bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

tips on teaching kids to meditate

Relax your expectations when meditating with small children. If they want to meditate with their feet in the air or their eyes on the ceiling, let them. Posture will develop as they engage consistently in practice.

This short video is of me introducing meditation to my son’s kindergarten class. They are on their third round of mini-sittings taking place over five minutes. Each mini-sitting lasts between 30 seconds and two minutes. During this round, they are using their ears to count how many times they hear my bells chime. My son is assisting with the ringing – he’s excited to be an active part of the exercise.

Notice the children’s creative posture… but also notice that they are participating attentively. They’re hanging in pretty nicely if you ask me! Giving kids a little wiggle room (literally) will help them acclimate to silence on their own terms.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

http://www.vanessagobes.com

truth, time, tears

I always cry in church. And yoga class. And weddings. And sometimes when I talk to really old people or feel my daughter’s heartbeat or listen to Otis Redding or watch Steve Carell movies.

There’s something about experiencing Truth, be that in the form of teachings or introspection, music or laughter, that makes our eyes well up with tears. Not wah-wah tears, but healing tears, inspired tears, humbling tears. Grateful tears that stir from some beautiful place deep within and tell us: This is Truth and Truth is Love and only Love is real.

Sometimes we mistake Time for Truth. We think that our long relationships with Truth-based practices or teachings automatically deem us Masters. We’ve meditated for 20 years, been a parent for 40 years, have read The Bible every night for 60 years, or been married for 80 years… but Time doesn’t mean we’ve mastered these practices, or even found the lessons in them. Time doesn’t grant us wisdom. Time doesn’t empower us. Time doesn’t move us to tears. Truth does. And Truth reveals itself not in Time, but in our own readiness.

My favorite Brian Weiss quote is, “Profound understanding can be gained in five minutes or in fifty years. In the end, you will be healed, no matter how long it takes.”

When we are ready, we awaken. When we are ready, we let go. When we are ready, we align. When we are ready, we honor our Truth by living it to the best of our abilities. It’s not always easy, but it’s from the point of readiness that healing begins and Truth flows…

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Vanessa serves the Boston area, teaching kids and caregivers how to meditate. To learn more visit: www.vanessagobes.com.

what fills us…

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Penelope came home a few days ago with a recipe for chicken pot pie. She had printed it at school and asked if we could make it together for dinner.

We started last night around 4:30. I coached her through trimming raw chicken breast and rubbing it down with oil, salt and pepper. I taught her how to dice onions the way my mother-in-law taught me. I did my best to be patient while she scooped organic corn kernels into the pot with her bare hands and made tiny gummy bear replicas out of the dough before we rolled it out. I learned that cooking with my daughter is more of a joy than a chore.

We finally sat down to dinner at 7:30. The kids gushed, “Oh my gosh, this is so good,” over and over. They even ate the carrots. But the best part was how accomplished Penelope felt. There are so many things going on outside of the home… activities and playdates, work and parties… but none are so fulfilling to my ten year old as homemade chicken pot pie.

Learn more about the importance of ‪#‎familydinner‬ at www.thefamilydinnerproject.org.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s. Here’s the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/chicken-pot-pie-recipe.html . It made 10 tiny pies (divided in ramekins) and two 8 inch pies. You can see them in the pics.

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final steps

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Small feet padding on a hardwood floor make a very distinct sound, especially when said feet are bare. We parents begin to hear it when our children are toddling. A slapping noise. Deliberate. Not heel-toe, heel-toe. It sounds more like the palm of a hand followed by the palm of another hand. Sort of clumsy, but delicate at the same time. Heavy and light.

My son is almost six. My youngest. My last. The expiration date on this footy sound, welcoming me to rise from bed each morning, is nearing. Fast. The echo of his undressed size twelves will soon be replaced by other equally welcome noises, like late night giggles and mid-morning snores; but this morning, I’m taking the time to really sit with the rhythm of my boy’s steps. The quick patter telling me wordlessly that he’s excited to greet a new day, that he’s likely still wearing his jammies, and that great speed is required to move from room to room. The sound breathes directly into my heart space, suddenly filling me with gratitude.

I’m nearing the close of something very special with my son, and all my kids, really. No more diapers, no more nap times, no more shoe-tying. The end of an era. But some sweet delights of toddlerhood linger a little longer amongst my ten-and-under crowd… The little hands that slip automatically into mine when I stretch my fingers behind me. The dinner plates with tiny portions, spread into smiley faces or colorful rainbows. The insistence for bedtime snuggles and stories.

Knowing that these early childhood connections will soon be memories inspires me to step into my full presence of mothering. It’s mornings like this, sitting in my house, listening to the clap-tap-clap-tap of bare feet on hard wood, my mind and my body share the same space and my human experience blurs into the now. As I’m spontaneously moved to deep gratitude, my sock-less son dashes by on a very important mission in his almost-six-year-old universe.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa


Originally published at www.artofdharma.com.
To learn about Om School Meditation, serving the Boston area, visit www.vanessagobes.com.

thoughts from the intersection of socks and mindfulness

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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

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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

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