Saturday, February 25, 2012

And Then There Were Tantrums

My beautiful boy is a year old now.  He's is cuter and more fun than ever. He walks, talks a little, charms us to bits. And just to contrast those adorable moments, now we have tantrums. Screaming, wailing, thrashing of limbs. You know what I'm talking about. Even if you don't have your own children, you've seen this. It's not pretty.

Uh-oh. He's getting mad...

I think I need to reread The Power of Now. But this time, during the entire reading, I need to imagine a screaming baby. I thought I was calm. Zen. Quiet. Peaceful. Present.

Then my one-year-old started throwing temper tantrums that make me want to unleash some kind of fiery, volcanic maelstrom. I don't want to unleash it on him, but I feel it there, simmering, wanting out. It's a primal discontent penetrating my every cell. I feel bombarded, besieged. I want my mommy.

OK, yoga, get me through this one. Please.

I remember Eckhart Tolle writing something about a dog barking constantly next door, and that you could choose to be immune to it.  You could imagine yourself transparent and let the sound pass through you. I don't feel transparent when that boy screams. I feel helpless, overwhelmed, agitated, on edge.

Then I breathe. It helps. A little.

And praying. That helps too.

And of course, eventually, it passes.  That helps a lot. He smiles and giggles and amazes me with his new knowledge and skills. He hugs me like I'm his hero. He cuddles up to me when he's sleepy. He presses his whole face against mine in a toddler kiss. He brings me bliss.

He teaches me that I'm not immune to frustration. And that I still have a lot of work to do.

Deep breath. Back to the mat.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bringing Light Wherever You Go

Do you know what a smiling baby does to a grocery store?  He makes it a small piece of paradise.

When I go grocery shipping with my adorable son, he is in absolute bliss.  He sits in the front of the cart, looking around and thrilling in every new sight.  He babbles and waves his tiny arms, bounces like he's dancing.  He just loves every second of it.

And everyone who sees him is transformed.

I mean, I see people who look about as miserable as a person can look, suddenly convert their posture, facial expression and voice to something really pleasant.

Wells at 6 months old, his first ride in the front of the cart
I said to Wells the other day, as I pushed him along the aisles, "You know what, buddy, you make a lot of people happy."  And it makes me happy to see people like that.  It changes the whole experience of grocery shopping!

So I wonder, is this capability of carrying infectious joy limited to babies?  Could each of us bring a similar light with us everywhere we go?

I'm not saying you should grin inanely, wave your arms around and go hopping through a grocery store.  I'm not sure that would have the desired effect.  But is there a way to bring light with you wherever you go?

Here's what I can piece together. . .

1) Wells makes people happy because he's happy.  So to bring light I can try being happy!

2) People aren't afraid to smile and coo at Wells because he's not judging them (at least not more than, "Who is that funny lady?" kind of judging).  I can try not judging every person I see.  This is a tricky one because judging has a lot of nuances.  There is the really harsh kind of judgment, "Ugh.  What an idiot," or, "She looks like a real bitch." And then there are the subtler judgments, the assumptions.

One of the people who recently thrilled at Wells's cart time reverie was a man in his early twenties, shaved head and goatee, sleeveless shirt, lots of ink, with an armful of beer.  He wasn't the guy I would have expected to take notice of or interest in a baby (cue the judgment).    But as he walked towards us his face lit up in a huge smile.  "You're having more fun than anyone in here," he announced to my little one.  And that was the truth!

3) Wells returns people's smiles and they love it! I can try smiling at people (in a sane way).  This one should be fairly easy as long as I can remember follow steps 1 & 2, to stay happy and not judge.

Let's see what I can do to a grocery store even without my little cutie pie.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Spirit: A Simple Practice

It's that time of year.  There's no way you can miss it.  Christmas brings with it a lot of STUFF.  There's the actual stuff: gifts, cards, music, cookies, lights, decorations, parties.  Then there's the emotional stuff: missing loved ones who have left this earth, anxiety, loneliness, getting let down by expectations, stress, nostalgia, hope.  And of course there's all this marketing and gifting craze stuff.  Sometimes it brings out the worst in us instead of the best.

