"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." A.A. Milne

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Meditation and Kids: Oxymoron or Way of Life?

Over a year ago I started looking into the practice of mediation. I think once you have an established yoga practice it is natural to at least consider meditation. Through the amazing people at Insight Meditations I was able to get an introduction. After that I was committed to daily mediation for a couple of weeks, until Logan stopped napping. After that it was problematic to say the least.

I decided to abandon my practice even though it has proven to be transformative. I was learning to treat myself with grace and love. Stubbornly clinging to a practice causing more frustration than progress was not a kind and compassionate way to treat myself. Down the road, perhaps years, I would reestablish this most beneficial practice. It was the right choice for the time.

The seasons can change very quickly when you have small children. I soon realized that not only did I NEED  to get back to meditation but I thought it would now be possible.

The whole idea of meditation is to truly and deeply connect us with the present moment, whatever that may encompass. I realized I was waiting for the "perfect" time. I was waiting until I had peace and quiet, until I had space. Then I understood it would be through meditation I could find peace, quiet, and space even in the chaotic time of preschoolers.

But how to go about it?

First, I had to reevaluate how I would go about this whole thing. Early morning was absolutely out. The kids knew when I woke up and joined me no matter how early. This resulted in no meditation and cranky kids. Nope, not good. Evening was out for a variety of reasons but mainly because I was exhausted. Afternoons it would be.

This was difficult because these crazy kids were everywhere! Those of you who are absolutely against screen time please stop reading now..... Did you stop?...If not, you were warned. Yep, I use the tv. I pick something I know will occupy them for a half hour or so. I like them to rest a bit in the afternoons anyway so this serves a dual purpose.

The second thing was I had to release myself of the expectation of how my meditation should look. You know I had this totally serene, beatific scene in my mind's eye. You know it just doesn't work like that most of the time. Instead of timing myself and getting in at least x amount of minutes, I just go for it. What I get is what I get. Pretty Zen, huh? Some days, I get 25  minutes, some days I get 5. Releasing expectations enables me to not get irritated when I am interrupted. You know I am interrupted. I sit in my computer room in my great mediation chair. I can still hear the kids if they need me. But it works, it really does.

This has given me a great opportunity to teach the children about respect. Respect, love, kindness, and compassion are really big deals in this house. I would rather have that than obedience any day of the week. I explain to them what I am doing, my expectations they are quiet and do not interrupt unnecessarily. I explain to them their silence is respectful. They are young so I repeat this pretty much every single times. It has given rise to some great conversations on how we all respect each other. They know mommy is a better mommy if they let her meditate.

Now a quick note on the personal benefits. Meditation has hands down been one of the most transformative things in my life. Even the short meditation I experience each day increases my kindness, my humor, and most importantly, my patience exponentially. I laugh easier. I love more deeply. I connect my those I love even better. It is an amazingly beautiful experience.

I want to meet life each day where it is in that moment. Waiting for the perfect time in my life was an antithesis to that intention. Each day I accept what I get and make the most out of it. And let me tell you, it incredible.

Namaste my friends.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Accepting Gifts

Yesterday in the middle of winter it in the low 70's and the sun broke through the clouds. It was stunningly beautiful. It was a gift that I rather desperately needed so I accepted it without hesitation.

I loaded up the kids and headed off for the Missouri Botanical gardens. We have been members for years. We use the membership all the time. There was no one there so we could wander and run and play like fairy-kin gloriously released from captivity.

The Linnean Greenhouse is one of the oldest continually operating greenhouses and it sits as you first come into the garden. It was wonderful to be greeting with a profusion of color and blooms.

But outdoor nature was not be outdone.

There were hints of color to be found in trees just beginning to awaken and berries still hanging on the bushes.

The moss greeted us with the lush green reminiscent of an early summer's day.

But there is a stark beauty within winter waiting to take your breath away if you will but notice it.

I think the point of this story is to be willing to accept the gifts given to you when they are presented. Don't be so caught up in your agendas and schedules that you allow an unexpectedly perfect day to slip though your fingers. Do not focus on the good at the sacrifice of the amazing.

And know that every season has its time and the sunlight and warmth will return to our lives before we know it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Changing the World: The Secret Agenda of Self Love

The other day I was at a homeschool event held at a local gymnastics gym. It is fun and laid back with an emphasis on chaos and noise. The kids, of course, love it. I spotted my handsome little 3 year old man as he stood behind a cute as a button two year old girl by the foam pit. With a cock of his head, he straight armed that little darling right in to the pit. I saw the moment of comprehension roll over his face. I think he was just being very 3 and impulsively wondered what would happen. Well the result was bigger than he imagined.

I fished the wailing child out of the pit and found her mother. Now this woman is absolutely a genuinely nice person. I explained what happened and apologized. She immediately accepted my apology. But then continued to reassure me....and continued. She almost became hysterical trying to convince me that it was fine and I was not a bad mother. Then the truth came out....because that is what she would think of herself if the situation was reversed. I calmed her down and assured her I was okay.

