Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tummy Troubles = Insight

It is said the World is our teacher, so I guess illness - or in my case, a tweaky tummy - is like a private tutor. For the past week or so both Cowgirl and I have had mildly annoying discomforts in the belly region and while there are lots of "bugs" going around, I have to suspect in my case there is something more afoot. Certainly anxiety and stress at work is not helping me but for goodness sakes, I'm a yoga teacher! So I ought to know how to let it all wash over me, right?

This morning while walking the dog I had time to ponder my situation as my empty tummy was reminding me to pay attention. The sensation was of my innards like a fist tightly gripping onto something. I was reminded of the sensation when I first lie down in savasana or relaxation pose; I have to conscious tell my body to relax, let go, and surrender. Surrender what? Besides the usual baggage of feelings, wounds, worries and doubts there is also this sense of me holding tightly onto this concept of, well, Me. All the stuff that constitutes who I believe myself to be in this moment - my history, my successes, my failures, my wounds and my beliefs and attitudes - all this ME MINE MY that is pastiched together into a kind of Surrealist collage entitled "I." I realized, as my stomach gave me another loving squeeze, that as I move through my life with this tightly held concept of myself, this clinging to Me-ness is preventing me from opening to something new, something fresh, something more genuine and true.

Okay, okay, I am getting lofty here but let me give you more concrete details. I've been feeling a bit bogged down emotionally and realized I need to work on my perspective a bit. As crazy as this sounds, with my life filling up with activities, new projects and classes, I decided I needed to sign up for another ecourse. I had been contemplating the Creative Goddess Course even though the cynical, East Coaster in me was rolling my eyes and snapping my gum over all the gushing cheerfulness oozing from every image, word, and video posting on the site. It just seemed a tad too happy for me. And when I caught myself thinking that way, I realized that is exactly what I need right now: a happy, cheerful, positive, cup-not-half-but-completely-full attitude and I had better get my butt into that course pronto!

So the course started this week and I am loving every moment of it. One component of the course is a weekly meditation/guided relaxation. I did the first one yesterday and I don't want to give anything away, but during the practice I had this beautifully liberating experience of my heart filling up with joy and just blasting away all the petty thoughts and doubts that have been roosting in my head. The gripping sensation was gone and I was flooded with this energy from the outside in.

Spiraling back to my morning walk, as I thought about my holding myself so tightly and then that sensation of being open and receptive, I was reminded of an image used by one of my favorite spiritual teachers, Eknath Easwaran. He writes about how monkeys were caught in his native India by using a jar with a piece of fruit inside. The monkey would reach inside and grab the fruit but then grasping the fruit, he would be unable to remove his hand, and so he would sit there, stuck. In a very visceral way, I experienced my stuckedness in terms of my ego or self clinging to this static notion of who I am and what I am capable of doing. The experience of joy flooding in reminded me there is another way to be and clinging, grabbing, seeking so damned hard, is not it.

And as things always go in these kinds of matters, I was heading off to bed and realizing I finished my book last night, I grabbed another book that has been lying around. You know the book: the one you bought years ago because it promised to be exactly what you need to know at that time; but then you start it, and it is good, but the words just don't connect with your understanding and so it sits unfinished. Until that day you absentmindedly grab it and this time marvel "how could I not have read this before?!"

So I open up my book on the Yoga Sutras and am only at the third sutra in the first book. This is the sutra after the one that provides the definition of Yoga. Traditionally the third sutra reads: Then the seer abides in his own nature." Once you are in yoga, then you experience your true self, which no one really describes; it is up to us to experience that state. So imagine the thrill of reading "United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature - joy."

Back to joy. And go figure I have bought as gifts 2 necklaces stamped with the word joy. So the mission that I am accepting is to let go of trying so hard to be, find,grab onto or create anything and instead open myself to what is swirling all around me and is indeed my spiritual birthright: joy. I don't have to do anything, because it is already and always has been there. But I do need to open myself up and live in this truth. Because I truly do believe we are divine beings having a human existence and this ride is a gift to savor, not simple move through. But that's another topic.

Now I am off to play in some art. To let art arise rather than making something. Like Michelangelo, I want the process to be about freeing the image from the materials. Not that I am comparing myself to Michelangelo, but I am returning to that model of the artist as divinely inspired and not a tortured soul. I'm saying, the torture is optional. I'm choosing Joy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Despite my grumblings, i have to admit, my cup is pretty full ...

