bringingupbuddhas

suburban adventures in bu-curious mothering

Tag: nature

Hand off the kids, take a break

We hope to see you here in gorgeous New England! Visit http://www.insidethechrysalis.com for more details.

Peace!

Vanessa ❤

Yoga & Meditation Retreat / New England

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Hi New England yogis and meditators!

Chrysalis Meditation Center is hosting a weekend long retreat in the Sunapee Lake Region of New Hampshire and I would love to see you there! You can come for a weekend of yoga, meditation, energy healing, and nature loving… or just come for a day. Retreat takes place at Well Sweep Farm’s stone barn. It’s beautiful! Check out the schedule online at www.insidethechrysalis.com. Here is the overview:

Kate Harrington and Lara Wilson, both of Harvard University, are teaming up with the co-founders and teachers of Chrysalis to deliver compassionate guidance in both yoga and meditation.

If you’ve ever taken one of Kate’s classes at Prana Power Yoga, you’ll know what a treat her Metta-infused sessions are. Kate indulges retreat goers daily in gentle yoga and Metta practice.

Lara’s three decade journey into meditation and masterful use of words (written and oral) will surely inspire and empower. She explores eastern healing practices and the practice of stream-of-consciousness writing.

Co-founder Denise Costello, corporate wellness expert and food goddess, is directing the entire weekend and taking some time out from her organizational duties to provide yogis with nutritious snacks and figure-changing food tips. Her partner Vanessa Gobes sits with the group, taking on mindful meditation and mindful communication.

Chrysalis welcomes special guests to the retreat experience: Healer Julie Corey leads a drum circle on opening night, Naturalist Dave Anderson leads us on a full moonlight hike through The Fells, and Sound Healer Brian Russo delivers Tibetan bowl healing.

Expect to fill up on delicious vegetarian food provided by the gourmet team at Sunapee View B&B – farm fresh and locally sourced. Yum!

Cost for the weekend includes all meals and snacks and special guest programming – spa treatments offered by Sunapee Lake Massage and ropes course at Mount Sunapee are both optional and at an additional fee.

Commuter Guests $545

One Day Pass $250

Tibetan Bowls (Only) $30

Overnight Guests $665 – $920 (see price menu at www.insidethechrysalis.com)

Call the center with questions – 781.729.2000 and book today if you can. There are only 3 rooms left “on campus” but there is plenty of availability at area inns and B&Bs.

I look out my window and am thrilled by the unveiling of spring. Each day, a new display of color illuminates my yard, and my heart. Yesterday, it was the pear tree that lit me up. Its white blossoms burst like popcorn, the space between sparse branches giving way to hundreds of pink pastel teacups perching on the magnolia tree just beyond it. I’m excited to see what makes the earth happy today.

putting our animals to sleep: is it really an act of compassion?

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This is Rufus “talking” to me at the hospital. Maybe you can hear him, too. He’s beautiful, isn’t he?

Rufus has been moody lately.  I attributed his swings to the new gal in the house – a rescue pup from Tennessee.  Her name is Lolly but we affectionately call her “the rat.”  She’s a dump puppy – predominantly rat terrier, we believe, with a sprinkle of spaniel that makes her ears flop down and her hair stick up.  She’s sassy and playful.  Her favorite activity is growling viciously while hanging off Rufus’ beard by her clenched teeth.  If a thought bubble could magically appear above his head it would say something like, Girl, I’m too old for this.  Go play in traffic.  

But Rufus is too sweet.  When he’s napping in his bed, he simply looks the other way when Lolly wedges her tiny body next to his.  When she scarfs his food, he shuffles back quietly and seeks me out for a snuggle.  When she howls at the squirrels on the fence, he lets her bark be the one that scares them away.  He’s just a great animal.

A wheaten terrier, Rufus is predisposed kidney problems.  At age 8 this predisposition became his reality.  He hasn’t been moody because of his new little sister.  He’s become moody because he’s in kidney failure – and apparently has been for some time.

