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To Control Yourself… Know Yourself

One of my favorite quotes is…

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” – Aristotle 

 

So many parents share with me how their biggest struggle is to keep from snapping at their kiddos.

They get angry, feel resentful, and find themselves just overall frustrated….then they do or say something they wish they had not. Ouch. We have all been there. 

Many of you know I am a recovering yeller. I get it…really I do. 

So…. here’s how to work on these kind of issues in three “not so easy” steps. 

 

1- Increase moments of stillness throughout the day.

2- Study your mind and body. Be curious. 

3- Question any stressful thought that appears in your mind. (I say “appears” because we don’t make those thoughts… they just appear…we don’t need to take them so darn seriously) 

 

Do you have to sit in meditation for hours a day? Well… that would be nice and certainly something I strongly support, but if all you have is five minutes a day, start there. If all you can do is put a reminder on your calendar to pause and take a few breaths five times a day, then start there. Just increase the moments of stillness throughout the day. You can do it! 

Why study your mind and body? That sounds weird. I wish I knew any other way to free ourselves from maniacal behavior, but I just don’t. Invite the mind and body into a permanent life research project. Which thoughts are repetitive and get in your way? Where in your body do you tense up when you feel sad or angry? Where does your body light up when you feel insanely happy or a moment of simple joy? 

Questioning stressful thoughts sounds like a lot of work. Yep… pretty much. It is. I won’t lie to you. But as I’ve said… mindful parenting is not for the faint of heart. 

Sure… we can do many little things that make a HUGE difference to our mental state and well-being. But in order to transform into a truly peaceful, rational, loving parent… we all have some work to do. 

 

We are all perfect as we are… and also have some improving to do! 

 

I’m a student of Byron Katie, and have been working with my stressful thoughts using her process called “The Work” for many years. Reading her book “Loving What Is” changed my life. 

And even if you do not use that particular process, I would encourage you to first start noticing your stressful thoughts throughout the day. What are they? When do they most likely appear? 

Once you have spent some time getting to know your thoughts you can start responding to them by asking…”Is that true?”

See what the response is….

 

For a little more inspiration on working with your thoughts, you can listen to my latest podcast episode “Don’t Believe Everything You Think“.

Now get out there and get to know yourself! And let me know how it goes… I love your letters and respond to each one. 

May you meet this moment fully. May you meet this moment with kindness towards yourself and others. 

With Love,

Michelle 

Meditation Retreat Confessions: One Mother’s Suffering

OK, so the title is a bit misleading here…I haven’t actually GONE on the retreat yet. That being said, I’m all signed up and preparing my husband and two young sons for five days without mommy. Yep. You heard it. Silence. Five whole days. Need to find your baseball glove? Want a glass of milk? Trouble with your homework? Find dad. He’s your guy.

A little background about my relationship to mindfulness practice and meditation will tell you that I have been at this stuff consistently for about six years. Prior to this time I hopped on and off my spiritual path, only slightly recognizing the signs that were gently nudging me to stay put. This journey started at the ripe old age of 36 when I had one son barely off to pre-school and the other barely out of the womb. My spiritual practices have always been cleverly snuck in between preparing meals, career, and “life as it presents itself” in general.

I took seriously my centering practice and practiced it over and over again until it began to “do me” rather than me “doing it”. My daily 10-40 minute meditations at home had to suffice in length just as they were, and the timing couldn’t possibly be “same time, same place” each day as the books and teachers suggested. I attended day longs and weekend retreats when I could, and spent countless “mommy” days exploring things like the enneagram, energy healing, and working to become an observer of my mind. I’ve done my practices and spiritual work in the best way I could being a working mother of two and have worn that badge honorably.

So here I am… six years later and getting ready for 5 days in silence. I’m finally going to join that elusive club of individuals who have taken the time and made space in their lives for deeper practice. Regardless of how dedicated I have been to my practice…a part of me believes I’m just not the real deal until I suffer in silence for longer periods of time (writing this statement makes it sound all the more ridiculous).

You might ask what is going through my mind right now. I’m wondering if my body will ache or if old emotions will take me over after coming to the surface. Will five days seem eternally long or will the time fly? How much will I miss my family? Please let my plants and flowers survive my absence. Will my husband feed the dogs?

All of these things and much more have gone through my mind in contemplating this time away…but nothing prepared me for how I would feel when I read these words…”This is a fragrance free retreat. Please do not bring any products with any sort of scent.” What? No products with scent? Do these people have any idea how I adore my day cream with cucumber? My ever so rich and luxurious night-cream? I have special shampoo and conditioner with no sulphates for crying out loud! Do I have to leave my rose cheek stain home as well? Where am I going to find the time to discover fragrance free products I like in the next 7 days?

