mindfulness · parenting

Surprises

So many things have surprised me about becoming a parent.

I was genuinely surprised by how much it affected my life at work. I’ve felt very discontent with jobs since Teddy came home, and I know becoming a parent has to do with that. Suddenly, my time at work was also time away from my kid. The stakes got a lot higher, and it became harder to find the kind of work that is engaging and satisfying to me.

I was surprised by how much it energized me in my quest to become a writer. I’ve decided that the reason for this is pretty simple: I want to show my kids what it looks like to believe in yourself and work hard to make your dreams come true.

I’ve been surprised at how hard it is for me to be away from Teddy. It’s getting a little easier as he gets older, but I really feel the happiest and the calmest when I’m with him.

And, finally (for now) – I’ve been surprised at the ways it’s helped me with mindfulness.

I love mindfulness. I recommend mindfulness to others. I utilize mindfulness in my psychotherapy work.

But in my down time? My ability to be mindful varies. I’ve always been a “do your homework while watching TV” kind of person. I listen to podcasts while doing laundry. I listen to music while I’m running. I listen to audiobooks in the car. I rarely do one thing at a time, fully, even though that is almost always my goal.

And then, there’s my 22-month-old son. We spend our weekends wandering around the farm. We visit the lawn mower, the creek, the tractor, the ‘slide’ (a bit of concrete that slants downward toward more concrete), and the chickens. He doesn’t need any distractions, anything to accompany our meandering. He’s completely present.

At least once during the walk, Teddy will stop everything he’s doing, point up at the sky, and say something that sounds like “PLUUUHN!”

Because, of course, a plane is flying overhead. He never misses it. I would never notice it – I’m usually too caught up in my own thoughts, or listening to a podcast so can’t hear it. But Teddy hears it. He’s tuned in.

When we have moments like this, it reminds me that I want to be tuned in, too.  I want to have awareness of the world around me, not just the thoughts inside my head.

I’ve found that I still do a lot of multi-tasking as a parent. I listen to podcasts while we’re meandering around the farm, or I listen to an audiobook while we’re doing dishes together. (Sorry – I meant while I do the dishes and Edgar dumps cups of water on his head.)

But there are moments when parenthood has brought me fully into the present. Like when I’m reading to Edgar, and we’re cuddled up together and I’m completely tuned in to what we’re doing. We have some great books we’ve read together that are actually meant to teach kids about mindfulness. My two current favorites are Baby Present by Rachel Neumann and I Am Peace by Susan Verde.

Those moments are magic.

I have a feeling that multi-tasking while parenting is going to get increasingly difficult as Edgar gets older, and I’m glad. I want to be as present as I can be – as a parent, and in my life overall.

32085024_10156217730454223_8690571199073222656_n
image from elephantjournal.com
mindfulness · parenting

Mindful Mommying #heart #body #soul

I’ve been thinking hard about ways to cultivate mindfulness in my everyday life.  Lately I’m trying to face up to my sort-of-chronic anxiety, and friends have advised me that mindfulness is an effective tool to use.

Sometimes, mommying can be helpful in this way.  I’ve realized that right now, my mommying time is the least stressful thing in my life.  Not that it’s not tiring or stressful or worry-inducing in its own way – but I feel the most in the zone and in the flow when I am mommying Teddy.

Today we were curled up reading a book together, and I realized that reading to Teddy is one of the few times of day when I am completely and totally engrossed in the task at hand and not multi-tasking in any way.

That’s a breath of fresh air, for me.

Not everything I do with Teddy is quite as mindful.  Sometimes, when we take our walks outside, I have a podcast playing on my phone while we walk and play. I try not to beat myself up about this, but it’s definitely something I’d like to be different someday.

One of my intentions for 2018 was to meditate more – again, with the hope t

hat it will help my anxiety.  I’ve been doing pretty well with this habit, but I’m grateful for the mommying moments that pull me into the present.

SIDEBAR: we just borrowed a book from the library called Baby Present, by Rachel Neumann, which I got partially because I thought Teddy would like it and partially because the book is basically a mini meditation.  It’s delightful and I feel myself relax into the moment every time we read it.

 

balance · mindfulness

#soul #mind

A few months ago, I set some heartsoulmindbody goals when I was neglecting my #soul quadrant.

-Attend a training in mindfulness-based stress reduction.

-Take an online writing class.

-Finish the self-compassion workshop I started on Brene Brown’s Courage Works website.

I am crushing it.

Today I attended a PESI training in MBSR and I loved it; it’s a two-day training, so I get to go tomorrow, too.  I’ve been journalling in an MBSR workbook and Tee and I did a mindful check-in just now.  I think this technique could be a touchstone for me – a central tool for my personal and professional growth.

I am signed up for a course in advanced fiction writing at Harford Community College beginning on March 15th.

AND today I re-committed to completing the self-compassion workshop.  I need it!  And the biggest barrier has been slow internet at home.  But today (and most work days), I was in a building with great internet.  So I watched some kickass self-compassion videos during my lunch break.  (#socialworkdork)

The workbook I’m using has exercises and text interspersed with bits of poetry.  Like this one by Mary Oliver.  Love.

7ef493406e020145144f69ee2c5d6fe6

mindfulness · podcasts

Mindful and Kindful #soul #heart #mind

This week on the podcast Happier With Gretchen Rubin, Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth discussed single-taskingmaking a practice of doing only one thing at a time.  So, basically, mindfulness.

Mindfulness is my current obsession, so I love hearing it discussed.  And it’s discussed everywhere these days.  The trouble is, every day it gets easier to multi-task.  You can text in the car, using a dictation app.  You can watch a TV show on your phone while taking a walk outside.  You can write a blog post with a TV show on in the background (which I often do).