I discovered the severity of his illness at the vet last month (on my birthday no less).  I climbed into bed that night feeling distraught about what I’d learned that day.  I meditated for a little while, creating a tiny angel version of myself that hovered above my head.  Then I created a tiny angel version of Rufus that hovered above his head.  And we talked for a little while.  What do you want me to do, buddy?  my angel asked.  Let me go, his angel replied.  I tried to make his angel say something different, something like, Fight for me!  I can survive this!  I want to live!  But that’s not what happened.  Let me go, was his reply.  Let me go.  That was it.  There was no denying.

Being the creative child of the Universe I am, I wondered if I could help him through meditation.  Could I do enough Reiki on him to repair his kidney damage and save his life?  Could I channel my inner Christ light and heal him with my mental fortitude?  What if I tried and failed?  Would I lose confidence in the strength of my spirit?  What if I tried and succeeded?  What difference would it make?  And then I remembered what Roof’s little angel guy told me.  Let me go.

The next day was grey in every sense of the word.  My schedule was as messy as the weather.  My emotions were even messier.  I made some calendar adjustments, hired a babysitter, and trucked my boy through sideways rain to the animal hospital where we spent the entire day.  It went sort of like this:  ultrasound, consultation, tears, prognosis, tears, privacy, tears, $530 bill, tears.

The full story?  The radiologist advised me to keep Roof in the hospital for the weekend.  He was incredibly dehydrated and she wanted to flush his kidneys with fluid.  The idea made me uncomfortable, but as the doctor told me emphatically what was best for Rufus, that intimate angel-to-angel conversation from the night before seemed a little woo woo and ungrounded.  I agreed to admit him.

She left the room to start paperwork.  Roof jumped off my lap, where he’d been curled up for the past hour, and put his chin on my thigh, looking for eye contact.  He’s always searching for my eyes these days.  It’s amazing how much a person can learn just by looking into an animal’s eyes.  We stared at each other for a long while and once he felt like he’d been heard, he squeezed under my chair, flopping down with a humph, his legs sticking out from under the chair like a frog’s.

He was hiding, nervous.  He didn’t want to be there.  Instead of helping Rufus by admitting him, I felt like I was making frantic, harried, desperate repairs on a sinking ship.  I called my husband who was indecisive but leaned toward admission.  I called my sister-in-law.  She was supportive of my intuitive urge to take him home.  Clearly this was my decision and mine only.

When the radiologist returned I apologized up and down for spending hours sniveling and waffling then told her I would not admit my dog.  I loaded up on IV bags and Priolosec, paid the extraordinary hospital bill, and carried my furry boy back into the rain.

Rufus doesn’t understand time.  He lives only in the NOW.  And his NOWS have been so happy.  He’s had a great life.  If this is his time, it’s okay.  I started thinking about the lessons we’re both here to learn and what brought us together.  Why me?  Why him?

People who practice Buddhism do not take life.  Not even to end the struggle.  Those who practice understand the karmic purpose of the struggle.  We struggle through the lesson and find the wisdom in it, when we accept the wisdom, we no longer need the pain.  We completely align.  The pain ceases to exist.  It is a delusion, just like life.  I keep wondering if Rufus has chosen me because I will allow him a *full* life, with all its joy and all its pain.  If I end his life early, even by a few hours or days, will he have to return to physical form again in order to learn that painful lesson?  One I could allow him to learn now and possibly evolve his spirit?  I don’t know.  I don’t know what to do.  I mean, I think I know, but the norm is to provide compassion to animals in a way that relieves them of their pain.  I’m just not sure if physical compassion is aligned with spiritual compassion.

Spirit is our most natural state.  Our physical bodies are just the vehicles through which spirit functions in this world.  We settle into the physical with discomfort and we’ll transition out of it with discomfort – if the lesson of discomfort needs to be learned.  I think of childbirth, of how incredibly painful that experience was for me.  When I had my first baby I thought I was going to die.  My intention was to give birth naturally – no drugs, no epidural – but 3/4 of the way through I was searching for my doula’s eyes, sort of like Rufus searches for mine.  Help me.  Please help me.  I don’t want to do this.  I’m terrified.  I’m not strong enough.  But she looked at me and stroked my hair and said, “It’s just the baby coming.  It’s just the baby coming.”  I trusted her.  I trusted my body.  I trusted my baby’s transition into physical life.  Within minutes I was fully dilated and ready to push.  I had my baby naturally.  It hurt like hell but I understood the purpose.  I learned the lesson.  I had to trust the process and let go of the fear.  Paradigm shift.  When I had my subsequent babies, the labors were much more manageable and free from fear.  And I never once considered calling the anesthesiologist.  Never once.

