bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

thoughts from the intersection of socks and mindfulness

photo copy 4

Every morning before school, my kids eat breakfast, scribble out some homework, and start loading on backpacks, jackets, and sneakers.

For the past seven years, I endured the shrill last minute morning demand of at least one child, “Mommy! I forgot socks! Will you go upstairs and get them for me?”

For seven years, I responded with either, “You go get them! Run! See if you can do it in 20 seconds! 1…2…3…” or with, “You need to remember to put your socks on! I’ll do it today but no more!” (The lies we mothers tell our kids!)

For seven years, I accepted this sockless scenario as part of child rearing, without questioning it.

The big-picture reason for this unquestioning acceptance? Confession time. I was born disorganized. One might even have diagnosed me as a walking, talking, breathing natural disaster. (Gasp!) It’d always been impossible for me to keep my house (physically and mentally) in order.

My now-disciplined mind has been well-earned through a maturing meditation and mindfulness practice, though my home continued to function in a rigid state of loose disorder. I’d surrendered to my messy surroundings, believing that chaos was a necessary cog in assembling multiple children for their daily presentation to the world.

But wait! One thing my mindful parenting practice has taught me is that I don’t have to accept chaos in my home. And I don’t have to respond to logistical panic with more logistical panic. (ie. “No socks! What am I going to do?? There are no clean socks!!!”) Mindfulness has also taught me how to think in solutions as a default.

Solutions in the form of a basket of socks by the back door.

You’re probably thinking, “Vanessa, you are not only the most disorganized, but also the lamest mother on the planet. I’ve been doing this for years and your story is downright droll.” But again, please remember how painfully disorganized I am (WAS, how painfully disorganized I WAS) and appreciate the miraculous transformation that would have to take place for me to look at my children’s morning disembarkation process and say, “My kids don’t need to be screaming. I can make our lives easier. I’m going to bring all of their socks downstairs and leave them in a basket by the door.”

And then to actually follow it up with ACTION! A trip to TJ Maxx to buy a basket! This is HUGE for a naturally disastrous person like me! To add to the miracle, it’s been over a month and the basket is still full of socks. (In other words, I’m slaying laundry duty. Yah baby!)

I’m also thinking that either God is rewarding all of my meditation work with a dose of self-motivated discipline, or He’s really tired of hearing my kids scream in the morning, too. Either way, I’m confident that it was my mindfulness practice that inspired this most excellent (and organized) footwear solution.

www.vanessagobes.com

sobbing on the front lawn: breakdown at the yard sale

Is there anything more cathartic than a yard sale? So often we talk about lightening our heavy loads in an emotional way, but there’s no need for metaphor when we physically disencumber 1500 pounds of impulse buys from our attics and basements. The purge is deeply connected to an emotional unraveling that is both healing and heartbreaking.

I hosted a neighborhood yard sale over the weekend. On Saturday morning, my front lawn became a graveyard for misfit decor, obsolete electronics, outgrown toys, and battered sports equipment. We amateur vendors watched with relief as our old treasures were released from purgatory by folks who promised to breathe life back into them.

I confess, I struggled with the purge. I specifically struggled with several large Rubbermaid bins full of clothing samples, ghosts of a profession past. I spent much of my 20s and 30s as a serial entrepreneur, birthing small businesses that fizzled and died before maturity. My boldest endeavor was a golf apparel line for women and children. It survived three years, until my last child came into the world; when I realized I didn’t want to “do it all” anymore. So I packed up my trade show booth, fell out of touch with customers, and watched from the nursing rocker as a thick layer of dust settled on my sewing machine.

I hadn’t ventured into business since.

Though the golf business had been peacefully resting six feet under for many years, I still felt pangs of guilt, shame, and regret when I saw those bins full of clothes, when I thought about what I spent on that start-up, what others might think of me for giving it up, and, of course, what I could’ve been. I felt stuck, unable to go forward or backward, in a purgatory of my own.

