Mindfulness gives mothers the opportunity to get rid of the ‘noise’ and to let go of the things that do not matter and the ability to focus on what does. The bedtime snuggles, the book your three year old wants to read 12 times this morning, to watch the stars or carve the perfect Mickey Mouse pumpkin this halloween. To revel in the little moments and truly watch your children grow and become and to pour into them with all your mama heart. Your peaceful mama heart.
I find that most women have a desire to embrace a more mindful and peaceful approach to life. Women in their childbearing years generally have a lot on their plates. There’s something about becoming pregnant and becoming a new mother that inspires deeper change forsure. There is often a desire to invite more of the things we want or that are important to us into our lives and to live more on purpose. Maybe setting goals to parent much like our own parents or nothing like our own parents. Some mothers start to work towards making healthier eating choices, exercising and being more active, mending or ending certain relationships and even watching less TV. For many women the road to a more mindful way of life is not quite as proactive. Many women would say they more or less were forced into it by the massive mountain of overwhelm, chaos and negativity looming in front of them. Maybe it was a troubled marriage, struggles with health or just that you have three kids under the age of 5. Sink or swim. The motivation to invite change and peace into their lives comes from a place of fear, anger, disappointment or desperation.
Regardless of what the motivation might be to welcome mindfulness into your life, or the events and experiences that lead to that point, the truth is, that a slower, calmer and more aware approach to life with children can prove to be very powerful.
There is no right or wrong way to get to a place where mindfulness becomes important. You don’t need to be an masterful yogi or have a calm & patient temperament. You also do not need to be extremely stressed out to reap the benefits. No matter who you are, where you come from or what your story is, mindfulness can add value to your life and to the lives of the ones you love most.
” Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart”. – Author Unknown
What is Mindfulness?
More or less, mindfulness is a state in which you can focus your awareness on the present rather than the past or the future and you can calmly accept any feelings, thoughts or bodily sensations that come up. It’s paying attention to right now, on purpose. You can interpret each situation you encounter from a better place because it is from a place of awareness and because you have more information available to you as you are paying attention to what your senses are trying to communicate.
There is no jumping to conclusions, no reading other people’s minds, no blame, no guilt, no shame, no overwhelm, no anger. Just curiosity. Eventually there’s some peace too. You learn to approach experiences very much as a child would. With interest and curiosity, like you have never experienced it before.
Why Mindfulness in Motherhood?
Motherhood is amazing and so rewarding but sometimes the experience of motherhood and the transition into it can be quite overwhelming. There is much required. That may not be every woman’s experience but no one can deny that there is a lot to know and a lot to do. Some days are tough and some days are exhilirating and every day is BUSY.
There is a lot to balance. Healing, learning to understand your baby and to feed your baby while your body adjusts to post-pregnant life. There’s hormones, fatigue, making plans so you’re not alone a lot of the time, making time for your partner. Sometimes there’s baby blues or postpartum depression. There’s dinner, laundry, dishes & playdates. Birthday parties & soccer and family vacations. Some babies are premature. Some babies are twins! As babies grow, mothers add on balancing their roles as mothers, with their roles as wife, girlfriend, sister, daughter and granddaughter. They balance work life with home life and may even find time to squeeze in something they love. Painting. Reading. Hiking. Dragonboating. Beekeeping.
In all the craziness that are the days of parenting littles, our experiences are paving familiar paths in our minds. When you re-live an experience many times, the emotions you attach to it come along for the ride, again and again. When you’re folding a pile of laundry the size of Mount Everest you’re likely feeling a little on the lower side of your happiness scale. Soon enough, that’s the same feeling you experience every time you fold laundry. Familiar emotions attached to familiar thoughts about familiar experiences. It becomes a pattern and for some it can spiral. Mindfulness allows you to start to break down the patterns and create a new perspective. Thank goodness.
My start to my own motherhood experience was a bit rocky. I wouldn’t change any of it for anything but if I’m being totally transparent, that’s what it was. Rocky. I had always wanted to be a mother more than anything. When my husband and I got married I could not start trying to have a baby quickly enough. My expectation was that I would have a baby bump in no time but that was not our story. There was a lot of peeing on sticks with no plus signs and I started to worry. We miscarried right after Christmas and it broke my heart. In the spring we found our joy and the baby bump I had yearned for so much started to grow! Our sweet son was born in February and my dream came true. I loved him fiercely right from the start. Then, when he was 7 months old I got slammed hard with postpartum anxiety. My natural tendency as a worrier ramped right up and I started to anticipate that anything bad that could happen, was about to. The anxiety sat in my chest and morphed into panic over time. Our daughter was born 2 and half years later and life got even busier. Balancing being a mother with managing this new experience with anxiety was a big challenge.
