bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: blogging

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.

purpose and parenting

Most of us Moms are straddling two worlds. The one that revolves around family, and the one that revolves around 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

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awww shucks, an inspiring award

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Big thanks to Molly at Love Well Live Well for the very inspiring award!  Please visit her page  http://lovewell-livewell.com, where her mission states:  “I love learning and sharing about holistic wellness. This site was developed as extra motivation to remember to love myself and prioritize my wellbeing, as well as a hope to be a small source of inspiration to others.”  Her blog is diverse and helpful – check it out!

These are the requests of award recipients:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. Nominate 7 other bloggers for this award and link to them.  (I changed this number from 15 to 7 because of the time it takes to copy/paste/post/type/YIKES!)
4. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

1.  Dennis at Gotta Find a Home:  http://gottafindahome.wordpress.com. Dennis is chronicling the lives of homeless people.   This one is particularly touching to me because the homeless hold a special place in my heart.  More on that some other time.

2.  Andrew Mellen at his site’s blog:  http://blog.andrewmellen.com.  He’s all about simplification and less stuff.  Plus I’m in love with his mother’s day message.

3.  Maryanna Hoggatt at Little Wolf:  http://littlewolfblog.com.  It’s so inspiring to see people following their passion – especially when that passion induces grins, gasps and giggles.  If you enjoy whimsy, fantasy and downright creativity, this blog is for you.

4.  Robbie Bobby Boy at Letters to a Nichiren Buddhist:  http://www.nichirenletters.com.  Nam myoho renge kyo.  Period.  🙂

5.  Harula Ladd at Words That Serve:  http://wordsthatserve.wordpress.com.  I nominated her last time I received an award, too.  I just love everything she does.

6.  Terry Marotta at Exit Only:  http://terrymarotta.wordpress.com.   Terry and I occasionally share an editorial page in The Winchester Star.  She is funny, creative and seems to have a bottomless well of inspiration.

7.  Charlotte Porter at Momaste Blog:  http://momasteblog.wordpress.com.  All I can say is, “If you like this blog you’ll LOVE Momaste!”  😉

Thank you for the shout out!  Happy blogging!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

dear wordpress, i love you

i mean seriously.  how funny is this????  i accidentally “liked” my own post and received this message and photo in my inbox.  from one blogger to a gazillion others, do you love the funny questions, inspirational quotes and cheeky encouragements that the wordpress staff drops on us?   i know i do.  and i’m grateful to them for inspiring my lips to curl.  but not so grateful for having carly simon tunes stuck in my head all day.

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a hard pill to swallow

I love writing about my spiritual awakening.  And I love reading about other people’s spiritual awakenings.  What tickles me most about it all, is how we all seem to feel as if we’ve just discovered uncharted new insight or invented a revolutionary technique that can help not only us, but anyone who is willing to try to think like us or act like us or serve the world like us.

We’re Utopians in that respect – so sure that if the pained people of the world could just drop their weapons, feel gratitude for their challenges, treat others with kindness, be mindful of the environment and eat healthier food, that a giant wave of tenderness would wash over the planet and soothe humanity’s woes.

I’ve had a revelation or two of my own following a particularly meditative and pensive week.   I’ve realized that, while world peace is the goal, it is simply impossible.  Earth is designed to be a place of learning.  And without suffering, there’s little opportunity to understand the incredible depth of love.

Though this tiny shift has been simmering quietly in my being for quite some time, I’ve been unable to accept it.  Unable to accept that man is robbing the earth of her heartbeat; unable to accept that our children are being taught to value competition over collaboration; unable to accept that national leaders are so angry and disturbed that they truly believe nuclear attacks will heal their pain; unable to accept that children are abused and people are starving and corporate greed rules the world and there’s very little a peace-yearning person like me, like you, can do about it.

I cannot change the world.  I can only change myself and, as Gandhi said, “be the change [I] wish to see in the world.”

This whole planet spins for us.  So we can learn.  The Universe lives only in our own hearts, and there we can find peace.  This tormented planet serves our human existence so we can learn and elevate and evolve.   It’s all so clear to me today.  I get it.

Heal thyself.

The Universe in Krishna’s mouth.

Work hard to gain your own salvation.

Instead of wishing that the world were different, I’m replacing that wish with a feeling with gratitude.  I’m thankful for the existence of this place of learning, grateful for the opportunity to serve my soul as a human experiment, joyed with moments – the highs and the lows – knowing that each experience is a valuable addition to my soul’s journey.  I see that the best thing I can do to create peace in my heart is to love unconditionally and serve others as much as I can.  I don’t have to fix the world, in fact I can’t.  I just have to fix myself.

Honestly, I’m a bit weepy typing out these thoughts.  I feel like I’m mourning a lifetime of misdirected thoughts, but I’m also relieved to come to grips with what I believe is truth, even though it’s a hard pill to swallow.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

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offerings

(Continued from yesterday’s post…)

The idea that complemented attachment in Chogyam Trungpa’s Meditation in Action, was, very simply, giving.  To disconnecting with the idea of possessing is to let go of possessions.  Just give it away.  Easy, right?  Wrong.  Because he’s not talking about that old bag of golf clubs in the basement or the extra raincoat that hangs in the front hall closet.  He’s talking about giving away our treasure.