Can I be that person for Rufus?  Can I help him through the transition naturally?  I think I can.  The vet has clearly told me that when the time comes, the only humane thing to do is put him to sleep.  But I keep going back to these questions – What’s so wrong with death?  Death is a release, a return, a reunion.  Death is natural.  And why are we all so afraid of pain?  Through my own fear of pain am I stifling my animal’s spiritual development by disallowing him the full experience of life?  Am I really helping him?  

Compassion to me looks different now.  Can I find the spiritual compassion to let go of my own fears of physical death in order to transition this animal to his natural state of spirit?

So we’re home, Rufus and me, riding out the storm.  My vet and I are on the same page with his treatment.  No extraordinary efforts.  I give Roof a bag of subcutaneous fluids combined with a little Reiki three times a week plus a few inexpensive meds twice a day.  This will keep him as comfortable as possible over the next few weeks or months.  I will not interfere with the course of Roof’s life but I will pray for mercy.  That is the plan.  And just as I knew that epidural was nearby when I gave birth to my first child, I’ll have the number of my vet nearby if it all gets to be too much.

This whole experience has caused me to think more deeply about my own life.  I made a birth plan for myself, I can make a death plan for myself, too.  I’ve now dedicated years of my life to spiritual evolution, and every day I feel more trust in the Universe.  I trust that the Universe can provide peace for me better than any clever manmade invention.  I’ve begun to think of my own physical departure as just another experience in life, and I’m not sure dulling it in any way will benefit my spirit.  If part of my divine plan is to suffer, I hope I can accept it and learn from it.  And if I can do that, I know I will be released from the suffering with mercy.

Kind of a lot to think about.  You are so welcome to join me in this conversation in the comments below.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

the world turned upside down

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The world is standing on its head this morning.  What I believed was fundamentally right appears to be back-asswards.  I’ve never been so happy to be wrong.

What could you be wrong about?  Challenge what you take for granted.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

toeing the “blurred lines” between naughty and natural

Screen Shot 2013-08-07 at 12.22.06 PMAs the title of this post may imply, I’ve got Robin Thicke’s summer sizzler “Blurred Lines” on my mind today. On a website that typically features parenting tips and meditation techniques, this might leave you questioning my relativity here. But ride out this thought with me for a minute.

Typically, the only blurred line I’m contemplating is the one surrounding the smell in my car. Is that sour yogurt? Or urine? Hmmmm… (Hey, I’m a mother of several and frequent carpooler, what can I say?) But I woke up early this morning humming Thicke’s hit song. So I came downstairs before the wolf cubs awoke and pulled his video up on YouTube. Now this is an altogether different kind of blurred line. I have three letters for you: H-O-T.

Woah.

The first time I watched the video, Robin, T.I. and Pharrell were “hey-hey-heying” to gorgeous models wearing nude illusion undies and clear plastic smocks. A little kooky but the quirk was surprisingly sexy.

After watching, I wanted to hear the song again so I pressed play for a second time and found myself watching the unrated version. WHAAAATTTT???? All the women are naked! At first I thought they were still in their nude lingerie. Nope. They were rocking out wearing only skin tone thongs and tennis sneakers. Oh, and a goat. (Huh?)

I admit I kind of liked it. But it disturbed me at the same time. I’m a modern woman after all, a mother of girls, a spiritual blogger. And I’m not ignorant of the dent a production like this could make in our gender’s progress **if we so allow it, which I’m not inclined to do**. But I’d be lying if I said I hated it.

