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Start at the place where your own feet stand.
~Zen Saying

I escaped by myself to my favorite spot along the greenspace with its tangled bouganvilla and bushes, its trumpet vine-laden live oaks, its scrub jays and grey squirrels, its hidden fall wildflowers that only shyly show their faces after the greenery has been observed patiently.

An adolescent golden eagle flew overhead, which never ceases to shock with its wild freedom above the barely disguised sound of diesel trucks and soccer mom vans that cruise by just on the other side of the line of sycamores and palm trees that sustain this artificial California vision of natural areas.

Under the live oaks and gently swaying Boston ivy, though, I watch the dry river bed and think of the minnows and frogs that would be paddling around their entire world, if not for the drought. In this engineered wilderness, the wonder of nature still has the ability to possess me.

I stand in tadasana and breathe for what feels like the first time today. I inhale feel my feet connected to the path, the path dividing the greenspace just as the creekbed does, both of those connecting to the congested roads. I exhale and see the asphalt networked into the town, the town into the land and other cities around it. Inhale again, and I see the eagle’s view of the West coast of the United States, the hills becoming mountains to the east and ocean to the west. Exhale, and I’m higher still, seeing the vast empty spaces and crowded metropolises smooshed into each other and the oceans, even though they don’t see each other entangled.

I can see the pulsations of currents in the air and the water, the same pulsations in the electrical grids and the internet. I feel the pulsations of my own breathing. In and out, from my head to my feet.

My feet that are right here, grounding me in the truth of myself that is peace.

Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)

See you tomorrow for Nablopomo.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

photo credit: Wikimedia commons human_feet_.jpg

My Hero Zero

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There comes a time when an individual becomes irresistible and his action becomes all-pervasive in its effects. This comes when he reduces himself to zero.
~Mahatma Gandhi

I’ve been struggling the last few days. I haven’t been speaking to others with gentleness. I have been bouncing from small, but urgent, necessaries of life with children like a pinball in a machine. I keep reaching for a moment of serenity so that I can act with compassion-like the ball hits the bumpers. But, I inevitably end up back in the bouncing chaos.

Among these small, but urgent, necessaries, was tech difficulties. So, while I did write, I haven’t been able to post. But, I’m counting this as a successful Nablopomo so far and will keep going (hopefully, I’ll be able to work ahead a few days.) I’ll schedule out the next few Nablopomo posts so they aren’t right atop each other.

Parenting isn’t what I expected it to be. I expected to fall in love, but I learned that I didn’t have an understanding of unconditional love until I became a parent. It changed not only how I viewed children, but also my partner, myself, people I already loved, and the rest of the world.

Becoming a parent altered the depth of my compassion, patience, willingness to really listen, change, admit errors, and understand that I will never be finished learning until I die.

But, most of all, becoming a parent has taught me that I will never be enough. No matter how hard I try, how much I give or wish to be enough, something will always trip me up, as if to say, “you thought you had this for a moment, but life is a sieve that you have to keep pouring yourself into it until there’s nothing left and then you have to keep pouring.”

Parenting well is mostly about exposing my own shortcomings and then working through them with self-compassion.

Living life with compassion is my central goal (another way of interpreting, Ahimsa, or non-violence in thought, word, and action.) I’m constantly peeling back layers or having them peeled back for me. It’s this irresistible pull toward simplicity and gentleness that helps me become better at letting go of my carefully constructed sense of self-that is, ultimately, false.

I never would have expected that this shearing away of my wooly coat would happen because of poop and band-aids and spilled rice and slap-fights and sticky floors and dirty faces and missing shoes and broken crayons and late dinners and puke sheets and cavities and backed up drains and empty wipee bins and lice and car seat straps and bedtime stories and…

Sure, there are the big things we always think of as the tests of parenthood. But, so much of those major issues are resolved because of how I’ve handled the endless stream of mind-numbing mundane care-taking.

If I can act peacefully toward the child that dropped my tea that I made for myself an hour ago, but forgot about because I was busy breaking up a fight before fistacuffs, then fishing a transformer from the toilet, and locating a jujitsu belt and….

If I can see the child who broke my tea mug with gentleness, even as my hands are smeared with poo, my hair has Elmer’s glue that I never washed out from yesterday, and we were all due at one of the kid’s drama classes ten minutes ago, then when the big issues come up, I’ve built a relationship that we can lean into.

We will bend together, without breaking.

But, the problem that comes in with parenting gently for me, is that it is 24 hours on duty. There is never not a time when mini-catastrophes are not happening. There’s no recovery time-no time to stand up for a moment to get my bearings.