This was in my email inbox on Cowgirl's birthday:

I can assure you, Lisa, that the time will come when you, too, will ask, "In what fields did I sow seeds to deserve so very, very much?" Then I'll remind you that the whole sowing-seeds-cause-and-effect concept was just a myth, because you were born deserving. Hosanna in the Highest, The Universe

When I take time to slow down, breath, and look around I have admit, life is pretty good in my little world. Off to celebrate Autumn days with hot cocoa and a rousing game of chutes and ladders. How do you celebrate the blessings?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Cowgirl!

Holy Moly! Today Cowgirl is 5 years old ... when did this happen? When did she grow so much? And what in the world is going on with all these sightings of fairies, angels and praying mantises? So the next few days will be madness as the official birthday party at the pumpkin patch is tomorrow (looks like the weather will be nice - hallelujah!) and lots to do today. So here is the pictorial recap so far (it's not even 10 am yet) ...

First off ... a lot happening in the growing up department. Two mornings ago I was making breakfast when I hear this noise ... a whistle. As Cowgirl was the only one in the room, except for Moose who has furry lips, no whistle from him, I looked at her and she looked shocked. "Did you whistle?" I asked her. "I think so!" And then she puckered up and blew and blew and then ... a whistle!

Now, you need a little background here to put this event into context. Awhile ago I told Cowgirl to stop growing! And she replied "I have to keep growing; I have to learn to whistle." So when she was whistling 2 days before turning 5, I immediately informed her "now you can stop growing!" She sighed and sadly informed me "Mommy, I can't stop growing."

This morning Cowgirl came downstairs and discovered the fairies had decorated the table with flowers (this was her request - flowers!) and paper cranes and a new origami swan (yeah, I was online at 10:30 trying my hand at various origami creations and settled for a bird) and a card in her mailbox and a special present.

A fairy house!

A fairy horse!

The rest of the morning was a blur and mommy realizes she needs that lovely $400 lens that would allow indoor pictures with less blur. Hear that fairies?!

And look what I discovered waiting for us on the back door?

Another praying mantis. I went back to take his picture and discovered this ...

Another even bigger one! That makes 3 in one month. So I had to look the totem up online. They are associated with energy flow or chi and the notion of moving according to our instincts and personal bio rhythm. Hmmm... and then there was this:

"Patient, perceptive and focused this little totem holds a powerful message. When it appears in your life it is asking you to direct your energy, your thoughts or your actions in a different way. Asking the following questions can give you the insight necessary to motivate appropriate changes. Have I lost patience with a particular situation? Have I been too patient, and if so, has this had a detrimental affect on me? Is my perception correct regarding a situation? Have I become narrow minded? Am I focused on my objective?"

Too much for me to digest right now. Right now the mini car track is being set up, scones are in the oven and I have a party to get ready for. Suffice to say, I am grateful for this all; I am inspired by angels and fairies as magic is all around us right now; and I am trusting the weather gods will not rain on our pumpkin parade. Everything else is going to be a blur of action and craziness.

Happy Birthday my sweet girl. I love you to the Milky Way and back again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Antidote to a hard day

Get outside ... look around ... notice the changes ...

Look up and allow spaciousness to fill you ...

Make art ... better yet, make angels ...

(Thank you Goddess Leonie for this great idea!)

Be a little wild ... wear mismatched socks ...

Failing all else, try a change of perspective.

And always open for more suggestions ...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Excuse me while i whine a bit

Last night while I was making dinner, I could hear a child crying in the distance and while it sounded like Cowgirl, it didn't seem right. I wandered away from the stove to find her and her Pa Pa as she calls him, sitting in front of the computer watching old video footage from our first months home when she was just two years old. These are movies I haven't seen since they were shot because, well, while my husband does teach film making, that skill extends to his students and not the mounds of data sitting inside the magic box that is the computer. But that's another story ...

So I walk in to find the two of them engrossed in these home movies. One was Cowgirl playing with stacking cups while we were still in China; another was her doing an impromptu impression of Cookie Monster long before she every spoke a coherent word to us; another one was her signing for more food and cackling like a deranged tyrant, gloating over her power to control us, her willing pineapple providers.

Then there was one where she was obviously babbling a tirade at us, slapping her cheeks, sighing deeply, rolling her eyes, hands and arms flapping away. I watched myself in the movie walk up to her and said "Wo ai ni" which is mandarin for "I love you." She immediately softened, got this gooey look upon her face and sweetly replied "hao" which means good. I had forgotten she used to do that. And in watching all these moments of my baby being a baby I was hit by the sucker punch that every parent must experience when they tangibly know their child is growing up.

