’s what I myself heard. Isn’t it ironic how the silence speaks volumes?

Self-compassion is being on your own side. Self-compassion is being your own friend. It’s having a real desire to notice and alleviate your own suffering. I know, a bit of a foreign concept for a lot of us. At least it is for me (I'm working on it, though). I have been creating my own drama and suffering for so long that like a fish that is oblivious to the water that surrounds it, I am often oblivious to the times when I create pain in my life. Mindful Mothering is so not about being oblivious. It’s about being aware. But now that I’m a mom, I have to do better, be better. Three sets of eyes are watching my every move. Three little ladies are learning how to treat themselves by watching how I treat myself.

NOTICE your suffering. Sometimes I get so caught up in worrying and creating painful movies in my mind that I don’t even have the wherewithal to get out of my head! Noticing when you are beating yourself up or creating a stressful situation in your life (or your head) changes the dynamic of your relationship with yourself. With this awareness, you immediately transform from being your worst enemy to becoming your own friend.

RESPOND to your needs. Self-compassion is empathy (noticing your suffering) + action. Get into the practice of asking yourself daily, “What do I need?” It’s a simple question, and 9 times out of 10, there is a simple answer. Ask the question, become aware, and then respond to your needs just like you respond to a friend in need.

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YOUR MINDFUL MOTHERING PRACTICE
Mindful Mamas understand the power of intentionally practicing self-compassion in their daily lives. When we make it a priority to take care of our needs, alleviate our pain, and essentially treat ourselves as well as we treat our kids, our hearts open. Our hearts soften. Our hearts swell. Every act of self-compassion changes our heart. And as we know, our hearts are the best places to mother mindfully from.

Self-compassion is how a Mindful Mama meets her needs, and taking care of her needs is how she keeps her heart full and over-flowing. A Mindful Mama knows that her child draws his energy from her heart. If her heart is calm, happy, loving, open and soft, she becomes a generator of positive energy for her child to tap into. 

Whitney was right. “The greatest love of all is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.” Self-compassion is the divine expression of this love!

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As a community of Mindful Mamas
we want to know...

"What is one thing you will do today (or this week) to meet your needs and show yourself some compassion?"
 
Drop us a line in the comment section below and help inspire our community of mindful mamas! 

(I'll start.... I asked my neighbor to come over and watch my girls this morning so I could go for a run and then spend a couple blissful hours writing this post in peace and quiet. This is the first time I have done this! I know myself, and I need just a little time each day to focus my attention on my passions. It brings me to life. Not to mention, I've just saved myself so much stress and guilt from trying to "work" while my girls ran circles around my desk. Now that I've had my time, I happily turn my full attention to them for the rest of the day!)

 
 
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.

 
 
Yes, you read that right!

I recently came across this simple yet profound saying written in the front flap of my book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. Since it was my handwriting and all, I must have liked this quote enough to place it predominantly on the first blank page of the text. Yet, as insightful I must have found these words to be, I can say with certainty I have not necessarily adhered to this straightforward declaration. I mean, c’mon. You’ve read my posts! They are anything but “less” right? Okay-- I am working on that…. you’ll see.

Since I am knee deep in thinking about mindfulness, mothering, finding our true selves, etc…, when I reread this one-liner, I couldn’t help but relate it to the topics in our blog. I initially thought that doing less to achieve more was not at possible when it came to mothering. I don’t have to tell you-- there is always way more to do than the time we have to do it. But then on second thought, in terms of mindfulness and mothering, perhaps this quippy quote is rather profound. 

As it pertains to mindfulness (paying attention in a particular way-- on purpose and nonjudgmentally), I think that “do less and accomplish more” directly relates to mindful mothering by doing less “thinking” to accomplish more peace, calm, and contentment. Yes. Ahhh… this I can do-- or attempt to do. 

