Mindfulness & Mothering


When i began drafting this piece i was initially only writing about how much focused energy and mindfulness was required of me on a daily basis, but Mindfulness as applied to motherhood is really much more vast then that. One definition of mindfulness that i like to offer because of its simplicity is this: bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis. Also, paying attention in a particular way... on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. Here i am referring to the mindfulness we bring to our day, the day broken down into bit sized moments of our baby's existence. Not to mention finding some focused energy for our own needs as well. Mindfulness, attention, care and connection are required for anything to grow lively and thrive. Times of feeding call for mindfulness. What is more special then cradling your child in your arms and nourishing them, breast or bottle, it's all sacred. It's about the quality of awareness we bring to changing diapers as well as playing games. The quality of presence we bring to our babies whether they are 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years old, is going to nourish and enrich them, informing how they feel and how they grow. It's easy to slip into a mechanical routine, to forget that there is a little human soul-being absorbing our energy, awareness, and attitude at every moment. Because when you change 10 diapers a day and feed your baby on demand, the everyday-ness of it all takes over and the luster of these sacred acts gets lost in the grind. Sometimes i catch myself deep in thought while changing a diaper and then i remember what i am doing, wake up to that moment, and when i look down i have those big eyes looking up at me inquisitively almost as though to say, "where'd ya go?" It reminds me that she is so very here with each beat of the day, and she deserves me to bring my whole self to our interactions. Now, to quote the title of a previous post, "Tools, not weapons", we must take this insight with a grain of ease. Being reminded or informed about our babies awareness of everything is likely to hook many mothers insecurity and fear, at times it does mine, but please know that mindfulness is not a rule to be mastered, merely an awareness to cultivate when you remember to. Like any good meditation practice, the mind wanders way more often then it is still. The hallmark of a skilled meditator is one who responds compassionately and casually the moment they notice they've wandered, and then they return to their breath (or object of awareness) with ease and simplicity.

In this sense, using our mothering as a practice of mindfulness can be a really good, challenging practice. Not beating myself up or feeling guilty over something is where my inner attention and compassion needs to be. A good meditation practice will expose all our tendencies and pitfalls, and through applied loving presence, compassion and awareness we can heal those negative patterns.

Being Veda's mama has felt like a 5 month long mindfulness meditation. And as much as i miss and long for my private inward time, there has been something incredibly meditative about being a mama. These days instead of watching my breath, i watch Veda. I still use my breath as a present moment touchstone, to awaken just a little bit more into the NOW, but being awake in each moment for this magical being is my top priority and her presence alone has become an object of awakening for me. Though i'm sure my years of meditating have in part equipped me with the quality of awareness to approach mothering in such a way, it's largely a matter of perspective that anyone can adopt. Yet as i thought about this more it begged the question- Is it enough to just use our life as a practice of mindfulness, or do we all really need those inward practices to keep us steady?

For the past 6 years before i got pregnant, i practiced Mindfulness Meditation and Kundalini Yoga/Meditation. Yet from the start of my pregnancy, there began a slow slipping away of my formal spiritual practices [because i was very sick during my pregnancy and unable to focus.] While Veda was in utero, this dissolving of my spiritual rituals and practices began to make me feel like my connection to the Divine was dissolving too. I felt so disconnected. Disconnected from myself, disconnected from my sick and changing body, from my baby, and worst of all, from God. Yoga, dance, and meditation... these practices are very sacred to me. My body really is my temple, and without an inward practice- a heart practice, a movement practice, a ritual practice-  i began to feel like i closed up shop on my spiritual life and unhooked the receiver on my relationship to the ethers. Eventually, as i embraced the limitations i was facing in my pregnancy, i learned an invaluable lesson, the mother of all spiritual lessons. I truly got that i am a child of god, that I AM a piece of the universe/mother nature/divine source/great spirit. A formal practice can help to clear away anything that stands between me and knowing this great truth, but it is not required in order to feel connected. I learned that i am always connected because i am the connection. I am a piece of the source, embodied. It's one thing to know this in your mind, but i really got this with my whole being. All i had to do was take a mere moment to close my eyes, feel my breath and body, and then sense the vastness within and around me. Though there are so many reasons to uphold a formal contemplative practice, enabling my connection to spirit isn't one of them. But with this slipping away of formal practice, and an embrace of the beautiful connection that always is, i thought a lot about what it means to live a mindful life. Because of course, our contemplative practices are largely just tools for living life more clearly, with more presence, awareness and peace.

This week i got to practice a great deal of mindfulness {attention, interest, and care} in my daily life after a bit of my mama-insecurity got triggered again. As i brought compassion and expansion to that insecure part of me it undercut any resistance or checking-out and allowed for the healing energy of love to flow in. We as mamas benefit from this level of presence and respect, but not just in times of "need" or as a tool for presence in daily life with our babies, but also as a time to restore after a long bout of unconditional and endless mothering. It's the obvious and well-worn advice that mothers need to take care of themselves. Obviously this is a universal struggle, otherwise there wouldn't be such a notorious bit of counsel. So what i am saying here is, Yes. Yes i need a formal practice to help keep me steady. I have come to the conclusion that, though i know i am a Divine child of The Divine, and  though i use my everyday happenings as an opportunity to be more present and mindful, there is nothing quite like the nurturance i receive from my own quality time and attention, just as i give it to Veda about a million times a day. It's been hard for me to carve out the time for my formal practices again, but with Veda almost 6 months old, i feel ready to. And more then that, i need it. I need the formal practice to nourish and inspire me, to keep me feeling juicy. It's not just about spiritual connection, or quality awareness and presence. It's also about feeling groovy, inspired, and centered.

The roadblock i keep facing is this: 20 minutes of quiet time a day always seems possible until the day begins at 5am and Veda's steady dependence on me begins to steamroll over any plans i had for myself that day with the gusto of a Puerto Rican parade. She embodies a celebration of life, and with all her ruckus joy i often don't realize that i've been on the Veda Train all day and never got the chance to take those 20 minutes. It all seemed so possible at 9pm the night before when the parade was asleep with the moon and "tomorrow" was a concept that (in my optimistic mind) begins at 8am, not 5am or 6am. But here and now i am taking a vow in the name of self-love, that i will begin to resurrect my ritual/spiritual/self-loving practices.

If anyone feels moved to join me, let me know! Because i was thinking of including a video meditation that you can follow along to. Sometimes i have an easier time doing yoga at home if i am doing it with someone, even if that someone is virtual. So if you want to meditate with me and feel that would offer you support too, please join me. Please let me know if your interested! I can provide a 20 minute silent/mindfulness practice with instruction and then silence, and also a Kundalini meditation which would be slightly more involved, but for either a mere 7 or 11 minutes. You would be amazed at the power of those seemingly small time frames.

I've also talked to my husband and worked out a way to begin dancing and doing yoga again with his help during the week. Baby steps though...