take a moment to watch this beautiful video of thich nhat hanh's prayer for the end of suffering...much needed in these dark days...a
perfect eight minute meditation.
so sad to hear the news today...thanks for all the laughs, mr. williams, the light you shared will undoubtedly continue to shine on...you will be sorely missed here at home in the bay area and across the universe. Nanu, nanu.....
this summer, we've been enjoying the many simple pleasures of the season: going to the pool, playing cards, daycamp, hiking, sleeping in, picnics, watching fireworks, and visiting friends and family. now that henry's a big kid, things are a little easier...he's a great traveler and adventurer and is truly a wonderful companion...and, he's definitely building memories. some of my fondest memories of my own childhood are from summertime. so, before school starts up again, we'll be spending some time at the beach, visiting with family, taking a few day trips, going to a baseball game, and camping out. here's hoping you and your family are finding time to slow down to enjoy the simple pleasures of this season...building sweet memories together to last a lifetime...happy summer!!!
on this earthday, the day after henry's sixth birthday, i (re)commit myself to living on the planet mindfully. to remain conscious of the interconnectedness of all things and how the choices we make, even the seemingly inconsequential, impact the grander scheme of things. as a spiritual person, i recommit to my faith in humanity's potential to awaken and my hope that we're able to rise to the many challenges before us. as a parent, holding on to that faith is essential.
another beautifully written story from the heart of ms. shapiro...have read and enjoyed several of her other works...about one woman's search for spiritual meaning and comfort at midlife (a subject very near and dear to my heart!!!).
When I do yoga these days, I feel like one of those yogis I used to see in India doing a headstand in the center of a circle of fire, or sitting in lotus by a funeral pyre on the banks of the Ganges, watching a corpse burn. I know the world is in flames all around me; I know my body is on its way back to the earth. But in the middle of it all, I can breathe and stretch and flow and dance; I can reach my arms to the sky, and bow my head to the earth, and feel my body ringing like a temple bell.
-Anne Cushman, 'Living from the Inside Out'
just learned of this very inspirational group of folks who are walking from camp david to the white house "to call upon President Obama to take climate action now for the sake of grandchildren, grandparents, and every age in between”.
the 2013 walk for our grandchildren is part of summer heat, a series of actions around the country during the month of july to address fossil fuel extraction, the root cause of climate change.
The reason people turn to screens hasn't changed much over the years. They remain mirrors that reflect a species in retreat from the burdens of modern consciousness, from boredom and isolation and helplessness.
It's natural for children to seek out a powerful tool to banish these feelings. But the only reliable antidote to such burdens, based on my own experience, is not immersion in brighter and mightier screens, but the capacity to slow our minds and pay sustained attention to the world around us. This is how all of us - whether artists or scientists or kindergartners - find beauty and meaning in the unceasing rush of experience. It's how we develop empathy for other people, and the humility to accept our failiures and keep struggling.
-Steve Almond, 'The iPads Are Coming!'
what's the good of covering your body in sunscreen if it's full of hazardous chemicals...how do we know which sunscreens are most effective and safe for our families...what's a mindful momma to do??? thankfully, the environmental working group's cosmetic database has many of the answers. these folks have really done their homework, testing the ingredients of thousands of common products we use on our bodies everyday, including sunscreen. admittedly, i arrived to the wisdom of suncreen a bit late in life but am definitely a convert now. and, while i'm not slathering everyone from head to toe the instant the sun comes up/out, i do think it's important to avoid direct, prime solar hours via clothing, hats, shade and sunscreen to protect myself and my family from potential harm. so, before you slather it on, check out ewg's amazing database to see how your sunscreen rates for effectiveness and safety first.
a friend recently quoted someone as saying 'you can either go through your life thinking nothing is a miracle or you can choose to see EVERYTHING as a miracle'. in the spring...with everything growing, blooming, and stretching towards the sun...it's almost impossible to be in the first camp. as the days become longer and the light becomes brighter, may we reflect on the wonder of life and the beauty of our natural world. so, get outside, take a walk, breathe some air and feel the miracle of hope and peace blooming in your heart...happy spring everyone!!!
please join me and other climate parents at the forward on climate rally this sunday, february 17th in san francisco 1-3p. this rally is in solidarity with a larger one going on in washington dc and others around the country on the same day. together, we can do something about climate change and make the world a better, more liveable place for our kids now and into the future. put your practice where your heart is...!!!
To live in this world you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.
