Pregnancy’s Butterfly Effect

butterfly_release

“Let everything go.  Allow your worries, your thoughts, your anxieties to float away and for a few moments, just be here in this moment.”  How many times do we hear this yoga jargon in classes, especially the opening and while lying in Savasana?  I remember listening to similar cues in a class about a month ago and thinking, “I have a baby growing inside of me.  I am a mother now and no longer have the luxury of completely releasing because this little person is a part of me and my actions impact another now.

Long ago my mother started to teach me about how my actions had consequences that impacted other people, but growing a human inside and realizing -this body is not just attached on the outside of me with skin around it that attaches us, but truly growing in the center of my being- did my perspective take a huge shift in what parenting will entail.

As I began to think more and more about this idea that what I do can have significant impacts on another is certainly not a new concept, but it just brought up this idea with greater magnitude.

A few examples:

The substances I put in my body (food, drinks, and if I were to choose, other substances…you know, like gum) impacts my energy level, my moods, clarity of thought, lifespan, self-image and even health.  This can impact my productivity, relationships with others, and availability to work or engage.  How often do we think about these things as the fork covered with salad or the wonderful smelling donut is going in?  

colorful-salad

As you get dressed and prepped for your day, how often do you look in the mirror and ask: what do I want my appearance to say about the type of person I am and does this appearance communicate who I really am: be it confident, professional, warm and gentle, a lover of the earth, etc?

Do you set plans or goals for years, months, weeks, or each day that help you spend time being and becoming ever more who you really want to be in the grand scheme: whether this includes the types of relationships you invest in, service, professional, physical or educational pursuits?  Are you living in a way that truly makes you happy?

For this little window of pregnancy, I have the opportunity to be pulled into a vacuum of reminders that if I don’t eat frequently enough (or the right foods), it makes a more significant impact than  I realized – i.e. nausea, waking up in the middle of the night, random impulses to cry, etc.  This is preparation for remembering the importance of regularly feeding the little person who is about to come out and be a very significant part of my world for the rest of my life.

We don’t always have such blunt reminders in front of us that say: “Your actions directly and indirectly impact others!” But they do.  The words we speak and how we express them can be a pivot point in another’s day- and how many others can a grumpy or very cheerful person impact: from how they drive, to glances, to words they share with the people around them? dadreadtochild

Do you sit down to watch a tv show (that will inevitably suck you into at least 2 more) after work tonight or walk your dog who is already harassing you to get outside?  Do you tell your kids to go play so you can catch up on emails after dinner or spend a few minutes reading and maybe singing with them before the bedtime routine begins?  Do you check another gossip column online or call an old friend who has been on your mind lately?

We have so many choices every day and while we can’t see most of the consequences, we can remind ourselves that each choice makes a difference.  So even if your most recent decision wasn’t one of your best, you always have the next one to make more of the impact you want to share with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breaking  Cycles

man-walking-circlesby-HikingArtist

Do you ever feel like you are walking in circles: coming back to the same scenarios, same challenges, over and over again?  I spent so many years really struggling with this.  I found myself frequently wondering why I continued to battle with self-acceptance, my weight, binge eating, and not pursuing much of what I really wanted to do with my life.

Is there something you want to change in your life and it feels like time?

I cycled for years, wondering what lessons were to be gained and why I couldn’t figure out what seemed to have such a simple solution.  Slowly, I began to build new pathways, take little steps to gradually change -one thing at a time.  I stopped losing my temper on people and started breathing slowly and holding my tongue, allowing my thoughts of frustration to come out from time to time in more tactful and calm/productive ways.  After being called out about how defensive I am (that was a painful, and important pill to swallow from one boss), I started to reflect in the moments when I wanted to jump up defensively, and began to notice how and when my ego threatened to prevent a learning opportunity.  I started to prepare healthy and small snacks when I knew I was coming up on a stressful season in which I knew I was prone to binge on unhealthy foods.  And when the moments arose that I felt the anxiety bringing on urges to return to old habits I wanted to break, I literally just sat for a minute or a few, took slow, deep breaths, at times closed my eyes, and refused to let myself run away- I told myself: “You can do this, keep going.”  

running away is in your head

What makes you want to run away?

I took more and smaller steps to accomplish daunting tasks.  I focused on congratulating myself A LOT for working through those hard moments.  I still do at times.  I found new rewards to feed my brain, my soul, and I focused on the joy of learning a new coping mechanism, becoming ever more of the person I wanted to be.  My focus shifted more from the momentary cravings to who and what I want to be is.

What is the life you WANT to live?  How does it look, feel, handle real challenges?