The way I am thinking about thinking is in reference to those uninvited thoughts that enter your stream of consciousness daily. You know the ones-- the “shoulds,” the judgmental ones, the criticizing ones, the ones that worry. Seeking clarity in thinking about my thinking, I recently discovered this great site, SuccessConsciousness.com. They used a great metaphor for these types of thoughts I am speaking of. Imagine your true essence (like the one I talked about as the TRUE you being the watcher, not the thinker) as being the clear blue sky. Now, these uninvited thoughts are like clouds floating through your sky. Like clouds, they drift, they cover-up your true essence, and they float away. I guess as we think about “doing less thinking” to “achieve more clarity and calm,” I ask-- how cloudy is your day today? How cloudy is it every day? Is it continually overcast in your mind? Do you have patchy cloud coverage today? Or is your sky as clear as the eye can see?

Do less…. indulging in uninvited thoughts that keep you from finding happiness and calm. But how? 

“We enjoy freedom only when we are able to still the mind and choose our thoughts” (SuccessConsciousness.com). Okay. Sounds easy enough, right? Then why is this so hard? Well, it’s hard because as mothers, we have so many uninvited thoughts streaming through our consciousness, or clouding up our sky, that we don’t know when one ends and other one begins. Why is this the case?

Well, because our mind is like a filter. Think about that one. Your filter, your mind, was created, shaped, and built over time by what people have said to you, your daily experiences, and societal expecations. As SuccessConsciousness.com points out, every event in our lives has shaped our filter (the way we perceive the world and how we think about it). Now, before you start to freak out (like I did) and feel like your life, your perspective on life, and your thoughts are all out of your control and indirectly controlled by forces beyond you, it turns out that you have the power refine your filtration system. 

Essentially, your mind’s filter serves to either accept or reject certain thoughts. This makes sense. For instance, why do some mothers feel obsessed about keeping their house looking like it’s about to be photographed for Architectural Digest, while other mothers could really care less if magazines are strewn about, dust is about an inch thick, and loads of laundry are sitting waiting to be folded in laundry baskets? Why do some moms, myself included, feel this pressure to always engage their children in organized, structured, educational play throughout the day while other moms recognize the value of letting kids play on their own and use their imaginations? 

The point is we all have different filter settings. I love metaphors--so here is one more. Did you know that Gmail has a function where you can literally create a filter for your incoming messages? You can create a fancy-dancy filter that will allow you to automatically label, archive, delete, star or forward a message to your inbox. Imagine if you implemented this type of filtration system on your mind-- your inbox. Why not create a filter that deletes uninvited message of worry and criticism? Why not create a filter that forwards to the junk mail file, thoughts of negativity doubt? Why not create a filter that “stars” or highlights thoughts of appreciation and acceptance of the present moment-- and replays these over and over? You have the power to do this! This power lies in what we have talked about-- watching your emotions and watching your thinking. The power to reshape, refashion, and recreate your filtration system resides in present moment awareness.

As my new favorite website, SuccessConsciousness.com (no, I’m not getting paid to mention them this much) says, “Stopping the flow of thoughts may look infeasible, but constant training and exercising with concentration exercises and meditation, eventually lead to this condition. The mind is like an untamed animal. It can be taught self-discipline and obedience to a higher power.”

Love this...

So, the spirit of “do less, accomplish more,” I’ll stop.
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In the words of Carrie Bradshaw (you know, Sex and the City Carrie Bradshaw):

I got to thinking about relationships. You have those that open you up to something new and exotic; those that are old and familiar; those that bring up lots of questions; those that bring you somewhere unexpected; those that bring you far from where you started. But the most exciting, challenging, significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself…


SELF-LOVE
Here’s our focus for this blog, ladies-- that exciting, challenging, significant relationship you have with yourself. Talking about self-love simply has to be a part of our discussion about if we want to become mindful mamas. See, mindfulness allows us to “take charge of the direction and quality of our lives, including our relationships within the family…and most fundamentally, our relationship with ourself as a person” (Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are). This blog post is going to get you thinking about how watching your emotions gives you insight into the thoughts you are thinking, AND how your emotional state and inner thoughts directly impact the relationship you have with the absolute most important person in your life--YOU


WATCHING YOUR THOUGHTS
Scary concept, I know. What’s so scary about it, you say? Well, if you don’t love or even like yourself, it may be very difficult to watch your thoughts because, let’s face it, you are probably not thinking very nice things about yourself or your capabilities as a mother. Watching your thoughts is a lot like looking at your face in the mirror; except, you are looking at your “inner face.” 

