As the dust of the election starts to settle, I have found myself realizing just how distracted I have been. This year has been many things. While I have been totally grateful to be home full time with my two little ones, I realize that my mind has not been fully here. And it’s no wonder! Everything on the global and national stages have needed a lot of processing and action. Everything in the small bubble of our home has needed re-organizing, then re-re organizing to fit the demands of a new baby and the logistics of the pandemic. The result has been a lot less “presence” while I’ve been present with my children.
There is always an ebb and a flow with all our practices. Now, I feel the flow returning. I feel I have the space to re-engage with a presence practice at home. I want to invite you to join me. This is not a 14 day challenge. It is not an opportunity to judge ourselves or to add another stressor to our log list of stressors. It is not another item on the to-do list.
What it I’m offering is simply an invitation to join me in doubling down on being present while being present with our children. For February I plan to take 5 whole minutes every day to practice presence with each child. To me this simply means that when I am with my child I am doing whatever I am doing with them as a mindfulness practice. I am not making my grocery list in my mind, or planning the first thing I will do once they go to sleep, or re-organizing the play room one more time so that now that my son can stand it is still baby proof. I am not unloading the dishwasher or making dinner or watering the plants. Those things do need doing. But for 10 minutes each day (5 for each child), I plan NOT to do them. But simply to breathe. Breathe and just be. Together.
The practice will be to really let the fullness of my child enter into my awareness the way I would focus on the breath or on the sensations of a pose in my yoga or meditation practice.
When I was a teacher I did this regularly for each of my students. So many gifts came from simply giving my full presence to a child. I’m excited to begin cultivating those gifts in my home again with my own children.
If you need a reason to double down on presence, here are a few. You will benefit your own wellbeing. This is basically a mindfulness moment and you can expect similar benefits as you would from any mindfulness practice. You will benefit your relationship with your child. When we are present with each other, we are finally, really connecting. And connection is the birthplace of everything meaningful in a relationship. You will benefit your child. Your full positive attention is the most important “nutrient” you ever can give them.
If you feel to write me and let me know you are in – awesome! I would love to know you are practicing with me though we are apart. If you don’t write, but do still engage even every once in a while in this practice… still awesome. We do what we can do! We are in this together!
This quote has been rolling around in my mind and heart this month. No one knows exactly who said it first, maybe Plato. I’m willing to bet that if it was Plato, he was probably quoting someone else – maybe his mother. It seems that, as long as there have been sensitive people and pain, this idea has been guiding us to be kinder to each other. (If you want to geek out on the mysterious origins of the quote, check out this blog post here.
The quote has been in my mind, because it has been a season of hard battles in my family’s life. We say in tantric yoga that everything can be used to help us awaken. If you’ve been through some major heartbreak you’ll know that in the midst of that pain, there is an opening to understand that everyone is carrying their own pains. Everyone is indeed fighting their own battles. Though I don’t wish that pain on anyone, including myself, in the depth of struggle is a perfect, potent place to grow our ability to love.
Ahimsa, often translated to non-harming, is one of the fundamental practices outlined in the yoga sutras. I appreciate the more modern translation of Ahimsa – practicing loving kindness. We can go beyond just being neutral and not harming! Let’s add some TLC to the planet! On the mat we work to line up physically, so we don’t harm ourselves. Coming to the mat, and doing so in a mindful and refined way, is also an act of profound kindness for ourselves. In the inner practices, we grow our hearts and our capacity to be kind.
Practicing ahimsa in family life is of utmost importance. We have to support our ability to be kind with the ones who love us most – our children. They are so tender, and our ability to treat them with kindness is fertilizer for their optimal growth. Being kind to them, of course is important. But also, being kind to ourselves in front of them is vital. The way you talk about yourself and to yourself directly impacts your child’s ability to be kind to themselves. So the work is watching our inner monologue, and shifting it to be a kinder kind of self-talk. Then, and this will seem strange at first, but especially if you have younger kids, actually saying that positive self-talk out loud when they are around. Saying things like, “Oh man, I wish I hadn’t dropped that. But we all make mistakes!” Or, “I carried this all the way up stairs, I am a strong mama!” I expect you’ll hear your kids talking to themselves in the same tone you are using to speak to yourself. Powerful work!