I mean, I had forgotten so much of this stuff which I swore I could never forget. And to see her chubby little cheeks, her toddling around like a umpa lumpa, I was almost paralyzed by the sense that all of this is slipping through my fingers. A dear friend and mama mentor reminds me frequently that there are no do-overs and to enjoy every bit of this gig called motherhood. So here comes my whine ... I am desperate that this is our last year before she enters kindergarten and school full time. I know for many families, there is no choice; both parents must work. And I am very fortunate to have a part time job with flexibility and to work a 4 day schedule. But I am greedy: I am still not satisfied. I want more. I want more open time that isn't crammed between nap and dinner time; I want to feel free to act spontaneously, deciding what we will do based upon our moods, whims, and the weather; I want to have more energy and emotional space available for my child and our time together and that has been hard with my current life.

I know something will have to change and it will probably have to be my attitude. The concept in Yoga is called Pratipaksha Bhavana and it means when we are troubled by disturbing or disquieting thoughts or feelings, we are to cultivate the opposite attitude. So if someone is annoying me, I am to think about the sweet face of my child to soften my heart and direct my energy in a positive way. My problem is, my monkey mind will lead me back to the fact that I am missing my child and that I am stuck at my desk while she is busying growing up without me there to witness it.

Can you tell I'm really wallowing in it? How do other mothers handle these feelings? How do you find peace in your situation? What is a healthy balance?

Oh, and the theme for Best Shot Monday is play. The little guy up front here I bought in China way before Cowgirl was old enough to play with him. She loves him now. He blinks and winks and chirps "Hiccup hiccup I yie yie." He reminds me of how little I knew about children back at the beginning of this wonderful adventure. I know a bit more and am better at improvising the rest.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Open for a Miracle

A miracle: when the impossible becomes possible; receiving my heart's desire when I'm not even sure what that would be.

Today I am trusting: that miracles are more ordinary than we are lead to believe.
Today I am grateful for: hugs. When things seem tough, I try to remember to ask for a hug. It is a miracle with arms and a sweet smell.

Today I am inspired by: my practice. I have to do my part. As zen teacher Suzuki Roshi so beautifully put it: “Gaining enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual practice simply makes us accident-prone.”

And if all else fails, then a rice crispie treat will do in a pinch.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Parenting as Final Exam

I will preface this by stating what may be obvious: I am a bit of a nerd. But one thing I loved about college courses was the final exam. Okay, maybe love is a little strong of a sentiment, and I should qualify further by stating I enjoyed a well conceived final exam in a subject that excited me. Preparing for the final was a time to review all the material, taking hold of the various tools I had been given, and making it my own. It was a bringing together of everything I had learned and then seeing how well I could apply that knowledge. Light bulbs often would go off as my comprehension of things clicked into place.

I have found parenting is very much like taking an exam, only this one is in Life. So the stakes are higher. At a basic level, my child is always challenging my understanding of things, asking what words such as Consequence, Appreciation, or Expression (as in, that's just an expression of speak) mean. There is the usual follow-up to any explanation (what makes rain ?) with But why? I am constantly fine tuning explanations, delving deeper and deeper in topics hither-to considered.

Some questions and situations require a bit more soul-searching, and require me to take a position on a difficult topic. Are there bad people? is one recent example. As a parent, the reality of evil things in the world that threaten my child is very tangible, but do I ultimately believe someone is irredeemably bad? I explained to Cowgirl that there are people who have forgotten their goodness, and by believing themselves to be bad and they act in bad ways. And I do believe this; it helps to believe in karma and reincarnation as some acts are so heinous only a string of future lifetimes seems possible for redemption. But I felt that thought a little much for a four year old mind to take on.

In her three years with us, Cowgirl has seen her share of deaths. She was too young to grasp my father's passing when she had just turned two, but she knows Grandpa Art is died. She was very aware when we had to put to sleep the cat, and then 3 months later, the dog. In both cases I had her say goodbye and offer her love to both animals. It was an incredibly hard time, but more for me than her. I had to come to terms with what I truly believed about death as I wanted to share my beliefs with Cowgirl. As a parent, I feel it is my responsibility to model Truthfulness for my child. In Yoga this is the second of the Yamas (reflections of our true nature) and is called Satya or truthfulness & integrity in thought, word and deed.

