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Coming Home (To Ourselves) For The Holidays

Thanksgiving Day is upon us, and for many that means the start of the holiday season. Here we go! The stress, worry, relationship struggles, shopping, hurt feelings, awkward moments with your drunk uncle sharing his political views….. you know the drill.

This year….come home yourself for the holiday’s. What do I mean? Have I lost it? Well, I probably have, but let me share the only solution to all of this mayhem that has worked for me over the years (aside from crawling under a rock and avoiding the holiday’s all together).

Pause. Breathe. Practice Compassion.

Do this ever so quietly in your own mind…over and over again (should others catch on they may think you drank too much of the punch). And start with compassion for yourself before offering it to others. This is how we come home to ourselves. When we find ourselves getting irritated about something “out there” we immediately take a u-turn back to our own hearts and minds.

Each time one of those “inconvenient irritations” appear just pause…take that breath…and offer yourself a little compassion. Once that compassion has sunk in offer it up to others. We can’t love up on others until we love up on ourselves.

Here’s the deal…everyone is doing their best with their current situation and state of mind. And during the holiday’s many folks tend to lose their minds. It’s just the way of it. We can’t and shouldn’t expect anyone else to change. We are the one’s we have been waiting for.

Compassion is this beautiful space awaiting us under the big emotions that often get triggered during the holiday season. It’s so generous in that it does not ask us not to feel what we are feeling, but instead to see any given situation with reality. It asks us to take off the veil and be with what is….just as it is. Compassion reminds us to stay open to the truth of any moment, even when that moment hurts us in some way. It walks us straight into presence and into the arms of love.

Let’s spend more time together in the arms of love this holiday season. I plan to start in my own loving arms and move out from there…

Now off you go to practice presence during this holiday season. One moment at a time…

Xo

Michelle

But Don’t You Feel Sad For The Rat Mom?

My family is blessed to live in a wonderful suburb just North of San Francisco. Our home is in close proximity to a quaint little town as well as hiking and biking trails leading into the forest just steps from our door. Although I try not to think about it, we also share our wonderful little corner of the world with plenty of rats who enjoy the ivy, fruit trees, and bleeding heart naturalists who wouldn’t even consider putting out rat poison in fear of hurting the ecosystem (I count myself in that camp by the way, and the rats apparently really appreciate the concern).

One evening recently, my eldest son spotted a dead rat laying in our backyard and reported this information to us in a rather dramatic fashion. He kinda screamed something like…Dead Rat, Dead Rat, Dead Rat!!! My immediate inner reaction was of seemingly grave concern. Rats carry diseases. The dogs might get close to it. Maybe it’s not actually dead. Does it have a large family living nearby?

My youngest son immediately pointed out how cute it was and started walking towards it. “Don’t get too close”, I shouted. But Mom…”Don’t you feel sad for the rat?” he asked me. I immediately knew I was over-reacting but just couldn’t quite let the fear welling up subside enough to join him in pure humanity. This little boy wasn’t carrying all of the adult knowledge and fears I was. To him, this was simply a cute little animal who had died…a perfect reason to be compassionate. I rushed into the garage and found an old towel to throw over the dead rat hoping to keep my dogs from inspecting it. “Is that how we are going to bury it?” he asked. Oh man, I wasn’t thinking about burying it at all…I was just buying time until my husband got home later in the evening and could handle the situation.

One glance over to that boys sad little face and I finally came to my senses, took a breath and became human again. “Let’s take a moment and send the rat some loving-kindness and blessings as its spirit makes its journey”.  My sons shoulders finally came down, his body relaxed, his face softened. His mother seemed to have joined him on his planet again. His compassion was big enough to make room for the both of us.

Upon reflection it all seems so simple now. Aren’t we lucky to have our children to show us the way?

Mean Mommy

Recently, I was pulling into my driveway with my youngest son Brody and one of his buddies for an after school play-date. I overheard his friend quietly saying “My mom is so mean. She yells at me everyday.” I assume they had a rough morning at home…something I have a bit of experience with myself. Before I knew it, Brody was chiming in…”My mom is so mean too!”.

My internal chatter begins: “Wait. What? Me? I’m so mean? Am I? Oh man…I do raise my voice sometimes…and I’m not always as patient as I want to be. Was Brody just saying that because his friend was? First grade peer pressure to fit in perhaps? Does he really think I’m a mean mommy? Ugh.

I’m falling fast people.

I am admittedly a bit attached to the idea that we are a happy family and regardless of how difficult life may be at times, we all love each other. At the end of the day I have a strong chip inside me that just needs to be liked. My practice seems to be to loosen these attachments and just be with each moment…each situation just as it is…pleasant or difficult. After all, our human condition and experience changes like the wind.

As Byron Katie would say…”Would You Argue With The Wind?”

That evening as I was getting Brody ready for bed, I noticed the story of me being a mean mommy rolling over in my mind. As I put him to bed and we snuggled, I told him I loved him. His last words to me were “You Are The Best Momma In The World”…

Yes. I’m that too.

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.

The Gift of Natural Consequences

Last night as my son was leaving for basketball practice I noticed he was wearing a long sleeved shirt under his practice jersey. I let him know I thought he would be hot once he started running but he said he would be fine. When he came home he was covered in sweat and had his long sleeved shirt in his hand. My initial reaction was to mention that I had been right somehow… but with a moment of mindful awareness (and before opening my mouth) I realized that experiencing the natural consequences of his choice is more effective than anything I would tell him. In fact, I wish I wouldn’t have said anything to begin with prior to him leaving… I’ll save that finer parenting moment for next time (I’ll try my best anyway). 

Many thanks to Dr. Shefali Tsabary for her new book “Out of Control, Why Disciplining Your Child Doesn’t Work, And What Will”.

The wisdom and lessons she offers in this book supported me in the shift I had last night.

What I Believe… (…so far…)

I believe if we raise a conscious generation of youth, our world will be a better place for my children and their families.

I believe in the power of mindfulness and meditation to transform our inner and outer worlds.

I believe compassion should be taught to every child and in every school across the globe.

I believe my children and I were chosen specially for one another to guide each of our spiritual unfolding.

I believe it’s my work as a parent to become present enough to offer my children the space to grow into who they are truly meant to become.

I believe Byron Katie has it right when she claims there are no new stressful thoughts, they are all recycled. When we believe our stressful thoughts we suffer and when we challenge them we can hope to find peace.

I believe that our lives are already filled with abundance. Through stillness, inquiry and gratitude we can settle into this way of relating to the world.

I believe in the importance of self exploration in living a spiritual life… it’s a lifetime of dedication.. and I feel incredibly thankful for my teachers, community and family who continue to support my way.