But then there's the good stuff.  The Christ stuff.  The Christmas Spirit.

For me, Christmas is a time to remember that Christ came to this Earth, a human being who knew he was a piece of God, light on Earth.  And so are we.  So to me, the Christmas Spirit is about remembering that and acting on it.

When I think of Christ three words come to mind: love, peace, and non-judgment.  I regard his life as a model for how I can best live mine.  This December, that's what I'm working on.

Yesterday, I was in Barnes and Noble and the place was packed. The parking lot was a craze.  The checkout line snaked past display bins and shelves into the general stacks.  As you surely know, these conditions often create an energy of restlessness and unhappiness in people.  So I'm standing in line thinking, "Be happy, be peaceful."  There's a woman behind me looking over boxes of Christmas cards.  She's one of those people who's hard to miss. And she's saying in a very loud and (here comes a judgment) whiny voice that she doesn't even know why she bothers sending cards. . .

"Everybody sends their cards on the internet.  I send out cards and I don't get anything in return except for a bunch of emails.  I just don't even see why I bother.  I don't think I will.  Let's see how everyone else likes it.  If they'll even notice.  And these chocolates?  All we have at work is people bringing in cookies and chocolates.  I can't even look at another one or I'll be sick."

And here goes my judgmental mind, complaining, "How annoying is this?"

Then I remembered Christ, love, peace, non-judgment, and I just changed my energy.  Christ wouldn't judge her.  So I just stopped.  And that's it.  That's my practice.

My teacher, Ma Jaya, says when negative thoughts are torturing you just say, "Stop.  It's just a thought."

What was I accomplishing by judging that woman and labeling her "annoying"?  I was making myself unhappy.

So my gift to myself this Christmas is to stop those judgmental thoughts whenever I notice them.  Indeed, I believe it's a gift to all of us.  Because the more Christlike each of us becomes, the more that beautiful light will shine on this earth.

I want that for my son, my family, my friends. I want it for acquaintances and strangers. I even want it for people who complain loudly in book stores. That transformative light of love and peace.

Merry Christmas, everyone. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nine Reasons Moms Need Yoga

One of the most common things you'll here from mothers is that we just don't have enough time to do everything we need to, especially for ourselves.  When you're streamlining your schedule, a yoga class may seem like a luxury you can't afford.  I'd like to encourage you not to cut it out and convince you that taking that sacred time for yourself is worth making your yoga practice a priority.

Reason #1 - You need time for yourself.  It's the greatest paradox of motherhood.  To be a good mother you need to be fresh and strong and energized, yet getting rest and relaxing seem like some faraway mythical dream when you've got young lives to attend to.  But the bottom line is, without that time to catch your breath and be quiet in the moment, burnout comes really quickly.  My teacher, Ma Jaya, always reminds us to "drink as you pour," to take time to be quiet and still and blissful so you can go out and serve others.  As we know, motherhood is one of the greatest ways to serve and you need to be full to do it well.

Reason #2 - Lifting and carrying a baby puts strain on your back.  Starting with pregnancy, carrying a baby challenges the back.  The only way to keep healthy is to stretch and strengthen the core and back muscles.  With a regular yoga practice, I had finally conquered sciatic nerve pain.  But when my son was born and I found myself lifting and lugging baby and infant carrier, the pain returned until I increased stretches around the hips and lower back.  There is no better exercise than yoga for keeping the back, hips and core muscles strong and flexible.

Reason #3 - Being healthy will increase the quality of time you spend with your children.  Just think how much more you can enjoy playing with your kids when you are feeling physically strong and healthy.  Every baby loves to be lifted high above your head.  Older babies and children love for you to run and chase them.  Keeping your body healthy is a gift to your child.