You see, she was absolutely wrong. I did NOT think I was a bad mother nor did I care what any other parent in that place thought. My son did a very 3 year old thing. I made amends and dealt with my child over the situation. There was no need for self recriminations on my part because I have pretty much silenced that self loathing, constantly criticizing, let's us just be honest, bitchy inner voice. Yep, she doesn't talk to me hardly at all any more. Why? Because I love myself dearly and deeply. I honor myself and my needs because they are worthy of my time and attention. I give myself great respect and love. And I will tell you the coolest thing, I am a better person because of it.

Huh? Isn't all of that selfish?? Wrong??? Dear goodness gracious what will the neighbors say????

None of the above.

Self love is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, your children, your husband, all your loved ones, and really, the whole world. We treat others how we feel about ourselves. Think about it. When you are down on yourself, do you really treat those around you with the love, respect, compassion, and patience they deserve? You see that person spreading hate and derision wherever they go? I guarantee you they have a deep self of self loathing to go along with that misanthropic demeanor. Our actions and words to others are a direct extension to our soul and how we truly feel about ourselves.

My friends will tell you I preach self care like it is my job. I constantly encourage the women around me to acknowledge their needs and honor them. I do want to see these women achieve greater happiness and satisfaction. I want to see them experience deep and resounding joy. But I have more subtle motives. ( I feel like I need to twirl a sinister mustache. ) I want the world to be a better place for me and mine. Since changing some long held beliefs and experiencing a paradigm shift, I have found the world full of beauty, love, and laughter. I really have. But I want more. I want there to be more peace, more joy, more love. I know the best way to encourage such amazing growth is to encourage more people to love themselves.

When we love ourselves our heart softens. When we stop the internal berating, we become more patient and considerate of others, including our partners and children. When we realize that we are worthy of a deep and reverent respect we can begin to understand that all life should be held with the same depth of respect. When we understand we are truly and eternally beautiful, we will begin to experience the beauty of life permeating everything.

So basically what I am saying is if you want to build a better world and a brighter tomorrow then you need to realize you are pretty awesome just the way you are.

Much love my sweet friends.

Finding Beauty in Winter

I may have mentioned I find winter to be difficult to get through. Depression finds me fairly easily and I must be vigilant to keep it from taking hold. This winter I am looking with an artist's eye and I truly believe it is helping.

I have always thought of winter to be bleak and filled with unrelenting gray. But I have found I was wrong.

Nature provides color through all of her seasons if you will just take the time to seek it out.

There are moments of beauty only present for a short time in these cold months. Temperature rising just a few degrees higher destroy the delicate beauty of ice formations never to come exactly the same way again.

Learning to be present is teaching me to deeply admire and study these fleeting scenes. Rather than allowing my thoughts to drift to the expectation of the season yet to come, I am focusing here and now. Each moment, each season, even the ones I have trouble embracing, are filled with lessons, beauty, and the opportunity to be filled with wonder and amazement.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Legacy of Slow

This year I am focusing on slowing down even more. In the past years I have working on releasing myself from perfectionism and the unending drive to achieve and produce constantly. The results have been nothing short of transformative. I took a harried, exhausted, rather pissy attitude filled life and watched it re-emerge from these changes as a life of peace, joy, and beauty.  I used to think I valued, a perfect home, a look-everyone-how-much-I-can-do life, the unending need to be the best at everything, always. Now I realize those things were never my soul desires but expectations I put upon my over-burdened shoulders because unconsciously I was listening to the desires and demands of others. Walking away from that which did not stir my heart's passions, I have discovered those things I truly want. I want deep connections, to be present, truly and fully present, as much as possible, the freedom to explore my creativity and imagination. Ultimately, I desire to walk my unique and very personal path with freedom, confidence and sense of levity and adventure.

Achieving these goals has led me to slowing down even more. You are more likely to find me intently focused on a clipping from a dead plant, furiously sketching its likeness than scrubbing a toilet. I tend to eek out screeches and mistakes on my new soprano recorder rather than fixing my face up with makeup. I have traded in a multitude of social commitments to have the freedom to romp wildly through an open field with my children in a unplanned excursion. Life is very, very good.

But I found a side effect I never really expected, my children are following my lead and it is amazing.

The other day I took my 3 year old son to the zoo. He is everything your mind might conjure up when you think 3 year old boy. He lives with wild abandon. He throws his arms around your neck with love overflowing but you better be aware a truck may fly when his temper is sparked. He is a gorgeous hellion filled with a love of life and zest for living unmatched, to my knowledge, in any other soul I have met. But he has been affected and changed by this new life path we have chosen.

It was our day, just he and I. We go to the zoo with such regularity the docents and food service workers know us. We rarely have a plan or agenda and I was happy to follow his lead. His lead took us on a journey filled with quiet contemplation and wonder.

Two stops exemplify this best. The first was a visit to the Eastern Lowland gorillas. Due to the weather they were inside. I could not believe what I was seeing. For over 20 minutes my 3 year old son quietly sat by the glass and studied the apes. He spoke to them softly. Every once in a while he would break his silence to ask a questions or politely ask others to be quiet in the gorilla's home. Hey, there were signs all over asking people to do just that. Otherwise he sat and raptly experienced those moments. His intensity and focus amazed me.