Now, I know that you are practicing watching your thoughts, so I have to ask--What do you see? Do you see pretty thoughts that encourage your soul? Do you see kind thoughts of gratitude for your amazing personality? Do you see beautiful thoughts of loving kindness toward your physical body (you remember--the body that created, nurtured, protected, and birthed your children)? 

Or, when you gaze at your inner thoughts, do you see unattractive thoughts of criticism towards how you relate to your children or your husband? Do you see unattractive thoughts of self-doubt that tend to arise as “shoulds,” (as in, I should have done X… or I shouldn’t have ever...)? Do you see unattractive thoughts of judgment about your post-baby body?

Last week, you were encouraged to start watching the thoughts you had about yourself. Now, I know. You are new to this “practice.” Until watching your thoughts becomes more of a habit, let me give you 


WATCH YOUR EMOTIONS
That’s it. This week, at some point every day, stop and think… “How am I feeling right now?” Now, this needs to be a genuine inquiry into your emotional state. When you stop and ask yourself how you are feeling, you can focus on a couple things:

1) Your emotional state at that exact moment. Let’s say you are sitting on the couch, the kids are in bed, you have your wine, and you are watching your favorite show. Chances are good that your immediate emotional state is probably pretty positive. You are relaxed, calm, and rested. 

Okay-- this is good. But go deeper. It is entirely possible to be sitting on the couch with your favorite chardonnay in hand, while watching Project Runway, your husband rubbing your feet, and still not be happy. I know. How could that be! Go beyond your emotional state at that exact moment and get honest with yourself. It just might be so.

2) Your emotional state for that week, month, 6 months, or even the year. What I mean is… even if in that one particular moment you are happy and relaxed, explore your emotions for any nagging thoughts underneath this calm surface. For example, in general, are you happy with your life right now? Are you happy with your decision to stay at home full-time or work outside of the home? Are you happy with your relationship with your husband? Are you happy with who you are aside from being a mom? Are you happy with how you look and your physical appearance? 

Being “happy” about all these elements of your life is absolutely essential. But remember, life is all about balance. Mothering is all about balance. Loving yourself is all about balance. The point is not to have every aspect of your life be perfect at the exact same time. It’s impossible to be the perfect mother, perfect friend, perfect wife, perfect daughter, perfect sister, or your own best friend all the time. Rather, the point is making it a habit to watch your emotions and explore your habitual thoughts (especially the negative ones) so that you can have an open and honest conversation with yourself about what you want out of life and whether or not you are currently living the life you dream of. Having this conversation with yourself will continually bring you into balance. 

The relationship you have with yourself is just like any other relationship you have with the people you love and greatly admire in your life. For these relationships to function optimally, communication, openness, honesty, and forgiveness are essential elements. So, in terms of nurturing a healthy relationship with yourself, you have to continually communicate with your deepest self every day. You have to continually forgive your deepest self every day. And you have to continually be honest with your deepest self every day. Why? Because the only way to grow into your best self (the self when you are most happy and content) and live the life of your dreams (through manifestation) is by knowing what the hell that woman wants! Your emotions will guide you if you listen. I promise.


MINDFUL MAMA
Mindfulness simply means knowing something about who you are. Being mindful helps you to see that your destiny and direction of your life is in your hands. You can deliberately choose to think the thoughts that get you closer to living the life you most desire as well as deliberately let go of those thoughts that serve as major roadblocks to your happiness.

All in all, paying attention to your emotions helps you to witness the negative thoughts that wreak havoc in your life. And by wreaking havoc, I mean the way that negative thoughts, criticizing thoughts, and condescending thoughts damage the relationship you have with yourself. If you are the person who hurts yourself the most, this is a problem. The first way to go about fixing the problem is watching your thoughts, challenging them, and then changing them. 