-Mary Oliver, 'In Blackwater Woods'
holding my child a little closer today and praying for all the families who lost loved ones in connecticut yesterday. just feeling really heartbroken about it all. once again, worrying about the state of the world we're raising our children in and wondering how to proceed most skillfully. but, mostly, i'm just praying. these seem to be such dark times. so much violence in our world and so many guns in our country. signed this petition...better than nothing...something must be done. our kids deserve to be safe in their homes, schools, and communities...they deserve to live free of violence and fear...all children deserve this.
wild: from lost to found on the pacific coast trail a totally engrossing memoir about a woman's journey to heal herself on a solo 'vision quest' on the pacific crest trail. cheryl strayed writes bravely and poetically about falling apart and getting it back together...an awesome book...i couldn't put it down.
well, the third and final presidential debate has come and gone and there's still been no mention of climate change betwixt or between the candidates. not super surprising but no less disappointing. in these interesting times, there are doubtless numerous issues which merit fierce conversation and debate, but what could be more pressing and basic than life on earth.
perhaps it's reducing things to a silly level, but it seems that our endless power struggles over politics, economics and religion have really worked humanity into a corner. when i put my kid to bed at night, there's no bigger heart ache and concern for me than the uncertainty i feel about the kind of world he's inheriting. and, climate change is right up there.
so what's a concerned (scared silly) parent to do...how can we hope to affect change when our leaders refuse to address our deepest hopes and fears...perhaps
it's time to join together as parents and fight. for, surely, there's no better, bigger, more important way we can support our children
than to work to stem climate change. it's at least worth a mention, right?
a fantastic journey into the heart of solitude with a buddhist nun, 'cave in the snow', follows tenzin palmo on a 12 year retreat from life's various commitments, social conundrums and basic creature comforts. this is an engaging and deeply inspiring story of one woman's quest for enlightenment, and her lifelong support and encouragement of the pursuit of enlightenment for all women in a heretofore male dominated spiritual realm. highly recommended.
have been thinking a lot lately about my technology habits... desperately trying to remain low tech...and the impact those habits have on my mind, my heart, and my parenting. just yesterday, henry said 'close your computer now, mom...' and i was humbled if not a bit embarrassed. his innocent request was a bit of a revelation, as i'd spent much of the afternoon catching up on email and updating my website and he was rightfully annoyed. it's astonishing how many faces are shrouded behind various gadgets these days...walking down the street, sitting in cafes, driving cars (!)...everyone's staring at a screen. remember sitting and staring into someone's eyes, a starry sky, a cup of coffee, or even just into space, for goodness sake???
of course, as a self employed yoga teacher, a certain amount of digital communication is necessary for my business. but, i definitely find myself using the computer at times much as i used the television as a kid and young adult; to tune out and anesthetize myself from thinking, feeling, and just being. for the past decade, being relatively low tech has been part of my mindfulness practice. for instance, while we own a few computers, our family does not own a television. and, although i covet them, nor do we own any iphones (or, even a cell phone that's worth a damn). in fact, i'm kind of proud to say that i've never even sent a text message. and, as of this writing, you can not follow me on twitter nor 'friend' me on facebook. but, still, i must admit that i'm a bit of a computer junky.
recently, amongst my various internet purusings, i ran across an article by the wonderful writer, woman/mother, and all-around inspiring person dominique browning about just this subject. and, while there's certainly much more i could share about my personal struggle to stay human and not be sucked into the digital abyss...where people have the illusion of communicating, connecting, and interrelating...i really should get off the computer. you can read 'why cell phones are bad for parenting' by ms. browning here.
I used to think that to become free you had to practice like a samurai warrior, but now I understand that you have to practice like a devoted mother of a newborn child. It takes the same energy but has a completely different quality. It's compassion and presence rather than having to defeat the enemy in battle.
Wherever you are is the perfect place to awaken. This moment is the exact place to practice compassion and loving awareness. You have all the ingredients to breathe and find freedom just where you are.
Kornfield, 'Changing My Mind, Year After Year'
our family has been reading and loving maurice sendak's classic children's books since henry was two...just old enough to be thrilled with the beasts of 'where the wild things are'...although a bit too scary at times, always among his very favorites. at an old beach cabin one long, late-summer weekend, we reveled in watching a worn vhs collection of sendak stories, replete with a heartwarming sound track by carole king, again and again.
from those days forward, stories such as 'in the night kitchen'; 'pierre'; 'alphabet all around'; and of course 'where the wild things are' were regular library acquisitions. it was so sweet to (re)discover these beloved stories from my own childhood with my child. while henry is currently more enthralled with pirates, superheros, and other, more intense symbols of 'wildness', a sign on his door still declares "let the wild rumpus start...!!!".
what kid can't relate with max and his search for autonomy and security and adventure and safety in his world? what kid doesn't struggle with monsters and other 'wild things'? luckily, during this phase, we were forward thinking enough to record henry at two years old reciting 'where the wild things are' word for word. a treasure to keep, like all of sendak's stories, tucked safely away in our hearts forever. good night, maurice.....
on saturday, my 'baby' turned four...we had a come as your favorite superhero party in the park...the day was sunny and warm. we ate cupcakes and later had pizza and gelato for dinner. it was sweet and lovely.
on sunday, earthday, i pondered the condition our poor planet is in and couldn't help worrying about the world our children are inheriting. we must wake up & save this planet!!! come as your favorite superhero.....
this is what it's like...seriously...if one is even lucky (not to mention brave) enough to get down on the floor in an attempt to practice at all. huge kudos to this very determined momma...can definitely relate!!!
