How to Meditate

This video is the best I’ve seen describing the practice of meditation. Sakyong Mipham explains beautifully the importance of having a mind/ body connection in order to live in the present state.  If your mind is truly connected to your body it will not wander off, worrying about the future or the past.  It will instead stay focused and present in the now.  Meditation is key to living a formless life.

The Truth About Becoming a Mommy

I envisioned my labor to be much like a Hallmark commercial.  Sure, I knew there would be some pain involved, but I pictured me breathing through the discomfort with my husband by my side, feeding me ice chips and wiping my brow with a cold wash cloth.  We’d hear the baby’s first cry and I’d be handed my beautiful newborn all wrapped up in a pink blanket.  She’d gaze lovingly into my eyes and make gurgling sounds at me.  Tears of joy would run down my face.  My husband would proudly take her to the waiting room and display her to the family.  (You know, exactly like Simba was displayed on top of the cliff for all to see in the ‘Lion King’?)

I think most new mothers-to-be probably have a similar vision, and maybe some lucky mothers actually have an experience that measures up to the expectation.  I think, however, that most of us do not.  I’m not sure why women don’t sit other women down and tell the truth.  Maybe we’re afraid to scare the poor new mothers.  Maybe we’re afraid to talk about our own insecurities and failures.  In my quest to become formless, I am striving to be my authentic self.  So, here’s my truth about motherhood.  If you are one of those women who don’t want to soil your Hallmark commercial vision, perhaps you should stop reading now.  If you want the truth, read on.

The Delivery

The truth is, no one cares about your delivery story.  Believe me, you will want to tell your story.  You will want to shout it from the roof tops.  You will want everyone, even strangers, to know how many hours you labored.  You will want them to know all the gory details.  I mean, seriously.  Why shouldn’t you?  You just delivered a PERSON.  Crazy when you think about it.  But, guess what?  Once that baby is born, it becomes all about the baby.  Friends will come to visit and want to see the baby.  You might get a “Hey there” if you’re lucky.  Remember that big let down feeling you had once you got married and realized all the parties, gifts, and everyone making you feel like a princess was over?  It’s just like that, only about ten times worse.

After hearing many of my friends’ delivery stories, I’d have to say mine ranges on the “sucks more than normal” side of things.  First of all, my baby was NINE DAYS LATE.  Nine.  I had 2 epidurals because the first one was not put in correctly.  Lucky me.   (See- even now I still want to tell all of my gory details.  Focus, woman.)  So, we eventually got the epidural in the right spot and I labored some more.  At around hour 25 1/2, the doctor decides it’s time to do a c-section.  Yippee.   So, finally, 26 hours later, our daughter is born.  And in that moment, I would instantly do anything, give up anything for my child.  I became truly selfless for the first time.

You will have an intense, immediate love for your child.  Please know, new mom, that your precious baby is also a stranger that you will have to get to know.  You will not know what every cry, whimper, or expression means immediately.  Give yourself time, for after some time passes, you will know these things even in a deep sleep.

First Weeks at Home

If you’re lucky, you will have someone come and stay with you for the first few days of being home.  For me, since I had a c-section, I was not allowed to lift my daughter, climb stairs, or drive a car for two weeks.  I could hold her and I could nurse her and those two things I did often.  At this point, your life will begin to revolve around 3 hour periods since your baby needs to eat every 3 hours.  Days turn into nights turn into weeks… it is all a blur.  You will exist in a Groundhog Day experience for awhile.  It does get better.

When the time came for my mom to go back to her home and for my husband to return to work, I was scared out of my mind.  I was responsible for this little life.  Besides being scared, I was exhausted and emotional.  Having a c-section is major surgery but it’s so common that everyone kind of glosses over it.  Depression after surgery is a normal thing. Depression after having a baby is referred to as the “Baby Blues.”  So, although it is normal, it is still a hard thing to get through.  If you are a new mom and feel this way, know that you are not alone.  Many of us have stood in your footsteps.  Know that you don’t have to keep those feelings bottled inside of you.  It helps so much to talk about how you are feeling but I know it is scary to be vulnerable.  For your sake and for your child’s, take the risk and be honest.

