A Mother’s Rights 13: You have the right to say no.

 

This is an oldie but a goodie and gets a lot of mileage in the mom world. In Paul Coelho’s words, “When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” Basically, know yourself. Prioritize what’s important to you. Then live that.

Suuuuuper easy. Hahahahahaha.

you have the right to shower every day (3)

 

If you can indulge me for a bit, I’d like to walk with you down a little bit of a deeper interpretation of this. I brought water and trail mix: the kind with almonds and dark chocolate, not that bullshit peanuts and off-brand M&M’s kind.

We all get the surface meaning of this basic right. Say no to things that will wear you down, stress you out, or just aren’t important to you. Like, if you have a busy week, say no to making brownies for the bake sale. If your kid has the flu, say no to carpooling soccer for your neighbor. If you don’t want to drive across town after a long day, say no to book club tonight. Logistically, don’t fill your schedule up with things that will overload you. BUT, what if the importance of saying no goes deeper than that?

Understanding when and how to say no at a deeper level starts with understanding how to listen to ourselves so we know what’s important to us and what’s not.  What is your yes/no spectrum? How do you say yes to life, to new experiences, to nourishment, to bold ways of being you AND say no to hurtful people, careless treatment, and stretching beyond your healthy limits?

This kind of discernment starts with practicing a deep and passionate love for who you are so that there is room for yes to come forward.  Actively practice loving yourself. Identify things that make you feel good without question. As in: I lose 10 pounds of stress when I dance to Sean Mendes. I love walking in the arboretum. Putting mascara on makes me feel like a powerful influencer. My painting is my happy place.

Make some room for these big yes feelings. Remember yourself.

Equally important: make room for uncomfortable feelings you may not initially welcome. Things like: I can’t stand hearing my baby cry right now. I’m so angry my dad is passive-aggressive about my parenting style. I wish my partner would leave me alone right now. My eating is out of control and I’m scared.

These uncomfortable feelings need to be seen and heard too. Feelings are temporary, you are not. Getting to know your uncomfortable feelings and allowing them to be seen will help you know your real self, and love your whole self.

So far: discover what you feel and what you like. Discover what you’d rather not be feeling and things you dislike. I am making this sound so easy, but for those of us who molded ourselves based on who we thought we should be, it takes some serious dedication and practice. Thank God for yoga and friends.

Discovering your personal yes/no spectrum continues with making room for ‘no’ to come forward without pushing it to the side. You have preferences. It’s ok to hear what they are. Begin listening for your inner talk of:

I can’t say no to that or….

my partner will get mad
my friends won’t understand
my kids won’t like it
my colleagues will laugh at me
I might lose something
I might feel something I don’t want to feel
I might miss out
it could be a mistake
I won’t be pleasing others
I might hurt someone’s feelings

Hearing that inner talk and recognizing it as fear and old programming will make room for really, truly who you are to come forward. You might have a really strong “FUCK NO – I’M NOT DOING THAT” come forward. Or you may notice a gentle “I’d prefer not to, but I’m really ok with it.” What you choose to do with your preferences is then totally in your power.

This book: Getting Real is a stunning map of how to identify YOU amidst the chatter of your mind and feelings, and how to bring that you to the surface in a real way. It is so massively helpful in navigating self, life, thoughts, wanting things to be different, wanting people to be better, wanting yourself to be perfect, wanting anger to go away, needing to feel more connected. Just everything.

When you begin to know yourself and stop living your life based on expectations of who you should be or what you should do, saying no becomes a fun experiment.

What does no feel like in my body and mind? Tight shoulders? Stomach pains? Does a strong no feel different then a weak one? What does ‘yes’ feel like? Am I smiling? Excited? Relaxed? Do I feel sexy? Friendly?

Saying no is about you honoring you. The real you, the one in your big juicy heart. And won’t your kids be amazed to see this practice of self-discovery in action? They are so lucky to have a mom like you.

A Mother’s Rights #11: You have the right to feel however you feel about parenting right now.

 

You love your kids. You are devoted, you work hard, you want them to have what you missed as a kid. You want them to have more, to know how loved and important they are.

Those things are true on days when you feel happy, loving it all. And it’s also true on days or weeks or months where you feel unfulfilled, lonely, stressed or boxed in.

 

 

you have the right to feel

 

Other feelings you might have about parenting but are afraid to admit it to yourself:

Regret
Jealousy
Resentment
Disappointment
Grief
Longing
Neglected
Overlooked
Unappreciated
Angry
Sad
Unseen
Impatient
Ignored
Powerless

This is some deep shit. Those aren’t fuzzy feelings. One of the greatest dangers we face as parents is denying how we feel about parenting. If we only allow ourselves one feeling: “I love being a parent,” we suppress  much of our daily experience. Squashing feelings down creates anxiety, depression, and physical imbalance.