Gurus accept gifts in exchange for their teachings.  The offering is an intentional display of gratitude and an exchange of energy.  “I want to give you this treasure that is dear to me in exchange for the intangible treasure that you willingly share.”

Granted, there are different kinds of treasure (as there are different types of gurus).  In Tibetan Buddhism, there are three types of offerings.  The lowest type of offering is of material wealth.  Next up the ladder is service.  And the highest form of offering is practice.  Other strands of Buddhism vary a bit, substituting teaching, compassion or vitality in the top spots.  But always, material goods slide into lowly third place on the offering lists.

We stuff-loving Americans may be surprised that the material things to which we cling so tightly are the least valuable of the offerings.  Or maybe we’re not surprised.  Of course it’s more important to give of ourselves than give of our stuff.  Right?!  But if that’s the case, why the hell are we still clinging???

I always think I’m not overly attached to things, but when I was trying to decide which treasure I could part with, I realized just what attachment means.  Even the material, the VERY LOWEST form of giving, was perplexing for me.

While it’s not my most beloved, the thing I feel most dependent upon is my computer.  No way I’m giving this hunk of metal and wire away.  At least not at this point in my life.  So I’m still grappling with what the most treasured treasure is in my world, well, second most.  When I figure that out, I’m going to give it away.  I don’t know to whom yet.  Maybe the Lama down the street?  Maybe I bury it in my backyard and give it back to Earth, the ultimate guru.  Maybe I’ll swallow it and store it in my mouth, like Krishna did the Universe.  Then again, swallowing things didn’t work out so well for this guy.  I’ll let you know.

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But there are still other types of offering to go!

Service?  I got this one.  There is no shortage of volunteer hours logged over the course of my lifetime – organized or otherwise.  But could I give more time?  Yes.  More love?  Yes.  More me?  Yes.  There are always opportunities.  And this doesn’t mean serving up stew in a soup kitchen.  Service can be performed in countless ways – the most powerful of which is kindness and all its forms.

And then there’s the practice.  Oh, the practice.  Can I commit to a meditation schedule?  Can I engage my Buddha light every day, all day?  I don’t know.  I’m trying, though.  I know the light is aching to burst through my chest and light up the world.  There is no doubt this is the offering that will best serve my Inner Guru, the guru that rests in my own heart.  Realer than stuff, truer than service.  The toughest offering of all.  Practice.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

you’ve come a long way, baby

i’ve been on a cleaning spree all weekend.  it began when my son came down with strep.  my husband took the girls up north to go skiing and i stayed home with the little man.  for the most part, he slept while i scoured every nook and cranny of my house.  i’m talking creepy basement closets, mudroom cubbies, behind the lazy susan in the kitchen corner cabinet…  whole hog.  the purge felt nearly blissful, undercut only by the inevitable shame attached to buying so many stupid things over the years.  i recycled as much as i could, but far too much junk was laid to rest in trash bins.

the rampage continued this morning – monday.  the kids left for school and i got busy clearing the useless contents of my personal space.  i started in my bathroom, tossing crusty bottles of hair gel and half-used hotel shampoo samples.  then i moved onto my closet, launching last decade’s kitten heels and tired pashminas into a box labeled “salvation army”.  i dumped loads of t-shirts and old sweaters into the same box without taking the time to consider if i’d wear them again.  it didn’t matter.  if someone else can use them, that’s what’s important.

i then scooted into my bedroom and pulled open the drawers to my nightstand.  i barely use these drawers.  they’re oversized and hard to open, so i don’t put anything in there that i need to access frequently.  as it turned out, my life’s story was buried inside:

a stained rasied-seal birth certificate for one “Vanessa Linsey Cronin”; a gold necklace given to me by my beloved gram who passed 7 years ago; a diary filled with pages cursing my father for leaving me when i was 11; unsent love letters to boys who broke my heart; calendars marked with cheerleading practices, key club meetings, midterm exams and sleepovers; a panty liner, random, i know, but it stirred the clear image of me at age 15, with a figure like flat stanley, pleading daily to the menstrual gods that i’d get my period; a little red monopoly hotel; expired immodium AD tablets – left over from my years of suffering from IBS, a time when i was so emotionally twisted up that i could barely leave my house for fear of pooping my pants; an autograph autobiography on rex trailer, an old time TV star who helped me put together the resume tape i schlepped down the east coast in hopes of landing a TV reporter gig, a gig i never got; postcards, maps and museum passes accumulated over several european adventures; a white silk rose from my wedding gown that i swapped out for a peach one for the big day; a funny sex kit i won at a winchester neighbor’s club yankee swap (too embarrassed to leave it for the trash man); a loving birthday card to me from my husband; my first baby’s hospital ID bracelet; a pile of books about buddhism and spirituality; a few pens, some yoga pose cards and a box of matches.