Venturing Back Into the World

Eventually you will become comfortable enough to leave your home alone with your baby.  For me, this took 3 months.  I’m not kidding.  My daughter was born in October during peak flu season and her pediatrician told me not to take her anywhere public if I didn’t have to.  Being the rule follower that I am, we stayed home.  I am blessed with a very supportive husband so I did go places without her… shopping, to the grocery store, dinner with friends, etc.  So, even if you are trapped at home like I was, make it a point to get out by yourself so that you don’t go stir crazy.  The longer you wait to leave your baby with your husband or a sitter, the harder it becomes.

The first time out alone with my baby was nerve-racking.  I was afraid I wouldn’t have everything I needed.  I was afraid that she might cry or be fussy in public.  I was afraid that a stranger would touch her and get her sick.  I was afraid that someone would tell me that I was doing it all wrong.  I was afraid.  Eventually, I was able to look fear in the eye and realize that I was capable.

Now, looking back on these first few months, I see how scared and freaked-out I was about EVERYTHING.  My girlfriends and I all laugh about how neurotic we all were.  In the midst of it, you feel like you are the only one who feels that way. You see other mothers at the grocery store or at the mall and they make it seem so easy.  What we all need to realize is that probably 99% of mothers with newborns have racing hearts and sweaty hands because this fear of being inadequate is an experience we all share as women.

Relationship with the Hubby

My husband has been an amazing father since Day 1. He changed diapers, he did night feedings so that I could rest, and he took care of me so that I could take care of our daughter.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered one day that I was totally resentful of him.  What happened?  I was jealous that he got to go back to his work, that he got to return to his old life, that he could work out whenever he wanted, that he could get his hair cut at a moment’s notice.  His life seemed to return to normal with the added bonus of now having a daughter.  My life was turned upside down.  Not only had I given up my career to be a stay-at-home mother, but a huge part of me felt like I had given up my life, my freedom as well.  I had to really dig deep to discover that these feelings really had nothing to do with my husband at all.  Instead, it was the painful process of realizing that my whole sense of self had shifted.  Becoming a mother helped me begin the journey of becoming formless.  No longer was I able to get my sense of identity through my job, nor did I want my identify to come from my daughter.  I had to discover who I really was deep inside.  This is never an easy lesson.  Once I could focus on discovering my true self, my relationship with my husband grew to an even deeper level.  By being true to myself, I am able to be a better wife and a better mother.

One more word of advice- continue to date your husband.  Believe me, it’s hard at first. You are exhausted.  You are working on little to no sleep.  But your relationship with him has to come first.  Have your parents come stay with your baby or use a trusted friend, but go out to dinner with your husband.  You MUST maintain a relationship with your spouse independent of your child.

Surviving

Becoming a mother was something I dreamed of as a little girl.  For me, getting pregnant was not easy.  It was a 3 year emotional roller coaster ride before I was blessed with my little miracle.  No matter how badly you want a baby, no matter how much you love them, being a mother is not easy.  I want you to know that if you are scared, you are not alone.  I want you to know that if you feel like you can’t do this, you are not alone.  I want you to know that if you are beyond exhausted, you are not alone.  I want you to know if you are feeling resentful and miss your old life, you are not alone.  Be honest with yourself.  Be easy on yourself.  Open up to others and they will open up to you.  All mothers, past and present, are in this journey together.  We can learn from each other and we can encourage one another.  None of us are perfect yet we all want the same things for our children.  In return, our children give us the biggest gift of all.  They teach us how to love unconditionally and how to become selfless.  They help us to shred away our ego to discover who we truly are.

Feel free to leave any questions or advice in the comment section. We can all learn from each other, from one mother to another.

~ala

 

Be Still and Know

Every once in awhile, my husband and I will plan a “project night.”  During project night, we kind of retreat into our own little favorite nook in the house and have some time to ourselves to pursue different projects or interests.  We will occasionally check on each other or want to bounce an idea off of one another,  but generally, we honor this creative outlet of time that we have gifted ourselves.

