Now that things are opening up again, I’ve been looking into going on a short meditation retreat alone in the coming months. Yes, this is finally possible when your youngest reaches the ripe old age of 4 😊
There was a time in my 20s, when, while living in Thailand and becoming briefly immersed in a Buddhist way of life, that I thought I might enter a monastery for a while. I met other ‘westerners’ who had taken vows for a time as well as Thai and Burmese people who had spent longer periods in retreat and I had the feeling it might be something to explore. I thought about it on and off over the years, but never took the plunge. There was always something else more pressing on the horizon, a job, a relationship, a trip.
Then I became a mother and there was no time to retreat even to the bathroom for 10 minutes.
But here’s the thing
Becoming a parent might just be one of the greatest opportunities for growth that you will have access to in your life.
It might be the most intense practice of mindfulness you’ll ever know.
What do I mean? Let me explain.
We can do good job of fooling ourselves that we have it all together, until we have children.
Motherhood brings us face to face with unexpected parts of ourselves, with emotions and experiences we thought we had buried deep.
It’s not always pretty – the writer Faye Weldon has said:
“it’s only when you have children that you realise you're not a nice person at all”.
When we meet our kids, we also meet our shadow self.
We project our stuff onto them, we relive experiences from our own childhood with them.
We might shout and yell and generally feel like a fairly shit parent.
You can’t be nice and even and calm and collected all of the time. It’s not possible.
Humans are complex, creatures who experience a huge range of emotions.
And this is OK.
It’s when we try to suppress emotions, to deny them, that we run into trouble -they always come back to bite us.
Our children seem to be particularly adept at triggering that process – In this way they might just be the best teachers we will ever encounter – giving us lessons on confronting our beliefs and our emotions on a daily basis.
Sounds like pain, sounds like hassle? This idea of exploring emotions?
Can’t we just be happy?
Don’t worry, be happy
Sometimes people think that the endpoint of practicing mindfulness is to be happy all of the time, to not experience the more challenging human emotions.
I used to believe this myself.
But you know what I’ve learned?
It’s not about denying all the difficult stuff. It’s about embracing it, inviting it in and being curious about it.
Noticing where you feel it in the body.
Listening to the story you’re telling yourself about your experience.
Making a choice to change the story.
Taking an action with understanding and awareness.
The way in?
That noticing, listening, and changing the story? There are a few ways in.
For some it’s therapy.
Others, the conversation and understanding of a good friend.
For some people, writing helps – journaling is a powerful tool.
Mindfulness, meditation or yoga help, by bringing you out of your thoughts, into the body, to the breath, to the moment. To the here and now. Not the story of the past, or the projection of the future.
But here, where life is unfolding.
What’s your way in?
I want you to think about this
What’s your way in?
To noticing, listening, and changing the story?
Is it one of the ways mentioned above, or something different?
It just might be the first step in changing your story
Want to learn how to incorporate mindfulness, yoga or meditation into your daily life and a way in to dealing with difficult emotions (and lots of other helpful conversations on motherhood ? Register now for the 6 week course Calm in the Chaos. Starts Feb 19th.