fantastic little book with lots of beautiful words, pictures, and ideas to enrich the practice of family living. season by season, the soule's share their unique talent for turning the simple rituals of family life into inspired offerings; making the 'everyday' a true celebration of life, love, & family.
once read, you'll want to collect freshly laid eggs; tap trees for syrup; knit sweaters; and bake all your own bread. so, while perhaps not entirely possible for this city dweller, the ideas are absolutely inspirational!!!
wishing you and your family a happy winter solstice and a peaceful new year. today, on the shortest day of the year, may we take a moment to reflect on the ways in which we might bring more balance, presence and light into our lives and more openly offer these gifts of mindfulness to the people around us. may all beings be happy, healthy, safe, and free and may peace prevail in our hearts, homes, and communities. may peace prevail on earth.
so sad to hear that the dalai lama was barred from attending his good friend desmond tutu's 80th birthday bash this weekend...what a very strange world we live in...seems even a much reverred holy person can have trouble getting a visa. once again, 'politics' seem to have won out over plain old common sense. hard to imagine where we'd be without the tireless work of such wisened elder states people laboring for good on our behalf. may the powers of peace and compassion prevail in our world (we need both so badly!!!). and, happy birthday, desmond.
heard al gore talking about '24 hours of reality' on the radio this morning and was reminded of what a thoughtful and courageous crusader sounds like. it makes me mad/sad that more people, those in the position to affect some real change, aren't doing more about climate change. ultimately, of course, we're all in a position to do something; to awaken and act.
summer is almost gone...it's amazing how fast it's flown by...i'm just realizing that my last post was way back in may. it was not my intention to take such a long break from this space, it's not as if we were away on any great adventures or anything. however, we did manage to get away a few times this summer. although, sadly, never had the pleasure of sleeping outside despite new camping gear. maybe in the fall.
while we've had some lazy days around here these past few months to be sure, things have been as busy as ever and we're gearing up for lots of changes and activity this autumn. first and foremost, my 'baby' is getting ready to head off to preschool. how this has come to be is a complete mystery to me. seems that it was just yesterday that henry was arriving and now we're preparing for his first 'departure', albeit a small one, the first of many.
before the summer is up, i have a few ideas about making the most of these last long days of light and warmth: picking berries and making a pie; a few more trips to the pool and/or hotsprings; some shell gathering on the beach; and at least one outdoor sleeping foray (if only on the back deck!). the good news is that 'summer' is really just arriving in the bay area and we're due for many lovely sunny days yet.
hope that wherever you are that you're well and enjoying the last of summer.
with all the chaos in the world, remaining hopeful and optimistic can be a real challenge. sometimes the little things we can do every day to live more mindfully...eating local, organic food; reducing, reusing and recycling; being mindful of consumption of goods and resources...feel a bit like a drop in the bucket. nothing much compared to the massive scope of the degradation around us.
however, despite a little personal backlash lately...feeling really disheartened, like no small act will ever make a difference...i've decided to reinvigorate my practices around mindful consumption and stewardship of the planet. although i still drive a car and take an occassional airplane ride, i'm trying to avoid unnecessary trips. also, i'm trying to avoid packaging as much as possible when i go to the market, by using my own containers and bags. and, by not purchasing things that are toxic, superfluous, or wasteful in the first place.
there's actually a lot we can do on the home front...our daily realm...so, i'm (re)starting there. while i already support our local organic farmers at the markets and send henry's lunch to school in a nifty stainless steel lunch box, i'm trying to do more by avoiding plastic and other packaging all together (which can actually be pretty difficult). along with using cloth bags for produce and bulk items and to tote my groceries home in, i'm reinvigorating my 'no plastics' rule even when/if it means not buying some of the things i prefer at the market. only buying those which are unpackaged or in fully recyclable containers. just this week, i changed laundry soap and nixed several other items off my list all together due to plastic, wasteful, or nonrecyclable packaging.
after emailing with the ecology center, a wonderful resource for mindful consumption here in berkeley, i found out that lots of the things i've been throwing into the curbside bucket aren't in fact even recyclable. they wind up in the landfill and/or floating around out in the ocean (!). so, no more little aseptic containers of juice, tofu, or soup stock for this family. and, no more cookies from trader joe's. doesn't sound like much, i know, and in the grand scheme of things i suppose it really isn't. but, as i go about my daily life...in the realm of mothering and homemaking...i have to believe that some of the little things i do can and will make a difference. however small. here's hoping.
an often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, somewhat irreverant accounting of one woman's journey from stressed out skeptic to fully devoted yogini. in this delightfully engrossing memoir, claire dederer reveals how she became strengthened not only physically through her yoga practice, but how her path also allowed her to come to terms with many aspects of her emotional life as well...both past and present...to put some things to rest and live more peaceably in her body, family and community. great book!!!
