Monday, June 5, 2017

Is mindfulness only for those who are single and 'free'?

As a new mom, one of the things that was a bit of a shock was how my 'monkey mind' (while already there) went completely berserk. It swung here, there, and everywhere, thinking of baby, myself, tasks, worries, when is my husband coming home, why is the weather so horrible, etc. Though pretty apt at multitasking, over the past few years I really made an effort to reel that aspect in my personality in. At my job I worked on one thing at a time whenever possible, neatly checking items off my to-do list after several focused time periods working towards my goal. 

Now at home with my baby, the knowledge that she may need my attention at any given moment has caused some major scatter of my focus while doing other things. Though I cringe at the stereotype of the 'frazzled mom' trying to get everything done and taking care of everyone but herself, I feel some of that creeping in.  

All this has made me wonder if mindfulness is a luxurious notion that can really only be achieved by the few who have renounced worldly desires, and is really hopeless for us laypeople. Thinking about the Buddhist leaders who have influenced my practice, most of them are unmarried men who do not have pressing family obligations. Though most are busy people whose time is sought by practitioners around the world, mindfulness and meditation is what they do, so they naturally must engage in the practice to advise others. While of course this is an obligation in and of itself, how can a 'householder' successfully relate to what Sangha leaders describe (and gently encourage laypeople to practice)?

Taking a deep breath and re-reading what I have written above (after starting the laundry, chopping vegetables, and organizing the diaper bag while my daughter naps, of course) the words that jump out at me in this post are 'achieved' and 'practice'. Unlike much of the tasks and ideas we encounter in daily life, mindfulness is not an item to be checked off a to-do list. Rather, it is a mindset and attitude that we use to approach those items that need doing- and that requires a lot of . . . you guessed it - never-ending practice!

Looking back, I realize now that my wistful (and sleep-deprived) thoughts of 'It feels like I will never be mindful again' indicated that I needed a little bit of a refresher to remind myself what mindfulness really is, and that it can be practiced and attempted (however clumsily or imperfectly) by anyone, anywhere. Whatever is going on in your life, all you really need is the present moment.

Do you have any thoughts to share about mindfulness and/or how you or someone you know may have struggled? Feel free to share in the comments below!
May all beings be happy!   

Friday, March 10, 2017

In the interim

Every once in a while most of us who blog have to write a post like this one, explaining our prolonged absence :) Over the past year or so I have been incredibly busy with my job, and in December 2016 my husband and I welcomed our newborn daughter into our lives. 

As you can imagine, the past few months have been a whirlwind, but in a good way. I know that the birth of my daughter and becoming a parent will have a profound effect on the way I experience life, including my spiritual journey. Though I do not anticipate BCB becoming a 'mommy blog' (there are so many others out there able to do that so much better!) I anticipate that my journey as a new mom will most definitely temper how I approach my posts. At the very least, I know they will be shorter :)

Have you had a major life event that affected the way you approach your writing/spiritual journey/life? Please share in the comments!

May all beings be happy!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review of Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke

For many women, giving birth is arguably one of the most momentous events in their lives. In an attempt to prepare, many read a variety of books on the subject of labor and childbirth. After perusing a number of different titles to read before the arrival of our daughter, "Mindful Birthing: Training the Mind, Body and Heart for Childbirth and Beyond" caught my eye.

Written by Nancy Bardacke, a nurse-midwife and mindfulness teacher, each chapter focuses on different aspects of childbirth and caring for (and adjusting to) a newborn baby. The thing that struck me most was the chapter about pain. Often the top-most concern of moms-to-be, Nancy thoroughly describes the physiological feedback loop created by oxytocin to generate contractions during labor. When the mother is free from fear and agitation, the feedback loop works its best, and oxytocin can do its job. However, when the mother is afraid and/or extremely stressed, the excess adrenaline produced actually interferes with the process. 

Combined with these biologically-based explanations, Nancy's focus on mindfulness was truly insightful. She emphasizes to not be affected by previous contractions or anticipate the next, but only focus on the present moment. This also includes the time between contractions, which Nancy describes as being restful~ even blissful! Moreover, this approach lowers the possibility that stress and fear will disrupt an otherwise uncomplicated labor.  

I am sure that there are many other great books out there to prepare for labor, but Mindful Birthing was the only one I read because I felt it had all I needed (after all, working -or muddling- towards mindfulness is the way I have chosen to live my life!). Writing about this incredibly personal subject, I emphasize that every woman must choose how she will handle the intensity of labor. But looking back on my own birth story (pitocin induction at 41 weeks), I marvel at the 'miracle of mindfulness' and its role in guiding me through one of the most intense but also proud and transformational personal experiences.  

Is there a mindfulness/spiritually based mindset that helped you or someone you know work through childbirth? Please contribute in the comments below!

May all beings be happy!