As someone who is extremely sensitive, generally loves quiet and easily finds themselves feeling touched out or needing alone time, motherhood was a major adjustment for me. That really surprised me at the time. Especially since I grew up in a dayhome and have always loved kids. Looking back now, I guess it really shouldn’t have been such a shock but my start to parenthood was not what I expected it to be. That sucked. I’m somewhat of an introvert, a home-body and I love slow but my life was the polar opposite of all of those things. I was happy, I loved being a mother, my husband was my rock but the day to day ‘to-do’ list and the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with raising toddlers pushed me farther than my body was willing to go. My adrenals were taxed, my thyroid levels were off and I struggled. But I worked through it.
Initially in an attempt to overcome, my plan was to move to Lethbridge. I don’t know why, but at the time it made sense. I was trying to run. One night, when the kids were asleep I blew the dust off my yoga mat. I used to hang out with my mat daily but it had been a long time. I threw a pillow down on top of it, sat down and said a prayer. I took a lot of deep breaths and closed my eyes. I probably cried, that wouldn’t be unusual. And then I felt better. Why? Because it was the first time in 3 years I had taken the time to connect to myself. There it was. My ‘AHA’ moment. Mindfulness here we come.
On my road to learning to embrace a more intentional, on purpose, reflective and calmer approach to my life I have learned a lot. I have so much more to learn I know, but so far it has helped me to let things be without struggling against them so much. I have more compassion for myself and I am much more gentle and patient with myselftoo. My relationships with the ones I love are much stronger and I’ve also let go of the ones that don’t serve me anymore. My anxiety is much less and it’s great.
Mindful practices do much for me in my motherhood journey. Not every day though. If life throws me a curveball sometimes I slam the door right in mindfulness’ face and it feels really good. For a day or two I just want to feel sorry for myself because I don’t have the energy to attempt to control what I think or feel. Sometimes I just want to FEEL all of it and that is alright. Mindfulness though, in my experience, waits for me outside that door I slammed shut and when I’m ready to open it, it’s there. I can always come back to it. It’s not upset with me.
The ability to be truly present in our lives is a gift and allows us to approach life with a nonjudgemental heart and being accepting, compassionate, curious, gentle and connected. There is much to be said for getting to a place where you can truly be comfortable with the unknown and not knowing the answers to everything. It’s definitely worth the work.
The Work: Incorporating Mindfulness Into Every Aspect of Our Life
Mantras & Words
Mantras can be powerful but also very intimidating if using them is something new. I adore yoga but I’ve never been one to embrace it traditionally. I kinda do my own thing and it works for me. Typical yogic mantras in Sanskrit always sounded beautiful to me but they didn’t resonate. Mantras are in essence just words and words are something almost everyone is very familiar with. Speaking them outloud gives them more meaning.
In working through my anxiety, phrases like ‘this too shall pass’, or ‘I am safe’ helped move me through tough moments but a mantra can be used at anytime. It doesn’t have to be only when you are struggling with something. Mantras are about speaking truth so when your husband comes home from work with flowers, saying ‘this makes me feel loved’ is speaking your truth and it immediately affects they way you both feel for the better.
The word ‘shine’ has always been one that spoke to me. Probably because it was something I felt like I should be doing but wasn’t. I wanted to shine, to feel light and vivacious and peaceful. I speak those words all the time.
Listening to Our Mama Hearts
This starts even when you are pregnant, you absolutely do not need to wait until little feet are waddling down the hall. Ask yourself “What do I need right now? After the kids go to bed?”. ” Do I need more sleep?”. “Do I need more quiet, or more time or less things on my plate?”, “Do I need a hug?”, “Do I need to pray?”. Listen to what your body and your heart says it needs and give in. Notice how it affects you when you do give in. How does it change your day? Your week? How does it affect your partner and your children? Connecting to yourself daily is so important for every part of you.
I was at a yoga workshop last spring and the instructor Noah Maze (who rocks by the way) told a story of breath. In the story, all of the senses were arguing as to whom was the most vital and whom the body could never do without. They decided they would each take some time and leave the body in an attempt to prove which sense was in essence the most vital. Sight was the first to go. He left for one year and when he returned was disappointed to discover that the others had got along just fine after some adjustment of being without sight. Hearing was the next to leave. Again, she left for one year and was also disappointed when upon her return she also discovered that the others had got along just fine after learning to live without sound. Taste left, followed one year later by touch and both experienced that same disappointment upon return. Breath was the last to go, and as he turned to leave the body, the others cried out. “No, do not go. For we know that without you there can be no us”. There is no life without breath, it is life itself. Taking the time to pay attention to it is inviting calm, peace and a slower pace into your life. Breathe in, breathe out and just notice it.