Those Rubbermaid bins were my hair shirt. They held me back, haunting me, quietly murmuring, “You never finish anything, Vanessa. Good ideas. No follow through. Why bother starting anything new when you’re born to fail?”

They whispered mean things to me, but I kept them anyway. Because there’s something beautifully painful about suffering, about knowing we’re inadequate.

Shortcomings and insufficiencies are ghost stories we know so well. We can recite every line by heart. And we are strangely comfortable with them. If our dark tales weren’t here, if our lack, our suffering wasn’t holding us back, we’d have to step fully into that bright loving light that forces us to live fully. Living fully can be scary. There’s risk in the fullness. What if we fail? What if we disappoint?

But the scariest thing for me is always this: What if I succeed? What if I do so well that I need to be responsible for one more thing? Can I carry the weight of accountability? Am I disciplined enough to manage a new endeavor? Am I good enough? Am I worthy?

Oh my God.

Am I worthy?

So I stared down those Rubbermaid bins last week, which just so happened to be the same week I took on my first paying meditation students. I looked at those bins and I threatened: “It’s you or me.”

And I chose me. (I’m bawling typing this right now, by the way.)

I dragged the bins onto my lawn last Saturday, but I didn’t take the covers off. Maybe I was only half ready to let them go.

Two hours into the sale, an old lady started poking around at my ghosts and said, “I’ll give you $10 for everything in this box.”

“TEN DOLLARS?” I said, “You could start a whole business with what’s in this box. There’s thousands of dollars worth of retail merchandise in this b–“

The lady looked at me in a way that I can only describe as neutral.

I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, “Okay, it’s yours for twenty.”

“I’m not buying it for me,” said the old lady. “I’m bringing it to Haiti for mission.”

I suddenly had a visual of a Haitian woman walking slowly down a bustling tropical street, wearing my light, breathable golf clothes, looking crisp and cool in the hot, hot sun. I hauled out every bin I had, transferred their contents into white Glad bags, and recruited a friend to carry my ghosts into the old lady’s station wagon. I hugged her 35 times then accepted her ten bucks gratefully.

And then I sobbed.

www.vanessagobes.com

 Please share this with your favorite entrepreneur… or yard saler. 

My Rubbermaid bins looking sweet and innocent, now empty and stacked in a closet.

My Rubbermaid bins looking sweet and innocent, now empty and stacked in a closet.

The Flawed Foundation of Feminism

541f23722e32fc85609d5aa5_ew_un

I enjoyed watching Emma Watson speak on feminism in this video. She articulated beautifully the need for worldwide immediate action toward gender equality. My concern is that while we women demand respect and equality from our male counterparts, the foundation of our argument is weakened by our own interpersonal habits.

By gossiping about each other and cutting each other down through our words and actions, we disempower our entire gender. Yes, our entire gender. Because it’s not just me doing it, it’s not just you doing it. Almost *all* women do it. And if we’re not woman-bashing out loud, most likely we’re struggling with jealousy or pettiness in our heads.

If the sisterhood should thrive in political and economic society, it must first thrive within itself. And while international campaigns shine a bright light on civil imbalance, the movement really starts with private, daily efforts in consciousness. Tiny efforts that eventually become a new normal.

This movement is a political overhaul in the making, but I’m suggesting an overhaul of the female ego. We can start by vowing very simple things: “Today I will not engage in idle gossip. Today I will be kind to every woman I see. Today I will support another woman in business.”

We’re stronger together!

What are your thoughts on this recent surge of the feminist movement? Is feminism only the new black? Why is it that vulnerability is a requirement for women to support one another while vulnerability seems to be detriment for men to support men? What are you doing to propel the feminist movement? Why or why not?

http://www.vanessagobes.com

Emma Watson Delivers Game-Changing Speech on Feminism

goodbye back pain

I’ve had constant lower back pain for several years. I’ve tried yoga and chiropractic and massages, but nothing really made it go away. I mean, all those things made me feel great, but the back pain still lingered.