This has always been a powerful practice for me as I tended to have a problem with the little lies. Like when someone would ask me to do something I didn't want to do, instead of saying so, I would make an excuse up. I came to understand that a compulsion to fib was masking a belief that my feelings or opinions or needs were not as valid as another person's. I did not feel I had the power or the right to say No which might entail putting myself first.

I also recognized the damage done to my self esteem by living in lies. Nischala Joy Devi writes: "The heart rests when it is in Satya." And I know my heart and spirit were not restful when I believed I could not express my truth and The Truth as I understood it.

It was a deeply healing experience to share the truth, as I understand it, about our animals passing with Cowgirl. I did not want to tell her they were going to a farm or a special park. We talked about the our bodies wearing out, and our souls out growing us and needing new forms to take on, much like we get new clothes when the old ones are worn or don't fit. And we talked about how when we love someone, they are never lost to us; we always know where they are because they are forever in our hearts. These ideas sit well in my soul; they feel right to me and I feel I am being truthful with my child.

So putting my practice, the lessons of my life, and the truths experienced in my heart all together as I teach and share with Cowgirl is like gathering all the concepts from a class and using them for the first time in the world outside the classroom. I stumble along at first, am a bit awkward, but then things fall into place and the power of living and parenting in Truth is exhilarating for all. I will never forget the moment I said I was missing our dog and Cowgirl sweetly explained "But mommy, Bandit is in our hearts ... he's not missing!"

Okay, so this is the parenting exam I aced. Don't worry, I have plenty of stories about the ones I've flunked. Not sure why this all came up today, but I wanted to share. And I couldn't resist starting with a sunflower. They are everywhere right now.

I would love to hear your stories.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stretching Myself

As I typed out the title for this entry, I was compelled to add "too thin!" I've definitely had a few too many pots cooking on my stove top and to stretch a image even further, I've felt a few times things may have bubbled over and burned. But I am choosing today to dwell on the positives and look at what I accomplished over the weekend. An attitude which is another stretch for me.

I held my first art workshop and I have to say, it went well. This little guy greeted me when I got to the studio ... I took it as a favorable sign.

I tried not to over prepare, allowing space for the class and the group to flow in its own direction. I did bring way too much stuff for the afternoon. I guess I was fully in child mode, meaning: I figured we would jump from project to project like my Cowgirl does. HA! The group really focused upon their journal covers and that is all we did in 3 hours time. I pulled out a lot of my goodies to share as future inspiration for materials or techniques; we did a relaxation/visualization practice to get the juices flowing and mostly, everyone created and shared. I caught myself at one pointing looking at the group, the room silent, and each person absorbed in her work. It was so inspiring so see the smiles on their faces and the sense of relaxation and ease as each person explored her vision for herself through art. The greatest gift were the requests for future get togethers ... my ulterior motive in presenting this workshop in the first place! So I am dubbing the day a success and resting a bit before turning my mind towards the next workshop: an art camp for girls and I already have some girls enrolled. YIKES.

Did I mention I was completely exhausted by the end of the day? I did catch myself wondering if I really am up for all this. I mean, it is easier, safer, more comfortable not to put myself out there. I caught myself contemplating a retreat back to business as usual; nice to do these workshops, but not on any regular basis. Then I started thinking about how any new pose or practice I try is usually awkward at first. There are new muscles screaming out their presence, questioning why I am bothering them and my mental muscles are not so different. Today I remembered a great explanation of yoga asanas: the act of consciously placing oneself in an uncomfortable situation to learn how to relax. And that is what I am doing - putting myself into these situations to stretch and grow. At first it is awkward and the task is to learn how to be comfortable, be myself, be truthful to my vision where ever and whatever I am doing.

I also was also reminded recently of something one of my yoga mentors told a group of us during our teacher training. She said after she did her training, it took her 5 years before she could gather the courage to teach. She said eventually her love of Yoga became greater than her fear of teaching. I am trying to remember that when I teach, that is the case for me. What I am doing I love so much, I want to share it with others. I am definitely not the most skillful in what I am teaching, but what I do have in buckets is the passion for the material. Both art making and Yoga are practices that have helped me find my voice, my power and I know it is the teachings that teach, not me. I just share the love.

What are your passions? How are they calling to you? Are you listening?

