listening

Be Where You Are

Be Where You Are

by cheryl on September 2, 2013

in Meditation

A recent  New York Times article  and YouTube video I Forgot My Phone left me wondering, how much of life are we missing out on when we are constantly turning our attention to that little screen?  How often are we truly present where we are?  Our minds are usually taking us elsewhere — wandering back into our past or worrying about the future.   It is a challenge for us to reign in our active minds and be fully present where we are.  Now, with the help of technology, it has become easier and easier to be where we are not.   We don’t need the torrent of our thoughts to take us elsewhere, we have the help of our smartphones to whisk us away.

How often do we feel a slight moment of boredom and immediately jump on our smartphones to avoid that brief moment of mental stillness?  Instead of enjoying a momentary quiet interlude, we immediately look up the latest news stories, check in to see what our friends are doing on Facebook, or reply to our endless stream of emails.   How often do we “leave” the people we are with to chat with, Instagram, or email those who are somewhere else?  I am all for keeping in touch and social media is a wonderful way to stay connected, but I think it is important to remind ourselves and our children that we need to enjoy where we are and who we are with by resisting that ever present temptation to jump into the electronic cyberworld of being elsewhere.

How often have you been in a restaurant and watched a family eating “together” — one child watching a DVD, a teenager texting friends and parents checking their email?  Are they really enjoying each other’s company or merely occupying space next to one another while engaging with someone or something elsewhere?   The average teenager writes over 3,000 texts per month. With the soaring popularity of other forms of social media, their options are vast to live in a virtual world of communicating with a screen instead of with the people next to them.   I wonder if our children are learning the art of conversation or merely mastering the art of internet slang?  Will they learn to use their imagination and creativity in the face of a moment of boredom or merely power on when they want to disengage ?  Do they know how to connect through eye contact or just through Instagram?   Imagine what they could do with all of the time they spend on their smartphones and all that they are missing right in front of them.

As parents, we spend so much time teaching our children how to be “safe” online, and are so preoccupied with checking in on their internet conversations,  that we may be missing the greater lesson of teaching them to simply power off.  When they are unplugged and not constantly distracted,  perhaps we can teach them the importance of making face to face human connections — how to make polite conversation, use eye contact, be a good listener.  These are the elements of creating real human connections that I hope will not be lost on the next generation.  In addition, we all suffer from the affects of our constant multi-tasking — lack of focus, inability to concentrate, uncontrollable mind wandering.  In our distracted and fractured culture, where we are all wired up and constantly interupted by the beeps of our electronic devices, perhaps powering off will be the best lesson of all for our children’s mental and emotional well being.

Do people really need to see the dessert I am eating on vacation or an artistic picture of my shoe or one more “selfie”?   Will the world end if I don’t respond to an email in the middle of a dinner conversation?   Am I really enjoying the concert when I am preoccupied with taking a video of it to show everyone afterwards?

So, let’s try to be where we are and enjoy who we are with.  It is those moments in which we are truly present that are our most precious and most meaningful moments of all.

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We came across this great video that we thought that you might find interesting.  Take a look and let us know what you think.

 

 

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Our Greatest Teachers

Our Greatest Teachers

by cheryl on March 19, 2012

in 2mindfulmoms

I had always imagined that I would one day be a wise old lady, imparting profound words of wisdom about life and teaching my children how to navigate through it.   After twelve years of motherhood, I now realize that I have learned more from my children than I ever could have imagined.  They have become my greatest teachers.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did whatever I could to learn about the big job ahead of me – motherhood.   I took Lamaze classes and bought all of the latest books on pregnancy, sleep training, parenting philosophies and childhood illnesses.  After many months of preparation, I went to what would be my last OBGYN appointment only to learn that the baby had flipped himself to a breach position and that the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.  I would need a c-section the next day.   At that moment, all of my planning and preparation for the way I wanted this birth to happen was down the tubes – no Lamaze breathing, no natural childbirth, no week to finish work and prepare for his arrival.