Reason #4 - It helps to build a sense of kindness toward your post pregnancy body.  There is no doubt about it, pregnancy changes your body.  We are hard enough on ourselves before the baby.  But then the baby is born and there is stretched skin, extra fat and atrophied abdominal muscles to deal with.  Yoga gives you a way to gently work with your body to get reacquainted with how it feels now that baby has left the premises.  You can start a gentle practice of kindness toward each muscle and each part of you as you start using those muscles again and letting your body slowly rebalance into a new state.  The message of yoga is to be in the moment, not thinking back on how flat your belly used to be or how many weeks it will be until you can get into your jeans.  Instead you can focus on your health and wellness and the miracle that your body enacted.

Reason #5 - You need time to remember who you are.  You are a mother but that's not all you are.  Yoga gives you a chance to catch your breath and focus on your spiritual essence, the core of who you really are.  Yoga is not just exercise or stretching.  It's an ancient tool for connecting mind, body and spirit and going into a meditative state.  Motherhood is a wonderful role that we play and an important gift to the planet, but it is not the totality of who you are.

Reason #6 - Meditation heightens your intuition.  Yoga is meditative, and if you find the right class you will have a meditation included in the practice.  Meditation has numerous benefits, one of them being an increased connection to your intuition.  Intuition is a mother's guide.  If your mind is busy and clouded with thoughts, you'll have a hard time receiving your intuition.  Also, meditation eases the mind and helps reduce fear-based thinking.  Fear can overpower the truth of your intuitive senses.

Reason #7 - Yoga helps you expand your whole life.  Ma teaches that when you reach and stretch in your yoga practice you are actually reaching and stretching into your life.  You are literally expanding your life.  You are opening your body and simultaneously opening to new opportunities and new blessings.  By practicing yoga you can create a beautiful, open, meaningful life to share with your child.

Reason #8 - It builds patience and restraint.  If there's one thing I've found absolutely essential to motherhood, it's patience.  Yoga makes you more patient.  It teaches you how to tune into the breath, the present moment, and to use the breath to hesitate before reacting.  In Kali Natha Yoga, the yoga I practice and teach, we practice an incremental bridge pose, raising the pelvis up a little higher each time, yet hesitating an inch away from "the top."  This is a practice of restraint.  The beauty of yoga is that you learn to practice on the mat and then it starts to spill into your daily life, or what we call "yoga off the mat."

Reason #9 - It makes you feel good.  If you've practiced yoga and felt that yoga buzz you know what I'm talking about.  If not, you're missing out!  A good yoga practice makes you feel calm, centered, blissful, energized, strong, steady, open, nurtured, compassionate and connected.  It brings you to your natural state of relaxed well being.  Be kind to yourself.  Forget all the good things you haven't done for yourself and let yourself be happy now.  I love the quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer that "when you're feeling good, you're feeling God."  Yoga offers you a way to feel good and feel God.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mother's Intuition

I used to think Mother's Intuition was like something from an iconic Norman Rockwell painting: a beautiful notion, idealized, sugared, wholesome, admirable. . .but basically a pleasant cultural myth.

If you're a mother, you already know this, and if you're not, I assure you--Mother's Intuition is real.  There are these moments when you know something is not right for your baby.  Sometimes he's having a bad day and despite the conflicting advice of books, websites, friends, family and pediatricians, you know what your baby needs.

Wells loves his naps.
In my nine months of motherhood, I've used my intuition to make almost every decision I've had to when it comes to Wells.  I can say with certainty it has never let me down.  But learning to really trust it  took some practice.

When he was six months old I went back to work.  I had lined up an in-home care provider when I was pregnant.  She was licensed, experienced (over 25 years!), and well recommended.  I met her, liked her, trusted her completely, and I still do.  But the second day, when I picked him up, I knew it wasn't right.  I had this feeling.  This gut  feeling.  It just wasn't going to work.  Now I'm not talking about Wells being in danger or anything like that.  He wouldn't have gone back there the rest of the week like he did.  There were just some "little" things (that aren't so little when it's your baby we're talking about), that didn't sit well.