Okay, switching gears for a minute – hold tight, this will come around.

I am typically messy and disorganized and forgetful and overcommitted. It’s a problem for me and it’s a problem for those around me. So I’ve made deliberate efforts to simplify all parts of my life and have been super disciplined and organized for about two months. I always strive to walk my talk, but these months I’ve been absolutely intentional about it. Will power and discipline are my #1 and #2 challenges in life so this effort has taken *extreme* concentration and commitment!

I’ve noticed, as I’ve become more disciplined, my back pain has dissipated, to the point that my lower back feels loose, flexible, and healthy. The pain is gone. And there’s no reason for it to be gone. But it’s gone nonetheless.

Physical pain is a manifestation of spirit’s last ditch effort to communicate with us. “There is something really wrong here! Please pay attention! I’m talking to you!!!” I’m totally convinced that God has rewarded my organizational efforts by alleviating my back pain. I can find no other explanation and I do not believe in coincidences.

So whether or not you buy into my healing hypothesis, consider this: What could your body be telling you? Do stress and challenges manifest for you physically? Have you ever equated your physical pain with emotional pain?

Here’s a fun exercise – write down something going on with your body that’s troubling you. (Headaches, allergies, back pain, tummy troubles, etc.) Now write down your biggest challenge or source of stress. (Be careful not to name another person as your source of stress – this has to be all about you!) Spend 3 weeks working deliberately and intentionally to ease that emotional challenge and see what happens to your physical pain.

Share your thoughts!

http://www.vanessagobes.com

purpose and parenting

Most of us Moms are straddling two worlds. The one that revolves around family, and the one that revolves purpose. For some Moms, those two worlds settle cozily together. Born to flourish motherly love, these lucky ladies pack healthy lunch boxes with passion, organize closets with pleasure, and serve children with absolute presence of being. By fulfilling the needs of both Self (purpose) and family, no one leaves the planet disappointed. Life is streamlined. Neat. Lovely.

But for many of us, the roads of purpose and family intersect very little – or not at all. There’s an unspoken struggle, a ubiquitous guilt, a ceaseless pressure, making us feel like we can’t give ourselves over completely to anything, always delivering our best, knowing it’s not *really* our best, rather the best version of ourselves available given our situations.

I’ve been struggling with this balance for a few years. Taking courses, teaching meditation, and writing [unpublished :-( ] children’s books are activities that propel my life’s purpose; but the time it takes to do these things is time away from my family. And to complicate matters, I’ve had trouble transitioning into fully-present Mommy mode when the kids tumble through the front door after school, keeping one eye on them and one eye on the day’s project, sneaking in emails while they eat snack, listening half way as they chatter about this or that. I didn’t realize how unfair I was being to my kids – through my hesitance (or conjured inability) to put away my work and *be* with them. It took a summer of disciplined motherhood to learn this huge lesson.

In June, I decided my intention for this summer was to just be a Mom. I started by vanquishing a mother’s ultimate nemeses – unplanned interruptions. I turned off my YouTube account and logged off of Twitter, ignored my Gmail inbox and steered clear of my Facebook newsfeed. (Mostly. No one’s perfect.) I cleaned my house and folded laundry, planted gardens and provided three meals a day. I broke up fights and yelled at my kids, demanded submission and rewarded compliance. I played Ghost in the Graveyard after dusk and packed sandy bodies into my trusty Ford. I was 100% Mommy. Some good, some bad, but 100% nonetheless.

While, admittedly, I went a little crazy in the land of board games, Top 40 radio, and sticky ice cream cones, I never once felt guilty; because during the vast majority of our time together, my little crew captured my full presence. Being a completely tuned-in, uninterrupt-able parent allowed me to release that chronic sense of incompletion (aaahhhhhh), and I’m so grateful for the lesson.