Just remember, “you are not the possessing entity-- the thinker,” he is saying that the woman who goes about her day in an unconscious state, simply reacting to the habitual thoughts that run through her head is not the TRUE you. Rather, that “thinker” is the “unconscious” version of you. The TRUE you is the woman who is the watcher. This woman is the one who is in the background, witnessing her emotions, witnessing the stressful thoughts that are conditioned to run through her head, and she is the one questioning and changing them. THIS “INNER” WOMAN EXISTS INSIDE OF YOU. And, that inner woman is all-powerful, wise, and connected to a higher-source. If you connect with her on a daily basis, and make it a priority to cultivate a relationship with her that is open, honest, and forgiving, I promise she won’t let you down. She loves you too much. She is you.
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Did you know that J.K. Rowling was a single mother, and, in her own words, “as poor as it is possible to be in Modern Britain without being homeless,” when she wrote her first Harry Potter book? That’s right. The idea for the book “simply feel into her head” as she was waiting for a late train. When she started writing the novel, she was a single, working mother, who squeezed in her writing when her infant daughter was asleep-- writing an hour here and there every day. The rest is history. That woman is now a billionaire. Oh… did I mention the manuscript of Harry Potter was immediately rejected by the first publisher she sent it to, and several other publishers rejected it just the same. 

TWO LESSONS LEARNED FROM J.K. ROWLING
1.) Moms are creative human beings who can manifest their dreams while raising children.
Even though J.K. Rowling was a working mum with very little time on her hands, she found an hour or two every day (while her infant daughter slept) to focus on cultivating her unique self and talents. 

2.) She didn’t let negative habits of the mind, like doubt and fear, convince her she wasn’t good enough or trick her into thinking she was a failure.
Thus, she managed her thinking (we’ll talk more about this), and it paid off, both literally and figuratively! 

So what do the lessons from J.K. Rowling’s story have to do with “mindfulness” and your mommy mind? A lot, actually. Here’s how it all shakes out-- without mindfulness or being mindful, you can’t watch your thinking. If you don’t stop to witness your thinking, thus recognizing those pesky negative thoughts that play over and over in your head, it will be difficult to hear the whispers of your inner-voice. Listening to your inner-voice is important because it speaks divine wisdom that shapes how we take care of our kids and ourselves.

YOU ARE NOT THE THINKER
The biggest revelation for me in regards to coming to understand the power of witnessing my thoughts came when Eckhart Tolle, in The Power of Now, said, “[t]he beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the thinker.” What he means is you are not your thoughts. When thoughts run through your head, you (the “true” you) are the person who watches them, and as that witnessing presence, you have the freedom to choose the ones you want to believe and let the others pass on by. Trust me, you can do this! 

If you only remember one thing from this blog today, remember this… YOUR THOUGHTS ARE JUST THINGS! They have no power until YOU chose to believe them. Otherwise, it’s just a thought. And if it’s a negative thought like, I’m a bad mom because I scream every now and again…,or I don’t spend enough time engaging with my children on a daily basis…,or Every other mom probably knows what to do when…, just think that thought and then let it go. Yes-- LET IT GO! Pretend it’s one of those balloon bubbles that pops into your head, you see it, you decide this thought doesn’t serve you, so like a child letting go of a balloon, let that thought simply float away. Letting go is actually the easy part. Ya wanna know the hard part? The hard part is becoming conscious of when you are thinking negative thoughts. 

YOUR MOTHERING
I don’t know about you, but there are times when as a mother (and when I think about my dreams aside from mothering) I simply do let my fears and negative thoughts become “truths” too quickly. When this happens, it almost instantaneously paralyzes me. If I don’t recognize my negative thoughts right away and consciously make the decision to “let them go,” they take a hold of my brain, and before I know it, my bad mood has gotten 10 x worse. 