today, on earth day, i'm just praying for some healing for our poor planet, frankly. the mess we're in and the havoc we're wreaking is simply beyond my scope of understanding. it's been a real challenge for me to remain optimistic in this regard lately, but my intention is to find a way(s) to use my power as one voice/body to cultivate hope wherever, whenever, and however i'm able. may we all be well. may we all be safe. may we all be peaceful. may we all be free.
there really are no words to describe the level of devastation from the recent earthquake and tsunami in japan...the unfathomable destruction and loss...the grim tally and accounting of people and things that are gone forever. and, it's even harder to understand the sheer horror of those nuclear reactors melting down still. the known and unknown impact on our planet. contaminated air, land, ocean, food and water. the insanity of such a dangerous and uncontrollable technology in the first place. it's so horrorific as to be completely incomprehensible.
more than once these past few weeks since this domino effect of disasters began, i've found myself in some pretty gnarly places...full of anxiety, sadness, fear...and, frankly, have had some real difficulty functioning. last night was another night of laying awake listening to the incessant rain and worrying. literally, 'sweating it'. how do we make sense of such things and go on doing the things that need doing every day. how do we keep moving in our lives with so much sorrow and fear vibrating through our minds/bodies. and, specifically as parents, how do we manage such difficult emotions while remaining available and hopeful for our children and the world we're raising them into. sadly, i do not really know.
but, in a fit of somewhat controlled anxiety and panic last week, i sat down on my meditation cushion and remembered that the only place we can ever truly rest is in the moment; just this breath. which may sound feeble given the level of calamity and suffering we're talking about...not just in japan, but in libya and so many other places in the world right now, too...but, it's true. for, no real 'safety' exists outside of our own ability to find hope, peace and compassion in the moment any way. so, we cry and pray; we donate money to disaster relief; we vote and work for policy change; we get involved in our communities; we sit on our meditation cushions; and we make breakfast for our children and head out into the day. in short, we do our best to hold it all; to be present. and, that is all.
henry is suddenly all about the 'super hero'...the boots, the masks, THE CAPES...and, of course, the running and jumping and flying everywhere. and, while it's thrilling to see his fertile imagination blossoming...i love eavesdropping on his super hero conversations...i also worry that this getting bigger thing necessarily means getting 'tougher', too.
so, once again the sweet baby grows and, while it's really exciting to watch, i also kind of find myself mourning whatever may be falling away. every graduation onto the next thing...'big boy' this and 'big boy' that...always leaves me packing up the little boy stuff and wondering how/where the time has gone. as the soft becomes a bit more hardy, i feel both happy and sad.
of course, we want our children to grow hardy and strong...independence and self reliance are certainly desireable...but what about the toughness, the roughness, and sometimes the rudeness??? a phase, maybe...seems henry's enjoying trying on these hats as well...but, while certainly natural and healthy it can also be a bit of a shock, too. hopefully, some softness remains.
as parents we keep finding we have to (and get to) let go again and again...give up some of the control as our babies become more capable...and it's both a relief and a bit of a let down. as each skill is mastered...whether it's reliably feeding himself or being able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound...his need for us decreases. that's the good AND the bad news.
so, as the super hero takes off...perparing to fight the battles of the day...we hope he's fast enough and strong enough and yet soft enough, too. as our baby becomes a big boy, we hope the foundation we've set is sturdy and that he's able to navigate the world skillfully...that he uses his super powers to thwart the 'villians' and to help kitties from the trees, too...and, we hope the world is kind to our super hero in return.
this is the post i meant to write closer to thanksgiving...about gratitude for being alive and healthy and all my many blessings...but, i got bogged down in the other stuff that gets in the way of gratitude. let's just call it a little 'funk'.
the month of november began with news of an old friend's passing. not 'old' in that he was old...he was not yet fifty...but, old in that i had known him for a long time. he was a vigorous and stubborn sort, so it was a bit of a surprise. although, that death should ever really be a 'surprise' is kind of funny. not funny ha ha, just strange.
then there was thanksgiving, which was several days of planning, procuring and cooking that culminated in about 20 minutes of actual seated eating. slow,
thoughtful dining experiences just do not happen with a toddler...why do i still not know this...i'll not attempt this festive feast for just the three of us again. take out, anyone? the saving
grace was some soaking and floating at indian springs (see rubber ducky above).
then there was my birthday...as one friend so kindly put it, my '40ish' birthday...and let's just say it was slightly heavier than i thought it would be. the 'getting older' is compounded by actually 'feeling older' since becoming a mother and by not having a full night's sleep in a couple years. there may actually be something to the whole concept of 'beauty sleep' after all. yikes.
anyway, now we're barreling ahead into the remaining winter holidays with rarely enough time to pause for contemplation or reflection. life just keeps marching on...ready or not...it can be a bit overwhelming, and it's difficult to find the space to process it all. but, then there's the practice...of finding inner spaciousness...that keeps calling us back. if not to actually sit in silent meditation, to at least pause and breathe and remember our one precious life. and, to be grateful for just being alive and well...perhaps that is enough...to come out of the drama and say a simple prayer for our blessings.
