bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: family

when your meditation practice is a disappointment

Do you ever feel like your practice is letting you down? I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m just dialing it in – a getting-it-done-to-say-I-did-it sort of thing. A chore. Sometimes I’m super bored, especially when I’m sitting for long periods of time. Sometimes my mind scatters in a gazillion directions and then returns to focus: scatter-return-scatter-return-bored-return-antsy-return-blah-blah-blah-return. Sometimes I get really hungry and can’t stop thinking about cookies. Sometimes I don’t think I can sit another nanosecond but I do. Sometimes I don’t think I can sit another nanosecond and I don’t.

Sometimes I sit in meditation and nothing happens and then I wake up in the middle of the night with what I call a “spiritual brain dump,” receiving some sort of revelation that helps me better understand the world as it is. Sometimes I see and talk to Jesus; we hold hands or hug. Once he told me to keep chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.” (Jesus loves Buddhism. He’s so Badass.) Sometimes I feel like I’m floating but I’m not. And sometimes, not often, I see gorgeous colors and patterns – colors I’ve never seen in real life. And it’s wonderful.

I’ve been meditating formally for 7 or 8 years, consistently for 5 or 6, and I’ve got to say, for me, it’s 90% relaxation, boredom, and stick-to-itiveness. The 10% of wonderful that comes through makes it all worth it, as does the self-awareness that seeps into existence when not in formal sitting.

If Forrest Gump were bu-curious like me, he might say, “Meditation is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” When you meditate, try to release expectations and trust that you’ll get what you’re supposed to get. Going into meditation with a particular outcome in mind can lead to the following:

1. Disappointment. Last time you meditated you felt buzzing all over your body. It was awesome. You felt like you were finally “doing it right” (ha) and are eager to get back to that feeling of full presence again. But this time you drop in and wait for the buzz, and you just can’t get there. You’re bummed.

2. Frustration. Since you’re not achieving the particular outcomes you’d intended to achieve, you are convinced you must be “doing it wrong.” In actuality, the only thing that’s getting in the way of your practice is your expectation that it should be something else. Remember, whatever happens, that’s what’s happening. The whatever is the sweet spot. Just eat the chocolate, Forrest.

3. Limitation. While the buzzing (or blue lights or numbness or gap) may be totally captivating, by wishing and willing yourself a return visit to those places, you are limiting yourself to those experiences and perhaps closing yourself off to other experiences that could serve you in ways you never imagined.

4. More limitation. Setting expectations for your practice is giving in to the human brain’s need to constantly create metaphors that spin out of the familiar. We can only describe objects, feelings, and experiences based on objects, feelings, and experiences we already recognize. Expecting to experience something you understand may be the ultimate limitation. Opening up to a pure wonder may allow you to experience that which you cannot explain and never could’ve expected. The Kindgom of Wonder is home to mysteries and colors and sounds and wisdom infinitely deep and wide, so try to notice when you’re hoping or expecting a particular experience or outcome and loosen up your grip on it.

And after all this is said, just as a wandering mind is a crucial part of meditation (if the mind doesn’t wander, we live in the now and meditation is obsolete), so, too, is expectation. It helps us better understand the nature of our minds and our habits, leading to a fuller awareness of self. So when we notice that we are engaging in disappointment, frustration, limitation, and more limitation, we can open up to the greater mystery by cutting the cord between our practice and our expectations.

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Blog post written with love by Vanessa Gobes. Vanessa is co-founder of Chrysalis Meditation Center in Winchester, Massachusetts, a place where people can develop or deepen a spiritually-based mental health practice. Located 15 minutes north of Boston, Chrysalis supports people of all ages, genders, races, abilities, and incomes in their journey to peace. To learn more about the programs offered at Chrysalis, visit http://www.insidethechrysalis.com.

fun mindfulness event at MIT in boston

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Hello Bringing Up Buddhas readers!

Please join us in Boston on Saturday, June 13th for MASTERING MINDFULNESS AT HOME AND SCHOOL – an experiential mindfulness workshop for teachers, parents caregivers. This is an engaging, interactive, **fun** program for beginners and for those with mature practices.

Deepen your practice with four dynamic teachers: Christopher Willard, Janell Burley Hofmann, Daniel Lauter, and Vanessa Gobes covering subjects like: managing teen anxiety, mindful use of technology at home and in class, creative mindful practices for the classroom, exploring meditation through the senses, introducing mindfulness to public schools, sustainable home practices, healing the body through meditation, and more.

You will leave this workshop with:

  • teachable practices for stress reduction and compassion cultivation
  • ideas for expanding mindfulness in your hometown or school
  • a network of professionals and parents doing similar work
  • online access to guided visualizations and meditations
  • a smile on your face

June is the perfect time to fire up your practice! Parents can engage mindfulness with children during long summer weeks  and teachers can use the summer to strengthen practices for a solid September start! Book a sitter, grab a friend or colleague, and make your way to M.I.T. for a class that can change your life and work.

The Stata Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 

Saturday, June 13, 2015, 10:00 AM to 3:30 PM

(Lunch break 12 – 1)
$50

MEET YOUR PRESENTERS AND REGISTER HERE:

http://www.vanessagobes.com/workshops.html

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

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

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

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

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.***

parenting advice from lama sonam

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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.