Sunday, 25 August 2013

Week 35: Studying My Motherly Self.

I am a mother. It's a role I love, yet at the same time I feel utterly overwhelmed by it. Am I good enough? Do I do enough? Am I too lazy? Too selfish? Too controlling? Too lax? Guilt is a common feeling, as I know it is for mothers everywhere through the ages.

When I set out on my 52 Weeks of Now journey, my son was a huge part of my motivation. I don't want to be that mummy who's constantly distracted by 'things' - I want to be mindful, patient, fun, reasonable, kind ... I'm not unrealistic though - I know that sometimes I am and will be distracted; that my patience will wear thin at times; that I may well not be fun all the time; and that sometimes I might be harsh. In short, I know I'm human.

I think a huge part of my discomfort within my role as mummy is that I'm reluctant to dig too deep. I'm almost scared about what I'll find. Why scared? Well, when we come face to face with our 'truths' that can be a little confronting. What if we find something less than our picture of perfect? Or something that feels well beyond the boundaries of who we know ourselves to be?

Despite my passionate desire to be a mindful mummy, I regularly find myself being pulled away from those precious moments with my son. I have to check my phone, or email, or Facebook - now. Really, I don't think that doing these things while in the company of my son is bad - no, not at all. But I think it's time for me to dig more deeply into these urges, especially because they're so persistent. It's time to peel back the layers of my mummy self and figure out what it is that stops me from being the mindful mum I want to be.

This week will be a good ol' exercise in self-study!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Week 34 Update: Simplicity in Noticing.

Stop. Listen. Feel. See. 

Notice three things you can hear, three things you can feel, and three things you can see.

Grounded? Or at least more present? I thought so.

I've loved this week's challenge of noticing 'three things'. So terribly simple, yet it's allowed me to appreciate the simple things around me every day.

Often I've noticed the sound of my own breath, the sensation of the breath in my nostrils. At other times I've been acutely aware of the sound of my son's voice and laughter or the infectious call of a kookaburra out the window. I've noticed my dogs - really noticed them. I've watched my husband in a way I haven't for a long time - just watching, noticing.

I've tried to avoid creating any kind of 'dialogue' or 'story' to go along with what I've heard/felt/seen, but that's been hard. Still, the stories I've told myself this week are lovely ones. Ones that lead me to a greater appreciation of all the things I've heard/felt/seen. For aren't I blessed to have the ability to take all of these things in; to be surrounded by incredible people, animals and things.

Such a simple practice, one that can be called upon at any time, any place. A way to ground yourself, to become mindful of the moment just as it is. Because now is the only moment you've got.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Week 34: Three Things.

As I sit typing this, I'm at a rather messy desk. It's covered in papers, a drinking glass, a couple of cds, pencils and pens, a couple of gifts that I need to wrap, and a few other odds and ends. Mostly though, I don't pay these things much notice, I just get on with what I'm doing.

This got me to thinking. How often do I miss what's around me simply because I'm on autopilot?

My husband and I laugh every time we take our son out. The world is such an amazing place for him. Every little thing evokes a cry of "What's that?!" or the somewhat less eloquent "uh-uh-uh!". He is fascinated by the details, blown away by the variety and excitement of his surroundings. When do we lose that?

I tend to think of myself as having retained some of that child-like wonder. Yet I know my view of the world is rather greyer than it once was.

This week's mindfulness challenge will hopefully bring back some appreciation of my surroundings. I came across the '3 Item Exercise' here. Here's how it's done:

Begin by breathing normally and focusing your awareness on your breath. Slowly draw your awareness away from your breathing and towards your surroundings. Looking around, take note of: three items you can see, three things you can hear and three sensations you can feel.

Simple, yes? I'm going to try to do this at least twice a day. Sometimes at home, sometimes when out and about. It will be interesting to see what is new or surprising in my surroundings. Even if nothing seems new or surprising, or even particularly exciting, it will bring me into the moment and allow me to stop, look, listen and feel.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Week 33 Update: Help at hand.

I've never been good at asking for or accepting help. I hate to think that other people are going out of their way to give me a hand or, goodness forbid, actually bemoaning having to help me behind my back while plastering a smile on their face to placate me. Ugh, the thought of that is enough to leave me running in the opposite direction.

This week I was pleasantly surprise to find that help was and is available without any of the 'baggage'. I've been a bit under the weather again this week, with low energy levels, headaches and the like. I think my body is trying to tell me to slow down. And I've been listening. That means I've had to ask for help ... And it's been far more rewarding than I could have anticipated.

From extra 'help' around the house from my husband, to my parents helping out with baby-sitting and baby bedtime wrangling, I've not been short of a helping hand this week. But things could have been different. I could have ignored how I was feeling, ignored the offers for help, or kept my mouth shut and pushed through with all the things I had to do. I made a choice and that choice was a good one. I chose to show some vulnerability, listen to my body and accept what was being offered graciously and with love.

I highly recommend it!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Week 33: I Need Help.

I'm not very good at asking for help. Or accepting it when it's offered.

I'm more of a 'I can handle it' kind of girl.

Still, there are days when I stand at the kitchen sink, wishing and willing that my husband will offer to help. Sometimes I'll suggestively demonstrate my frustration at having to hang another load of washing before bed hoping that he'll step in and do it instead. Where does this get me? Very quickly into a place of frustration and resentment. Not the best place to be. Why can't I just ask for what I want (namely, help)?