Mod Carousel, a Seattle-based boylesque troupe, created a feminist parody featuring men in flesh-tone skivvies and honestly, I felt the opposite of turned on. I’ll go so far as to say I felt “the yuck”. They were being funny, of course, but somehow a woman flaunting her sex strikes me as intriguing while a man flaunting his sex strikes me as Cro Magnon. It’s hypocritical, I know, but hypocrisy plays a starring role in life, doesn’t it?

Oh, there are all sorts of serious opinions on this song. But I’m not sure Thicke takes himself so seriously. Based on his hilarious video remake with Jimmy Kimmeland his past seemingly-orchestrated, sort-of-embarrassing, made-me-cringe-while-I-watched-it interview with Chelsea Handler, I’m thinking he’s a bit of a goof, challenging the world to get real about their own feelings about sex.

I get the blurred lines. Not only between naughty and nice but also between naughty and nature. We women don’t want to be objectified. But secretly, we kind of do. We don’t want our daughters to base their collective self image on physical beauty, but good looks undoubtedly has an important place in our human experience. Those who don’t have it yearn for it and those who do have it work it to their advantage.

And then there’s just the sex of it all. Sex is in our nature. It’s part of our existence. But so many people, especially here in America, are ashamed to talk about it. It’s here that we toe that blurred line of sex and image and what is really offensive and what is just real. I don’t know the answer myself, but I imagine it’s part of life’s mystery that will forever be debated.

All things considered, as much as I love the song, the video makes me feel uncomfortable to watch. Is that because I’m a Puritanical New Englander and I’ve been nurtured to cover up my nature? Or is it because these men should be laying on a couch with David Duchovny trying to balance a sex addiction? I’m not sure if it matters, because whatever the reason, I love being a woman and I’m happy with myself the way I am – in a turtleneck and pants.

Oh, there are so many directions we could take this. What are you thoughts? Naughty? Or natural? Chime in below.

great programming for young boys courtesy of PBS

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Every Sunday night, all summer long, my 4 year old has been asking me this question:  “Mama, Mama, Mama, does Supewhewo Camp stawt tomowwow?”

Finally, two days ago I was able to give him the answer he so desperately wanted to hear, “Yes, buddy!  Yes!  Tomorrow is the first day of Superhero Camp!”

“Woohoooo!” he yelped while punching at the air with his tiny, happy fists.  “Mama, Mama, Mama, can I weaw my Supewman T-shiwt?”

“Sure, bud!”

“Is it clean?”  (Sadly my response is too often what he so desperately doesn’t want to hear but that day he was in luck.)

“Uh-huh.”

“YESSSSSSS!!!!!”

He took off for his room to pack a bag and lay out his clothes for the following day.  Then he came back down, “But Mama.  Mama.  Mama,” he said patting my rear end, “I need anothew Supewhewo shiwt for the next day.”

“You can wear your Wild Kratts T-shirt, dude!  Chris Kratt is the best superhero ever!”

“The Kwatt bwothews awen’t supewhewos.”

“Whhaaaattt???  Of course they are!  They rescue animals don’t they?”

“But, Mama, they don’t F-LLLYYYYYY.”

“When they have on their falcon creature power suits they can.”

“OH YAH!!!!!  I’m going to be Chwis Kwatts.  WOOHOOOO!  Can I weaw a cape wiff my T-shiwt?”

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If you have a little one at home, you are probably familiar with the Kratt brothers on PBS.  They are animal experts who are known for getting down and dirty with creatures of all kinds, first with their show Zoboomafoo and later with their hit show Wild Kratts.  They don’t hesitate to roll in the mud or tromp though a swamp…  and they’re fun to watch.  My kids love these guys.  Especially my nature-loving boy.  Honestly, “nature-loving” might be an understatement.  Nature-ADORING, Nature-OBSESSING, Nature-WORSHIPPING boy is more on the mark.  My oldest daughter regularly entertains us by singing the Wild Kratts theme song to the rhythm of her own clapping hands while Nature Boy spins wildly in circles and hurls his body onto the floor.  (This primitive behavior is considered dancing in my household.)

