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Nope. I can't do it all. Now What?

I recently found myself walking in circles in my unorganized office. My head was spinning with all of the responsibilities and projects I currently had on my plate. The list seemed endless. I was homeschooling my youngest son for the first time this year, entering my second year of graduate school, working with a few new coaching clients, speaking to publishers about a book I had written, managing my household, and oh yes…parenting! My to-do list not only seemed endless, but it all appeared important!

With a feeling of overwhelm and anxiety creeping up on me I suddenly heard an answer to my question (yes, this voice came from inside of my head, don’t judge).

Nope. I can’t do it all.

Whew. Thank goodness. But what do I do now?

Just because I have a gift for juggling multiple projects at once, does that mean I should? In all honesty, I really like having several big things going on at once and not sure this part of my life is meant to change.

So… what has supported me all of these years? And what is it that I need to be focusing on right now? Luckily, my friend Christine Carter wrote a book titled “The Sweet Spot, How to Find your Groove at Home and Work“. I had been reading it again recently and recalled one of the chapters that really sang to me.

“Easing the Overwhelm”

I took a few genius points from Christine’s book and decided to do a few things right away:
– Choose my top five priorities and say no to everything else
– Stop Multitasking
– Eliminate Junk Stimulus
– Silence the Smartphone Siren Song

So there I was trimming my to-do list, focusing on one thing at a time, cleaning out my closets, and changing the settings on my phone so it would NOT beep at me unnecessarily. Do you ever notice how your whole family stops and looks at the phone every time that it beeps? Ick.

I’m going to admit that I became a little (ok, A lot) obsessed with the cleaning out my closets part one weekend, but man is this activity therapeutic. I highly recommend it and would not let your fear of a little OCD nature get in the way of this healing process. Just. Do. It.

I asked myself again what has sustained my somewhat nutty way of living all these years, and I received the second message (yes, I’m answering myself once again). You do all know that the answers are already inside of you right? Just stop and get quiet enough to hear them…they are there. I promise!

CONNECTION

The thing that nurtures me most is connecting deeply to myself and the ones that I love.

This time I took a few genius points from myself:
– Meditate and/or center myself each and every day, even if for only a few minutes/seconds at a time
– Slow down and look into my husband and children’s eyes
– Stop and be present with my dogs (they might have founded Zen in another lifetime)
– Start reading that big fat Harry Potter book aloud to my eldest son each day
– Leave my phone and computer in my office or purse most of the time
– Tell my people (aka: two boys and a husband) how I adore them at least once daily
– Tell me how much I adore me at least once daily

Living is simply a constant negotiation and these life lists are my most recent. I personally have an awful lot of delicious life juice to squeeze out of each and every day. For now, I’m going with organization, mindfulness, and connection to help me pave my oh so yummy path of existence. It’s also not lost on me how lucky I am to have this “problem” of figuring out how to do as much as I can in the course of the day while still feeling nurtured and alive. Not a bad puzzle to try and solve eh?

As Mary Oliver asks us…
“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Meditation Retreat Confessions: One Mother’s Suffering

OK, so the title is a bit misleading here…I haven’t actually GONE on the retreat yet. That being said, I’m all signed up and preparing my husband and two young sons for five days without mommy. Yep. You heard it. Silence. Five whole days. Need to find your baseball glove? Want a glass of milk? Trouble with your homework? Find dad. He’s your guy.

A little background about my relationship to mindfulness practice and meditation will tell you that I have been at this stuff consistently for about six years. Prior to this time I hopped on and off my spiritual path, only slightly recognizing the signs that were gently nudging me to stay put. This journey started at the ripe old age of 36 when I had one son barely off to pre-school and the other barely out of the womb. My spiritual practices have always been cleverly snuck in between preparing meals, career, and “life as it presents itself” in general.

I took seriously my centering practice and practiced it over and over again until it began to “do me” rather than me “doing it”. My daily 10-40 minute meditations at home had to suffice in length just as they were, and the timing couldn’t possibly be “same time, same place” each day as the books and teachers suggested. I attended day longs and weekend retreats when I could, and spent countless “mommy” days exploring things like the enneagram, energy healing, and working to become an observer of my mind. I’ve done my practices and spiritual work in the best way I could being a working mother of two and have worn that badge honorably.

So here I am… six years later and getting ready for 5 days in silence. I’m finally going to join that elusive club of individuals who have taken the time and made space in their lives for deeper practice. Regardless of how dedicated I have been to my practice…a part of me believes I’m just not the real deal until I suffer in silence for longer periods of time (writing this statement makes it sound all the more ridiculous).

You might ask what is going through my mind right now. I’m wondering if my body will ache or if old emotions will take me over after coming to the surface. Will five days seem eternally long or will the time fly? How much will I miss my family? Please let my plants and flowers survive my absence. Will my husband feed the dogs?

