Motherhood: A Spiritual Practice
Motherhood: A Spiritual Practice
Guest Post By: Caitlin Montgomery
Maybe there is no outside teacher needed. Maybe it is all here in front of you. Everything you need to learn, to grow and to evolve.
What if the sleepless nights, the crying baby, the tantruming toddler, the child who seems like they are deliberately pushing your buttons, are here to teach you something about yourself? And ultimately, to open you up to love.
I was in a yoga teacher training recently where the teacher shared her dedicated meditation practice and experience on many weeklong silent retreats as something that had fueled her own growth. I could see that it had – she was radiant - and was a little envious. I was a mom of two young kids (one still nursing) and taking a week away on a silent retreat felt like an impossibility.
When asked by Tim Ferriss on “The Tim Ferriss Show” podcast, whether he would recommend silent retreat for parents, renowned meditation teacher Jack Kornfield heartily laughed and suggested that although silent retreat can be very helpful when the time is right, perhaps all parents need for spiritual awakening is right in front of them.
“You can’t get a Zen Master who is going to be more demanding than an infant with colic or certain types of teenagers. You want to face yourself and your own limitations? You want to look at the small sense of self and learn to live with a freer and bigger spirit, here we just hired someone to live with you and train you full time.” (laughing)
He notes that the key piece is intention.
“You need to have the intention not just to soldier through it but to say, ‘let this be a place that I awaken an inner sense of freedom and peace and graciousness, and where I awaken presence with pleasure and pain and gain and loss and all the changes, that I find a timeless place of becoming the loving witness of it all. The loving awareness that says yeaa now I’m having a family experience and this is the place to find freedom’. Because freedom is not in the Himalayas or in the Amazon. The only place it is found is in your own heart exactly where you are.”
When I look at my experience as a mother, my children are absolutely teachers. I must however, choose to see it that way, and open myself up to learning.
Our children have this beautiful way of bringing up undigested emotional material and of showing us where we are hanging on to outdated beliefs or hurts from the past – partly because they are little mirrors who chose to come to help us, and partly its inevitable with the heightened intensity that comes with parenting little ones. There huge is opportunity for growth if we choose a path of self-reflection and self-inquiry. When I react strongly to something my child does, I ask myself “what was that inside of me?” and “where have I felt this before?” And in the quest to find freedom from outdated patterns, what we don’t see holds power over us. Becoming aware that there is a trigger is the first step.
Parenting offers a powerful opportunity to release old patterns that don’t serve, both within the family dynamic (this can be inter-generational). Sometimes having our kids to make it different for is that extra motivation we need. For example, I really want to teach my kids to forgive yourself, that everyone makes mistakes and to not expect perfection from yourself. So, in moments after I have acted in a way that is out of alignment with my highest intention ie. yelled at my kids, my automatic pattern is to feel guilty. BUT I know that my kids learn far more from what I do than from what I say. Do I want to teach them to feel guilty when they make an inevitable mistake? Heck no – so I soften towards myself. We use this great strategy from Elena Brower, called a “do-over”, where we re-enact the scene in a way that feels good to all of us. We both modify our behaviour and come back to connection. So even in the yelling moment there is opportunity for deeper connection and learning together. I’m really working on throwing this perfectionism out the door. There is opportunity for real learning, for real connection, even in the mistakes. Perhaps as they say, the magic really is in the mess.
As Kornfield notes, it takes intention. Daily ritual is key. And the importance of framing all this inner reflection and inquiry with a big dose of self-compassion and self-love can’t be overestimated. We aren’t after all trying to be perfect.
*Note: as a parent of young children we often already feeling pressed for personal time/space and adding another thing to do can feel like unrealistic pressure. This is not the point. SIMPLIFY and find what suits you. Something to help you remember the bigger picture and your connection to it all. If it feels hard, ask yourself how it could be easy. Maybe you focus on your breath for a few minutes while driving in the car, or do your gratitude mediation while rocking your little one to sleep.
MY GO-TO LIST FOR SELF-CONNECTION
GRATITUDE: take two or more minutes (perhaps at the same time each day) to FEEL gratitude for your life. Be specific. You can start with thinking about what you’re grateful for and breathe into your heart to help you shift from thinking about gratitude to really and truly FEELING it. You’ll feel a shift in your energy quite quickly.
MINDFULNESS: Young children are the best teachers of mindfulness and presence, because they live completely in the moment. Copy them. Notice your breathing, your body moving as you move through your tasks. Slow down and be mindful in the simplest ways.
MEDITATE: Insight Timer is an excellent free app with thousands of meditations. I recommend starting small to keep it manageable (maybe 5 minutes a day) and trying many different types ie. compassion meditation, breath awareness, mantra, colour meditation, to see what resonates most with you so it can be ENJOYABLE.
NIDRA: This has been a lifeline for me – especially when my kids aren’t sleeping well. Even 10 or 15 minutes during nap time makes me feel like I’ve had an hour of sleep. Obviously, a full practice is best but there have been periods where my son won’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time, and when I am desperate for a little rest and restoration Nidra has really come through for me. There are many great offerings on Insight Timer.
DANCE + SING: even better if spontaneous, and with your kids. Both are great ways to move stagnant energy and shift your mood.
MOVE YOUR BODY: any form of exercise, even just for a few minutes. I used to get so frustrated when my kids would crawl on me when I was trying to ‘get in’ my daily yoga practice. Now I include them and let them crawl on me and make it a game where we add in songs and stories. The extra weight when they climb on me means my body is working harder so even a short practice has a greater impact. Bonus!
EARTHING: Call me a hippie if you want, this is my absolute favourite! Next time you are at the park with you kids, lie down on the earth. Visualize roots of a tree dropping from your body and sinking down into the earth. Connect. Be held. AHHHHH. Another idea: hug a tree and listen.
CRY: Sometimes a good cry is the best thing to release and reset. Kids are so wise. They know how to cry (and scream!) to naturally discharge their energy instead of internalizing it. I also enjoy screaming in my car ;)
By: Caitlin Montgomery
Caitlin Montgomery is mother of two, a teacher and yoga instructor in Calgary, AB. She has been inspired by motherhood, to view it as an opportunity for growth and connection to self. Caitlin brings this beautiful perspective to her workshop: Mother - Connection to Self. This two hour workshop explores motherhood as a spiritual practice. It provides a sacred space for mothers to connect to themselves through meditation, yin and yoga nidra while providing tools to bring that through to daily life as a mom.
The next workshop is being offered on November 24th from 2:30 -4;30pm at Junction 9 .
For more more information and to sign up head to : www.junction9.ca