so, as an ode to gratitude...belated and belabored though it may be...and in honor of my friend stephen, on this chilly winter day, i'll leave you with this excerpt of a poem by one of my favorite poets:
'the summer day'
...I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
from the author of 'momma zen', karen maezen miller does it again; elegant, concise insights on parenting and family life that are as reassuring as they are poetic and thought provoking. this book is a gem and, since it's one of the few i've read lately that's NOT from the library, a keeper. aside from being a mother and a zen priest, maezen miller is a woman moving through midlife and is a real inspiration to this forty-something momma. full of grace, humility, and good humor, she'd be my dream next door neighbor!!!
a beautiful memoir about a woman who loses a job and finds herself by slowing down, really listening and finding the true rhythm of her life. another inspiring story of a woman and a mother who reinvents herself at midlife (are you starting to notice a theme in my reading?) and...rising from the ashes of what she thinks she knows about love, life, and happiness...finds a more authentic life in 'the slow lane'. if you've lost something you thought defined you...a job, house, or relationship...this is for you.
the story of a woman and a mother at midlife (!!!) whose faith is deeply shaken by her daughter's struggle with a potentially life-threatening illness. in this memoir (another theme), we follow the author through the trials and tribulations of her young daughter's health crisis and through her own crisis of faith and hope. another insightful book by a teacher...looked to by others for 'the answers'...who has to find her own way through the dark night and reassess what matters, what she believes in, and just where god is through it all.
happily, our family made it to green gulch's 'first sundays' children's program this month...a real victory, i'll tell you...seems things are so overly busy that often we don't make it. however, getting there is just the first step. the trick of course is then to ARRIVE and be present for the experience. and, that's not always so easy.
the morning was simply glorious...the light was magical, the weather was warm...but, i had a hard time 'being there'. if you know what i mean. let's just say that henry, while being an absolutely delightful child, is becoming his own person. and, as every parent of a toddler can attest, that process is not always pretty.
but, it wasn't really about henry and his insistence on doing everything 'himself' and in his own sweet time. in fact, it wasn't any one of a number of things i could have blamed...for, as the buddha taught, freedom is possible in every moment despite external circumstances...but that didn't stop me. let's just say i was challenged.
however, what finally became evident to me...especially now in retrospect...is that being present, if not finding joy in the moment, is simply a practice. and, practice takes...um, well...practice. and, success of any kind...in this case merely being present...is not a matter of luck but of our willingness to practice, practice, practice.
aside from this valuable insight...which i keep rediscovering...i also realized that the power of practicing in community is that we are held up and carried along by the people practicing beside us when we can't or don't see beyond our own cares and concerns. so, i'm grateful for that and for my own personal, in-house little buddha for reminding me that being present is just like anything else. it takes practice.
the gift of an ordinary day: a mother's memoir by katrina kenison
so far, this may be one of the wisest, sweetest, and most reassuring books i've read yet on the overwhelming, rewarding, heartbreaking, and deeply enriching
work of being a mother. and, over the past two plus years i've been reading a lot of them. just a little over one hundred pages in, i'm thouroughly enjoying this book. and, in fact, vacilate
wildly between consuming it ravenously and savoring it as slowly as possible. which is how i know i'm really loving it.
after two years and a few months of full time 'mommying', i finally gave myself permission to take a day off...an entire day, 28 hours to be exact...and i spent that day at one of my favorite places in one of my favorite little towns on earth (or, at least in california): indian springs in calistoga. the day began, as every day should, with mud...thick, warm, silky-soft mud...and it only got better from there. after my soak, steam, and scrub, i proceeded to spend the rest of the day poolside. olympic-sized and filled with warm mineral water, the pool at indian springs is not your average pool, but a nearly mystical experience. so, as i floated...rendered weightless not only by the mineral content in the water but also, i believe, by pure giddy joy at being alone...layers of tension and holding from all those hours (about 19,608 hours to be exact) of being 'on', slowly began to melt from my mind and body one by one. oh, and did i happen to mention that i was all by myself; as in ALONE???
indian springs has always been a mini mecca for me, and i have returned there to soak and steam and float many times over the past ten years or so. in fact, the pool there has become a kind of 'holding pond' at various times through my life for lots of grief and sadness but also for lots of joy and celebration, too. it is the first place i think of when i'm going through a major life transition...a place where i seek refuge...and i've gone there to soak during and after significant break ups, make ups, and break downs; for my 'baby moon' when i was 39 weeks pregnant and bursting at the seams (ah, the bliss of being gravity-free!); as well as on the morning of my wedding day.
and, this time was no different from the others...i went seeking refuge, to be held through yet another transition in the 'arms' of that healing mud and water...and it was delightful. after so many hours, days, weeks, and months of being at anothers' beck and call...which is what full time, stay at home parenting is...i had finally arrived at a place where there was nowhere to go and nothing left to get done. in otherwords: paradise. and, the powerful sense of spaciousness i experienced was like opening all the windows and doors of my mind and body...like airing out rooms, dusting off shelves, shedding light into the shadows of every corner...and i was rejuvenated. the fact that it took two years to get there...to were i felt like i could take a break and walk away...only served to intensify the pleasure of the day.
