Welcome to the First Mindful Mama Carnival
This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by Zoie at TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts about what mindful practices mean to them, how they parent mindfully, obstacles to mindful practice and experiences along the way. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
When I was in high school, my mom raised mice in our basement. These weren’t feeder mice; these were fancy pet mice. Silkies with their shiny coats; Egyptian mice with their large, black eyes, reddish fur, and pointy little noses; English mice with their round ears and deep brown coats. At one point, we had more than 200 mice living in cages in our basement.
For the most part, mice are pretty quiet. Unless we got behind on cleaning their cages, they didn’t demand much attention. The exception was when their exercise wheels needed greasing. Four or more of these little guys would decide to run on the wheel at the same time, the fast ones tumbling the slow pokes up and over the little metal wheel while the wheel itself screamed and screamed so that we could hear it two floors up.
It was when I heard this wheel that I became aware of the presence of hundreds of mice in my home and that the presence of hundreds of mice in my home became unsettling.
I have a spastic hamster who lives in my head. He’s always up there nibbling and stuffing his cheeks, waiting for me to toss him a circuitous thought so he can take it and run with it in his squeaky little hamster wheel. When I feed this spastic hamster, my thoughts snowball. Something tiny, like a mouse running on a wheel, becomes something enormous and un-ignorable.
I’ve discovered that I can trust my emotions, but that if I let that hamster in my brain take off, the thoughts run wild and my bodily sensations become intense and totally disconnected from my conscious experience. I end up anxiously mentally traveling back in time trying to figure out what I might have eaten to make my stomach upset or moralizing about the glass of wine I had with dinner, convinced that’s why I’m in a cold sweat at 3am. I latch onto these thoughts as a comfort measure, but it isn’t comforting at all. In fact, it makes me feel worse physically at the same time that I feel worse emotionally.
The key is to get the hamster off the wheel. I think of this as losing my mind.
I do this by shifting the focus from my thoughts to the sensations in my body and allowing those to exist without judgment. I focus on my left toes or on the physical act of breathing or on the feeling of air against my exposed skin, and that helps remind me that I’m okay physically. (I’m alive, I’m breathing, I must be okay.) Bringing awareness to my body helps stop the snowball of my thoughts, which helps stop the increasing discomfort in my physical body (racing heart, upset stomach, cold sweats), which slows the thoughts. I separate my mind from my body by letting my thoughts alone while I focus on my body.
I began doing this in neutral situations for the practice. Then I applied the technique to negative situations and found that it’s much easier to avoid moralizing about my emotions when the hamster is quiet. Recently I’ve started focusing on body sensations in positive situations, like when I’m cuddling my son or when I’m watching my daughter on the soccer field, which helps me more fully experience the good feeling.
With the 24/7 presence of my family during our recent road trip, I’ve found this technique to be invaluable. I don’t always remember to do it, and it’s not always enough to keep me from yelling, but even my sporadic application of the technique has enhanced my enjoyment of our road trip and has decreased the frequency of my hypersensitivity-induced tantrums.
And that makes a week on the road and our cross-country mood—not to mention an indefinite period of time in a hotel room—more pleasant for all of us.
Visit TouchstoneZ to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Blog Carnival!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
- The Lost Art of Chill One Rich Mother explains how she overcame her habit of screaming through mindfulness
- Mindful Running Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction shares how running has become her meditation.
- Mindful Mama…Who, Me? Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about why it’s difficult for her to be a Mindful Mama.
- Ritual of Affirmations Patti @ Jazzy Mama finds out that a simple evening ritual can take on new importance when it is done with thoughtfulness and intent.
- My Mindfulness Challenge Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro has set forth a mindfulness challenge for herself in an effort to become a better person.
- Keeping My Sanity by Losing My Mind CJ at Imperfect Happiness describes how she connects with reality by disconnecting from her mind.
- On Becoming an Aspiring Mindful Mama Melissa at The New Mommy Files has found that motherhood demands mindfulness, so she’s working toward becoming a more mindful mama.
- Perfect and Complete, Lacking Nothing Rachael at The Variegated Life finds more time in the practice of being now.
- On Mindfulness and Multitasking Terri at Child of the Nature Isle reflects on how her mindful practices have changed since having children and how multitasking has been the key to maintaining a balanced life.
- I’ll Have What She’s Having Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how she learned to trust in the “YES!”