(I have received comments about not showing or talking about Moose dog very much on this blog. So here he is, modeling the necklaces Cowgirl made for him. He is always present for me, lying right by my feet at all times.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Choosing Play

I am getting ready to teach a new workshop this weekend and my usual mode of operation would be to panic, doubt what I've set up, and run around like a woman with her hair on fire attempting to do even more than I intended out of a sense of lack.

So today I am trusting myself and my inner resources. I know I have a great afternoon planned and all I can do is show up and be present for the participants, responding to what they will bring to the session with an open mind. If I get too structured, I tend to cling to that program without allowing space for a natural flow. As one of my yoga teachers wisely said: Planning is priceless; plans are useless.

Today I will allow play to be my inspiration. And I am grateful for my Cowgirl who inspired me to return to art making with a curious mind and spirit. I will do errands this afternoon, but this morning I am going to fill my own cup by doing some art and seeing where it leads me.

So here is my weekend gift to you:

An Invitation to Play

Let go of what you know

And what you think you ought to


Adopt the pace of a child,

And find

Time suspended

In the act of absorption.

What is before you?

What do you see?


Delight in discoveries

Awaiting our notice.

Open to

Whatever arises

And go with it.

No moment more important,

Than the one present before you.

Accept its gifts

With a curious mind, and

A full and grateful heart.

Choose wonder over


Delight over


Play over


Allow spaciousness

To permeate your being,

Providing an field of infinite possibilities

Available in each moment,

A vast sea of potential

Present in every action.

Return to what we all once knew:

Ourselves as something larger than our minds dare to envision.

Pure, endless awareness,




Expression of Joy

Life flowing in

And out

No pushing,

No holding back.

Yes, let go of your adult ways

And become the child you were,

Or the child you wish

You could have been.

Let yourself play again

And marvel in the treasures

You will find.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Here is my perpetual challenge: I pick Cowgirl up from school and we talk about her day as we drive home. Okay, so it is more me interrogating her to find out what went on and how she is doing. The basic attack is: Who did you eat lunch with? What did you do on the playground? Who did you work with? What did you enjoy doing today? And I am pretty good at teasing out the details from what little crumbs she offers me. I know how to angle about an issue to flesh out the story.

The part that kills me - I mean cripples me at my core - is when she tells me "no one would play with me." Not that she says this often, but when she does I am immediately thrust backwards in time to my childhood which was not all Laura Ingalls Wilder happiness and sunshine (okay, I know I am forgetting the Long Hard Winter and Mary's blindness, but you know what I mean.) I was a fat, chicklet-toothed, frizzy-haired, freckled and painfully shy kid. At least, that is how I remember it and it felt hard and lonely.

So I have to catch myself from over reacting when Cowgirl seems woeful about playing by herself. I mean, she is far from shy, very headstrong, and a social butterfly of a gal. We talk a lot about being bossy and not giving others a turn to choose what they want to do, which I suspect is what happens when she tells me no one would play with her. No one will play what she wants to play or the flip side which is she won't do what they want and so they find another partner.

I try to be neutral and not over react (oh, how terrible! how mean! Who are they?!) and I try to get the details so I can help her gain a larger perspective (sometimes the things we want to do are best done by ourselves ... we can work alone but that doesn't mean we are lonely) but still the doubts creep in. What if people are shunning her? (No overreaction there!) I mean, she is a tad domineering in a cute little female Napolean sort of way, but others might not feel the same.

And ultimately, all I can do is listen and try to help her puzzle out possible solutions. I know from my practice and experience that to try and fix everything for her would be to rob her of the chance to come to understand and claim her power. The lessons are for her learn; the victories and struggles, hers to experience. Oh yeah, I believe in karma and that we all came into this life with some major stuff we need to figure out. If we don't get to the task, well, back we come! Or at the very least, we struggle with the same issues for our lifetime. I know I cannot prevent her from experiencing the pain that childhood and growing up must hold, but how do I hold my projections in check?

I am reminded of a story about a farmer accusing god of not being good at farming and god granting the farmer one year to call all the shots. So the farmer orders plenty of sunshine, gentle rains, temperate conditions and by harvest has a full field of wheat. But when he goes to harvest the grain, he finds the husks empty. The moral of the story being a little struggle is a must in order to give meaning and value to our happiness or joy. What causes us pain now, may provide us with a greater strength than we might otherwise seek out or know if we had total control.