Let’s just assume and know that the love is always there underneath whatever we are feeling day to day. If you are frustrated because your child just did something dangerous or reckless and you want to shout and swear at them but know that you can’t, where does that fear and frustration go? Your body holds onto it for you and is ready at any moment for you to acknowledge that it’s there, and find a way to release it through exercise, art, movement, breath, journaling, or whatever works for you to see yourself and acknowledge your experience. Just as we teach our kids, we need to recognize all the feelings, even the unfuzzy ones.

When I interviewed my mom about her birthing and postpartum experience, she shared that she went through a low postpartum period where she remembers rocking her baby back and forth saying to herself, “I love being a mom, I love being a mom,” scared by the words because she couldn’t quite feel them and she wanted to convince herself of their truth.

She knew there was love there somewhere, but what she was feeling in that moment was scared and sad.

Whatever feelings we go through about parenting, the love is always underneath. But if we don’t allow ourselves to feel the frustrations, anger, sadness, disbelief, fear, and helplessness that often come with raising kids, those feelings will keep asking to be seen until they are seen, so they can be released.

There are things I love about being a mom and things that are hard. Really hard. I sometimes feel resentful or sick to death of getting up early or burnt out on caregiving. Honoring myself through these feelings can help me access the joy and love underneath. It doesn’t have to be either/or. I love my kids and I feel tired. I love my kids and I feel sick of the tantrums. I love my kids and I feel angry they won’t eat the dinner I cooked.

Parenting is a long road, a forever road. To be well on the journey, we can be who we are and we can feel how we feel.

4 minute Meditation

 

meditation pic

 

Do you see that image right there of a person sitting with purple and pink and white light patterns all around? That’s you, whether you can feel it or not. Aren’t you beautiful? One way to start seeing yourself like that is to spend any amount of time meditating.

If you haven’t tried meditation and you think it might be boring, I recommend giving this one a try. It’s so short that it’ll be done before you even begin. If you’ve tried meditation and like it, this is a nice quickie way to reboot and get back to your day.

The intro is around 40 seconds so if you don’t want to hear it and you don’t like the “f” word, skip ahead or play the one underneath.

4 minute with intro:

 

 

4 minute without intro:

 

 

“Where my yoga at?” says 13 year old me.

All things are tied together. When you cut a tree, whose roots connect with everything, you must ask its forgiveness or a star will fall out of the sky.

 

West before East

13 years old, backyard cement slab, suburban spiritual desert
cigarette smoking, Virginia Slims stolen from my long blonde dance teacher
she kept them next to the record player and my hands
hit the ceiling of her basement studio
when I jumped, really just looking for freedom
and the other side of the world, home to wisdom keepers
finding paths through movement to higher planes
unknown, they rang the bell in me, a light in the smoke,
a silent unseen hope, hope, hope

At 13, I wanted to feel more freedom than I was feeling. I sensed there was some element of explanation to myself and life that I needed but couldn’t locate. Where was the missing essential component, an unnamed magic that would explain all the various and separate activities, messes, mysteries, disappointments, awarenesses and relationships of life?

I needed a unifying theory and cosmic explanation for why some people were liars, why getting A’s mattered, why I was the last person in my whole class (or maybe galaxy) to get my period, why intuition didn’t count as intelligence, why sometimes a shout was not loud enough, why my mom’s church thought people were born with dirty souls, and why sometimes you lose the things you love.

Naming these questions, this demand for explanation didn’t come until later, like today in my 40’s as I am blending a green smoothie, hoping it doesn’t taste like leaves.

Back then there was just a sense that…. people around me believed they weren’t connected and somehow that wasn’t right and I knew it wasn’t right.  So gimme a cigarette, says 13 year old me.

I didn’t know there were others also seeking breadcrumbs on a path inward and searching for wisdom in life’s everything.  The absence of that knowledge created a loss that defined a lot of my teens and 20’s. It created devastating anxiety and depression, and big issues with trust and relationships- and it scared me to my bones.

In my neighborhood and culture growing up, the idea that nothing and no one was really interconnected with anything else created systems that validated us by measuring us.

Like the Catholic church, where they were happy to tell you what was right and wrong or good and bad for you and how well you were doing with your salvation….(don’t get too stressed out, though, because if you don’t do well, the consequence is ETERNAL HELLFIRE, so relax.)  Or friends motivated by insecurity from always needing to be better, who acted calculating and contradictory. There was a continual need to strive for pretty, thin, cool, smart, accepted. And, of course, a grading system at school that measured how well we could adjust to outside standards of what intelligence and accomplishment looked like. I felt assessed by the systems around me. Systems I didn’t support but was already in.

Why am I thinking of this today? Because like so many of us, I’m healing myself of those wounds from my past by diving passionately into the present.

Our authentic selves require expression, attention, love and security. When we have unresolved pain, there are parts of us that bind up or scab over. So even though we’re not actively in pain anymore, we’re still living from a place that has restriction and scar tissue, which affects our ability to move smoothly and freely through the world. Both within ourselves mind-body-soul and within our lives intention-action-manifestation.