He only took one nap.  It worked better with her schedule with the older kids.  When I picked him up and she told me that, my stomach turned to heaviness.  My baby takes two naps.  He needs two naps.  The closest feeling I can relate my gut reaction to is a feeling of pure dread.  Clearly, naps are not something to instill dread.  But there it was.

My mind said, "Give it a chance.  Let's just see.  Don't be one of those overprotective, micromanaging type moms."

Day three.  I picked him up.  She didn't want to do the cloth diapers.  Could I send disposables?

Tightening.  Hardening.  In the gut.

If you've been reading my blog, you know I'm committed to being as green as I can.  I don't want to throw away loads of disposable diapers.  It feels wrong to me.  (If you missed it see A Mother Earth Day Crisis and Plastic Pants are Out and Other Things I've Learned about Cloth Diapering) When shopping for cloth diapers, the reason I decided on and bought Kissaluvs was that all the reviews said they were "just as easy as disposable diapers to change" and "perfect for care providers."

I took a breath.  "I can bring disposable diapers tomorrow, but can we work on ways for it to work for you?  I'm really committed to the cloth diapers and not wasting so much."

"I don't like the smell every time I open the bag," she replied.  There's a waterproof zippered bag that the diapers go in till I take them home and wash them and the bag.

"OK.  Maybe I can look into some other options for the bag, like individual bags for each diaper."

She didn't look convinced.  Or interested.

I put my very tired and cranky baby in the car.  I pulled out of her driveway.  The tightening and hardening traveled up my gut to my throat.  The tears started rolling down my face.  This isn't going to work.

Never in my life could I have imagined the intense, primal feelings that took hold of me.  I had to do what would be best for my baby.  I picked up the phone to call my husband.  I'm sure I scared him when he heard me blubbering, but I pulled it together and explained what I was feeling.

"Let's just give it a chance, not rush to any decisions."  He meant the best.  We didn't have any other ideas for childcare and this woman was a very nice and reputable person.  How could he know about the bowling ball that had taken up residence in my midsection?  The decision had already been made.

My teacher, Ma Jaya, has written that "intuition is not just spiritual, it is part of your body."  It resides in the third chakra in the pit of the belly.  That's where you feel it.  And at that moment, I felt it.

Tripp and I went back and forth about it that night.  He was very logical; I was very emotional.  After a while he saw it in my eyes.  He knew I knew.  It wasn't about fear or over-protectiveness or an emotional imbalance on my part.  It was about knowing what was right.

I said a silent prayer for a new caregiver.  Within a day and with surprisingly little effort I found one.  Tripp and I went to meet her and I knew. The three of us drove away from her house after meeting Miss Ann, and the bowling ball of dread was replaced with warm liquid peace.

Happy ending.  Miss Ann has been amazing.  Wells flourishes with her. Tripp and I have accepted that parenting isn't always about logic.  And I now know that mother's intuition is real.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Is he OK?

The day our son was born, my husband, Tripp, and I found ourselves overjoyed and enthusiastic about every aspect of caring for our sweet little one.  I worked on holding him against my skin to keep him warm, nursing him when he was hungry, and studying the perfect face I had spent months longing to see.

Our Family
Tripp became a fast expert with diapers, swaddling and cuddling.  Our first day with Wells was wonderful.  He was perfect and healthy.  We were exhausted but thrilled.  So when night came and we were ready to get some sleep, I fed the baby, and Tripp swaddled him tight and laid him in the little hospital "crib."  We'd wheeled it right up to my bed, just inches from where we both planned to sleep.  The lights were dim, the baby was sleeping peacefully.

Tripp climbed into bed, and with an enormous weight of concern and love in his voice that I will never forget, he asked, "Is he OK?"

Over the last eight months as I've watched him grow and pondered the future, I now know that "Is he OK?" is practically the mantra of being a parent.  So my question for meditation was, how do you know if your child is OK?  Whether it's a slight fever, a bad mood, a bully at school, a disappointment over not making a team, losses, disagreements, growing pains, apathy.  How do we know when and how to step in?

