Mindful Parenting

Parenting is no joke. I mean, sometimes it can get so overwhelming, that you do just have to laugh…but on the whole, regardless of your children’s ages, parenting can feel like it pulls everything from you. There are so many tired moms and dads out there, that we must think of ways to keep sustainable, inner-energy conscious homes.

There is this small book that I read years ago by Tich That Hanh, called, The Miracle of Mindfulness, that radically influenced my life. Mindfulness is like finding a way to be at home with yourself. If you’re breathing, it’s a way to become aware of your breath; if you’re dancing, it’s a way to become aware of your dance; or if you’re parenting, it’s a way to become aware of yourself in the moment with your kids. So, I guess you can say that mindfulness is a process of noticing. The more you can notice yourself as a parent, the more you’re going to know what you need, and that will progress into knowing what your child(ren) needs.

If we can begin to become more aware of ourselves, at a body level, of what the breath is doing, then we can notice where we hold tension in the body. Once you notice the tension, ask yourself – what is it that I need right now in this moment? This is a question that parents need to ask themselves every day. Have you ever noticed that there are certain behaviors or attributes in your child that may trigger more of an emotional response in you than other behaviors might? This is another aspect of mindful noticing. In those emotionally laden moments – whether it is anger, anxiety, or tenderness, a mindful response would be -“I am feeling angry right now. I wonder where this is coming from?” or “I felt so anxious at drop off this morning at school, where is this coming from?” The more we can ask ourselves these questions, the more we will be making meaning out of our experience, which will help us to be more responsive to what the emotional experience of our child is.

When we implement mindfulness, curiosity about our reactions and responses, and an awareness of the body’s feedback, then we can implement daily self care activities. And I do mean daily. This may sound indulgent to some, and I totally get that, but our children need parents who are whole, and have an integrated inner life, so that they can be seen for who they are, separate people from us. I promise that the more you can be kind to yourself, the more kindness you will exude to your kids; and you will be the responsive, engaged parent you want to be.

Drop a comment below to share how you practice daily self-care.

Love

This one was written for Valentines Day…

Love is what has saved me.  Time and time again. It’s what saves you, too. The rescuing nature of love is what teaches us reliance, is what gives us peace and security. 

The one thing I hope you remember this Valentine’s Day is that you are beloved, through and through. This one is hard for us to remember, it’s easy to measure ourselves by our mistakes, or insecurities, anxieties, or depression. When we’ve failed, the temptation is to believe that our actions are the sum of our parts…rather than just a part. Remember, you are good – just as you are, not as you think you should be. 

I know that some of you haven’t been loved well throughout your lifetime; many of you have suffered complex traumas, and this can confuse how you see yourself. You are still worthy of love and loving. I promise! 

Be gentle with yourself. Remember that self-compassion is the pathway that healing walks through. Relentless compassion. Also…boundaries are a valuable part of love. Love sometimes means drawing a firm and fierce line in the sand. You are worthy of respect. Your boundaries may be the most loving gesture you offer. 

Love is generative. Feel it, give it, spread it around like crazy. Conversely, guard your heart; it truly is the well-spring of life. Be vulnerable with your safe people, and let yourself receive love. Sometimes, that is the hardest part. 

Happy Valentine’s Day! 

“Love is the beauty of the soul.” St. Augustine

Set your boundaries, grow your life

These two words together- boundaries and grow, can sound like an oxymoron; boundaries ring with the tone of limitations, and grow has the texture, a feeling of something in bloom. But what if I were to tell you that you can’t have growth without a firm and clear sense of boundaries?

Boundaries help create a structured and defined self or environment; in a sense, you become tangible- you know who you are and who you are not, and others know who you are and what you’re about. This type of internal or external boundaried environment is what nurtures the ground for growth. It’s as if you’re putting a fence around the garden of your heart or mind to keep the bad stuff out, so that the good seeds of growth have healthy soil to evolve and expand in.

Healthy boundaries are an invitation to healthy relationships; and it is in healthy relationships that we grow, blossom, and bloom.