I’m fully on board living authentically and seeking spiritual truths and unity. It all feels like the freedom I’d longed for as a kid, when I couldn’t identify why things felt disconnected or what I was missing. I wasn’t exposed back then to ancient wisdom traditions and texts, mystical studies, meditation, movement and meditation practices that had been teaching things like enlightenment and unity for thousands of years. And so to discover that this path exists and has existed for so long feels like I’ve been sitting on a pot of gold I never knew was there. I just thought I was sitting on a really uncomfortable chair.

And isn’t that everything? To discover the riches that are already here? We live in an infinite universe. The answers, the healing, the relationships, the love we seek is already here. But if we don’t find it by seeking it and focusing it into life, we are like the story of the fish not knowing they’re in water.

If we keep seeking deeper and deeper affirmations and questions, only then can the universe answer us. The avenues of living intuitively, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, breathwork, energy psychology, self-reflection, self-awareness, compassion and gratitude are what heals the scar tissues and enables us to evolve and live our lives free of energetic, mental, physical, and ethereal restrictions.

Freedom from the past, from the way it’s held in our bodies and minds allows us to be fully in the present. And focusing on the freedom in the present releases the ways our bodies and minds have held onto things.

I wish I could share this news with myself back when I when I was 13. And I can. Through releasing the restrictions that were formed through those years of struggle, and offering gratitude for the wisdom and resiliency gained. By intending that future lessons be gentle and learned through love. By doing that, I scoop her right off that cement and into the arms of the unconditional love that awaits right here with me in the present.

A Mother’s Rights #2: You have the right to eat a meal, sitting down, from start to finish.

Yesterday I kicked off the first post here featuring the 15 Mother’s Rights. It started with a Mother’s Rights #1: You have the right to get 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Here comes #2

mother2

Why is this a thing? Of all the possible ways we neglect ourselves in motherhood, why does eating at a table make the list of rights?

Here’s why.  Food restores our health. It is not only fuel, but also comfort and nourishment. I am not going to tell you to go out and buy an organic veggie box and only eat the bone marrow of grass fed cows, but I will say that most traditions encourage taking a bit of time to eat so the magic alchemy that happens when food is broken down in the digestive system can take its full effect.

The above Right is something I stand by. Having this kind of meal every day when you have a newborn or young kids feels like an extravagant luxury and maybe even out of reach for a lot of us.

Like most things that seem out of reach, taking microsteps will eventually get you there. I recommend setting this Right as a goal for at least one meal a day. And if you can’t find a way to make it happen, it’s ok. Instead, see if you can be mindful of any of the options below.

 

7 Tips for Mindful eating:

 

  1. Eat hot food while it is still hot. In Eastern and Ayurvedic nutritional practice, eating warmed food is nourishing to the system. Warm food stimulates digestion and can help restore some of the energy spent in our busy days, especially if you are recovering from birth. (See The First Forty Days by Heng Ou)
  2. Chew thoroughly. Your stomach has no teeth. Let’s imagine that food is filled with all kinds of tiny nutrients and minerals that are wanting to be absorbed by your your body as it digests. Chewing slows down your eating and makes digestion a little easier on your body. It’s a way of being good to yourself.
  3. Smell, taste, and appreciate your food. Whether it is a Hostess cupcakes (that’s right, I just linked to Hostess cupcakes, bitches) or an organic sweet potato, savoring and actually experiencing what you are eating is a way to bring yourself into the present moment. This kind of mindfulness is good for for every system of your body.
  4. Eat without interruption. Ok, this seems like a high bar, I know. Best hope is to realize it’s important and see if you can aim for one meal a day uninterrupted. If that’s too tall an order, start with one meal a week. Why do this? Because being interrupted adds stress and stress impairs digestion.
  5. When eating food, remember its source. The original saying goes, “When you drink water, remember its source.” But the benefits hold true for food, particularly food that comes from the earth. Following this tip slows your eating down and allows nourishing yourself with food to be a whole body and mind experience. It also enhances the connection between you and the fuel that runs your body, and the earth that creates that fuel.
  6. Give gratitude for the nourishment. Gratitude is never a bad idea. But when it comes to food, it is an essential. Food keeps your body alive…so mustering up some thanks for that is pretty easy. On top of that, giving thanks for how your food came to be on your plate is never a bad idea. How tired would we be if we had to harvest and hunt all our own food? Giving a little thanks for the efforts of others that go into allowing us to easily access grub…it’s a no-brainer.
  7. Eat sitting down. Don’t even ask me how many times I have eaten in nibbles while making dinner for others. Or hunched over with a slice of pizza over the sink while doing dishes. Even if you know you can’t avoid getting interrupted, sitting and eating is so much more beneficial than eating on the run. It is better for digestion, better to take a moment for yourself to relax and enjoy your food.