I recently spent time with a friend going through a hard time.  We talked about how we handle pain, family cycles or patterns and her worry about the long term effects of turning to what I would describe as escapism.  Today I was reminded of our conversation as I listened to Rachel Brathen, a.k.a. Yoga Girl’s latest podcast The Guilt of a New Mom  in which she opened up about a struggle and experiences of turning to escapism (food, shopping, alcohol, even yoga) in moments of extreme stress.  What made the podcast so valuable to me was her follow up realization that only when we allow ourselves to actually experience rather than run from our pain can we heal (it’s a beautiful confession and lesson I recommend listening to if you are a parent or have a tendency toward escapism).  

break the cycle

What can your cycles teach you?

As one who tends to embrace each moment, I often feel like life is so wonderful.  At moments of intense challenge, it can seem almost overwhelming and unending- no matter the length or brevity.    I don’t know that I will ever fully understand all the pain anyone suffers, but I feel the healing and comfort we gain through sharing what we survive, overcome, and our lessons along the way.  So I just want to add my voice to that of Rachel Brathen’s: when you are hurting, especially when you are really hurting, I hope you will allow the moment to pass without running from it.  You don’t need to push it aside or take it on with an agenda.  The pain may or may not ever fully go away, but those seemingly overwhelming moments shorten and their frequency decreases as you stop running and instead listen to the lessons in them.  You begin to free yourself from cycles of pain trying to teach you the same lesson over again.  

How can you  respond to discomfort a little differently today?

 

 

Why I Want to Be a Mother

motherlovinghands

Did you grow up wanting to be a mother?  I used to think that deep down, every woman felt most fulfilled through motherhood, but I now realize it is some people’s callings and many of us do not feel that way.  I respect every woman who is honest with herself, and even more so, those who find joy in the journey, whether it is what you hoped for or not.

I grew up in a home with a mother who started very young- only 20 years old when she welcomed me into the world.  She was married and had a husband who tried to be supportive, but it was a constant struggle.  They did the best they could, raised our family with lots of love, laughter and tears, and yet for some reason I wanted to grow up and follow in my mother’s footsteps.

My twenties came and went with a 7+ year marriage I thought meant parenthood was joyfully imminent.  Instead it was painfully placed at bay, but looking back, I could not be more grateful.  I matured, studied child development and parenting for over a decade and had countless opportunities to help parents and children form happier, communicative, calmer homes.

As the next decade of life rolled in, I made a huge shift- let go of the marriage that wasn’t serving either of us, moved across country, switched jobs, made new friends, reconnected with family and passed up the Ph.D. path to find something equally fulfilling and hopefully less stressful.  I met my wonderful husband, we went through a lot together in only 2 years, but what gave me peace was seeing that every transition and rough patch, and we’ve been through some doozies, didn’t ruffle our feathers much.  We laugh things off, take naps when we need them, give each other space to develop uniquely, and love and make lots of time to be together.  I found and invest each day in the relationship I always dreamed of, so naturally, my long-held dream of parenting rekindled.

It seems this earth sign (Taurus) gal just needed a solid foundation for all the ducks to line up in a row.  In early December I finished yoga training, then 2 weeks later my husband and I bought a house.  Quicker than ever before, I nested into the new haven to welcome guests, host holiday parties, and bring light and love into a space one friend said felt like “a big, warm hug.”

Well, the holiday treats came- and stayed in superfluous left-overs until I had to throw out some of the pie I kept eating for breakfast and thought was making me feel less than great.  But feeling “off” continued and was accompanied by waking regularly in the middle of the night-not regular for me, emotional waves of feeling weepy for no reason, and just overall lethargy.  My husband didn’t notice the time for my period came and went, without coming.  After the roller coaster of last year, I was far from eager to take a pregnancy test.  I waited until 40 days without flowing to take it. Lo and behold-it was positive.  I had debated for weeks: do I tell my husband if it comes out positive?  When?  How?  With all the cool finesse of Anne Hathaway’s gawky Princess Diaries character, I just left the test on the bathroom sink, knowing it could be 8 hours before my hubby saw it.

30 minutes later he happened to roam in that direction. I just kept folding laundry, nervous, with no idea what he’d say.  “So this is a thing?” came wafting from the loo.  “I guess so” awkwardly replied.  We slowly, cautiously talked, celebrated, and have enjoyed the ever-changing adventure of baby-growing unfold over the past mont and a half.

After telling one of my brothers “the news”, he and I met at a local diner to catch up.  It was a heartwarming and dynamic conversation, as I always find our interactions to be, but particularly interesting on this occasion as we discussed parenting.  About a year and a half ago, he and his partner became parents- as I see it, very nobly, through first fostering, then eventually adopting a child.

Amid our many conversations topics, he asked me about a desire I’ve always to which he could not relate:

“Why do you want to have a baby?”  

