Compassion and lasagne

58d0cf4813e442201eb26cc341fcf704539034f4Today I made a veggie lasagne.
This is both unremarkable and totally remarkable.
I came into the house earlier, with 20 minutes ‘between things’ and a quiche set out to make… ingredients ready… pastry out of date and mouldy beyond use.


Projection of impossible equation:
washing to hang out
+ dishwasher to unpack
+ swimming kit to pack
+ Skype meeting to stick to
+ admin
+ two children to collect from school
+ two swimming lessons
+ 20 mins at home later with hungry post swimmers to feed before dance class for older child
+ a partridge in a pear tree
Take a breath.
What is in my cupboard? Both literally and metaphorically.
What can I NOT do right now?
What can I?

20 minutes later a veggie lasagne made, the cheese sauce possibly a little runny.
Swimming kit packed.
Ready for Skype meeting, more or less.
Maybe you’re congratulating me at this point, recognising the juggle of seemingly ‘trivial’ tasks. But that’s not the point.
Maybe you’re not judging me for the mess in my kitchen. But that’s not the point.
Maybe my partner doesn’t mind that there’s wet washing to hang and my ‘job’ is not complete. But that’s not the point.
Maybe my kids would be just as happy with beans on toast. But that’s not the point.
The point is, I have done what I can, in the time I have, with the resources I have available to me right now.
My expectations may have been unrealistic.
Any self criticism is unnecessary.
All that in 20 minutes, a microcosm of the everyday… with kindness.

(Please note, I didn’t have time with all this to photo, upload, edit my own lasagne pic so this is someone else’s less messy version 😉 )

Rain, rain, RAIN

autumn leaves in the rain
This morning we awoke to the sound of rain, the clouds obscuring the light of yesterday’s sunshine.

This shift in the weather is the perfect way to start the day, an invitation, a reminder from nature to experience what is now. Michele McDonald developed RAIN as an acronym for a simple mindfulness practice 20 years ago:

Recognize what is going on;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with kindness;
Natural awareness, which comes from not identifying with the experience.

So, what is your experience right now?

Sit comfortably, either cross-legged or kneeling on the floor or a chair with your knees, ankles and hips aligned. Feel your sitting bones (you can manually take the buttock flesh out and back to ground yourself) and notice your spine. Allow your body to feel its way intuitively into sitting a little more symmetrically, more upright, so that the body invites the breath to naturally flow.

Notice any physical or emotional sensations as they arise and pass through the body mind. You may become distracted by these feelings or thoughts, you may notice internal dialogue. Each time this happens, just notice that and bring your focus back to the breath. The physical sensation or the emotion is not suppressed but you also don’t need to become caught up in it. Just as you watch the rain, you cannot hold on to a particular raindrop, each experience comes and goes.
No single raindrop is the rain.
No single experience, thought, sensation is ‘you’.

You don’t need to label the experience as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘desirable’ or ‘undesirable’. You are not ‘succeeding’ in your practice if you remain focussed or ‘failing’ if you are distracted.

This is the same as if you were practising what you perceive to be a challenging pose in a yoga class. I often come across this, for instance, teaching students inversions. Many people encounter fear, old stories of inadequacy, anxiety about falling, failing… The more they become caught up in ‘thinking’ and either deciding not to try or caught up in the trying itself, the less likely it is they will ever come into the headstand.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the aphorism that we often come to is:
“Prayatna shaitilya ananta samapatthibhyam”(II:47)
“Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached.”

B.K.S. Iyengar

When we calm the mind, sensitively, intelligently and spaciously explore a pose, and, most importantly, let go of our expectations to reach a defined point we perceive as a goal, then our bodies are more likely, with time and practise, to open into the physicality of the postures. This attitude is inherently generous and kind, gradually revealing the nuances in the body.

It is the same when we are pregnant and preparing for birth: many women I encounter get caught up either in fear or in the need to control the outcome of their birth. Either of these mental states takes them away from the actual experience of their pregnancy or birth. In scientific terms, the focussing of activity in the logical, linear left brain, leads the woman to becoming disintegrated, where she needs to fall into a space of intuition, trust and connection with the primal part of her brain that effects natural chemical and physical responses that correspond with the progress of birth. Caught up in her thinking brain, there will be more associated stress, often reflected in more shallow breathing, her muscles will tighten and become more adrenal without enough oxygen and her birth will literally be ‘held’ by the brain.

In both these physical scenarios, as with the attitude we may take to the rain, if we can Recognize the anxiety, any negative projections that arise (suffering, ‘dukkha’, we cause ourselves – we are the only known mammals to do this! – by imaging outcomes in the future based on current events); Allow ourselves to settle, physically, mentally and with the breath into what is right now; Investigate these sensations with space, intuition, without getting caught back in the cycle of projection and judgement; opening ourselves to Natural awareness – we are not attached to or defined by the experience.
As the weather constantly shifts, so do we, everything that we ‘are’ is realigning, moving, beyond ‘control’. In these moments of awareness we are free.
Enjoy the rain!

Connecting with your partner after birth.

It often arises for women that their relationship with their partner faces challenges after birth.

For some time afterwards, as Mama you are flooded with chemicals that ensure you nurture and prioritise your baby. Perhaps you aren’t sleeping, perhaps you are still adjusting to the metamorphosis of motherhood. Perhaps birth itself has left physical or emotional traces in the body which take time to heal. Your libido may have been temporarily shelved. Even with the most understanding of partners, male or female, this can be challenging as they are not experiencing the same chemical or emotional experience. In many cases, their world most paternity/maternity leave is quite different from the space you have entered as mum. This can lead to a feeling of disconnect, anxiety, even antipathy, snapiness, arguments, feelings of not being understood… These feelings are regularly expressed by women in the UMEmamas community.

Sitting back to back in Baddha Konasana is a great way to re-connect non-verbally. Sit back to back to each other. Place the soles of your feet together. Make sure you really draw your sacrums in towards each other and spread out your backs into one another’s. As you start to connect to your own breath, coming and going through the nose, you will also become aware of each other’s breath, the warmth between your backs, and the release that starts to evolve with each exhalation. Each time you breathe, settle back into the mutual support of each other’s backs.

This article from Yoga Journal addresses the issue of coming up against physical resistance in the pose, and how we emotionally respond to resistance. Of course this is equally applicable to the resistance we find in our relationships, sometimes to situations. When we meet this, allowing ourselves to ‘confront our limitations’, to face our discomfort and to allow it space, through centering, grounding in the breath. Recognising that whatever we meet is not a definition of how, who, what we are, that that is constantly evolving given space. Let go of the stories that build in your head surrounding behaviours and connect through the breath to each others’ hearts.

We will sleep again… and without little people wriggling between us. We will not always feel like we feel right now, however that is. We will have time to invest in our relationships in a different way again as our children grow and need us less intensively.
In the meantime, draw your attention to the little moments where you feel love, connection… vocalise them. Appreciate the new depth that comes with being parents. See the beauty in how your love for each other is manifested through your child/children.
Notice all the little gestures, touches, cuddles, smiles over your sleeping child… which all build up to create a picture of connection in a different way.

Yogic parenting

Becoming a new parent can be a like a lucky dip of mixed emotions and experiences. You made it through labour and now you’re doing a good impression of a dairy cow, taking odd breaks to juggle nappies-ful of curry and pose for the family paparazzi, immortalized in spew-covered Primark pyjamas and scarecrow hair…
Continue reading “Yogic parenting”