I practice mindfulness many days, simply as a self-protective measure. If I didn’t stop my mind from worrying over what hasn’t gotten done or what is going to happen and practice being fully present, my brain would seize up like those clockwork aliens from “Doctor Who.” (Cf: The Girl in the Fireplace.)

I’m firmly convinced that if instantaneous combustion actually occurs, it will be caused by a parent past their limit who just bursts into flame.

But, you know, even if I did become charcoal, the kids would ask me to get the lollipops off the top shelf. And I’d recombine my molecules to get the lollipops down for them (and wonder why I put them so high in the first place when they could get the lollipops without my help if I hadn’t done that.)

I hope that the attachments we are making during the minutia of every day have created a space that charcoal mom wouldn’t phase them because they know I’ve got their back no matter what.

But, as potential charcoal mom, this brings me back to the feeling of never being enough. I could never lay there for a moment, enjoying the peace of simply being a pile of cinders for long.

I can never be peaceful, patient, giving, kind, understanding or there enough. I have to go to zero point energy me and then I have to keep going.

And that’s what I struggle against. It’s this giving up of myself over and over that hurts. And it’s the kind of emptying that has to be done as a decision to give over and over. To clarify that: it’s a repetition to decide to surrender without concrete return.

I’m not trying to sound like a martyr. This isn’t a superhero leap that I’m making. These surrenders are tiny. They’re done by everyone who’s responsible for someone else. The surrenders are in the mundane sphere and they are, ultimately, done from love.

The love same I learned when I became a parent. It’s a depth of love for my children, my partner, myself, people I already loved, and the rest of the world.

Parents don’t have words that address this emptiness. But, it needs to be said.

Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)

See you tomorrow for Nablopomo.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.

~Rumi

Today emptied my emotional and physical stores repeatedly. I have nothing left to give tonight, although I tried many times to work on several posts.

So, instead of choosing to succumb to the tiredness, physical pain, and self-loathing for not living up to my expectations for how I treated myself and others today, I’m choosing to dance.

I have no reason to dance, if I listen to my inner critic. In fact, I have every reason not to dance, which is exactly why the music is so loud and my feet are about to jump around so infectiously that everyone here will be pulled in with me.

This is healing.

Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)

See you tomorrow for Nablopomo.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

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The Yogic practice of breathing, called pranayama, is an ancient method for mobilizing the body and mind toward balance. When we restrict the breath, we diminish our energy levels. When we relearn to breathe deeply, we allow our mind and body to utilize the nutrient-carrying and waste-removing power of oxygen in our blood.

In Yoga, breath is called Prana. Prana also refers to energy and in some references, to spirit or soul. Prana is what drives the body and mind, much like fuel for an engine. Pranayama means breath control or breath work.

Ancient Yogis understood that when they learned to consciously regulate breath, they could regulate their feelings and energy. Knowing how to control breath feels like a wave moving all the way from the diaphragm to the collar bones. It’s often described as breathing into the belly and flowing up and down like a wave of liquid.

To breathe in this way, the body must be relaxed. An easy way to achieve this state is progressive muscle relaxation. Begin by noticing the breath without trying to change it. Bringing awareness to the feet, point the feet and tense the muscles for a count of 5 then release the muscles. Next bringing awareness to the calves, tense the calf muscles for a count of 5 then release.

Move progressively up the body, tensing then releasing: thighs, buttocks, hips, belly, back, chest, hands, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, jaw and finally the face. When finished, the body should feel relaxed. Check in and see if tension has crept in anywhere and do a tense and release to that area.

Balancing Breath (nadhi sodanah) is also called alternate nostril breathing. The Vivekananda Kendra Research Foundation has published several studies documenting balancing breath’s physiological effects. Balancing breath creates balances when we feel imbalanced and can help to bring a calmer center to our chaos within.

IMG_0060.GIFBegin sitting in a comfortable, upright position. Make a fist with the right hand. Extend the thumb and the ring and pinky fingers, leaving the index and middle fingers folded in toward the palm. Place the thumb against the side of the right nostril just below the hard area of the nose. Close the right nostril and slowly inhale through the left nostril. Holding the breath for one second, close the left nostril with the ring and pinky fingers. The release the thumb and slowly exhale through the right nostril, pause at the bottom of the breath, then inhale through the right nostril, close both for a second, then exhale through the left. Keep the inhales and exhales even.

Repeat the process of five cycles of alternating nostrils, ending by exhaling through the left nostril.

Lower the hand. Sit with eyes closed and observe for a few moments how you are feeling. Is there more freedom in the breath as you return to normal from the exercise? Is there more calm? Do you feel more alert and centered?