I was a little surprised- having considered, but never been asked before.  My initial thought was, I just always have.  It could be engendered through strong cultural messages I’ve received since birth, or perhaps it is part of my dharma, but motherhood, including growing, birthing and raising children has always been something I’ve desired, with the support of a loving partner- found!    

I find it absolutely amazing that my body has the potential to grow another human- if you want a wonderful comedic break to get a mini lecture on the miracle of birthing, check out Jim Gaffigan’s stand up sketch on 4 kids.   As I’ve studied over the years about the significance diet, emotions, thoughts, and activity level of a mother can have in the first few months of a yet-to-be-born child’s life, I find it the ultimate, beautiful opportunity to give a human the best possible start to life.  Then raising a child- the ultimate social experiment- in challenge, learning about love and selfless giving.  I spent 15 years refining my diet, lifestyle, and even relationships to create the best possible incubator for a little one.  I’m far from perfect and my activity level since pregnancy commenced has significantly declined (I don’t have the energy, let alone feel well enough to do 10-15 hours of yoga and jog/walk 6-10 miles a week right now).  I do the best I can, even when that is just drinking water, eating crackers, and walking my dog halfway down the block daily.  I think every parent does the best they can.  So today I honor parents, mothers, and every woman – for doing your best, owning who you are, and hopefully finding the love for yourself you absolutely deserve.

And if you, like me, have a little “Snowflake” on the way, I wish you peace, comfort, and joy in the journey as well!

 

Simple Ways to Spread Love -S.O. not required

This time of year has always been special to me- whether I was a twitter-pated teen, a lonely “Single-Awareness-Day” celebrator, or deeply in love, Valentine’s Day has always called to me.  In the years of early adulthood, it finally occurred to me that it need not be a time to mourn the freedom of being single or be a day of pressure for men.  I realized, that like childhood when I spent hours creating the most beautiful box and valentines to take to school, it can be a celebration of creativity and sharing kind feelings for anyone in your life (self-included).  So whether you are 15 or 55, single or partnered, here are some ideas to get your creativity going to enjoy a day of love.

 

Bake and Share Cookies      cookies

Have you been meaning to meet your neighbors and haven’t found the right ice-breaker?  Or maybe you have a couple of kids you know would love to be reminded how sweet they are.  Give a plate of treats to someone and just let them know you are thinking of them or want to be their friend.

 

Write a Note of Appreciation

When was the last time you emailed your sister just to tell how awesome she is?  Have you recently told your dad how you appreciate something special he did with you growing up?  Take 5 minutes to send a card, email, or even hand-written letter to someone who has touched your life.

dogwalkingWalk Your Dog

This may sound like an odd one.  However, speaking from experience, for those of us pooch-loving pet owners who sometimes get so busy that by mid-week that we short-change our furry friends with extra short outdoor visits, especially in the middle of winter, this can be great.  Give your pet an extra-long walk to show him or her some love, while gifting yourself with some exercise, fresh air, and if you get out while the sun is still up, a healthy dose of immune-boosting Vitamin D.  

Take Someone a Meal or a Cup of Tea

Do you know anyone who is sick, has a new baby, or is going through a really stressful time at work?  Make an extra portion, grab an extra coffee when you order one, or hand the homeless person on the corner a $5 gift card to a nearby cafe.  

Heart Attack Someone (the paper kind)

paper_heart_attackI remember going out with friends on a few occasions to cut out paper hearts, then tape them all over someone’s door with little notes of how the person was appreciated and loved. Years later, while leaving for work one day, I saw a beautiful display of hearts attached to skewers that sprawled the lawn of my apartment complex.  I was shocked and touched when I curiously went to see who they were for and found my name written on one of the hearts.  Trust me, this one is both fun to create and touching to receive.

There are so many ways to experience and express love.  It may, but doesn’t necessarily need to be romantic.  Just showing love for humanity can be simple AND make someone’s day.  So go ahead and fill someone’s heart with joy -you may notice that a certain “someone” will end up including you!

 

Manifesting Your Magnificence

Brightly shining rays  

Masked by “should be’s” and “to-do’s”  

What will you peel off?

eclipse1

Do you realize how great you are?  How awesome your talents, passions, quirks and curiosities are that make you you?  For a long time, I didn’t.  I pined for compliments but struggled to actually let them in.  It wasn’t for a lack of love from others.  It’s just hard to feel love from outside  when you don’t accept yourself.  As I’ve worked towards appreciating and accepting who I am, it has helped to consider what traits I particularly value in myself and others, and letting those shine.

American yogi, Baron Baptiste, poses the question:

“What do you want to manifest?”

As I began to contemplate and journal about this, I pondered what manifest means.  How often is the term used as “how others perceive someone”?  Yet, consider for a moment, how manifesting something isn’t just acknowledged, but how it actually impacts people.