Recently, my family was struck down with the inevitable winter lurgy. First my husband, then my son. I looked after them both, went about my days tending to their needs and doing what I could. Then I got sick and it started to fall apart at the seams. The housework, my homework and my wish list of things to complete started to pile up. It was time to ask for help. So I did. It was actually really hard ... Why is that? Why do we find it so incredibly difficult to admit that we cannot be super-women and men? Why do we glorify the multi-tasking, no-rest-til-it's-over, I cannot sit down mindset that so many of us operate under? It's not only harmful to our health, it's not very much fun.

As I found myself still feeling a bit so-so this past weekend, I said 'forget it' to this weird sense of pride that accompanies the super-woman side of me and asked for help. Repeatedly. I asked for help with all sorts of things - the washing, the dishes, going back upstairs for that jumper or book or whatever I had left behind. I asked my husband to cook, I asked my mum for a hand with an appointment. I asked for help. Wow.

So, this week I'm going to keep going. I'm going to take the time to recognise that I cannot and should not be a superwoman. This exercise in mindfulness will help me to accept that help is a good thing, not a sign of weakness. It will help me to not only notice when I can't do something alone, but to follow through on that and ask for help. Because, let's face it, we all need help sometimes and the best way to get it is to ask.

Week 32 Update: Love, kindness and the warm and fuzzies.

When I set out to practice loving kindness meditation this week, I have to admit I thought it might take me in the opposite direction of mindfulness. Why? Well, because I thought the mantras I was repeating to myself (may I/you be: healthy in body and mind, safe and happy, peaceful and at ease) might cause me to worry about whether I or the other people I was thinking about were indeed healthy, safe, happy, peaceful and at ease. Yet, this didn't happen.

In fact it was a surprisingly powerful exercise in mindfulness. Instead of bringing any potential lack to my awareness, these mantras, along with the feelings that accompanied them, gave me a strong sense of how I was in that moment. This meditation gave me the space and freedom to feel into what was there.

And as for those 'other people' who became the focus of this meditation throughout the week, well, this was perhaps the most powerful thing of all. I tend to want to be a 'fixer'. It upsets me when people I love are upset, stressed, angry. I want to help them, take away whatever is bothering them. In short, I want to fix it. At the same time, I'm intensely aware of the fact that I can't and shouldn't be responsible for anyone else's health, happiness or peace. All I can do is be supportive, kind and caring. And that's what Loving Kindness meditation felt like to me this week. As I held various people in my mind, sending out my wishes for them to be healthy, happy and peaceful, I found a way to offer them something in an un-intrusive yet incredibly beneficial way.

May everyone, everywhere, be healthy in body and mind, safe and happy, peaceful and at ease.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Week 32: Loving Kindness Meditation

How much do you love yourself?

That can be a really hard question to answer. If we're honest, we're often our own worst critics. It's not unusual for people to talk to themselves in a far, far harsher way than they'd speak to anyone else. Why do we do it? Great question, and not one I'm qualified to answer. What I do know, though, is that the more I feel at peace with myself, the more I respect and am kind to myself, the more I have to offer the people around me and the world at large. So it's worth finding a way to cultivate this.

From a mindfulness perspective, when we're being nasty to ourselves, we're simply not being mindful. When I was completing my yoga teacher training, I remember being told that no situation in and of itself is good or bad - it's only our thoughts about it that make it so. This idea shocked me to my core. To think that when we berate, talk down to and criticise ourselves (or anyone else for that matter), we're actually pulling away from the present moment is hard to accept at times. But it's what happens.

What to do? Well, this week I'm going to give loving kindness meditation a burl. The idea behind this practice is to invite feelings of loving kindness to fill you up in this moment. To do this you can choose some simple phrases that encapsulate loving kindness and repeat them to yourself. Then, you can extend this practice as far and wide as you like - to your family, friends, people who have wronged you, strangers and so on. Maybe this sounds a little hippy-dippy to you, but I think it's worth remembering that the way the practice feels is probably more important than what we think of the idea.

The phrases I'm choosing to work with this week are:

May I/you be healthy in body and mind
May I/you be safe and happy
May I/you be peaceful and at ease

I intend to sit for at least five to ten minutes each day, sending this loving kindness messages to myself and others. May it bring me firmly into the present moment.

"If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before. This benefits me and it benefits others." Jon Kabat-Zinn
"When you can love one tree or one flower or one dog or one place, or one person or yourself for one moment, you can find all people, all places, all suffering, all harmony in that one moment." Jon Kabat-Zinn.

You can find a lovely summary about loving kindness meditation (also known as metta) here.

Week 31 Update: I was going to invert ...

My plan for the past week was to invert - go upside down - every single day. Guess how many times I did it? About twice.

I didn't forget, I didn't get lazy. I got sick. Some germs overtook my system and bam - I was out for the count. It hurt to put my head down low, so bye-bye downward dogs, shoulderstands, headstands etc etc and hello couch time.

If you read my Week 31 post you'll recall I was worried about an impending deadline. Yeah, well, that deadline hung over my head all week. But mostly I ignored it. I found a minutes here and there to tackle what was left of my assignment, and those minutes strung together were enough to get something in. Something, but nothing perfect. You know what, though? I don't really care. It's not that I don't want to do well, I do. It's just that this week, looking after myself was far, far more important than polishing my assignment. The only thing I put above my own rest time was my son's well-being, because he's not quite at the stage of self sufficiency!

Even though I didn't go upside down, I think this week taught me the lesson I was supposed to learn. I thought that going upside down would help me gain and keep some perspective, keep my anxiety levels about my assignment in check, and give me a well-earned rest every day. Being sick did kind of the same thing.