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What I love about Chris and Martin Kratt, and why I’m writing about them today on BUBs, is that they’ve created a wholesome program that is centered on compassion, education, nature AND adventure.  This is especially important for our young boys who are almost always attracted to shows, events and toys that involve destruction and fighting.  Caring for and rescuing animals is a beautiful lesson in compassion and I’m standing up applauding these guys and the work they do.

Animals are a wonderful way to teach our little boys about reflexive compassion.  When we witness an animal in trouble, compassion is automatic.  And once that feeling of compassion becomes part of a child’s emotional foundation, they can have a better understanding of how to apply it when dealing with people.  Let’s face it, it can be hard to have compassion for humans sometimes.  As a mindful adult I find that I consistently have to remind myself to be compassionate when people around me are acting like jerks.  Imagine how challenging that is for a kid!

So there was a study that came out a few years ago.  I can’t remember who conducted it, but it was a happiness study based on words posted by children on social media sites (happy, love, peace, etc.).  Guess which state was voted to have the happiest kids in America?  (Go ahead and play some thought-stimulating Jeopardy music in your head while you ponder…  Doo!  Do-do-do-do-do-do.  Bom, bum!)

New Hampshire!

Yah baby.  Go New England!  I’ve gotta say, I’m not surprised.  Have you ever been to a New Hampshire State Fair?   One conversation with a young person about how they feel when caring for their animals is all you need to be convinced of the cornerstone of their happiness and kindness.  Farmer kids and 4-H kids are so damn nice.  The way these kids love and care for animals is inspiring.  So in a state like NH where nature prevails and farms are everywhere, I’m venturing a guess that the reason for being the happiest state in the nation has something to do with animals.  At least that’s my unscientific, un-researched theory.  But pretty a good one, right?

Kindness and compassion, though two different qualities, support each other in every way.  It’s impossible to have one without the other.

So in this spaghetti test called life, I suggest to toss the Kratt brothers against the wall and see if they stick.  My son is still only in-the-making of a man but from what I see so far, I have little doubt that his deep and passionate love for animals and nature are helping him to build a strong foundation of compassion and kindness.   Big props to my favorite superheroes for their contribution in supporting his development.  PBS made a great investment when they plunked their taxpayer dollars down on Wild Kratts.  Check your local guide for listings.

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

p.s.

Please share if you enjoy this.  😀 ❤

5 Mindful Mommy Tricks to Surviving Summer with Kooky Kids

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My 7 year old getting her purple kitty on with our new puppy.

There’s a picture of my sister in our family album that has inspired a family idiom: the purple kitty face.  In the photo, my sis is standing in our driveway on a summer day wearing light blue undies and holding a tiny black kitten, scooped from a litter of mates produced by our ginger cat Selena.  In her sweet and quirky four-year-old way, she had convinced herself (and probably me) that the kitty was not black, but purple.

If you look closely at my sister’s expression, you’ll notice that her lips are pursed tightly in a sort of painfully loving grimace.  Her teeth are clenched, as are her two little hands that are quickly crushing purple kitty’s spindly rib cage.

If a thought bubble could appear magically above my sister’s head it would say, “You’re so cuuuuuuttteee!  I love you to deeeeeaaaaath!”  Fortunately, no animals were injured in the filming of that scene.  At least not that we knew of anyway.  I imagine that Mom swooped toward her daughter after snapping the pic, rescued the kitten from imminent death and returned her to the cardboard box from whence she came.

There’s a psycho-medical term for this exact situation I’m sure, but nothing quite pins the tail on the donkey like purple kitty.  (Though that Looney Tunes scene with Daffy Duck and the abominable snow man comes close, “I will hug him and squeeze him and call him George.”)

Th purple kitty is sort of like that feeling of being insanely cold.  When you’re so cold that shaking is involuntary.  Only when you notice that your teeth are chattering so much your jaw hurts and your thighs are sore from tightening them against the weather do you become aware of the tension and mindfully release it…  only to squeeze up again with the next frigid gust.  (I’m a lifelong New Englander, I know about these things.)

