Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mindful Mothering

A couple of weeks ago I attended a yoga class at my studio called Yoga for Mindful Mothering.  I didn't really know anything about it when I went, other than the fact that it was for moms and you left your baby at home - and that we'd be doing some yoga.  So, I was all about it and was excited to go since it would be the first yoga class I'd be going to by myself, since I was pregnant just 7 weeks before (so crazy!).

The class was $20 and was 2 hours long and I was so excited to go with a couple of my prenatal yoga friends, Ann and Amy (who also now have little girls), and to see our former prenatal teacher, Evon.  The first half of the class was great, a kind of standard yoga practice that got my blood flowing and put my muscles back in action (Mommy & Me is yoga but in between entertaining your baby so it's tough to get a good practice in).  The other moms seemed great and there were about 12 people in the class.  After the yoga practice we went around the room to introduce ourselves and there was a mom with 2 year old triplets (yikes!) who shared that she had taken this class before (when it was offered monthly) and that it changed her life, opening up new possibilities to her just because she set her intention there and then made what she wanted to happen, happen.  That's what I like to hear.  Of course when they got to me and I told them why I was there, what my issues were, I talked about breastfeeding, shed a tear and got to hear some feedback from the other mothers telling me that it gets better.  I hear that a lot and every time I do I just hope that it does and that I don't give up before then (and it has gotten SO much better so I'm only looking forward from here!).

After the introductions, Evon went on to say that every time she has led the discussion in this class she has been asked, afterwards, to "up it" and make it something even deeper.  Here we thought we would be talking about being a mother, sharing, learning and growing together but instead Evon launched into a discussion about awareness.  It wasn't what I expected and at the time it was WAY more than I had bargained for (or was mentally prepared to handle), and something that was really out of my realm of thinking at the moment, but it turned out to be exactly what I needed.  Weird how that works out.

Now, here is my disclaimer (just for you Ann!):  This is about to get really yoga-y and so if you aren't into this kind of stuff, stop reading now.  But, if you are open to new things, new ideas and maybe even a new you - read on my friends!  I also applied what I learned that day to breastfeeding, something that I was struggling with but that you probably aren't having trouble with, so use what is below to face your own issues.  It all applies in the same way.  (I also put links to two previous blog posts of mine, in the text below, in hopes that you will go there and read them.  Many of these concepts I have written about before and they have helped me then, just like they did now.  It is my hope that you will find them useful in your lives too.)

Evon started with a quote:  "Who you are inwardly expresses itself outwardly."  And then she went on to say that, "Babies are not defined by their emotions. They express them. We were all those little babies.  We came out knowing everything was ok then life gave us different messages."  Isn't that something to think about.  We know everything we need to know, our bodies and minds already know it so why are we constantly doubting ourselves?  This really hit home with me because I have said, many times, that I felt so confident in giving birth, in both labor and delivery, and it turned out mostly like I had planned.  I had faith in my body and knew what it was capable of and was so confident that it would do what it needed to do to get the baby out, without any unnecessary interventions.  And I was right, it did.  And then, I had this baby, and this same body that worked in such harmony for me and for Lemon, is the one I was fighting with in regards to breastfeeding.  Why didn't I have the same faith?  It was, after all, the same body, and it knows what to do and how to feed my baby, without me even getting involved.  Why was this so hard for me?

"Unwind.  Take the ball of yarn and unwind it and get back to the core of who you are.  Be aware.  Be aware.  You find contentment with awareness.  Being aware gives us freedom.  Believe that things will work out.  Visualize what you want."  Ugh, couldn't we all use this advice as mothers?  I constantly feel like I have so many things standing in my way, I am so wound up and not aware, not open to what I can do, what my body can do.  I do not trust myself most of the time, feel blocked literally and figuratively.  I thought:  Can I get past this? Am I blocking this? Can I overcome?  Awareness can help, it can help all of us.

