How does a yogi mom raise a spiritual child? Does she raise her child vegan, does she let him run wild?
Does she give her child malas instead of rattles and toys? Does she shield him from plastic and non-yogic boys?
Does she make him play yoga instead of video games? Does she spend her time calling “non-yogis” mean names?
A yogi mom doesn’t. She practices peace. She sits every day and cultivates ease. She yells and she hugs; she does well and she sins; and always comes back to her cushion again. A yogi mom breathes deeply each day of the year. She becomes her best self, choosing love over fear. She models compassion with herself and her kin. She keeps trying and trying all over again. A yogi mom opens to life as it is, and by doing so…she hopes to raise spiritual kids.
THE NEXT MEDITATION FOR MOTHERS SERIES BEGINS APRIL 15. Take some time for yourself, and join this supportive and inspiring series designed just for moms. We’ll explore the theme “Learning to Let Go More Deeply” with grounding hatha yoga sequences, pranayama practices, meditation, deep relaxation, and conversation. Tuesdays at 10:45 a.m. If you’d love to take the class, but it doesn’t fit your schedule, call us. Anita can design custom classes for private groups of 6+ mamas.
Parents feel, and there is some reality to it, that they need to be in constant motion to keep their family’s needs in balance. The never ending cycle of cooking, dishes, laundry, shuttling here and there, work, buying groceries, and managing things in general can seem overwhelming – and then there’s all the FEELINGS that parenting can bring up in us. Anticipating needs, rushing to the next thing, and feeling over scheduled and overwhelmed are common experiences in today’s world.
One thing that meditation has taught me is that when I slow down the pace internally, my whole attitude has an opportunity to shift. Sure, there are still piles of laundry, stacks of dishes, a path of toddler destruction, and Texas size roaches to be handled; but all of this seems more manageable (and/or less urgent) when I’m able to slow down my breath, notice my state, and connect to an inner sense of ease and sweetness.
Sometimes slowing down means making different choices (like limiting obligations and prioritizing self care and family time). Regardless, there will always be days, weeks, or life phases that are necessarily busy and full. At these times, it creates more stress to try and resist what’s happening. Learning to “slow down” in the midst of such busy/full times is an even more refined skill in my experience.
The yogic practices of being fully present, conscious breathing, mantra, meditation and practicing within community (sangha) are powerful tools for learning to slow down despite the speed of your life, kids, thoughts, or household critters.
In our upcoming “Meditation for Mothers: Deepening your Practice Series,” we’ll be exploring some important questions together. During the stressful times, how does one prevent becoming even more stressed? How can you find the sweet moments with your kids in the middle of the life you currently have? How do you come back to your own spiritual center, and open to your life more and more from that place? How can we integrate practice more and more into life as it already is? How do we release the worries that come with parenting?
“Be empty of worrying.
Think of who created thought!
Why do you stay in prison
When the door is so wide open?
Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.
Live in silence.
Flow down and down in always widening rings of being.
Try this simple exercise. Upon waking (whether from an alarm, crying baby, barking dog, or because your body is rested and ready to rise), take 3-10 slow conscious breaths (it’s ok to do this en route to the crying baby, btw. Let’s keep it real). You can do this lying down or sitting on the edge of your bed. Notice how you feel – body sensations and breath quality. Feel inside for the “flavor” of ease, however big or small it may be. Now, try to take this quality of ease (felt in your body and breath) into the next few minutes of the day – whatever they are. It’s helpful to stay connected to your breath and simply focus on what you’re doing, like walking, making lunches, holding the baby, etc. (rather than being in the future or past.) You might want to put a little sign next to your bed to remind you of your intention (3 BREATHS) to help bring the experience of slow motion into the start of your day.
Hope to see some of the Austin area mamas in one of the upcoming Meditation for Mothers series!
Being a mother is so confusing. We seek to deeply attach to and bond with our children, and yet, the skill we must truly develop is the one of learning to let them go. We must learn to let go of our attachment to what they do (and don’t do) that is different from what we want or expect. And it starts early. If we are paying attention, it starts the very first time that we feel a tension about something going on with the baby. It is the task of the mother who planned a beautiful home birth and ends up with a c-section. The task of the mother who hoped for a boy and was gifted a girl. The task of the mother who settles down for a quiet moment to herself and is immediately interrupted. The task of the mother who “thought it would be different” than it is. Learning to let go (aka “surrender”) is the task of every mother who wants or plans for _____ and gets _______. And surely that is all of us.
One of the priceless gifts of Shambhava Yoga™ is the teaching of Surrender. Babaji Shambhavananda clarifies: “Surrender is a process that takes place inside of you. When fear, anger or any strong emotion arises, if you can let those feelings go, you are surrendering. In the moment when tension arises, your ability to expand beyond it and release it is surrender…”
I must say that my initial reaction to “things not turning out the way I expected” is not exactly “surrender.” It is more along the lines of aversion, an inner scream of “NOOOOOOOO!!!!” For me, this is the sort of inner reaction that can be expressed outwardly with anger or engaging in power struggles that I soon regret. Fortunately, I have a practice that is slowly but surely transforming my reactions. With breath, mantra, and a very conscious wish to let go, aversion can be transformed to acceptance of things as they are. This inner letting go creates space and an absence of tension that is hard to believe. My experience is that when I go to my practice (my breath, mantra, my intention) and really release inner tension, then my mind is free to address issues with my children more creatively. Many concerns are not as urgent as I first think, and a centered mama is a more skillful mama. And when I make a mistake, my practice helps me to release my own guilt and upset more quickly, so that I can get back to the experience of connection with myself and my child.
