"Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion."
Thich Nhat Hanh
Every morning, we have a new opportunity, a fresh day to make friends with ourselves, our family life, and the world. When we begin the day with positive mindful practices, we begin happier and tip our entire day in a more positive direction.
So consider adding a positive practice to your morning! I like to do one or two of these before I even open my eyes.
Morning gratitude. Reflect on things you are grateful for as you awake. Just the fact that you are able to awaken is a wonderful thing, right (even though you may be tired). Let them be both the ordinary, everyday things many of us normally forget to enjoy and the extraordinary big things. Name several things, write them down if you can or (even better) share them out loud with someone.
Self-appreciation. Can you think of three fabulous things about you this morning? Do it! Fill your cup and learn to see the positive in yourself.
Recite Thich Nhat Hanh's morning gatha (above) as you get up.
Practice loving-kindness meditation each morning. You can start with yourself, 'May I be filled with loving-kindness, May I be strong and healthy, May I be calm and peaceful, May I be truly happy' and then send it to others. Maybe practice loving kindness for someone you love and someone you've been having a hard time with. Maybe offer it to your family, your community, your region and continue until you are offering it to the universe. Come back and do a final round for yourself before finishing.
Enjoy your coffee or tea and your breakfast. Make the first sip and first bite a practice, slow down and experience it fully. Enjoy it.
Pay attention to the sensation when your feet first touch the floor. Offer a moment of thanks that the floor is holding you up. Notice the support that the world offers and open to support in all moments of your day.
Look at something beautiful. Take a few moments every morning to let yourself enjoy beauty. If you are lucky enough to see the sunrise, enjoy that! If you wake to a nursing baby, soak that sweet little baby in and enjoy her beauty. Keep something beautiful where you will see it in the morning--a flower, a stone, a photo.
I wish you joy today!
Mindfulness introduced me to my inner judge. The judge was always there, but it took awareness to see it in action. Although it wasn't a pleasant discovery, it is helpful to actually notice the judge because it gives me space to work with it.
A key aspect of mindfulness is to be open and accepting, but that's hard to do with this inner judge. For me, the way in to acceptance is curiosity. Getting curious about the judgment--what am I feeling in my body and emotions, thinking, remembering, wanting, It helps me to notice what is driving the judgment and slowly loosens its grip on me, leaving me kinder to myself, more open to my children and husband, more interested in understanding another person's perspective, and more connected.
If you, too, struggle with judgment, try practicing curiosity. Consider using it if you get into something like one of these situations:
Being a mom pushes me out of my comfort zone again and again.
In the early days with a baby, then a toddler, then a baby and toddler, I would think, 'I'm exhausted, my kids should be sleeping!' It was hard to get up in the night, to walk a crying baby, to wash every sheet in the house during the night while someone was sick with a stomach bug. Really hard. But not impossible. I learned that I could handle being uncomfortable in all sorts of ways I wasn't used to.
As my kids got older, it happened in new ways. I didn't like baseball or organized sports, but learned to sit in the stands while my son played baseball, making conversation with people who were hard core sports fans. I took my kids to birthday parties and chatted with moms who seemed so much more successful than me or who made me uncomfortable with their personal and invasive questions. I felt out of place often! But I learned that it wasn't such a big deal. I grew more able to connect with people who seemed different, and to handle those inevitable awkward interactions.
My kids are at the age now where they have strong political opinions and ideas. Sometimes they share beliefs and opinions that make me really uncomfortable. When we don't agree I usually start out thinking they're wrong. But because I love and respect my kids, I listen. As I listen, I bump into my own assumptions and habitual thinking and that makes me think in new ways. I'm still trying to digest a talk I just had with my youngest about civil rights laws that is opening my mind.
We're always teaching, right? But this experience of parenting also teaches me. I don't need to be as comfortable as I want to be. My discomfort often leads, not to a complete breakdown of all that is good in the world (as I sometimes feel in the moment), but to my own change, adaptation, learning, and growth.
When we remember to love our children in active, engaged ways, our relationships shift.
As parents, we have to set limits for our child. It's helpful to explore whether our limits are an expression of love or fear. When a little child grabs for a cookie he isn't allowed to have, we can be frustrated, angry, even judgmental. 'He never listens unless I yell.' We can also connect with love, knowing how it is to want something we can't have, feeling compassion, and still setting a clear limit. 'Sorry sweetie, no more cookies. Let me put it away so we don't have to keep looking at it!'
Connection makes the difference.
Limits without love can feel cold and disconnected. The limits may be wise and correct or may be overreactive, but they are expressed under the influence of other, usually unconscious, emotions, Children are emotionally perceptive, probably 'getting' our underlying emotions more clearly than we do, and may feel scared, ashamed, angry, and disconnected when we set limits this way.
Love without limits can be hard, too. Parents who struggle to set limits may let their child eat as many cookies as he wants, stay up past her ideal bedtime, or drive the car without finishing the chores he is responsible for. This is hard for both parent and child. The parent is often frustrated by the child's behavior, wishing she was more tuned in to the right way to act. The child senses that nobody else is in charge and feels a need to fill the role.
Things are pretty intense. Those of us who believe in human rights, equality, and kindness are getting busy, making phone calls, sending postcards, showing up at airports, and generally speaking truth to power. At the same time, many of us are scrolling through social media, reading, watching, and reacting when we may be better served by relaxing, having some fun, and sleeping.
When we're exhausted, it's hard to be our best parent-selves. It's hard to sustain our activism. It's hard to life joyfully! So, if we are going to stay strong, connected, and balanced for the long haul, let's be wise and care for ourselves! Today, I've decided to prioritize a few self-care basics for myself.
Bedtime. I've been up later than usual trying to keep up with what is going on in the news. Starting today, I'm giving myself a set bedtime (lights out by 10:30 pm) so I can wake up feeling rested, prioritize my morning meditation practice, and be awake and present for my days.
Social Media limits. I've been on Facebook more than usual, keeping up with the news. Starting today, I'm scaling back my online time. No social media and/or news after 9:30, instead I'll be enjoying a bit of extra reading time.
Positive influences. I've been meaning to read Charles Eisenstein's The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. This is a great time to read a book on Sacred Activism, so I'm starting today. Want to join me? Follow the link above to read it on Charles' website and pay by donation (or it's available in bookstores).
Gratitude and Appreciation. My new year's resolution was to practice gratitude and appreciation every day. So far, this has been wonderful! I started with thinking of 3 things I'm grateful for & 3 things I appreciate about my family before even opening my eyes. This month, I'm going to start writing the things down, because I know that helps deepen the practice.
Fun and Laughter. I'm going to laugh more and make time for fun. I'm going to find a funny show on Netflix to crack me up if I get to the end of the day and haven't had a couple of good belly laughs. Any recommendations?
How's your life balance? Anything you want to do to make your life more sustainable?
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.