I feel like, listening to other mothers, that this was something I should be able to do (nursing), something that comes naturally and something I should be good at.  "It frustrates me when someone does something different than me.  The awareness comes from inside.  Realize what you are doing, something you're feeling.  Self inquiry, being curious, diving in comes after.  Being aware will then guide you through what will happen next.  No judgement."  We are truly our own worst enemies and me thinking that I had to do better, that's what was standing in my way.  I was feeling the judgement, I was judging myself.  We all judge ourselves constantly and don't understand why things are so easy for some and not for others.  We want them to be easy for us, just like everyone else, but we are all different and WAY too hard on ourselves.

I had to have confidence that I could do this.  I told the moms in the class that I had to get out of my head, that I was the only thing standing in my way.  I told them that reading or watching TV helped, helped me to think about something else and not about what I was doing, allowing nursing to come naturally.  "Whether or not you are watching TV, the awareness is there."  The awareness isn't there because I made it there, it has always been there.  "Be confident."  This was my mantra.  This is my mantra every day.

Evon told us about her son's teacher at school who had two rubber bands hanging on her bulletin board.  At the beginning of school she told the students what they meant.  "If you're really good at something, don't stretch the big rubber band bigger.  Go stretch that little rubber band bigger, that is something you aren't that good at."  We have to realize that we can't be good at everything, that we are NOT going to be good at everything.  There is such pressure for women and mothers.  It becomes a measure of self worth if you aren't good at something.  We have to remember that there is no right way, just the way that works for you and your family.  Wow, you can say that again.  There is no right way, just what works for you.

Now I realize that you all aren't struggling with breastfeeding like me so my own thinking here will not apply to you.  But, the fundamentals are the same.  These things, this topic of awareness, does apply to everyone, no matter what you are having trouble with.  We can't forget that it is always there, we know how to find it, how to tap into it; and once we do - it will set us free.

In yoga we do muscular energy first for safety, it's a metaphor for drawing in first.  Inwards.  "Every time you have a conflict with someone, imagine if you looked inward first.  Gather information there and then extend out to everyone else.  If you are in alignment first - from life, wisdom and confidence, you won't get hurt."  This applies in yoga AND in life.  "The what is, is what you are, not what you'd like to be.  The ideal of 'what you'd like to be' is fictitious."  Being truthful and in the moment is what you are.  That's awareness.  Living in the moment - that's it, and something that is almost impossible to do.  I have spoken about this many times, it is something we claim to do, something we even think we are doing - but it is SO hard.  We are constantly looking backwards or into the future, we are hardly ever just in the here and now.  We have to start being true to this, this is what we are.  (I know this is getting a bit existential but bear with me.)

However, we identify with certain things and then we say that's who we are.  That may not be what is true.  "The core of who we all are is exactly the same.  Biologically we all are the same.  Same morals/values, same goodness."  As I've also said before - we are all one (it is even scientifically proven).  It is what "namaste" actually means when you say it at the end of yoga - "When I am in that place in me, and you are in that place in you, we are one" (I even put this in our wedding vows, that's how much I believe in it!).  Strengthen that connection to the self.  If we, as a society, remembered that we are all in this together, things would definitely be different.  Duh (right?!).

"Let go of the details, they get in the way of acceptance.  The mind does this.  We are afraid of how big we can be so we try to stay small.  We don't expand our potential because of this.  Being a mother is doing something bigger.  Connecting.  It is said that 'Motherhood is the fast track to enlightenment.'"  I believe this to be true.  You see yourself in your child, those eyes you look at mirror you, it is the most aware I think I have ever been in my life - while sitting and looking at my daughter.