looking at all this stuff, i really felt for the girl i used to be.  though her life was pretty good, it wasn’t always easy for her.  as you can probably tell by the contents of the nightstand, that girl’s adolescence was emotionally challenging.  she experienced some real torment, some desperate times, some sadness and sickness.  but she was a survivor.  shit happened and she found a way to make it better.  she cried then laughed then cried again.  but in the end she was just fine.  she got involved, had some fun and dreamed big.

sifting through these relics, i saw the progression of things – how that girl overcame one obstacle at a time.  sometimes alone, sometimes with help.  but she forgave, she worked hard, she acted on good advice, she never said no to an adventure, and she remained hopeful.

life has continued to move along, the young girl’s patterns and tendencies creating the woman i am today.  sometimes i think about my herstory and wince, happy it’s in the past.  sometimes i look back and smile upon fond memories tucked away in a fuzzy thought bubble.

it’s the goodness, to which i was able to cling, that overpowered the angry, insecure, disappointed, lost kid i used to be.  i still have my shortcomings – the same ones that have haunted me all my life.  i’m messy, i procrastinate, i talk too much, i’m a terrible eater, i’m too sassy to my husband, i hate to exercise, i’m jealous, i give up on things easily.  but these qualities are very manageable now.

i think they are manageable because i love myself just the way i am.  good at some things, bad at others.  some people like me, some don’t.  some things i screw up, some i kick ass.  i don’t need to spin my wheels trying to reach the unreachable goal of perfection.  because when i’m perfect i’ll either be enlightened or dead.  and based on the rate of awakening i’m experiencing these days, death will come sooner than enlightenment.  so why not just accept myself as i am and spare myself years of frustration.

the point is, we don’t have to define ourselves by who we used to be.  we can clear out those unhealthy habits and traits like we’re clearing out a drawer full of junk.  it’s just a matter of deciding that it’s time to let go of the clutter.

from mine to yours,

vanessa

p.s.  feel free to share this with other formerly flat 15 year old girls…  or anyone who might like the story for that matter.

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first grade, front row left, shortest (always the shortest) kid in my class.

my first blogger award… aw, shucks!

What a treat to log in this morning and find this on my dashboard:

Warm gratitude to The [Ex-] Witch Next Door‘s author Hazel Harker for passing along this lovely virtual hug, The Beautiful Blogger Award.  Hazel, like so many of us, is evolving full time…  a mother and seeker, she experiences life, love and philosophy through a wide open mind and shares her wisdom candidly and honestly with us on her blogs.  A real gem.  You can read more of her musings on Love You, Love Me.

My job now is to share 7 things about me and pass this award along to others whose writings give me the warm-fuzzies.

1. I have had the Tab soda jingle stuck in my head since 1983. “Ooh eee ooh aah aah Tab tastes walla walla bing bang.” Sometimes I walk to the beat of it.

2. I love hot yoga because it makes me feel like Gumby. But not green. And not weird.

3. I have the fastest metabolism in the east. If digestion was an Olympic sport I’d win gold.  Move over Michael Phelps.

4. I like the smell of skunks. Is that totally gross?

5. I had a major crush on Gopher from The Loveboat when I was about 4 years old.

6. I elected to have natural childbirth with all three of my kids. Totally empowering! Roar!

7. I can burp really loud.

Strangely, this was my alternate “thing” to share – “When I was little I used to tell people I wanted to be a stripper when I grow up.”  Then I realized that the nature of blogging is very similar to stripping, therefore I may very well be achieving my lifelong dream (haha).  It’s just that instead of stripping my clothes and filling my undies with money, I’m stripping my ego and filling my heart with peace.   [Note:  I had no idea what a stripper was when I was a kid.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.]

Okay, blogs to nominate…

Loving Bytes by Jennifer Williams – a perfect blend of great writing, lessons in mindfulness and delicious recipes…  Yummmmmm.

Inner Mentor by Poppy and Anna – just came across this one recently and it made me smile.  Where fashion meets godliness.

DOA Konsult by Raunak Mahajan – a smart, thoughtful guy with big ideas, fearlessly covering the unmentionables: politics and religion (and more).

To the Soul by Blake Bergen – amazing amazing.  I love Blake’s portraits.  He photographs everyday people and through his lens, there is an opportunity to look through the gateway to the soul.  I am you, you are me feeling.  Love it.

Young American Wisdom by Nancy – holy crap, this woman is hilarious, a star on the rise.  Beauty is everywhere, most definitely in laughter and motherhood.

Words That Serve by Harula Ladd – peaceful, poetic, purposeful.  Harula just oozes good-spiritedness.

Living Livelier by Deb DePeter & Becky Tellefsen of Bryant Park Designs – two inspiring women who create beauty through interior design.  Always something interesting to read and pretty pictures to peruse.

Many thanks and much love from mine to yours!

Vanessa