All of these things and much more have gone through my mind in contemplating this time away…but nothing prepared me for how I would feel when I read these words…”This is a fragrance free retreat. Please do not bring any products with any sort of scent.” What? No products with scent? Do these people have any idea how I adore my day cream with cucumber? My ever so rich and luxurious night-cream? I have special shampoo and conditioner with no sulphates for crying out loud! Do I have to leave my rose cheek stain home as well? Where am I going to find the time to discover fragrance free products I like in the next 7 days?

Now, I know how terrible being concerned about this fragrance thing all sounds. I swear I’m a down to earth gal who is dedicated to her practices and committed to helping raise consciousness in myself and the world. I’m a self proclaimed spiritual person for God’s sake! Yet my attention just keeps going there…

When the part of me who observes my thinking finally caught up to my thoughts around this subject, I immediately felt embarrassed for myself and utterly horrified at my pathetic “first world problems.” After all of this practice… are these really the things that have me believing I’m suffering?

The truth is… I am suffering around these uncertainties and I’m working on finding kindness, compassion and curiosity around my thoughts rather than beating myself up about them. I’m hoping to own the fact that I appreciate the creature comforts in life….perhaps even more than I thought I did. The reality is, that the only thing worrying me more than the fragrance free dilemma, is wondering who my roommate might be. I’m a light sleeper… what if they snore? Oh dear.

I mentioned my dilemma to a dear friend and also to the teacher who will be leading the retreat. Their reactions close to mirrored one another. What I saw in their face or heard in their voice was pure fascination and interest in this part of me. Their reactions helped me see the humor in my worries…but more importantly, to be able to hold them lightly. I have a sweet knowing that this is all part of my conscious awakening. It sounds silly to say now, but I have greater clarity that the essence of who I truly am does not include any products…fragrance free or otherwise. But isn’t it curious this mind and sense of self I inhabit?

I can’t say I won’t spend at least a bit of time perusing the aisles of Whole Foods this week to uncover the fragrance free product gems, but I’ll also spend time reflecting on what it will be like to sit in silence long enough for a bit more of my ego to unwind…and to observe it lovingly and with less horror than I have in the past. And even though staying in the present is what we are after here…I just might think about my next retreat…the one where I have my own room and can bring most of my creature comforts with me.

What's the Rush Mom? A Reminder From My Sons.

This morning as my boys were leaving for school my youngest son did what he normally does before leaving the house… say goodbye to the dogs. He of course does this ever so slowly with a kiss and a story to them about how the school day isn’t that long…

It was past the time they needed to leave and I felt that pang of stress enter my body while that familiar thought “move along ” came to my mind. Thankfully, I was able to stay quiet and let him have his sweet goodbye kisses with the pooches. It wasn’t always this way.

I was graced with two boys who are in one way typically rambunctious and in another way slow as can be. One gets lost in creativity, art and love. The other is regularly the last in line at school, in no rush to get his homework done, and unless he’s playing sports…. just slow as molasses.

Many the morning have I raised my voice in complete irritation that they were moving so slowly, only to have them show up to school frazzled while I was on my way to work or at home guilty and sad. I’ve come to terms that usually we have enough time… maybe just barely enough… but we get to where we need to go. It’s often only my impatience and desire for things to move more quickly that actually causes the drama of the morning rush.

I’ve spent many years practicing mindfulness and meditation while becoming more self aware of my rushing mind. A mind that wants a body to keep up with it… It’s been part of my practice to slow down in so many ways…my pace of speaking, walking, how quickly I make decisions.

My realization in the last year or so was that these two boys who do not share my “move along” kind of pace showed up in my life especially for me. They might as well hold up little signs that say “slow down mom, everything is fine at this pace.”  I’m grateful they give me the chance each day to practice presence, to listen…and to learn, from two of the wisest little souls I’ve ever encountered.

Exploring Conscious Parenting with the Wisdom 2.0 Community

Parenting in our exceedingly connected wired world can leave mothers, fathers, and caretakers alike wondering how to manage it all. The fast pace of life, combined with the use of multiple devices draws our attention away from our loved ones. At the same time, many of us notice our inner world beckoning us back for deeper connection. What actions do we take to find peace amidst it all?

We have all observed with sadness entire families with their heads down in a device…barely noticing one another other. What if we took those moments to take a breath and set an intention to let the human beings we love take precedent over electronic devices, as Rachel Stafford from “Hands Free Momma” suggests.

Our breath and presence alone is unlikely to unwind our own childhood patterns. As parents, we must get in touch with those parts of ourselves that we have forgotten, discover where we have been wounded, and commit to new ways of being and living in the world, as Dr. Shefali Tsabary so skillfully suggests. Easier said than done, but nonetheless an honorable commitment to make as a parent or caregiver.

Many in the Wisdom 2.0 Community share an inner compass pointing us to the need for a new paradigm in the way we navigate this journey called “parenting”. We will explore this topic and many more at this year’s conference starting February 13th in San Francisco, California.

Tickets are still available for the day-long intensive in Monday February 17th which will be hosted by yours truly and Megan Cowan of the Mindful Schools. We hope you can join us. Find more information at: http://wisdom2conference.com/Wisdom-and-Children.