So I will blunder on. And maybe I am not so worried about my child as much as I worry about myself. How do I cope with sending this tender and vulnerable shoot out into the world, knowing hurt, sadness, pain and loss are part of the process? How do I keep myself from running after her, ready to leap in the path of any perceived threat? What chapter in the "Everything You Need to Know About Your Preschooler" covers this topic?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Seeking Solutions

I gotta say, I am grateful and humbled to have received such a supportive response from my last post. I have been feeling starved for connection and this amazing world gave me a nice syrupy dose of that yesterday in your comments and emails. Compared to the world in which I grew up, life now seems so much bigger and busier with little time to slow down, compare notes and share sympathies and strategies. I am realizing I need to make that time or space. My sanity demands it.

Today a dear friend came over for some girl time, something sadly rare in my life these days. Her daughter is 2 years younger than Cowgirl and we have gotten together somewhat regularly with the girls playing and us moms snatching moments of conversation while running after them. So it was a real treat to brew up a pot of tea and cozy up on the couch, just the two of us, to catch up.

Naturally, our conversation rolled around to the girls. And I was blown away when this amazing woman revealed her insecurities and misgivings about her mothering skills. I mean, this is a woman who always brings us the most thoughtful treats whenever we visit: flowers in a tiny vase; homemade cookies wrapped in a pastry box; notes typed on shipping cards; a handmade appliquéd and embroidered shirt for Cowgirl. Love is always in her details. And she is so gentle, always present and in tune with her munchkin of a daughter. So it got me wondering whether this phenomenon of Mothering Guilt is a perennial or a recent development?

I remember being shocked to realize so much of my early days as a mother were spent feeling incompetent. No one had warned me about that feeling. I asked my mother about this and she just laughed. I think she understood what I was going through, but it seems (and maybe I’m wrong) that she and her friends did not suffer or stress-out as much as we all do these days. Maybe this is just my perception, but it has gotten me thinking I want to find a way out of this guilt.

We live in a culture and an economy that requires we never feel good enough; that there is always something more we need to have, do, feel or be. And we run after it all, buying the hype that once we have “it”, then everything will fall into place. If I buy the right foods, cook the right meals, introduce my child to the right activities, read the right parenting books, choose the right schools … the list goes on and one. And of course, we are like a dog chasing its tail.

Thinking about all this “feeling bad about myself” as a mother, brings home why the message of Yoga is so vital to my present life. The foundational idea in Yoga is that we are Goodness, we are Whole, we are “Divine Beings who have become divinely human.” (A beautiful discussion of the Yoga Sutras – and the first to be written from a feminine perspective - was recently written by Nischala Joy Devi; I highly recommend it.) From the perspective of Yoga, we are already complete; we do not need to add anything to bring us into Wholeness. We are not the Lack that Modern advertising wants us to believe.

The second sutra of book one (there are 4 books or Padas in Patanjali’s Sutras; when referencing an individual sutra, the form is 1:2 meaning Pada one, second sutra or verse) states the essence or the goal of Yoga. Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodhah. A common translation is: Yoga is the control of thought-waves in the mind. In other words, we live most of our lives with this chatter going on and that chatter pretty much controls us. It rarely responds authentically to what is present. It is busy reacting out of fear, doubt, thoughts of the past or concerns about the future. There’s a lot of juicy material on this second sutra worth studying. And I find this true: when I get upset, lose my temper, act harshly with Cowgirl, usually my reactions are not based upon what she has said or done, but my fears around the issue. What will others think? Will this behavior cause her future pain and suffering in the world if it continues? Where did I go wrong? If I can learn to watch these thought waves arising, then I might have the space and time to catch myself blindly reacting and I can more skillfully choose my words and actions. Of course, this is no small feat!

And I’ve known all this and still I stumble repeatedly and feel pretty miserable about it. But when I read Devi’s interpretation of this sutra something clicked. She writes: “Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.” She goes on to discuss how the emphasis upon mind control can lead us to being overly harsh with ourselves, making the task more difficult. And I find it to be true that being harsh and controlling does not work with my mind nor is it effective when dealing with Cowgirl. It only makes her feel worse about her behavior and thwarts any real effort towards understanding and change.

The challenge then is to return to the source of my true self, my heart. The thoughts of my mind act like back seat drivers when it is my heart that needs to be in control of the steering wheel. “Consciousness abides in the heart, not the mind …. the heart responds more readily to tenderness, and gentle caring treatment of your consciousness is the best way to liberate it.” I strive to be tender and caring with my daughter, but have I been doing the same for myself? And if I am busy beating myself up, am I able to be a calm, strong, centered source of love and nurturance for my child? Things that make me go “hmmm.”