My children make the purple kitty face all the time.  We just got a puppy and she is often the recipient of squeezey loving.  But I know it’s not just a behavior reserved for my family.  All kids do this.  I remember one day my old boss came into work and told us that her beloved family pet, a hamster, was laid to rest in a shoe box that morning – a victim of her daughter’s loving embrace.  It happens.  And not just with animals.

I remember doing this with my neighbor as a kid.  He was such an adorable baby.  I remember hugging him a little too tight, sucking my breath in through clenched teeth, body shaking from the effort of physical love, releasing only when the little toe headed cutiepie squeaked rather than exhaled.   Honestly, sometimes I notice myself doing it still.  What can I say?  Babies are cute.

As a parent of small children, I’ve noticed that my purple kitty face, once associated with over-loving, has become one of Holy-Shit-I-Can’t-Take-It-Anymore-You-Are-Driving-Me-Crazy-And-I-Need-You-To-Stop-Screaming-At-Each-Other-Before-My-Eyeballs-Eject-From-My-Skull.  I think the more common term for this is frustration, but frustration is not a rich enough word for the exasperation, disheartened-ness, desperateness and anger that I can feel when my kids are totally obnoxious.

So I admit it.  I’ve been known to occasionally squeeze my kids.  And not because they’re cute.  Thanks to a committed mindfulness practice, I can typically defend them from my clenching grip, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve never sent my kids off to school praying that their teachers wouldn’t roll up their sleeves and find red stripes around their biceps from where I grabbed and squeezed, imagining that my vice grip would somehow convince them to stop screaming, listen to my words or clean up their blasted Pokemon cards.

It’s summer vacation now, and all this quality time with our unscheduled babies, as delightful as it is, provides us with endless opportunities to feel emotionally overwhelmed by their antics.  So there are a couple of things I’ve done that have helped me to stop the squeezing and relax my purple kitty face, and I wanted to share them with my sea of online readers, well, let’s face it, it’s more like a small pond of readers but I love you and appreciate you as if you were the vast Atlantic Ocean.

I have three small children ages 4 through 8 and I mother each of them differently, but these five things work consistently for me with all three.

  1. Meditate.  Your reaction to your babies is not about them, it’s about you.  When you’re composed, no amount of nagging, screeching or spoiled-rotten-American-kid complaining will offend you.  A meditation practice takes time to develop, so in the meantime try this: The second you reach for that little arm, breathe into your squeezey hand and let the irritation melt like butter on plain pasta with no red sauce.  Think these words:  “This will be over soon, and we will be happy again.”  Another great mindfulness trick is the 10-10-10 rule.  Ask yourself, “How will I feel about this in 10 minutes?  In 10 days?  In 10 years?”  Probably not so great.  So loosen up the tourniquet and know that this too shall pass.
  2. Make sure they’ve eaten.  Hungry kids are CRAZY.  We all know this, but somehow we all forget.  Feed them.  I always have a bag of apples and a slicer wheel nearby.  It’s the perfect emergency food.  But even with that, I still forget, too.
  3. Whisper or speak very softly when you’re explaining or disciplining.  They’ll be like, “What?  What, Mommy?  What?”  and they’ll stop screaming long enough to listen.  Most of the time, they start modeling my volume and instantly the stress level dissipates – mine and theirs.
  4. If whispering doesn’t work, try crying.  Channel your inner soap opera diva.  Most likely, fake tears will not be hard to conjure, but feel free to give yourself over to real ones.  There’s nothing wrong with letting your kids see you cry.  They should know the effect their behavior has on others.  And when you’re teetering on the edge of an emotional volcano, a sobbing mommy meltdown can be a great side effect – they stop flipping out and turn their compassionate focus on you.  “I’m so sorry, Mommy.  I’m so sorry,” complete with hugs and kisses and sympathy.  Then they can stop being lunatics long enough for you to regain composure and control.
  5. When all else fails, put them in water.  My neighbor, an experience mother of several, taught me this and I am ever-grateful.  Draw a bath, toss in a few face cloths and buckets, turn on some Mozart and leave the room – bathroom door open, of course, we wouldn’t want the little brats to drown.  Joke!  That’s a joke!

From mine to yours,

Vanessa

Originally published by Vanessa Gobes for Intentblog.com.