It is a huge responsibility to become aware, to set yourself free of what is holding you back.  Even the other day, while thinking of this post, I took a step backwards in nursing, I thought too much about it and then Lemon had a really late night because I don't think she was getting the food she needed (or it wasn't coming fast enough for her).  I was in my head too much again, even though I haven't been for awhile now, and things were going great.  "Look inward and your ability to be more aware starts with you.  Be present - how am I feeling? Instead of reacting, just be aware."  I have to practice this myself, every single day.  We forget to do this, to check in with ourselves, especially when we are so busy caring for someone else.  "Awareness is never not there, tap into it.  It happens without judgement and labels and "shoulds."  We want to fix and solve ourselves so we can be better; but if we really got it and just became more aware, our lives would be simple and we would be more content and joyous.  Simple expectations.  "Stay aware and you will grow."  What an amazing thought, what an amazing feeling.  Keep it simple.  I tell my high school students this all the time - why can't I live it too?  We get too wrapped up in how we should be or how things should go, but if we just kept it simple and didn't have these "shoulds," then we would just be content in who we are and what is.  We would have awareness on actually what is and then that will allow us to grow.  Interesting.  "If we begin to condemn what is or blame/resist then we will not understand the movement.  You must love and not condemn what you are studying.  Don't condemn/resist/blame because you will not comprehend.  Observe what one thinks/feels/does at the moment - that is the actual."  Does that just blow your mind?  Read it again, think about it - did your head explode?!  Do you feel enlightened just a little?

So, overall the class wasn't so great (because an hour to discuss this is NOT enough time) but the message was there, and I felt like it was there just for me.  I had to run because I didn't want to leave the babe too long (and her end up getting more bottles) so I left on time, even though some of the mothers stayed to chat more about this heavy topic.  It was a lot to take in, and not what I was expecting from a mother-centered class.  But, it really hit home for me and ever since the class, things have been better (believe it or not).  I seemed to have gotten out of my head, about nursing and about everything, and have taken a more relaxed approach.  I have tried to live in the moment and enjoy every second of motherhood because I know it goes by so fast.  I have stopped telling myself how I should be and have started to just be, knowing that whatever works for us is right for us, no matter what anyone else says.  I may ask for advice, I may follow some of it, but in the end I am going to do what is best for us, what is best for Lemon.  Isn't that refreshing?!  Do what works - for you.

These things can apply in all aspects of our lives.  These are very simple ideas, very basic ideas, and at the core of our lives.  We have to focus in, become more aware, and then we can be better people outwardly.  Isn't that an interesting idea - become aware and grow.  Be free.  What an amazing feeling.

So, if you are currently struggling with something, I hope that this strange yoga post will also help you in some way.  I want to have passed on this idea of awareness to you, the topic of our strange yoga class, so that you can put it into practice in your life at this moment.  It is something that we all can try to do daily, maybe even hourly, so that we too can be free and grow.  I am not a religious person, spiritual but not religious, and this stuff is as close to religion as I get.  This is my religion and I'm happy to share it here, I hope it will find you and help - just like it did for me.

Namaste my friends.


  1. That being said...I would rather discuss this with friends, over beers. Is that so wrong? LOL

  2. Thank you. I needed this. I needed this so much. Wish I could find the words to say more, but as you said its a lot to think about. But thank you for sharing!

  3. I am a new mom of a 11 week old baby girl. I stumbled upon your blog one sleepless night when I was looking for advice on how to help my little one nap better. I truly have found comfort in reading your blog. I find most people aren't very honest about the challenges that come with being a mommy. I have had to overcome the challenges of breastfeeding and sleeping or not sleeping. I found that I was being very hard on myself thinking that I must be doing something wrong. This post was the voice of reason that I needed. I just wanted to thank that voice. You have a beautiful family. Thank you for sharing.

    1. This comment just made my day when I read it and I'm sorry I didn't get back to you sooner! I feel like I have to be honest here and share that motherhood is tough, SO TOUGH, because you are right - so many don't. It's so easy for us to see pictures on Instagram or Facebook of all the good times and think - what are we doing wrong? But really, we ALL have those hard times and it helps to share those too and commiserate, for sure. You are not alone and try not to be too hard on yourself. I was SO hard on myself that first year, still am most days, and feel like I have no idea what I'm doing and could be doing so much better than I am. But guess what - we ALL feel like that. Try to live more in the moment, stay in the present, snuggle that baby and take all the cuddles you can get because they sure don't last long. We've all been there and I wish, if I could go back, I wouldn't have been so hard on myself. Thank you so much for commenting, THIS is why I blog. Lots of love to you and your family. xoxo Allison