All this practice takes some very serious self care. So be kind to yourself, take the time you need to fuel up in order to be at your best and able to be kind to others!
My valentine’s month invitation to you is to do something kind for yourself, and something kind for someone else each week. Make time for your “kindness practice”. Seriously, put it on the to-do list. For yourself: go for a long walk, make your favorite food, take a long bath – whatever you love. For others, maybe donate to an awesome organization like book harvest, or Porch. Anonymously put treats on your co-worker’s desks when they aren’t looking. Offer to take care of a friend’s kiddos so she can go to a yoga class. So many options! Please have fun with this, and please comment here or send me an email to let me know what you did!!!
If we could have a word of the month this month it would be balance. When you sit down and look at it, balance is a part of everything we do on (and hopefully off) the mat. As we strive to cultivate health and happiness balance is a guiding concept. In physical terms we hope to create balance between our left and our right, our upper and lower bodies, our ability to have stability and flexibility. In each pose we are working for balanced action between all the parts involved in that pose. In yoga our philosophy is that nothing by itself is better than it’s opposite. The golden goodness is in balancing the parts. Flexibility is great, but without steady action to balance it we get injured. A lot. Strength is great, without flexibility we also get injured. I could spend a lifetime seeking balance just in the physical realm.
And, of course, you know by now that the yoga we do together is far more than just the physical work. What else needs to be brought into balance? Here is a hint: what is out of balance will not feel good. Feeling stuck? How can you balance the steadiness of your routine with some freedom and play? Feeling over taxed? How can you balance what takes energy with what gives you energy? Feeling disconnected? How can you balance your healthy solitude with fostering connection with others?
As we move through this month, I encourage you to look at everything that “doesn’t feel good” through this lens of balance.
As my daughter said yesterday, “Autumn is coming”. It’s the season of bright leaves, cooler breezes, and for many of us a sweet turning inward. As the plants draw their energy down into their root systems we’ll be using our time on the mat to draw into a nourishing and grounding study of our own. This fall we will delve into the yogic study of deeply knowing ourselves. It’s one of the deepest things we can do on the mat: discover more about who we are, and who we aren’t. In my Sunday classes we will look at the ancient teachings on this, and read quotes from amazing thinkers and mystics on the subject. But most importantly we will find ways of accepting the yogic invitation to look deeply at the question “Who am I?” for ourselves.
Here is a quote from John O’Donohue that I find myself coming back to again and again. It, for me, summarizes this journey and study of self-discovery.
“Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There is a place in you where you have never been wounded, where there is a seamlessness in you. There is a confidence and a tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer, spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.” Jon O’Donohue. (From interview on Speaking with Faith)
That interview is here, I highly recommend it!
We will be playing with arm balances to keep in light, and integrating plenty of hip openers and even a few restoratives into our Autumn practices to keep us grounded in this Vata season.
Now more than ever, it is essential that we make time to breathe, move and connect with each other. In times of great stress and uncertainty it can be very easy to allow our bodies stress response to overwhelm us.
It takes considerable, conscious effort to do what needs to be done to counter all the effects of accumulated and acute stress. But here is the thing – if we don’t manage our stress it will effect our health, our ability to think clearly and even our ability to invent creative, positive solutions to the problems we are facing. The effect of stress on our health is clear, but did you know that when our body is in a strong stress response it is also very difficult to access the part of the brain that allows us to have creative problem solving, compassion and connection?
If we don’t have our health, clarity, sense of connection and compassion intact, it will be very hard to be the beacons of light that are needed in our world. Tomorrow marks the celebrations of Imbolc, a day that celebrates the Goddess Brigid, and the Feast day for St. Brigit (her Christian counterpart). This fiery being is a fierce peace keeper.
Today is a potent time to investigate what you are doing to bring more harmony. peace and love to the planet. This may be raising your children with mindfulness, it many be calling your representatives every day, it many be in your work life – maybe all three! Whatever you are doing, please add a strong commitment to carve time out to release your own stress. So you can stay healthy and fully resourced for all that you do.
Three very powerful ways of managing stress are: deep breathing, whole body movement, and mindfulness. Sound familiar? Your time on the mat is training you to stand strong in these times. To be a fiery peace maker in your way. So, now more than ever, take a little time to breathe deep, move and connect in the present.
Blessings for all you do,