Movement can be anything you enjoy. Maybe you love to walk, or dance, or workout. I equate stepping onto my yoga mat with stepping into the sand with my bare feet, it elicits the same emotion for me and instantly brings me peace, makes me more relaxed. Making the time to be physical in some way that you enjoy is a great way to invite more peace, calm and purpose into your life.
The idea of letting go can be broad but letting go of things that no longer serve us can be profound. Just because something served me last year does not mean it still serves me today. What does that mean?
As human beings we grow and change and the experiences we have can easily lead to a change in priorities or a change in perspective. A girls night out may have been incredibly important to you last month and so you made sure it happened, but this month your son has been struggling in school, your daughter is still battling a cold and your husband has been out of town a lot. Suddenly the girls night out isn’t a priority. That is totally okay. What you need to let go of though is the feelings of guilt you have about cancelling on your friends. The guilt no longer serves you. Your family comes first and others understand that.
Are there relationships with people that drain you? Make you sad? Cause you stress?Make a list. Can you change the dynamics of the relationship? See them less often? Set boundaries? Pick your battles? Or do you need to let go completely?
Forgiveness is a huge part of letting go. Sometimes the resentment we harbour over something that happened can cause us more stress and negativity than the person who inflicted the wound. Sometimes it is forgiving someone else and sometimes it’s forgiving ourselves. Can we learn the lesson and truly move on?
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense”. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Get rid of the excess.
Do you have a lot of clutter? A lot of stuff? Last year my husband and I embraced a little minimalism. We started following a blog by a man named Joshua Becker https://www.becomingminimalist.com/most-popular-posts/ and incorporated a number of his suggestions into our life. We let go of a lot of things that we felt took away from our days more than they added. We started with our kids toy room. The amount of time we spent cleaning up mass amounts of toys took away more from our time as a family then what they added. Our kids would actually dump entire buckets of toys on the ground to get to the ONE they wanted at the bottom. That pile would stay there all day, never touched and then we’d put it all away before bed. And we’d do it all again the next day. What could we be doing with that time we were spending cleaning up the same toys that served no one? What about the mental clutter it created too?
How busy are you? What would happen if you didn’t register your children in any activities for a year? Or you didn’t offer to volunteer next weekend? Or you asked your sister-in-law to cook Christmas dinner this year? Would the walls fall down around you or could it possibly, just possibly bring a little more calm and peace into your home?
I have been meditating for a year. I don’t even know if I do it ‘right’ to be honest and I don’t know if I would even say most days that I am all that focused. What I do know though is that a meditation practice, over time can give us the ability to see the world a little differently. To have a thought and not always attach an emotion to it. Nothing has to be good or bad, right or wrong, happy or sad. It can just be and it can come and go. This brings a great deal more calm into any mama’s heart.
Clara Roberts-Oss is a yoga instructor out of Vancouver that I have followed for some time. I find it easy to connect to her. I sat through an online meditation she guided awhile back that really hit home for me and I start meditations with it often now. She said to imagine there was a jewel next to your heart that was tarnished. Imagine it being polished a little bit more, a little bit more. In the end sit in clarity with the image of the jewel shining so brightly into the world. So brightly that anyone who came up to you could see themselves in it. This leads us to connection.
Connection; Exhale Compassion & Loving Kindness
What happens when you let yourself soften? What is a warm heart? What do you feel when you put yourself in another mother’s shoes? Is it harder to judge? Harder to put down? That’s connection on some level. I have found the more compassion, understanding and kindness I put out into the world and the more I focus on seeing others as humans with strengths & struggles just like me, the less I feel the need to compare myself or to see what makes us different from each other. There is more of a desire to reach out, stand with and to lift others up. In doing that I feel I am definitley inviting more peace into my own life and I can start to shine a little!
” Remember that sometimes not getting what you want, is a wonderful stroke of luck” – Dalai Lama
I am grateful. Thankful for the chaos that the last 5 years has been for me and my family and for all the things that I have learned and the people who have loved me no matter what. I hope that in some way my story and experiences can add value to your life and lift your mama heart.
How do you invite mindfulness and peace into your life? I would love to know!