I’ll give you a concrete example to prove my point, and perhaps as you chuckle, you’ll identify with it:

A couple months ago, I made the decision that I needed to get out of the house more with the girls, and I wanted to be in the company of other moms. I was craving commiserating with other women who were also experiencing the challenges of staying sane with multiple children under the age of 3 in one household (remember-- I have a 3 yr. old and twin 2 yr. olds-- ouch). My grand plan was to start attending the local MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group. I found a local MOPS group, and the timing was perfect; they were meeting the very next day! That night I crawled into bed, took a deep breath to calm my mind, and then they appeared-- those darn negative thoughts. This time, here is what they said: 

That should be fun tomorrow. How nice to get some time to speak to other moms. I really need that. And, the girls will be able to meet other kids. Wait, did she say there were one or two babysitters to watch the kids? How many kids total will be there? Are these babysitters capable adults or are they like kids themselves? Can they handle my three girls let alone others in addition? Did she say the playroom was downstairs and our meeting room was upstairs? What if I can’t see my girls? What if someone off the street came in, went to the playroom, told one of the babysitters that they were there to get the girls for me, and took them? The girls are still so little. They probably wouldn’t put up a fight. Oh my god, what if I went downstairs to get them and they were gone. Uhh… kids disappear all the time like that… one minute they are there, then they are gone! I don’t think I could survive if that happened to me. Oh my god, what would someone like that do….” 

Okay. I’ll stop there and not even get into the horrendous things I envisioned a child snatcher might do to my children (it upsets me to much even think about it now). Long story short, within 2 minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I was balling! Balling! My husband woke up and was like, "What’s wrong? What’s wrong? Are you sick?” 

I wanted to say, “No! No, I am not sick. I’m mental!” But rather, I proceeded to tell him, choking back tears, all about the horrible mental-movie in my head. As I babbled on, I said, “I’m not ready for this. I’m not going tomorrow. I will never let the girls out of my site with people I don’t know!”

True to my word, I didn’t go to MOPS the next morning. We didn’t go, and we totally missed out on the much-needed fellowship with other mothers that I so desperately wanted and the building of friendship my girls needed because of my unchecked thinking!! Moral of the story-- it’s not necessarily what you think that’s bad. What’s bad is whether or not you chose to believe the thoughts that cause you pain. In this instance, I chose to believe my irrational fears, and they held me…I mean…they held us back. 

IT IS ALL ABOUT YOU
The path to self-awareness is never straight, well-lit, or smooth. But this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start the journey. In fact, it’s the challenges in life that make us stronger. 

Self-discovery is essential to being a mindful mama. Why? Because when you shed light on the dark corners of your mind and beliefs that hold you back from being your most enlightened self, you take one step closer to living your life in alignment with your most authentic self. Think about how you would mother differently living your life from your Truth as opposed to attempting to mother from what society says you “should” do.

Wanna find that inner-wisdom? This week try to stop your thinking. If you are new to this, you might need a sign to help you to remember to stop and “look at” your thoughts. Maybe tonight, when you are washing the dishes, stop your thinking. Stop for a minute and recall the thoughts that were just streaming through your head. What were you just thinking about? Were your thoughts stressful: How is it already 7:00 pm?! I have so much work to do tonight… I gotta…I will never get this all done. Were your thoughts worrisome: I can’t believe I spanked her today. I am such horrible mom. I swore I would never spank…. Now I feel bad about showing her how angry I was. No wonder she acts the way she does…. Or, were your thoughts calm: Ahh… my second glass of wine… keep on screaming kids, doesn’t bother me. We actually had a nice day today. It was so sweet when…

Just a tip-- designate one particular time of the day (e.g., doing the dishes, making dinner, whenever you wash your hands, the moment you get into bed…) to remind yourself to stop and reflect on your thinking. For one week, every day, at that particular time, try to watch your thoughts for just a couple seconds until watching the thinker becomes more of a habit. 

Come on back later this week, and post a comment on how this is going for you. What are you finding out about yourself? We’d love to hear!
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