so, while it was a long time coming, and arguably could have happened sooner...and definitely should happen more often...i tried to not let that diminish this major milestone and accomplishment; letting go and taking some space. as any mother can tell you...and, perhaps fathers, too...it isn't always easy to wrangle back a little bit of the energy you've dedicated to having children in order to create some breathing room for yourself. but, once it's done, and then hopefully becomes a practice, the benefits of a little solitude...of taking some time to yourself in a place of refuge...ripples outward. and, even though they're tiny, those ripples are mighty, magical, medicinal...sustaining you in your work of parenting...and perhaps one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family.
in short, it was a perfect day...long and slow and nowhere to go...and i (re)learned something powerful not only about taking space but also about relaxing and letting go. and, just for the record, despite my somewhat neurotic imaginings to the contrary, i returned home after my 28 hours of blissful solitude and everybody was just fine (note to self...).
oil is STILL spilling into the gulf of mexico...a sensless accident that could have been prevented...it's such a sad state of affairs. what to do longterm about our dependency on oil, i don't know...being mindful of our consumption might be a great first start...but, it seems that off shore drilling is just a needless flirting with disaster. once again, corporate industry seems to be getting away with horrible trespasses against life and nature. and, it makes me sad...sad to be part of the maddness that is this addiction to oil...and, so, so sad for the ocean and all the marine life and for all the damage and distruction done, both seen and unseen.
there are several petitions out there right now calling for action...so far, i've signed this one and this one...please consider adding your voice to the growing numbers around the world calling for more awareness and accountability. it's not much, considering the state of affairs, but it's at least something. find out more about how you can become a steward of our oceans and all the life that she supports (yours, mine).
now that i'm a mother i can appreciate not only how wonderful and miraculous it is to raise a child, but also how difficult and heartbreaking it can be, too. as a way of describing the emotional sensation related to motherhood, someone once likened it to 'giving birth to your own heart', and i think that summation perfectly captures the level of rawness and vulnerability that goes along with being a mother. so, along with this new awareness, i've been feeling a lot more understanding and deep gratitude for the work my own mother has done all these years. motherhood is a tough job and there's a lot of uncertainty involved. the fear that you might screw something up or that you're letting someone down is almost constant. or, maybe that's just me. or, maybe that's just the newness of my motherhood. maybe it gets easier. but, i somehow doubt it.
however, i imagine that with time, our capacity for holding all the awe and anxiety and joy and overwhelm and bliss and fear and ecstacy and doubt and all the rest becomes deeper and wider. and that maybe, eventually, we come into a state of grace around this heart that has been born from, yet lives on the outside of, our bodies...as a completely independent being...and we find a way to relax into the great unknown and embrace this uncertainty that has become our lives as mothers. let's hope so. and, now i also understand even better the wisdom in establishing a place of stillness and silence and prayer...a place to cultivate grace and mercy and forgiveness...as this may be the only way to survive as a mother. finding grace may be the only way to reconcile your living, beating heart walking around vulnerable in a not always so hospitable environment: accidents, illness, and injuries; schoolyard bullies; adolescent angst; sex, drugs and rock and roll; broken hearts; social and environmental degradation. these are just a few of the gobblins and ghouls that can keep a mother up at night.
now i can fully appreciate why mothers are so seemingly crazy or neurotic about the safety of their children and how they might go to any lengths to protect
them. given that, i'm especially looking forward to seeing the new movie, 'babies', and...even without seeing
it...think it should be required viewing. because, if people really embraced the truth that each baby, every child, is a precious being and that everyone loves their babies with the same
intensity the whole world over, it would be impossible to wage war on another country regardless of other motivations. and, looking into one child's eyes would be like looking into your own
child's eyes and it would be unthinkable to harm them. but, of course, we already know that is not the case. that plenty of wars are waged and continue to rage worldwide despite our knowing that
life is precious, that children and babies are precious. so, i don't know what will make that change. but, thank goodness for the 'grannies against the wars', and their acts of selfless, loving
'mothering'. maybe someday we'll learn and they won't have to gather on the streets in all kinds of weather anymore. maybe these mothers and grandmothers can finally rest and stop worrying about
the safety and well being of the babies and children and people of the world.
so, maybe it both does and doesn't 'get better'. maybe there's grace to get us through the darker moments and we do our best to raise happy, healthy well adjusted children who become happy, healthy peaceloving world citizens. but, whether that happens or not...whether good sense, mindfulness and loving care are enough to protect our children...we let them go as gracefully as possible and allow their lives to unfold. heart of our hearts. but, our love is infinite and, therefore, our 'work' as mothers is never done. and, if there's enough energy left over from the wellspring that is the resevoir of a mother's love, we too may find ourselves on the streets as eighty and ninety year old women protesting the abomination of war. i hope not. but, if so, i'll see you there.