I had more to say, but the baby has finished her nap early. Off to practice!!!
This past weekend, we had another sweet family yoga and kirtan class. We listened to a story about Lord Krishna as a child. Krishna (or Gopala), the beautiful blue god-child, and his brother Balaram are caught eating dirt in the back yard. Their mother, usually sweet and nurturing, yells “STOP EATING DIRT. I’VE TOLD YOU 1000 TIMES NOT TO EAT DIRT!!!” Gopala, bewildered by his dear mother’s ferocity, opens his mouth and begins to cry. At that moment, his mother looks into his mouth, and there, the entire universe reveals itself to her. She sees universes, animals, and 1000’s of Gopalas being created and destroyed and created again. She is shocked into a trance, a “samadhi,” by what she sees within her child. Gopala, seeing this, becomes a little worried that he has gone too far with his behavior. He waves his little god-hand in front of her face, like a feather, and she forgets everything that has happened. She smiles at him and says, “You’re dirty. Let’s go in and clean you up!”
The story always help to open me to the divine connection between my child and myself- between all of us really. Jai Uttal tells the above story, and sings a wonderful song about it. The words include “Gopala, Gopala! Everything is in you! Everything is in me!” At family yoga, we listened to the story, danced to the song, and let the message settle into our hearts and bodies.
Babaji Shambhavananda teaches that meditation is a process of learning to let go, a process of surrender. What happens when you deeply let go? You FORGET EVERYTHING, just like Gopala’s mother. You forget your desires and schemes, your grudges and anxieties, your small self. Regular practice helps me to be more present and open to my life because I don’t hold on so much to my daily tensions. And, every now and then, my practice reminds me, just like the story, that “everything is in me.” If you want to search for happiness, take a breath, and begin to look inside.
“Surrender is a process that takes place inside of you. When fear, anger or any strong emotion arises, if you can let those feelings go, you are surrendering.” (S. Shambhavananda)
I must confess that I have done a fair amount of wondering about whether or not I really know how to surrender. Over time, I am learning to let go of my confusion and desire for immediate results. Every now and then I see clearly the benefit of my meditation practice, and there is absolutely no doubt of its gifts. It goes something like this. A pattern, such as jealousy, shows itself over and over again inside of me. Someone has something that I want and can’t have, and I feel jealous, left out, sorry for myself. Or maybe someone has hurt my feelings, and each time I think about it, my chest gets tight and I play out a brief but colorful revenge fantasy.
These days, it is becoming second nature to use my meditation practice to help me when I am in danger of becoming stuck in mental/emotional ruts such as these. I simply notice my reaction, I soften, I take a breath, I connect to mantra, and I let the feelings or reaction go as best I can. To be honest, it does not always seem to be working immediately. Some feelings are strong and tend to linger. Over time, however, I’ve developed some faith in the long term process. I’ve come to believe that my countless efforts at surrendering really do make a difference. The miracle comes when, one day, I am presented with the person/object/situation that triggers my anger/jealousy/hurt feelings and … I don’t feel a trace of a reaction to it. It’s just not there. There is no tightness in my chest, no surge of stress hormones, no craving or aversion of any kind. In place of the familiar tension, there is in fact a lovely feeling of openness. A lovely inner spaciousness. This is the magic of my meditation practice. In my experience, it is the purpose of surrender. It allows me to have great peace and acceptance for life “just as it is.” Events may or may not change, but my inner experience is completely transformed. I am loving this practice of paying attention, taking a breath, whispering a mantra, and feeling the magic.
Relax the Breath.
Meditation can be defined as a state of mind that is without thoughts, AND it is a mind that is at peace despite thoughts. I tell this to the women who come to my Meditation for Mothers classes with an emphasis on the second definition: a state of mind that is at peace despite one’s thoughts. I hope to ease the belief that so many people have that they “can’t meditate” because their minds are too busy. Of course, that is exactly why one SHOULD meditate. I have a busy mind. By the first definition I have meditated very little despite many hundreds of hours of sitting on my cushion. Whenever I am getting ready to teach a Meditation course, I pause to reflect on the ways that meditation has changed me. It’s not always obvious. I still get grumpy and hormonal. I still make mistakes with my child; some of them are ugly ones. I still feel anxiety, anger, sadness, jealousy, fear. Sigh. But there is more. I forgive myself more easily, freeing up precious energy to reconnect with my child after I’ve made a mistake. Fear and anxiety that might have grabbed my attention for weeks or months in the past, is released in days, hours, minutes, sometimes even seconds. I am more resilient. I have more acceptance for my life as it is (not as it is “supposed to be.”) I feel increasing amounts of gratitude, happiness, and peace for no reason as a result of my daily practice. I believe that my practice is a gift, not just to myself, but especially to those who are closest to me. Just a few reasons to begin a regular meditation practice. Join me this fall for a Tuesday morning Meditation for Mothers series (starting September 20 or November 1) or a Thursday evening Beginners’ Meditation series (starting October 13).