Balancing breath is beneficial any time you need more equanimity. It takes concentration to remember so many physical and mental tasks. In addition to the Prana benefits noted above, you may also realize that balancing breath hits many different aspects of our proprioceptors, thus short circuiting many of the customary patterns our minds and bodies get into when our moods feel out of control.

Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)

See you tomorrow for Nablopomo.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

IMG_0059.JPGI love homemade soups that are easy to vary, depending on my mood. This soup can be blended to creamy consistency with sour cream or it can be made cheesy with plenty of melted-in-the-bowl shredded cheese. You can increase the tang by adding red wine vinegar or make it as hot as you’d like by your choice of salsa and hot sauce. In fact, I serve this with a salsa and hot sauce bar for dipping tortilla chips or for each person to customize their kick. I have substituted carrots or pumpkins for the squash and the recipe stands up. I’ve used this as a watered-down base and poured over chicken, potatoes, and tomatoes for roasting. I’ve even separated the solids from the liquid for taco filling and marinades.

However you prefer your soup, this one is a winner.

Ingredients:

(serves 4-6)

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 12-16 ounces of fresh medium-hot salsa
  • 1 chopped zucchini
  • 1 chopped medium white onion
  • 2-4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 containers fresh organic vegetable or chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • optional 1 cup cooked brown, white or Spanish rice
  • optional cilantro, lime wedge, avocado, sour cream, tortilla chips, shredded Monterey Jack cheese for toppings

Add chicken, salsa, and stock to crockpot set to high.

Over medium heat, warm olive oil and once ready, lightly sauté zucchini, onion, garlic, and squash until soft. Add to crockpot.

Once all ingredients have been added to crockpot, add water or additional stock of desired. Bring to a boil and allow to boil for 10 minutes before reducing heat to a simmer. Simmer for 3-6 hours or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and, being careful of the heat, pull the chicken into shreds with two forks.

Add rice, corn and chicken to crockpot. Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes before adding additional hot sauce or hot salsa to taste, if desired. I recommend salting individual bowls after serving so the soup doesn’t become too salty on reheating.

Garnish with cilantro, lime wedge, shredded cheese, avocado slices and a side of tortilla chips for cracking into the soup.

Vegan/vegetarian option: beans (black, pinto or garbanzo) can be used to beef up the soup or in place of chicken, if desired.

Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than proof-reading or editing. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)

See you tomorrow for Nablopomo.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

I’ve been managing chronic pain for over two years now. I’m not averse to seeking medical treatment, including medications, to treat symptoms, as well as root causes.

But, as anyone with chronic conditions knows, there are times when they flare up despite utilized therapies and popping another pill may not be feasible or practical.

At least one person in almost half of the households in the United States suffers from chronic pain. Of these people, 78% are unsatisfied with their pain-control medications and are willing to try other treatments either in concert with or to replace those medications.

We all know that ignoring pain in the early stages can lead to chronic and sever pain. And most of us understand the food, activities, sleep, and stress that triggers a flare-up. Many of the following practices have allowed me to step back and observe which of my activities and habits, beyond what I already know, contribute to the problem. And I have started to undo pain naturally, a the root.

Diet

Increasing foods that heal into the a diet already helping to manage pain can help immensely. Replacing processed sources of sweet, salty, and sour with natural sources in addition to warm, moist, and mildly-spiced foods for a month can reveal next tier trigger foods that may have been missed on an earlier elimination diet.

Herbs

To reduce inflamation: tumeric and ginger
To reduce tension-induced pain: valerian, chamomile, passionflower, and hops
Including these together are often helpful since chronic pain is often a combination of inflamation and tension.

Aromatherapy

Rosemary and thyme have been shown in studies to increase blood flow to muscles, while peppermint acts as a pain reliever.

Systemic Relaxation

Doing 10 minutes of focused breathing into an area that is painful while in Sivasana can reduce spasms and relieve tension in the area. This is especially useful while waiting for medication to work. Visualizing the treatments bringing reduced swelling and pain relief to the area can also feel soothing.

Massage

Massage relieves tension, mobilizes joints, increases circulation thereby mobilizing toxins and relaxes the body and mind. It’s important to communicate with the person giving a massage on the amount of pressure to encourage healing.

Gentle Asana

Often when I’m sore, the last thing I want to do is stretch. But contracting and relaxing muscles very gently relieves stagnation and moves toxins that increase pain. Even a few minutes of gentle, slow stretching every morning or night will make a huge difference in pain management.