Tee, Teddy, and I just got home from a trip to Vegas for Thanksgiving; my mother traveled with us, and we spent the holiday with my sister.  It was a lovely trip, with lots of family togetherness and mini-adventures.  (Plus, when Thanksgiving is over, it’s officially time to be in the Christmas spirit!)

There were several moments during this week that I caught myself being sharp or testy, or nagging.  I think that being more vigilant about mindfulness would help with these situations.  When I’m multi-tasking, my attention is never fully anywhere, and it’s harder to stay in touch with my mind, my heart, and my body.  My nagging or testiness – these are tendencies I am aware of.  But I want to do more than just be aware.  My goal is to notice when I am feeling a certain way, and then to be kind and loving even when I am feeling aggravated.  I want to be mindful, and then I want to choose to be kind.

I’m all about mantras – I like having something simple that I can say to myself in moments of stress to remind me of who I am and who I want to be.  Today, I am trying out a new one: be mindful and be kindful.

13872799_1211950255536040_4931823733068819743_n-2

books + reading · meditation · mindfulness

#mind #soul

I’ve been reading How To Relax by Thich Nhat Hanh – a tiny, beautiful book of meditations on mindfulness.  (One of my Powell’s purchases!)41IZUZgUAmL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_

There have been a lot of amazing passages so far.  Like this one: We human beings have lost confidence in the body just knowing what to do. If we have time alone with ourselves, we panic and try to do many different things. Mindful breathing helps us to relearn the art of resting. Mindful breathing is like a loving parent cradling a baby, saying, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of you; just rest.’

My favorite takeaway so far from How To Relax is this – my daily life, conducted with mindfulness, is a gift I give myself.  I can’t remember if this is a passage I read in the book or a realization I had while reading it; probably the former.

I haven’t been giving myself a daily gift of life conducted in mindfulness lately.  My mind has been crowded and scattered – all over the place.

mindful

I am hoping to go to a training on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction sometime in the near future.  I want to learn more about mindfulness as a psychological strategy and an academic concept.

But with the day-to-day of mindfulness – I know exactly what I need to do.  I need to focus on the present moment.  The challenge is actually doing it!

I can get very caught up in my head; it’s a big struggle for me to keep myself in the present moment.  I get stuck in the past or in the future rather than staying in the peacefulness of the now.

spiritual fair

Be more present – this was one of my resolutions for 2016.  And I think I’m doing okay with it – good, but not great.  One of my defaults when I’m stressed or overwhelmed is to rely on background noise – usually TV or a podcast – and I have been doing somewhat better with this habit o’ mine.

I find that when I’m doing something that forces me into the present moment – my evening walks with Tee, most of my work day, a doctor’s appointment – I can stay there and exist there happily.  However, when I have the option to multi-task, I usually take it.  (Right now, the fifth season of The Office is playing in the background as I type.)

My quest for mindfulness is ever-present.  Someday (hopefully!) I will be, too.

mindfulness

#heart #mind #unmindfulness

I’m not having a very mindful fortnight.  mindfulness

For the past few weeks, my mind has been all over the place.  I’ve been catching up on The Newsroom so I can watch the third season, which I have on loan from the library.  I discovered two new games on my phone – Trivia Crack and 1010.  (They are awesome and amazing and addictive and I highly recommend NEVER downloading them; I’ve already made myself delete them.)  I’ve also been very distracted and caught up in my head about the adoption wait.

However, there have been some efforts at balance: a reunion with my college friends in New York (#heart) and alternating between reading Rising Strong and The Story Of The Lost Child (#mind).  And there’s more awesomeness to come – an evening with Brene Brown tonight (!!!) and some quality family time this weekend.

Writing this is helping me to realize that my #soul nourishment is lacking – and that some #soul food will likely help me get to a more mindful place.         

mindfulness

The Meditative Power Of Repetitive Tasks #body #soul

One of my AmeriCorp*NCCC projects was trail-building in a natural reserve in Ohio.  Our work days were long and physically demanding.  We worked from eight to ten hours each day, hacking and digging and smoothing and building.

Then, at nighttime, I would dream for eight hours about using pulaskis and pick-axes and rakes.  I’d wake up in the morning so annoyed at my subconscious.  I mean, I was working really hard ALL DAY LONG – shouldn’t my dreams be a time when I could sit back and relax?garden+2

I thought of this today because last night I dreamed about harvesting husk cherries, which is what I did for three hours on Saturday afternoon.  Even when I’m not asleep, I keep catching my mind drifting – I imagine myself scooping up a handful of husk cherries off the ground, popping them out of their husks to make sure they’re ripe and unblemished, and dropping them into my bucket.  Over and over, and over again.

While I laugh about having my dreams full of monotonous physical tasks, I really find this kind of work incredibly rewarding and enriching.  I love farming with Tee.  It’s fun to complete a task alongside Tee or a friend, but I also love just working on a task by myself.  Sometimes I listen to a podcast or an audiobook while I work, or sometimes (like yesterday, when my phone died) I work in silence.  A task like that – repetitive, mindless – helps me to clear my mind and to calm my body.  It can be a meditative ritual for me.  It’s a naturally mindful experience – your mind is pulled into the present moment by the task at hand.   aqm

I’ve talked to friends who’ve tried meditating and have found it difficult to sit still for extended periods or to quiet their mind; the Meditative Power of Repetitive Tasks seems like a good response to that kind of struggle.  You’re doing something that needs to get done – your mind (at least, part of it) is engaged in the task at hand – and repeating the same task over and over allows you to obtain a quiet, calm mind.  Which, if your mind is as naturally bouncy and wild and hectic as mine is, is something to strive for.