We may spend a lot or a little time pursuing purpose, be it by working, hobbying, volunteering, or mothering, and we are left with a remainder of time to spend with our children. Regardless of its length, the time can be equal in quality if we are fully present with them. “I am here for you. I am here with you.” When we provide them with that assurance, we have nothing to feel guilty about.

Duty calls, though, and purpose we must pursue, even if our children would rather us just be Moms. But our babies can still feel well-attended and well-loved by knowing that when we’re in the room with them physically, we’re also in the room with them mentally and emotionally. To do that, it’s important that we spend a few quiet minutes getting centered in the space between our two worlds. In that passage from purpose to parenting, when we’re arriving home from work, tasks, or projects, a few minutes of meditation helps us shift gears from afternoon to evening, logging out of the virtual world and stepping into the world of heartbeats and eye-contact, clearing space for our families’ needs.

Chanting, breathing mindfully, gentle exercise, and listening to soothing music are also great ways to ease that transition into parenthood. (It’s important that this centering activity be inviting, comfortable, and easy or we’ll never do it!) Even five quiet minutes in a parked car before greeting our children can help us to release the passionate-person-with-dreams-and-to-do-lists and welcome in the wholly-present-parent-with-gobs-of-love-and-patience we know we can be.

http://www.vanessagobes.com

it’s okay to argue in front of kids

My husband and I got into an argument yesterday in front of the kids. It started spontaneously with a little snippiness over a pair of smelly sneakers (of all things) then quickly escalated into something more complicated. We sat down and hashed it out while the kids circled, then after five minutes or so we moved on with our day.

People fight. That’s life. A family brawl is a great opportunity to model mindful communication and to teach by example. Our young audience reminds us to keep the argument clean – taking turns listening to each other, acknowledging our partner’s frustration, expressing compassion for our partner’s pain. (Thich Nhat Hanh writes about this extensively and I recommend any of his books to learn more about mindful communication!)

It’s okay to fight in front of kids, so long as we make up in front of them, too. When our kids see us argue mindfully, they learn how to argue mindfully. And when they see us apologize and forgive, they learn how to apologize and forgive.

So back to yesterday. After we fought, my oldest wrapped her arms around my waist and buried her head in my chest, “Are you and Daddy going to get a divorce?” I actually thought this question was funny because our verbal scuffle was pretty tame in comparison to some others we’ve had, but I reminded her that it’s okay to disagree, it’s okay to be mad, it’s okay to argue… it’s okay to be wrong, it’s okay to forgive, and it’s okay to move on.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

tips for teaching mindfulness to middle schoolers

I just finished teaching a six-week meditation and mindfulness course at a local middle school. I’ve got to admit, middle schoolers are a tough crowd! But I wanted to share a little insight with parents trying to initiate a meditation practice with a 6-8th grader.

The breakdown:
Don’t sell it.
Take it slow.
Curb your expectations.
Practice more, teach less.
Know when to give it a rest.

Though we may hear people preach otherwise, meditation is not “the answer,” so it’s important that we don’t sell it that way to our budding teenagers. They’re too smart to be fooled and too skeptical to be convinced that sitting still for 20 minutes a day will make all their troubles melt away. Meditation is simply a tool to help kids slow down, diminish stress, and strengthen their connection with higher thinking.

Meditation isn’t a magic pill, it’s an open door – as imperfect and unreliable as anything else. When we teach an illusion of perfection and reliability, kids have no soft place to land when, not if, they screw up. So while we teach our kids how to meditate, let’s be sure they know that meditation is a way to soften those hairpin turns along life’s amazing journey, not straighten them out completely.

A lot of shifts can take place when a person (of any age) begins meditating. We can prepare our children by letting them know that Self-discovery can be hard work. Incredibly rewarding, but hard just the same. They should talk with parents or counselors about emotional or physical pain that arises during meditation. It’s all part of the healing process, and nothing to be afraid of or embarrassed by.