Take good care, Annie

Every part of you…

I can remember the very first time I went to therapy, as clear as this moment is now.  I was nervous, excited, and curious how I would feel talking to someone about all of the things that, at the time, I never spoke to anyone about; I’m not sure if some of the things I even spoke out loud, ever.  I was holding more in than even I realized. My therapist at the time, Karen, asked me the question that I have now asked so many people – what brings you in today?

I let the question hang in the air. This was a big question.  I had a long list of reasons why I was there, in her office, and could’ve rattled off all those things, but then something came out of my mouth that I didn’t plan on saying. “I want to be whole.” I let my answer sit there, now with the safe space in Karen, truthfully, not even consciously aware of what wholeness really was, but I knew that that’s what I needed. Thankfully, Karen earned my trust and as we both faithfully worked together, becoming whole was happening- beautifully, painfully; with grief and lament, and a lot of courage, I was becoming whole.

I think we’re all in a process of wholeness. So, here’s what I know now about wholeness – this is my belief as a therapist, and my personal, I’m a human living life perspective. I don’t think anybody is ever complete or whole. We’re never a finished product, and I think that’s really cool – new life is always happening in us, and all around us, always. This is hopeful – this means re-birth is possible, this means growth is possible. But this also means that we are made up of many “parts.” I’ll be writing more about “parts” in future posts, but what I want you to understand now is that depending on our life circumstances, we learned from a very early age which parts of us were welcomed and acceptable, and which parts weren’t. The parts that weren’t acceptable got split off, or put away somewhere, so that nobody would have to see those displeasing parts. For example, perhaps your family wasn’t very comforting in times of distress; well then, you split off the parts that needed to be dependent, that needed to be vulnerable and nurtured. In these moments, you learn it’s not safe to show that part, so like a child hiding something in her/his room so that nobody ever finds it; you hide that part and decide you don’t need to rely on people, and perhaps instead become a critical person so that you can push people away. This is one example in a sea of many.

So, therapy is about finding and gently reclaiming all the parts – the pieces of you that are precious, and worthy of being attended to. We just have to find the parts. The quote, “Show me all the parts of you that you do not love so I know where to begin” couldn’t be more true of therapy…lovingly searching for the unloved parts, and becoming whole again.

Take good care – Annie

 

Live with non-judgement

In the 16 years that I’ve been a therapist, and in my personal life, and listening to friends and family, one theme that I hear repeatedly is how harshly we speak to and about ourselves. If only I were different, there is something wrong with me, my family is a mess because of me, I’m just an anxious or depressed person,  I can’t stop eating so much, or drinking too much…and on and on and on the inner-critic rages. Ugh. My chest tightened just writing that! I wonder how different, more peaceful we would feel, if we were to offer ourselves a non-judgemental approach to living? If we could understand that we all have certain “neurological glitches” (a term borrowed from the wonderful Sylvia Boorstein), and genetic pre-dispositions; not to mention an entire ocean amount of attachment bruising, and sometimes serious wounding; we might live much more compassionately. Reflecting on our lives with kindness takes practice, but it is this wisdom that will produce true and lasting change. Shaming ourselves keeps us stuck in a loop, a hamster wheel of more of the same; where living with non-judgement offers us  the ability to respond to ourselves and each other with nurturing presence. From the words of the Christian scriptures, we know that it is God’s kindness that leads us to any form of change. We need grace, and a wise response to ourselves that is birthed out of love alone, to create true and lasting change that ushers in peaceful living.

It’s been awhile…

Hey Everybody!