So this is a place to start. In those moments when I feel my face scrunch up with anger and ugliness, I first need to extend tenderness towards myself for landing in such an emotional pickle. No one else will do this for me. And I can feel my body relax, my emotions soften and the mud of my mind settling. Then the message of my heart can be heard and hopefully expressed to the world, rather than my words of frustration and pain. This is how I want to engage with my Cowgirl … from my heart, centered and whole. Yoga is a remembering of this Truth. There is no lack, we are not deficient or flawed; our problem is that we just keep forgetting. And if there is only one thing I can share with my daughter, it is this Truth.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Starting Now (some thoughts on shame and parenting)

Okay, I’m tapping upon your shoulders, asking for help in a little shame management. One of the things I learned (amongst many many others) from reading Brené Brown’s book about shame resilience is the need to share our stories. When I keep silent, I deepen my sense of worthlessness and despair and cut myself off from learning or growing.

Long winded way of saying, I had a crappy day yesterday and I reacted in a typically human way: I lashed out at those I love. I’m human, I know, and we all lose our patience, get short tempered, reactive and strike out in order to diminish the pain and frustration we are feeling inside. I can forgive others when they respond from habit or fear, but when I do it, I want to crawl under a rock and hide. Because deep down, my behavior only confirms my deepest, darkest secret about myself: I am a flawed and irredeemable.

I don’t know if it is changing hormone levels (hello perimenopause!), parenting in energy challenged middle age, or life in this frantic everything-now world, but I have been struggling with my temper. A lot. I mean, I don’t even have a fuse: I am a pool of gasoline with life tossing matches upon me.

I haven’t given up on myself and I keep on reaching out for ways to cope and ways to work with myself. So it is doubly frustrating when I do fall into the cesspool of emotions that I wallowed in yesterday. The particulars are not all that amazing: driving to work and school, Cowgirl and I got stuck in the traffic jam to end all jams. I tried 4 different routes only to realize we were like rats on a sinking ship: no way out of the mess. I even turned the radio on thinking maybe there had been an emergency broadcast telling my side of town to evacuate. It was a grey, dreary day. And I just turned nasty.

I lost my temper big time with Cowgirl, words were said that were just mean spirited and she got very very quiet. I went too far and I knew it. And I got quiet. I wanted to be defensive, telling her what I said was true, but that my manner of saying it wasn’t right … but even that was false. I had to let myself be still and sit with my pain and shame and give myself time to claw my way back to a better mental place. As it was, we could only sit in the traffic, so I had lots of time.

We talked about my reaction and I apologized as best I could. Things were smoothed out a bit, but the bad taste of it all stayed with me throughout the day. I know I am working on this all – parenting, my attention, my temper, my being or not being present. I know if I let myself sit in shame, I would not believe myself capable of changing or transforming myself into the person and the parent I aspire to be. I want to believe in myself and Cowgirl makes me want try harder, work more assiduously towards the goal of finding my true self which is Truth, Wisdom, Bliss and Love.

So today I pulled out my copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. I have desperately wanted a guide on parenting from a Yogic perspective but have found that book has not been written (at least, I haven’t found it yet!) My goal in starting this blog was to explore the Sutras and other teachings from the Yogic tradition, applying them to parenting and writing about my experience. Now that I’ve stated my dream, I have to take responsibility for it.

I open the Sutras and start with the first one: Atha Yoganusasanam. Now the practice of Yoga begins. Atha conveys a sense of a prayer being offered and hope for a success. For me, this opening statement is a reminder that at any given moment, I can begin anew. As many times as I may slip, forget, fall off the path, it is in that moment when I catch myself lapsing back into habitual patterns, I have a choice. I can give up or I can start again. Now I begin. And Now I begin. And Now. I do not dwell on the past, letting my backlog of mistakes overwhelm me; if I am truly present, then all that exists is this moment and what I do starting now.

So yesterday in the car, old and future selves crashed big time into each other. But I chose to begin again. And today I am trying to cultivate the attitude of hopefulness and faith in my efforts to begin anew. It is never too late and it is far too important. My Cowgirl deserves this. I deserve it.

Oh, and today we left for school 10 minutes earlier. Only this time, we enjoyed sitting in traffic.