Each week of my middle school course, I’d begin by asking eagerly, “Who meditated this week?” and a hand or two (or none) would pop up in the circle. One boy practiced daily with his family. One girl practiced because she was bored while waiting for her sister to take a shower in the morning. One boy practiced because he was bored on the school bus. (Boredom is by far the most common form of inspiration amongst all my students. So if you’d like your children to be more mindful, bore them.)

While some of my middle schoolers warmed up easily to a sitting meditation practice, others were stone cold from giddy-up. Just because we, as parents and teachers, believe in this stuff, doesn’t mean the kids will jump on board, even with modern science giving its two thumbs way up. But with the right stimulation, we can encourage interest. We can try different approaches until we meet our children where they are.

Example. One day, do an eating meditation, the next a sensory game, the next a mantra-based meditation or maybe something guided, the next share space with a pre-teen without saying a word and see what happens. Reading the child’s non-verbals while teaching is instrumental in maintaining connection. And we must be prepared that some lessons will float belly-up. Just counteract it with a sure-fire winner the next time, be it a sitting meditation or mindful activity.

Several of my students did not like the feeling of stillness. The first few times we meditated, I kept my eyes cast down to the floor and observed at least four pairs of legs pumping non-stop for the duration of the sittings. When the closing bell chimed, children reported feeling peaceful, anxious, antsy, happy, sleepy, or calm. Some reported physical discomfort. These are all totally normal responses to meditation. When we meditate, we slow down enough so that we can become acutely aware of what’s *really* happening in our bodies.

So for those students who jittered incessantly, we just took note of that, and I explained to them that our bodies aren’t used to being consciously still and rarely get our minds’ full attention. So when we meditate, our bodies enthusiastically jump on the opportunity to be heard, and it can make us feel uncomfortable. “She’s listening! Now’s our chance! Look at me! Pay attention to this! Houston, we have a problem!”

So while sitting, we might notice back pain that we’ve been ignoring, a tightness in the belly, or clogged sinuses. We might notice a buzzing in our ears, a dull headache, or just that we’re really tired. And most likely it will get worse before it gets better. But in the big picture, it can only get better, because once we hear our bodies communicate, we can work on relieving the discomfort by making choices that make our bodies happy.

But let’s get real. Meditation is not for everyone. One of my students was really bothered by the experience of meditating. She did not enjoy it at all. She bravely shared that she couldn’t stand sitting still and felt incredibly anxious every time we meditated and just wanted it to end. But she still came to the class every week, making me believe that even though she wasn’t keen for this particular practice at this particular time, there was something about the idea of self-soothing that appealed to her. The important thing is that she knows peace is a choice. The experience is hers now, and she can do with it what she wishes, be it now, in five years, or never. It’s all okay.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

***Visit http://www.vanessagobes.com to learn more about my services.***

no more worries

This an AWESOME exercise in mindfulness for kids – or anyone! 

Invite your child to write down her biggest worry. Teach her that worry is not real, it’s just a habit, and it can be broken. Give your child a special bracelet and instruct her to wear it daily (a rubber bracelet or bright hair elastic will do). Each time she notices herself worrying, she should switch the bracelet to the other wrist. Tell her not to condemn herself when she switches. There’s no need to tally the worries. Just notice they’re happening. 

Once she gets the hang of it, help her come up with an easy affirmation that can neutralize the worry. Each time she switches the bracelet, she can say the affirmation in her head.

So let’s say your child worries she’s going to fail math. Every time she stresses, she should switch the bracelet and think, “Learning comes easily for me.” 

This can also be used to break other habits, for example gossiping. Each time the child (or parent!) notices herself engaging in caddy conversation, switch that bracelet and think, “I am kind to others.”

Check out my little friend in the photo, using this simple bracelet trick to kick her worries to the curb. We should all be so adorable while we practice mindfulness!

Learn more about mindful parenting and meditation for families atwww.vanessagobes.com.

Image

“our children are our greatest teachers”

photo copy 16

I awoke this morning to the sound of my son vomiting on the floor next to my bed. My husband nursed him for an hour before I took over. I set him up on the couch with a pillow and blankie, Saltines, a cup of water, and a tupperware container. It’s just after noontime now, and he’s thrown up into that container about six more times. Poor baby.