Looking at the sun, one might say it manifests light.  My perception is that I see light.  Yet my skin feels warmth.  Plants receive nourishment.  Your emotions can actually be lifted to a more cheerful state and alert/wakefulness is more prone to align with light than darkness.  These are just a few ways the sun’s light impacts us.  So…

 How could you make a difference in the world through what you emit?

Think of Gandhi, a human with true purpose and sense of self.  Can anyone know all the details of responsibilities he held, relationships he maintained, words he spoke?  Yet, consider how many people know what his sense of purpose was.  He was a bold human rights activist.  His life centered around bringing awareness to others that people with brown skin should be treated with the same liberties and respect as people with lighter colored pigmentation.  He manifested human dignity, progress through pacifism and equal rights.  These ideas were not just people’s perception of him.  These were the rays he spread, brightening the world so that others felt his passion and joined in the movement.  Change came to India, the British Empire and the world because one person, to start out, was willing to recognize and unabashedly share his passion.

gandhi

There was only one Gandhi.  I certainly don’t aim to replicate who he was and all he accomplished.  You and I can, however, decide what we want to manifest.  Day by day, with focus, we can hone in on how to shine with a sense of purpose.   We can peel away distractions, responsibilities we put on ourselves that aren’t really necessary, biases or prejudices, fears, habits and even addictions that prevent us from remembering, expressing and being what we truly want to be about.

So far, I’ve narrowed down that I want to manifest love.  I surmise that this yearning to share love is strong due to years of depression, self-loathing and a sense of inadequacy.  I know all too well what a lack of love feels like. I know many of us can relate by being in or having been through that lonely place.  So I want to give and facilitate for all people a sense of self-love, acceptance, and openness to feel the love of others.     That is what I wish to spread on the earth.

What do you want to share?

Taking or Giving: the earth?

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors,

We borrow it from our children.

-Native American Proverb

Image result for world in hands

Asteya is the Sanskrit term for “non-stealing”.  I was recently invited to consider this concept.  Initially my reflection was concise: I don’t steal, that’s pretty basic.  But with more consideration and reading about world events, I started to ponder the the proverb about borrowing the earth from our children.  The question arose:

Am I borrowing or stealing the earth from future generations?

How we treat the planet today impacts what is left in 5 years and 5 millennia.  This planet has an amazing way of healing itself and on top of that, ecological change is inevitable.  A volcanic eruption will cause far more harm to the air than all the driving you could possibly do in one lifetime.  And yet, does that dismiss the part you and I play, however small, in caring for the earth and its inhabitants?

We all have a different role to play in the grand scheme.  Each person makes a difference; at least to a few people, plants, perhaps even animals, you make a difference in the lives of those around you, as well as those  influenced by the people and creatures you impact.

How do you feel inclined to impact the planet?

Have you appreciated the crisp smell of the cooling air?  

Do you conserve energy by turning out lights when you leave a room?  

Will you grow herbs, flowers or a tree to clean the air and brighten the day of someone who passes your home on a grueling commute each day?

We aren’t all meant to be global activists to the extent of Vandana Shiva, but by listening to your inner truth –you may think of this as “following your gut reaction”– can bring out a little better version of yourself and help shape a world that is a bit more welcoming than you first found it.  

Will you remove a bit of its beauty or offer a brighter planet to those yet to come?

 

Who Helps You Shine

March is a month of change: winter is peeling away and starting to reveal early hints of spring.  Birds begin to sing again, the clocks change, and for teachers, conference reports are written and we reunite with families to discuss their children’s growth.  It has always been a heavy struggle.  Early mornings, late nights, long days of work with anxiety riding over my head and a lack of productivity and/or foresight to balance good self-care and the added workload.

This year, however, is proving different.  With new goals and outlook, a stronger and happier relationship than I’ve ever enjoyed, and a more holistic approach, the weight seems lighter.  Last night, after finishing a very productive, healthy, happy day, while tucking into bed at a decent hour (a new thing for me), my mind wandered around the changes in this March’s inception.  There are numerous factors, but it all seemed to boil down to the quote above.  My best friend makes a HUGE difference in my life.  He is generally very quiet, engages with relatively few people.  I am certainly the more extroverted in our pair, a bit of a social butterfly at times, and yet, he is the world to me and has helped my foundation settle.  We are moving and growing all the time, yet the partnership and joy is solid.

Is there a person in your life who stands as your rock?  Who helps you see the sun is shining when you might not otherwise?  If you haven’t today, I hope you tell that person.  If it is you, give yourself credit for the independence and self-care you provide.  We all deserve to love ourselves –as well as others.  May we express our gratitude and share our happiness and achievements with those who help us on our journey each day.