Tonight, I had a long list of things I had been wanting to research. Things, which I believed, would help me in my pursuit of becoming more spiritually alive, of becoming formless.  You see, I am naturally task oriented.  Give me a project and I will get it done.  I am the queen worker bee.  I want to figure this spiritual thing out. I want to know God on a deeper level.  I want to understand more.  I want to become enlightened.  In this world we are taught that if we want something, we have to DO something.  So, I’ve been busy doing… spending hours on different sites, trying to learn as much as possible.  One site brings up a hundred more questions and then I’m trying to find the answers to those questions.  All of this learning and research has been interesting, but it really has not helped me become more enlightened.
In the midst of reading a VERY long site (I can’t even remember what it was about now) I stopped for a moment to take a few deep breaths.  It was during that still moment when Psalm 46:10 came to my mind again: “Be still and know that I am God.”  Wait a minute.  You mean I don’t have to read all of these long sites, the majority of them which make no sense to me at all yet?  I don’t have to try to figure all of this out for myself? “BE STILL.”  In that instance I had a moment of clarity.  I don’t have to DO anything.  All I have to do is BE.  You see, it is the trying too hard, it is the striving too hard through my own consciousness, which is delaying my manifestation.
How do we come to know the great I AM?  We are still. We are quiet.  We focus on our breath instead of on our thinking.  We remember that the Creator talks to us in the gentle wind, in a whisper.  We must quiet our own thoughts so that He can speak.  It is learning to trust your feelings verses your learning.  It is recognizing that God lives in you and is part of you.  He is you.
It’s so simple.  I know I’ve said that before in other entries, but it IS so simple. Why do I, why do we, keep trying to make it so difficult?  Every day, meditate.  If you don’t like the word meditate, pick another word.  No matter what you call it, be quiet for a few minutes every day.  It doesn’t have to be any place fancy.  I like to do it in my bed with the covers pulled up over my head, blocking out all distractions.  Start by focusing on your breath, just listening to it.  Find the rhythm of your inhalation and exhalation.  If thoughts start coming to your mind, bring your attention back to your breath.  And then wait.  It may not happen the first time and you may have to practice several times before you can control your own thoughts.   But, trust me when I tell you that you’ll know when He is speaking to you.  How can you tell the difference between your own thoughts and His?  You will have to trust your feelings. You will know. We all have exactly what we need to become formless, to become enlightened.
~ala

Just be the Rock

My college boyfriend had a very important leadership role in our university.  Because of this, I would accompany him to different dinners, engagements and social gatherings, usually with important university officials or political guests that had been invited.  Shy be nature, I learned to play a role to make it through these, what were to me, uncomfortable occasions.  I learned how to make small talk and how to work a room, how to approach and engage someone alone in a corner.  This role was exhausting to me, stressful to the point of causing migraines.  Yet, I became a skilled social butterfly because I felt like that was my role as the girlfriend.

As I think back over my life, I realize that I began playing roles very early on.  I realized as a child that my life was easier if I did the things my parents asked of me, if I didn’t talk back, if I stayed out of the way.  I am a grown woman with a child of my own and I still feel like I am trapped playing the role of the dutiful daughter.
We all have these roles- I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a friend, I’m an employee, I’m a student.  It’s easy to become trapped in these roles, these forms.  To become truly formless, I must stop editing my own life and just be authentic, true to myself.  How I am as a daughter should be no different than how I am as a friend.  I am simply just me, all of the time.  It is exhausting to rewrite myself as different characters, different personalities for the people in my life.  Not only do I have to remember these different roles, but I also waste energy trying to determine what form of me I believe people want to see.
Is a rock ever a different form?  Does a rock decide to be a boulder one day and a pebble the next?  No.  It is always just the rock.  That is, until time weathers it away and it becomes a smooth crystal.  Once this happens, the rock has become enlightened, or changed.
When you try to be your own weathering process, changing from one personality form to the next, you waste energy on a futile task.  Why do you do this?  You do this because you are afraid that if you are just the rock, without all of the glitz and glamor that you think others expect of you, that you are unworthy.  That you are unloveable.  You are not enough.
However, it’s only when you start just being the rock, being who you were created to be, that the weathering process starts to occur. Only unlike what we see in nature, our weathering process comes from within.
Want to become formless?  Just be the rock.
~ala