Similarly, after he arrived, all of my plans to mold and shape this little bundle of joy into a well-scheduled, sleep-through-the-night baby were also quickly forgotten.  No feeding schedules, no regular nighttime routines, no sleeping through the night were in our future.  Up to this point in my life, I worked hard in school and got good grades, worked hard in my job and got good performance reviews, and worked hard to keep my life well-planned, setting goals for myself and achieving them.  But this new role, motherhood, was going to be different.  The first lesson that I learned from my son was that despite my best efforts and best-laid plans, I was not in control.

The next lesson came quickly as well.   Much to my surprise, I learned that my role as a mom was not to shape and mold my children into the people I wanted them to be.  Instead, I would have a much different, more passive role in their development.   I have learned that my job is to love and nurture them, keep them safe from harm and simply watch them grow.  Parenting is like planting a garden.  We can water our plants to help them grow, add fertilizer to make them strong, and put them in the sunlight to help them thrive, all while trying to protect them from the dangers of hungry birds, animals and insects, but we cannot determine what type of plant will grow.  That is up to the seed itself.

Then came the most intriguing lesson of all.  My children are chock-full of great insight and wisdom.  All I have to do is be sure to listen.  When my son was four years old, he would cry and cling to my legs each morning at drop off, pleading not to leave him.  This routine broke my heart every day, until one day he looked into my eyes while I was giving him one last tight hug good-bye before the tears would begin to flow, and he said, “I’m OK mommy.  Just go.”  It was then that I realized through his simple, but incredibly insightful words that it was me who was having a difficult time letting him go and that he would be OK without me.

These words of wisdom from our children are everywhere if we just pay attention to them.  One rainy morning, on our way to school, I remarked to my children, “What a yukky day!”  My littlest child quickly replied, “It’s not yukky, it’s just raining.”  I have never looked at a rainy day quite the same since then.

More recently, my seven year old asked me if her Nana would be OK after she was diagnosed with cancer.  I replied, “I certainly hope so.”  My son then piped in, “You know that you can get very sick from even a common cold.”   To which my youngest child thought for a moment and then said, “Oh . . . (pause)  . . . what’s for lunch?”  This may sound like a silly conversation, but I found it to be quite profound.   As I listened to this exchange, I thought to myself, what a great way to look at life – to recognize that things happen which are completely out of our control and that often all that we can do is simply hope for the best and try not to worry so much about that which we cannot change, but instead live in the moment.  If only our minds could stay as clear and uncomplicated as the mind of a child.

As adults, we often dismiss our children’s insights as naïve and think that they are simply unable to comprehend the significance of the situation.  But instead, I think that we, as adults, often spend too much time worrying about all of the possibilities of what might be, making everything so complicated, and forgetting to notice what is right in front of us.

Our children have a magical way of staying connected to themselves and to the world around them.  We can all learn from them how to once again look at life with eyes untainted by judgment, cynicism and worry, to let go of our need to control what is or what will be and, instead, to live fully in each moment and enjoy the simple things that can be so amazing and so beautiful if we take the time to notice them.

 

**One of the most beautiful essays I have read about parenting is All My Babies Are Gone Now, by Anna Quindlen.  She writes from the perspective of having already lived through the ups and downs of mothering young children, and her insights looking back at those years are powerful.  She has inspired me to think more about parenting and about what parenthood is really all about.  Please check out her thoughts on parenthood by clicking here.

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Your Greatest Legacy

Your Greatest Legacy

by cheryl on February 20, 2012

in 2mindfulmoms, Uncategorized

If you want your children to succeed,

show them how to fail.

If you want them to be happy,

show them how to be sad.

If you want them to be healthy,

show them how to be sick.

If you want them to have much,

show them how to enjoy little.

Parents who hide failure, deny loss,

and berate themselves for weakness,

have nothing to teach their children.

But parents who reveal themselves,

in all of their humanness,

become heroes.

For children look to these parents

and learn to love themselves.