I asked him if I could do a little Reiki (a Japanese practice of healing hands) on him, and he weakly nodded his head while he stretched his body long on the couch. I said my invocation aloud: “I invoke the divine light of the creative source within. I am a clear and perfect channel. I am light. I am love.” A few ritual steps later, I was laying my warm hands on his head, beginning the healing practice.

His dark eyes raised to mine and silently said, “Thank you for helping me, Momma.” I smiled and slowly moved my hands down his body, resting on his chest, his quickened heartbeat slowing under the weight of my palms. I watched his veins pulse to the rhythm of his heart and repeated my invocation, pausing on the phrase “creative light within.”

I’ve uttered those words during healings plenty of times, believing that I am the channel for something divine that lives outside of myself, imagining a gorgeous light funneling into my body through my crown chakra to strengthen my energy and inspire healing. As if divine energy comes to me because I call for it. As if I am inviting it for a boost of strength.

Feeling my son’s heart beat under my hands, I suddenly realized that I am the source. I am the divine. God is whole within me. I don’t invite energy into my body; the power is not outside of myself. I don’t invoke it from the great beyond. I release it through my own ego’s surrender. The creative source is within me and my chakras are the portals that connect my energy to the those in the universe who are available to me. Like my baby boy.

I set my ego aside so that the purest light and love within me (that exists within each of us), could shine and connect and heal. I touched my forehead to his and whispered, “You are sick for me today. To teach me this lesson. And I’m so grateful.” My throat felt tight and my ears pulsed as tears started to burn my eyes. “I’ve learned the lesson, buddy. You don’t have to be sick anymore. No more throwing up.”

I sat and reflected for a moment, thinking about all the lessons kids teach parents, thinking about the sacrifices they make for us so we can learn the power of love. I imagined my son and I as two souls long before our birth, planning our journey together, him saying, “I’ll feel this pain so you can learn, because I love you.”

Our children are our greatest teachers. Today I’m understanding this old saying in a whole new light.

From mine to yours,
Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

parenting advice from lama sonam

Image
Every Wednesday morning, I host a group of neighborhood moms in my living room, where we meditate and discuss mindful parenting.  Today we had a seasoned meditator as our special guest – my friend Lama Konchok Sonam, a Tibetan Buddhist monk who directs several spiritual centers around the United States. He shared a couple of terrific parenting tips with us this morning – too good not to share.
Tip #1
On a child’s birthday, take him to a pet store and buy him several small animals (fish, mice, birds) – one for every year of his life. Then invite friends over on his birthday and release the animals together. We are all going to die, it’s important to live freely while we’re here. I’m getting teary just thinking about it.
He also suggested that we not serve or eat meat at the birthday party. Good thinking.
(Note: Work with pet store employee to find animals that are safe to release in your region.)
Tip #2
A child between the ages of 8 and 13 can only focus for 14-16 minutes in a sitting, so get her moving at these intervals. A great way to do this is by assigning quick tasks. Write simple directives on index cards (one on each card). Some examples could be: sweep the porch steps, hug your sister for one whole minute, water the plants, meditate for five minutes, take the trash out, find a heart shaped rock, weed a garden, change a lightbulb, watch the clouds go by. Stack the cards and, at the 15 minute mark, let the child pick her assignment. Once the task is done, she can get back to homework and lessons with renewed energy.
Teachers, this is a great tool for the classroom, too!
From mine to yours,
Vanessa
Hey!  Do you like these ideas? Share them on Facebook or Twitter!
Are you local to Boston? Join me for “Introduction to Family Meditation” beginning next week – details online at http://www.vanessagobes.com.
Want to learn more about Lama Sonam? Find him at Drikung Meditation Center in Arlington, Massachusetts. Buddhist teachings are a wonderful layer for any peace practice.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 782 other followers