Before we left for the day we went to visit his favorite animal, baby Kenzi. Baby Kenzi is in the above picture. We have followed her story and visited her with regularity since she was born last spring. When we arrived at her habitat we were excited to see all the female elepants out together. Once again Logan hunkered down to really study and savor those moments. He commented on the elephants behavior. Kenzi is getting feisty and plays quite a bit with her big sister. Groups and families stopped behind us, looked for a few seconds and moved on. I remember one woman said after about 20 seconds, "Well, we've seen her, let's go." All the while I sat and watched my son really engage with the moment. It took my breath away just a little bit.

I set out to break myself of the instant gratification habit and fixation. I wanted to walk away from the chaotic world filled with noise and busyness for the sake of being busy and find a life filled with idea and experiences real and authentic. I believe I have found that life. What I didn't realize is the amazing affect my choices would have on my children. I am even more committed to this way of life now that I know these consequences.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Engaging In Art and Life

There are moments I am lost in beauty. This morning I stood on the back stairs outside and found myself mesmerized. There is an old evergreen rising up to tower above the roof tops. It was dark against a sunrise filled with gentle blues, soft grays, and brightly blushing hues of rose. It was so quiet except for the trill of a distant bird. The moment captured my heart.

These experiences are becoming vastly more common in my daily life. In mid-December I decided to turn my focus to the exploration of art. The mediums are enticing. I can form flower petals out of wire and papier mache. I can take the time to reacquaint myself with reading music and learn the recorder. Study the winter garden and draw the beauty I find in the bleakness of winter. Knit. Mosaic. Whatever strikes my fancy and engages the interest and passion of my heart.

Focusing on creating has been amazingly fun. I love it, I do. However, there has been an unexpected side effect that very well may eclipse my original intent. The pursuit has drawn me to be wholly present in the moment more than anything else ever has. It has enabled me to give my full attention to something with a a clarity and purpose I have never experienced before. It is truly amazing.

As this leg of my journey continues, I find I speak less and think more clearly. Life has slowed down even more and my priorities are simple and readily apparent to me. I find when I am trapped in a situation filled with complaints and negativity  I can easily transfers my attention to some small beauty of nature outside a window until I am able to gentle extricate myself. I can lose myself in the rhythm and intricacies of whatever I am knitting and just let emotions and words I care not to absorb just wash over me an float away without inflicting harm.

Mediation and yoga have become easier. Having patience with my children has been less of a struggle. I  find I have the ability to deeply connect wit my husband, my children, and dear friends with an ease I didn't know before. I find I can just let go of whatever no longer serves me.

This experience is just amazing. Once again life has proven to me I need to let go of expectations. Expectations limit everything and if you cling to them, you could very well miss something that proves to be extraordinary.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Words For The Year

I don't do resolutions. I don't think I need to go into the whys. I used to do goals and that worked really well. This last year has been amazingly transformative. I have really come into my own power and confidence. I am extremely comfortable with who I am. I trust my intuition. I know my strengths and weaknesses and I accept both with open arms. I seek internal affirmation and I am slowly finding those of my tribe to share this amazing adventure. It has been rather glorious.

This year I wanted to do the whole New Year Thing differently. I know many people who choose one word. I am far too verbose for such a solitary choice. Therefore, I have chosen five words for the coming year.

Create- I really want to explore who I am through art in a variety of forms. I am ready to take my hoop dance to a new level. I am re-learning to read and play music on a nifty new soprano recorder. I am drawing in a nature journal. I hope to play with paint, color, collage, paper mache, mosaic, and any other form that appeals. By this time next year I would like to be comfortable thinking I am an artist. I must say I find this entire endeavor truly exciting. I think new and wondrous passions will arise.

Slow- I want to slow our lives down even more. I still find myself getting antsy when I am not "productive". I want to give the children and myself huge amounts of unplanned time to lie in a field, contemplate the starry sky, whatever. This means I will cut down more on commitments and become more stringent about what my MIT's (Most Important Things) truly are.

Connect- I want to focus on deeper connections this year. This is both for a few people in my life and with myself. I want to take the time to really develop some key relationships. I want to really listen and hear these amazing people. My children and husband are at the top of this list. I also want to connect more deeply with myself. I intend to find some way to have daily-ish meditation. John enables me to have some really yummy meditation two days a week but I would love for this to be a daily practice. I find the practice to life changing. I am not sure I have the words to even describe it.

Simplify- Yep, get rid of more stuff. We have done really well but we are eager to clear out more. This also includes simplifying schedules and expectations we place upon ourselves.

Nourish- I intend to nourish myself and my family in the coming year. I will do this by providing delicious  healthy food, having a daily yoga practice, and taking time for self care. I am going on a women's wellness retreat soon. That will be a fabulous kick off, I hope.

All of these words actually overlap and are interdependent with each other. That's life though, all of the parts coming together in harmony to create the organic whole. I am so excited for the journey laid out before me. I think this next year will be beautiful, challenging, exciting, and a true mystery to be unraveled. I am eager to watch it all unfold.

May you and yours be blessed with abundance, joy, and unending beauty all around you in the coming year.