 

Parenting need not be a burden,

and one more thing you have to do

and don’t do well enough.

Instead consider your failures,

your sorrows,

your illnesses,

and your difficulties

as your primary teaching opportunities.

 

The Parent’s Tao Te Ching

 

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At a recent seminar entitled “Living Fearlessly,” I was asked to select a partner, another student in the class who I did not know, and sit face to face with him, knees touching, and take five minutes to simply stare into his eyes.  In the scheme of my daily tasks, this did not seem to be a hard request.  However, I soon found that it was almost impossible.   I could not stare into his eyes for an extended period of time without looking away.  I felt like I was intruding on his personal, private space, as if I was creating an uncomfortable intimacy with a total stranger by peering right into his soul, and allowing him to look into mine.  They say that the eyes are the window to the soul and this exercise seemed to have given me powerful evidence of the truth to that popular proverb.

After that class, I was intrigued and began my own personal experiment.  I decided to make a conscious effort to make clear and lasting eye contact with people throughout my day.  The results were quite amazing.  To simply look into my husband’s eyes in the morning and wish him a good day, had a completely different effect than my usual routine of yelling good bye to him while making the children’s lunches as he walks out the door.  Next, I took the time, only a few seconds, to look into my children’s eyes as they went off to school, wishing them a wonderful day.  This was an incredibly loving gesture that warmed my heart, and hopefully warmed theirs as well.

I also noticed that by taking the time to look into my children’s eyes while they were speaking to me made those moment so much more intimate and meaningful.  It allowed me to be present, to truly listen and let them know that they were being heard.  That is an incredible gift that you can give another person, especially your children, just by looking into their eyes.   Of course, this required me to stop texting, to take a break from checking my e-mails or reading the newspaper or cleaning the kitchen.  It required me to be in the moment and truly connect with those around me.  In doing so, I made those daily interactions much less mundane and routine, and much more meaningful and loving.

I didn’t stop there.   I quickly realized that it is quite simple to go through my daily routine without making eye contact with the strangers that I encounter throughout my day.   I could go to the bank, shop at the grocery story, sit through a meeting and never make meaningful eye contact with anyone.  So, I decided to look into the eyes of everyone I came in contact with that day.  The results were amazing.  At my local grocery store, for example, I looked right into the eyes of the cashier and found that she looked right back at me.   That moment was very powerful.  On most days I would help bag the groceries, swipe my card and be on my way.  By taking the time to look into her eyes, I made a brief connection with another human being and saw that she was a loving, caring person with an incredibly rich and complex life.  For that one moment, she saw me and I saw her.   In those few seconds of eye contact, it seemed like everything else stood still.   I can’t accurately describe the feeling I got, but it was quite moving.  When you look into someone’s eye and they look into yours, there seems to be a connection that goes straight to your heart.

We are all moving through life at such a rapid pace that taking a moment to acknowledge the existence of another human being who crosses your path, to truly look at them and acknowledge them, brings greater joy to those seemingly ordinary moments that fill our days, and who wouldn’t want more joy in their lives?

It’s not easy.  I know that I often do not look into other people’s eyes, not because I don’t want to see them, but because I don’t want to be seen.  Allowing someone that access creates a great feeling of vulnerability.  You open yourself up and it can feel scary, intense and awkward.   My meditation teacher asked us to do an exercise that was a little odd, but very telling.  She asked us to go to a mirror, and stare into our own eyes for a while, and tell ourselves, “ I love you.”   It feels very strange and a bit silly, but it is an interesting lesson in learning to love yourself and in really looking inward.  If you cannot do this exercise, then perhaps you should ask yourself why.

So, give it a try and let us know what you find.  I hope it will be a simple step to help you be in the moment, and to truly connect with yourself and all of those amazing people in your life!

This is the first article in a series entitled Simple Steps.  Simple Steps are  little things that we can all do that can really make a difference in our lives.  Check out our complete list of  Simple Steps.

 

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