How do I know where my job as his parent is to interfere, or when he has his own lesson to learn?

Clearly, when the child's health or safety is at stake, we step in.  But things happen.  Kids fall and bump their heads and even worse.  When we see it coming in time, we stop it.  If we can't, we can't beat ourselves up about it.

And I think that's my lesson.  Things will happen to Wells, physical and emotional pains, and I won't be able to stop them.  He's going to have lessons to learn and I'll have to let him.  I'll have to find that balance between protection and detachment.

He's just a baby now, so there's not much he runs into that I can't help with.  Still, there are things he needs to learn.  He pulls himself to standing and can't get down and howls.  I help him, but I hesitate, hoping he'll try getting down on his own.

I think about the scene in the movie Ray, about the life of Ray Charles.  In the scene, he's a young boy who has recently lost his vision, and he's been feeling really sorry for himself.  He falls down and he lays there crying for someone to help him up.  His mother is there watching but she doesn't help him up.  The tears are running down her face.  But she knows he had to find his strength to get up on his own.  It's such a moving scene and it holds so much truth.

Yes, Wells is OK.  He's OK because he's here on this earth on his path, just where he is supposed to be.  At the same time, I am here on mine to mother him the best way I can, and to learn to love with detachment.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Born a Yogi

Imagine a baby happily lying on a blanket, looking up at the world above, smiling and cooing and basically enjoying the view.  Now imagine that a toy catches his peripheral attention, next to him, not far out of reach.

If he could roll onto his belly, he could reach it.  But he doesn't roll.  Not yet.

So what happens now? He'll reach.  He'll really reach.  He'll reach with all his might.  He'll roll partially to the side and then flop back.  He'll roll partially to the side and then flop back.

He'll tire and give up for now.  But he'll try again in two hours or tomorrow.  And eventually he'll roll over and get that toy.  He'll do it when his muscles and coordination are ready.  He'll do it without injury or pain.

Yoga is not about being flexible;
it's about meeting yourself where you are
He is perfectly in tune with his body and does not judge himself because he's 3 weeks behind the "milestone charts."  He is a perfect yogi.

I can't tell you how many times I've been in a yoga class and the teacher will give an instruction that makes me want to burst out laughing.  "Yeah, right," goes the internal dialogue.  But internal dialogue is really not helpful in yoga (or in life).  It can be very limiting.

I clearly remember a class where we were in one legged downward dog.  The teacher asked us to walk the hands in to either side of the bottom foot and kick the top leg as high as we could.  That was pretty challenging.  Then she suggested we bring one hand and the other onto the ankle.  That did not seem possible.  I didn't budge either hand.  "Just try it," she encouraged, "you never know."

So I tried raising one hand, got wobbly, put the hand back down.  Tried raising the other hand, got wobbly, put the hand back down.  Tried raising both and starting to pitch forward, having to catch myself with a "thunk!"  Not exactly graceful, I admit.  But I was trying.

And in yoga, trying will get you somewhere.  Often times it will get you there quicker than you would have thought possible.

If there is a pose you've told yourself you can't do, well, you're probably right.  But what if you said, "I haven't done that pose yet"? What if you left yourself space to try or even just to envision yourself in the pose?  What if while the rest of the class was arching up into wheel, you just closed your eyes and pictured yourself in a beautiful expression of the pose?

And then maybe one day you'd give a push and up you'd go.  Or maybe you never would.  The physical accomplishment isn't the point.  The mental accomplishment is.

People practice yoga for many different reasons, and certainly there are myriad benefits.  One of the reasons I practice is to keep reaching and challenging myself.  My teacher, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, teaches us that when you reach for space in your practice and in your body, you actually reach for space in your life.  It's not just metaphorical; it's actual.

You were born a perfect yogi even though your body lacked skills much beyond reflexes.  You were in the moment and you did what you could without pushing yourself out of a sense of ego or pride.  You reached into your space every single day because you wanted to feel and experience more of the world and yourself.

That never has to stop.