Now, I know how terrible being concerned about this fragrance thing all sounds. I swear I’m a down to earth gal who is dedicated to her practices and committed to helping raise consciousness in myself and the world. I’m a self proclaimed spiritual person for God’s sake! Yet my attention just keeps going there…

When the part of me who observes my thinking finally caught up to my thoughts around this subject, I immediately felt embarrassed for myself and utterly horrified at my pathetic “first world problems.” After all of this practice… are these really the things that have me believing I’m suffering?

The truth is… I am suffering around these uncertainties and I’m working on finding kindness, compassion and curiosity around my thoughts rather than beating myself up about them. I’m hoping to own the fact that I appreciate the creature comforts in life….perhaps even more than I thought I did. The reality is, that the only thing worrying me more than the fragrance free dilemma, is wondering who my roommate might be. I’m a light sleeper… what if they snore? Oh dear.

I mentioned my dilemma to a dear friend and also to the teacher who will be leading the retreat. Their reactions close to mirrored one another. What I saw in their face or heard in their voice was pure fascination and interest in this part of me. Their reactions helped me see the humor in my worries…but more importantly, to be able to hold them lightly. I have a sweet knowing that this is all part of my conscious awakening. It sounds silly to say now, but I have greater clarity that the essence of who I truly am does not include any products…fragrance free or otherwise. But isn’t it curious this mind and sense of self I inhabit?

I can’t say I won’t spend at least a bit of time perusing the aisles of Whole Foods this week to uncover the fragrance free product gems, but I’ll also spend time reflecting on what it will be like to sit in silence long enough for a bit more of my ego to unwind…and to observe it lovingly and with less horror than I have in the past. And even though staying in the present is what we are after here…I just might think about my next retreat…the one where I have my own room and can bring most of my creature comforts with me.

What's the Rush Mom? A Reminder From My Sons.

This morning as my boys were leaving for school my youngest son did what he normally does before leaving the house… say goodbye to the dogs. He of course does this ever so slowly with a kiss and a story to them about how the school day isn’t that long…

It was past the time they needed to leave and I felt that pang of stress enter my body while that familiar thought “move along ” came to my mind. Thankfully, I was able to stay quiet and let him have his sweet goodbye kisses with the pooches. It wasn’t always this way.

I was graced with two boys who are in one way typically rambunctious and in another way slow as can be. One gets lost in creativity, art and love. The other is regularly the last in line at school, in no rush to get his homework done, and unless he’s playing sports…. just slow as molasses.

Many the morning have I raised my voice in complete irritation that they were moving so slowly, only to have them show up to school frazzled while I was on my way to work or at home guilty and sad. I’ve come to terms that usually we have enough time… maybe just barely enough… but we get to where we need to go. It’s often only my impatience and desire for things to move more quickly that actually causes the drama of the morning rush.

I’ve spent many years practicing mindfulness and meditation while becoming more self aware of my rushing mind. A mind that wants a body to keep up with it… It’s been part of my practice to slow down in so many ways…my pace of speaking, walking, how quickly I make decisions.

My realization in the last year or so was that these two boys who do not share my “move along” kind of pace showed up in my life especially for me. They might as well hold up little signs that say “slow down mom, everything is fine at this pace.”  I’m grateful they give me the chance each day to practice presence, to listen…and to learn, from two of the wisest little souls I’ve ever encountered.

We are so proud of your son! So why is mom worried?

Recently, my youngest son came home from school with a thank you note from his teacher that read: “We are so proud of your son! He led a version of one of your home rituals – we held hands and repeated him as we spoke of happiness, peace, and love. It was just what the class needed”.

As you can imagine, my initial reaction was of pure joy and appreciation for what this young child was expressing into the world. It seemed our family rituals were sinking into the fabric of who he was as an individual. To see him taking a leadership role in spreading loving-kindness warmed my heart beyond belief.

And then it set in… the inner critic… What follows is a window into my mind not long after reading the note: “I just regressed and yelled at my kids this week… do his teachers think our house is all butterflies, flowers, and unicorns? I’m not the perfect mom or anything… this feels like a lot of pressure to live up to. I hope this behavior continues and doesn’t shift into something less desirable.” (etc…etc…etc…)

Stop! Seriously Michelle? Your son did something beautiful. One thing. One moment. Stay present to what is happening now. Feel it deeply and appreciate it for what it is… a young boy on his path of growing consciousness. He noticed tension in the classroom and used a tool from his toolkit to support him and his peers. That’s all.

It’s shouldn’t surprise me that even with all of my meditation practice, where I spend time noticing when my thoughts are going to the future or the past and gently come back to my breath… to the present… I still end up thinking these crazy thoughts. I will say however, how grateful I am for these same practices which allow me to catch these thoughts in their tracks. At times, finding the humor in what emerges from my mind, rather than believing the storyline is nothing short of a gift.

We have a small sign hanging from our refrigerator door that says “Don’t believe everything you think”. I think I’ll keep it there… and consider hanging one around my neck.