I haven’t been on here for quite a while, so I just wanted to pop in and say, hello! I hope you are doing well. I’ve been reflecting lately on what it is that I want to produce on here, for you, so you will see some interesting content soon. I’ll be talking all things life and therapy.  I’m excited to share my heart with you!

xo, Annie

Thankful

I love Thanksgiving, I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite holiday.  I love it for so many reasons: the crisp fall weather (even though I’m in California, I still feel hints of the cooler season), the leaves that artfully decorate the ground, enjoying not driving my kids all over the planet, letting them sleep in, and waking up late and having my coffee in bed. Oh, yes.  Those are some of the reasons why I enjoy Thanksgiving week; but mostly, I feel the difference when I get quiet and reflective on all that I am thankful for.  There’s so much to be thankful for.  So much. Being thankful does wonders for our mind, body, and spirit. Even now as I ponder the word thankful, my breath slows, and I feel my entire body relax.  Peace trickles up inside. Try it.  Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale,  meditate on the word thankful, and see what happens.  Here’s the deal –  we feel peace when we practice thankfulness, because we were not designed to live thinking only of what we want, how we’re going to get it, and feeling deprived if we don’t have it.  Don’t get me wrong…it is OK to want, it is good to desire. However, wanting and desiring will backfire if we start obsessing, ruminating, feeling envious, or deprived.  If our desires lead us to living in fear, we’ve taken a wrong mental turn.  The path for cultivating a place in our hearts that hosts desires well, is through the way of gratitude and thankfulness.  This posture says, yes, I do want, but I am also thankful for all that I’ve generously been given.  It’s a different angle- more gentle, more grounded.  It’s a way to hold life in surrender. We were designed to say thank you, because that is a relational action, and our true nature is 100% relational.  In fact, most recent findings in neuroscience are identifying the brain as a “relational brain” because everything about us depends on relationship.  Speaking of the brain and neuroscience, there is a lot happening when we get thankful. Through brain scans, it has been noted that when we are thankful, we have increased determination, focus, and clear thinking.  We are more calm.  Thankfulness centers us. Being thankful activates the hypothalamus, this is the area in the brain that controls sleeping, eating, and drinking.  This is why practicing gratitude at night can help us sleep better, to sleep in peace. It actively effects our stress levels, and can even inspire us to want to exercise.  Wow!  Can being thankful really be that powerful? The coolest thing is, being thankful can be a pre-curser for the neurotransmitter dopamine. AHHMAZING!!  Dopamine, along with other SSRI’s, is called the “feel good chemical” because…it makes you feel good. Your brain basically is saying, “Oh, do that again!! It feels good!” So, how cool is it, that when we say “thank you,” that will, relationally speaking, bless someone else (God, the Universe, your friends, your family); and then in turn, it will bring you peace, a humble heart, and a calm that you need to survive the many stresses of life.  Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!  Sending you much love, and much gratitude!  Peace, Annie

Oh my goodness, last Saturday.

Last Saturday I had a day of complete relaxation.  I’m talking 24 hours of pure rest, quiet, no kids or husband at home needing me, it was just me time, and it was so good.  I went for a walk, did yoga, napped, read, prayed/meditated, spent some time pool side, and got a massage.  Come on! When I woke up on Sunday I felt gloriously wonderful…and most days, don’t lie, we all don’t feel gloriously wonderful! Usually we wake up and as soon as we can nail down what day it is, we start thinking about all of the many things that are on the ‘to do’ list.  This is a short reminder to you, given from someone who is still feeling the effects of taking it easy for a full 24 hours, to r e s t.  Rest is essential for our complete wellbeing.  Life is too stressful to not pause for a short while.  I feel restored and back to myself again. Take a rest, friends.  You deserve it. No guilt allowed, just enjoy it.

Hi. Welcome. Get a cup of tea and, chill.

Hey, I’m Annie.  I’m going to pretend I’m having that cup of tea with you.  We all need a cozy cup of chamomile tea at the end of a stressful day from time to time, don’t we? As I sit here trying to write my first ever blog post, I’ve got my youngest daughter on my lap, needing my attention; she’s ready for me to tuck her in for the night.  So, like you, I know that need for nurturing the soul.  My hope is, with this blog post, is that you will be able to pop in here from time to time and read little blurbs on how to take time to care for you, so that you have time and space to care for the others around you.  So, first step to chilling and the end of a long day, besides that cup of chamomile tea, is to…breathe.  I will talk about breath more often, the value and importance of breathing, and also of the powerful mind body connection of our inhale and exhale.  So…just for tonight,  keep breathing, one mindful breath at a time.  Inhale peace.  Exhale stress.  Talk to you soon!