and, lastly, since this may not be the most uplifting post to date, i'll leave you with a book recommendation that's a little bit lighter: 'lift', by kelly corrigan...a very sweet little book...happy reading and happy mother's day.
so, suddenly my little baby is two years old...where has the time gone...and the transformation is astonishingly complete. last week he was still a sweet baby. and, now, he's most definitley a 'big boy'. he wants to do it by himself. he's stringing together the most creative and engaging mini sentences ever uttered. he throws his long-legged, curly-headed, pink-cheeked body around to get his way, to emphasize an important point, or just to be goofy or dramatic. and, when he's really exasperated, he has started whispering 'dammit' under his breath. in fact, in the store the other evening...tired of being led on yet another errand too close to dinner time...he ran down an aisle 'whispering' that word repeatedly and rather loudly. what can i say, it was not ideal, but i had to agree with his assesment. and, it was just another reminder to be more mindful in my efforts of being conscientious of such things; not only my language (practicing right speech), but of not running myself and henry around ragged, trying to do too much, and to keep things simple. even if it is for good reason that you find yourself in the grocery store past dinner time...looking for those ecoware cups for the birthday party...letting simplicity be the final word. just doing less even if/when the intention behind the doing is good.
anyway, the party was a success...despite everything i worried about not having just right...the weather was gorgeous, the kids were in good spirits, the impromptu jam session was fun, the party hats were cute, and the homemade cupcakes were tasty. and, most importantly, the birthday boy was happy. in fact, he was ecstatic and is still working through all the excitement from the week's events, the party itself being only the culmination of it all. much of his excitement had to do with receiving his first real 'big boy bike', which he's parted with very regretfully only long enough to eat and sleep a few times since receiving. in fact, after being awoken by some rustling around in the kitchen this morning at dawn, i had to go pick him up off the bike and bring him back to bed. and, needless to say, he was not pleased. so, thank you to our benevolent friends...it's the perfect gift...henry is appreciating it beyond description.
so, aside from all the festivities and over stimulation, the thing i've been feeling this week around henry's birthday is a little bittersweetness. on the one hand it's so amazing to see him growing up before our eyes and it's a wonder to watch him becoming the person he was born to be. and, then on the other, it's astounding to feel...to really feel it in your body...the truth of how fleeting this time together is and knowing there's no slowing it down. that eventually, sooner than we might like, this little one will be up and out the door and down the road living his very own life. and, even this most beloved possession...this shiny new trike...will be just another artifact of his childhood. which pretty much goes without saying...it's obvious, kids grow up...but, it's just another thing i 'knew' but didn't really understand until the child was mine and i was the momma.
regarding this obvious, universal law of parenting...that we all must eventually let our children go...i read a wonderful article yesterday morning on the new york times parenting blog, 'motherlode', and thought you might enjoy it, too. happy reading...and, happy birthday, henry.
seeking peace: chronicles of the worst buddhist in the world by mary pipher
bad mother: a chronicle of maternal crimes, minor calamities, and occasional moments of grace by ayelet waldman
simplicity parenting: using the extraordinary power of less to raise calmer, happier, and more secure kids by kim john payne and lisa m. ross
jonathan just returned from teaching in india for two weeks and we're glad to have him safely home. however, i've got to admit that single parenting definitely has its advantages. while the days were long and often challenging, there is something to be said for just two people negotiating the day together rather than three. and, as we're henry's sole caregivers...meaning that we stagger our working schedules so that one of us is always with him (and, all three of us are often all together, for better or for worse!)...we're in constant negotiation. so, although we feel blessed to be doing it and wouldn't have it any other way, it can be very tricky and even the simplest tasks can become emotionally charged.
henry and i had some interesting times together over the course of the two weeks and we each grew and learned a lot in that time. my main insight was how psychologically draining it can be to be someone's 'one and only' (especially a toddler someone) and henry seemed to have a developmental leap around feelings...'sad' became a new word associated with any explanation of daddy's abscence...and a leap around expression in general, both verbal and nonverbal. so, thank goodness for skype for keeping our family connected during our daily conversations. with 12 and half hours seperating us, we gathered together...albeit on opposite sides of the day/clock...to say our 'good mornings' and our 'good nights', which provided a nice rhythm to the day and helped us all feel a little more grounded and connected as a family.
in the evenings after henry was asleep, although exhausted, i had some rare free time to myself to read, watch movies or just stare at the wall...which felt pretty luxurious...a spaciousness that, for whatever reason, doesn't generally present itself at the end of the day. maybe because when we're alone we view time and space differently than when we're negotiating the needs and/or feelings of another. regardless, the 'alone time' was good. one of the first movies i watched on the computer (we don't have a tv, the wisdom of which i started questioning seriously during those two weeks, but more on that later) was 'motherhood' with uma thurman, a perfectly light and silly look at the absurdities of parenting and especially the strange phenomena of 'super mommahood'. although the main character is not a single mother she, like many mommas i'm sure (myself included), either actually does it all...taking care of the cooking, the shopping, the planning, the kids, the dog, the car, the elderly neighbor lady, etc...or just feels as though it's all on her shoulders. and, laying there exhausted, watching...after just three long days alone with henry and many more to go...i could definitely relate.