For more information on the techniques for pain management:

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{Please excuse typos. I’m writing without time to proofread today}

See you tomorrow for Nablopomo.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

Mindful Media: Book Reviews, DVDs, and CDsIf I’ve done it right, this post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

We read a lot of books about living mindfully in my family and I love hearing from others when they come across a book that they or their kids liked. We also use other media like movies, music, and spoken word to talk about and practice mindfulness. In this continuing series, I’ll be writing posts about the mindful media that my kids and I recommend. Feel free to share any you’ve come across in the comments and if it looks like it might be a nice complement to the one I’m reviewing, I’ll be happy to review it or add a link to it in my post.
***

Mad Dragon Game

Mad Dragon: An Anger Control Card Game

by Therapy Game HQ

 

 

If there’s anything I have learned about living life mindfully, it is that some days are harder than others so it’s important to inject playfulness into negative thinking patterns.

If there’s anything I have learned about parenting mindfully, it is that some days are harder than others so it’s important to inject playfulness into negative thinking patterns.

It’s almost as if living life and parenting have something in common there…

Even though Ive figured that out, it’s still a daily practice for me to remember to break out of frustrations and sadness with a more playful attitude. My kids are natural teachers for this, even though I’m a poor study.

While they’re helping me to be more playful, I’m helping them to learn to handle big emotions. One of the biggest, scariest emotion for many kids (and adults) to manage is anger.

Mad Dragon Cards

Mad Dragon Cards

Anger can feel like it overwhelms so that it is in control and not you. But, really it’s the fear of the overwhelm that we confuse with fear of the anger. The fear can cause problems before, during, and after the angry feelings, if we take action without pausing to think about what’s going on.

That’s easier to think about that to do. Most people never even try. I know I am constantly working on not avoiding anger while not acting from fear. And I fail at it often.

I’m getting good at apologizing after my outbursts during anger. And I’m getting better at practicing anger when I’m not angry. I’m improving by examining anger in myself and my kids when I’m calm by meditating and writing on them.

But, I like to play with anger, too. If I can associate fun with anger, perhaps I can detach more of the negative feelings I have when I’m mad or others are mad at me.

Some of the play involves imaginative anger games. Other times, my kids and I mock “angry mom” who sternly chases them or they act as the lecturing parent with me until we collapse in giggles together. It’s important that they feel how ridiculous most angry feelings are in a safe space.

We also try more organized games for anger management and Mad Dragon is one that my kids and I return to. It’s just like Uno, but it includes prompts on the cards about aspects of anger that the player can talk about when they play a card.

Mad Dragon Draw 2 Card

Mad Dragon Draw 2 Card

For example, put down a green 6 and talk about a time you’ve successfully controlled your anger when you felt it coming up. Or play a skip card and try taking 3 deep belly breaths.

The cards help us understand what anger feels like in ourselves. We can see where we feel it in our bodies and what thoughts we are thinking when we are mad. We also learn what anger looks like in other people and how not to “catch” it.

We often talk about how to avoid situations that provoke our own or other’s anger. It’s amazing how good siblings are at identifying exactly what will push each other’s buttons!

Arguably, the most rewarding thing we take from this game is the ability to revisit past disagreements without opening old wounds. The cards act as a neutral intermediary. It’s as if the anger and blame is directed into the game and what would normally turn into another “did not! did too!” rehash, turns into the player feeling heard and the rest of us really listening.

Especially, when we are exhausted, but in need of a family meeting, playing this game has allowed me to understand what’s really going on inside some grumpy kids and relax into my own worry (that can ironically make me jump to anger.)

Mad Dragon reminds us that we have choices when we are angry. We can remember playing together and that we are on each other’s side, even when at loggerheads. It’s okay to be angry and ask for help.

Activities suggestions to create with this game:

  • For the first few times, play it like regular Uno. Ignore the prompts to share until the kids express and interest in them. Allowing their natural curiosity is part of the experience in managing anger. And it helps the adults to practice playing without ulterior motives-that kids can smell a mile away.
  • Instead of having a family meeting, have an old school family game night with board and card games. But, if you find your family can communicate about emotions better while playing video games, go for it. It’s more important to let them take the lead and be the follower, especially when treading around big emotions like anger.
  • Above all, play! So, if it means building a card castle or tossing them into a hat, then play and laugh together. The bonding will reap benefits later when anger comes up.
Related Posts You May Like:

Have you read any good books lately? I’d love to hear from you.

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Disclosure: If I did this right, there are affiliate links in this post. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

{Please excuse typos. I’m writing without time to proofread today}

See you tomorrow for Nablopomo.
NaBloPoMo November 2014

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