the next movie i watched was 'no impact man'...also a movie about a couple raising a family in the city and the circus of challenges that ensue..which was a very different experience; less about one person shouldering all the responsibility and more about the choices we make around consumption and the legacy we want to leave our children. from diapers to take-out food to eating organically/locally and staying awake without caffiene (!), this movie really got me thinking about my own consumption and encouraged me to reinvigorate my commitment to remain mindful around the impact our family has on the planet. and, there was definitley a lot of negotiating going on between this couple, too...almost the most interesting piece of the story for me...but a bit more balance between them in their work of parenting. although it wasn't my intention, these movies were kind of fun to watch back-to-back and made a good double feature.
anyway, it's nice to be back together and negotiating our way through the days together again as a cohesive unit. which is not to say it isn't challenging...because it certainly is...but, raising a child takes a lot of energy and it's important to learn how to share this work skillfully. regardless, my hat is definitley off to all those single parents out there...whether on a full or part-time, temporary basis... and/or to everyone who sometimes feels like they're doing it all on their own. raising happy, healthy kids...solo or otherwise...on a happy, healthy planet is a lot of work but, i think, well worth the effort and energy.
a couple sundays ago, henry and i drove out to green gulch farm to participate in the sunday children's program and had a fantastic time. having spent a life changing week there several years ago...one that put me on a firmer path of spiritual inquiry, discovery and service...i was eager to share the experience with henry and was definitely not disappointed. aside from truly being a slice of heaven on earth, what i discovered during this latest visit to green gulch is that it is a wonderful place for families to practice together.
after the car ride from berkeley, henry was a little antsy inside the zendo and wasn't particularly interested in sitting still. although, he did enjoy the ritual of stacking our shoes in the cubbies outside the door, the ringing of the meditation bell, and the lighting of the insense to call in the buddha. however, once seated...on the floor, right down front...henry was more interested in the teacher's tea cup that sat steaming just a few feet away from him than the story. so, after just a few minutes of squirming off and on his cushion...in an effort to get a little closer to the tea cup...i decided to take him outside into the beautiful spring sunshine instead.
then, after about 10 minutes of running wild in the grass outside, the rest of the kids filed out of the zendo with a momma, daddy and/or granparent in tow and we all walked into the garden together. for the next hour or so, our fearless guide...a lovely gray-headed zen priest whom i recognized from my previous stint at green gulch...joyfully led us in building an altar, saying a prayer to buddha, and planting our seeds and hopes for a healthy harvest. needless to say, the kids took right to the digging of dirt, inspecting of worms, and laying on of compost and there wasn't a clean hand among us once we were done.
but, clean our hands we did, for next it was off to the herb garden to have a delicious snack of muffins and apple juice...and a little more running around...which officially brought our time together to a close. however, seeing that it was such a gorgeous day, henry and i weren't quite ready to get back into the car. so, we elected to stay for lunch before we hit the road again. but, after a lovely bowl of soup, a lively salad and some delicious home baked bread, we decided we couldn't put off the inevitable any longer and got back in the car to head home for a well deserved afternoon nap.
when, not 15 minutes into our journey home, the back seat suddenly grew very quiet i realized that henry was fast asleep (one of only less than a handful of times he's done so in his car seat!). so, i'm not sure if it was the fresh air, the good food, or the rest that comes with practice, but it doesn't really matter. all i know is that my heart was at ease as we rolled on down the road and i was feeling very hopeful that the seeds we planted together that morning would indeed grow healthy and strong.
so, here it is gentle readers...my first actual foray into the blogging world...please understand that i have absolutely no idea what i'm doing. my hope is that this will be a fairly effortless way of sharing my experiences as a 'mindful momma'. my intention is to share as openly as possible...with an eye towards my family's privacy, of course...and to reach out to other mommas (and poppas, for that matter) on this crazy path of parenthood. my greatest desire is to serve and connect and become/remain grounded while raising a happy family.
in an effort towards brevity and simplicity, each entry will probably tend towards the 'short and sweet' unless i have a particular insight, rant and/or nap time goes long. the focus will be on whatever is present in the moment...whatever inspires me to write...whether it's to share an opinion, a recipe, or just a sweet moment from the day (like coming down the hall and finding henry lazing in a patch of spring sunshine on his bedroom floor). for now, i'll leave you with a book recommendation; coop: a year of poultry, pigs and parenting by michael perry. it's a delightful and heart warming book; i really loved it and maybe you will, too.
this will eventually be a place for me to share my insights on mindful parenting and adventures in conscious family life.
however, as anyone who is on a similar journey knows, there are only so many hours in the day. so, we'll see what naturally arises.
for now, this is empty space with infinite potential which beckons my attention.
there is more to come...please stay tuned!!!
For the bird of enlightenment to fly, it must have two wings; the wing of wisdom and the wing of compassion.