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Book Club: Week Two

If you’re new to MPMK’s book club, we’re meeting every other Tuesday to discuss a chapter from Buddhism for Mother’s of Young Children – Becoming a Mindful Parent.  You can join us at any time, get your copy here and catch up with our chapter 1 discussion here.  We’d love to have you.

 

The take home message of this chapter is without a doubt that happiness comes from within (aka inner peace) and cannot be achieved through external means.  To that end, the author encourages us to stop worrying about where we’re going and again reminds us to be present and content with where we are.  She makes a very valid point in questioning why it’s so hard to focus on what we have and not what we want.

 

I especially connected with what mom Melissa had to say:

 

I’ve found a husband.  We have a mortgage and three children.  I have a part-time job which fits into my life well, yet now I find myself asking, what next?… I have come face to face with my habit of always grasping for something new and stimulating.  It’s a habit that threatens my hopes of enjoying the life I have worked so hard to set up.
It was also eye-opening for me when Napthali pointed out that we do this with the small things in life as well.

 

…wishing the present moment to be other than it is.  We resent the tantrums, the whining, the nagging.  We begrudge our partners working long hours away from home…when these aversions become too intense, they undermine our ability to be calm and content… Although we know on a rational level that perfection cannot exist… we continue to behave as though it is possible.

 

I’ve heard the message many times before.  Yet this zen version of, essentially,”the grass is always greener” and “don’t sweat the small stuff” registered with me in a way I haven’t previously experienced.

 

Maybe my break through came because Napthali did such a great job of:
  1. Explaining how to realize these feelings within yourself 
  2. Outlining simple ways to change your attitude from one of wanting to one of gratitude.
In fact, the ideas laid out in this chapter on how to foster gratitude alone are worth the price of the book.  Here’s my favorite:

 

…some Buddhist mothers cultivate a “gratitude practice”.  They make a habit of reminding themselves what they can be grateful for.  Some write a short list each day:

My children’s smiles
Their new freckles
Caring friends

Perhaps the wisest of these mothers encourage their children to do the same.

Finally, this chapter also points out our responsibilities in teaching our children slowness.  The author’s message about our duty to model for our children the benefits of balance and down time made me think of a post I read recently.

 

Upon reading the title I Don’t Want Her to Feel Guilty About Doing Nothing, I thought the blogger meant she didn’t want her young daughter to sit around (either physically or socially) and later regret it. After reading the post, I realized that for her daughter to be able to sit around every once in a while was exactly what she wanted. The post, and my instinctual misinterpretation of its meaning, were both a bit of a wake up call for me.

 

What did you all think of this chapter?  Are you or your children too wanting or busy?  Did any of Napthali’s ideas especially jump out at you?  Share with us!

 

And if you’d like to join in, you have two weeks to buy the book before we discuss chapter 3 on August 21st.

 

 

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy August 7, 2012 at 5:40 am

I have not read the book, but I love your summaries! Lately I have noticed that I am doing even worse than wondering “what’s next?” – I am going one step further & actively worrying (3am panic attack worrying) about what hard times might happen in the future, especially for my children. I am trying hard to just enjoy today & not worry away these precious years!

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Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com August 7, 2012 at 9:28 pm

You bring up a good point, Amy, about how it is just as possible to “worry away” time as it is to “wish it away”. The author does mention catastrophizing in this chapter – which is exactly what you’re talking about – and does a good job of addressing how a mindful practice can help to minimize these tendencies.

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Jessica Sliman August 7, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I just stumbled upon your blog a little while ago and was really excited to see this book club. I just downloaded the book and look forward to participating in the conversation for chapter 3! Does it occur here or on the fb page?

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Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com August 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Hi Jessica,

So glad to have you! The discussion happens right here, in the comments on the blog post. We cover one chapter every other Tuesday :).

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Lora Carroll August 7, 2012 at 8:43 pm

“Recognize that your future happiness is determined by your inner world – your thoughts, attitudes and beliefs – not your external conditions.” (p.36)

I am currently working hard to keep a gratitude journal. It helps me to spend time every day focussing my thoughts on the positive in my life. Every night before I go to sleep, I write down at least three things that I am grateful for: some of them are reoccurring items (my friend and family), some of them are small things from my day that made a big impression (a kind gesture from a co-worker).

I recommend that you check out this great TED talk by Shawn Achor. He discusses how we can impact our own happiness through simple daily practices. Keeping a gratitude journal is also one of his suggestions:

http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html

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Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com August 7, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Thank you so much for that link Lora, I’m excited to check this out. I’ve been so interested in current research on what really does (and does not) make us happy. Did you see the short review I posted here on the documentary “Happy”? It’s definitely worth a look.

http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/2012/06/improving-your-everyday.html

And I agree with you about the gratitude journal idea being such a good one. I would love to make this a part of the daily routine for our whole family. I think teaching our children how to find happiness internally, and not to seek it externally, is one of our most important jobs as parents!

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Lora Carroll August 8, 2012 at 2:13 am

Thanks for the link to your post. I look forward to reading it! And I agree with you – encouraging our children to keep a gratitude journal is a great idea. It is all about setting good habits for life :) You might be interested in a related post that I wrote called, ” Happy or not? It is up to you.” If you do get a chance to check it out, let me know what you think.

http://www.loracarroll.com/happy-or-not-it-is-up-to-you/

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kiki August 11, 2012 at 11:39 am

Lora – that’s the passage that resonated with me as well. It’s empowering but also a bit scary that we control our own karmic destiny and happiness. We are so programed to buy into obtaining our idea of the perfect life, that our happiness is dependent on external conditions and/or material things.
Keeping a gratitude journal is such an incredible practice. The effects can be staggering in how quickly it turns around our entire outlook. It’s something that I pick up for a while and then sort of move away from. I wish I were more consistent about it. One thing that we’ve been working toward is to keep a dinner time gratitude journal – when we sit down to have dinner we each contribute one thing that we are grateful for and we share those with one another. Our son is just 23 months so he’s not quite in on it yet, but I can’t help but hope that growing up around us being mindfully thankful will contribute to his own future practice of gratitude. Of course, this summer our lives have been pretty nuts so it only happens once and a while, but we’re working on it!
The Shawn Achor TED talk was both amusing and fascinating (only 10% of our happiness come from external factors and I loved “the absence of disease is not health”) I just wish he would talk a little bit s l o w e r. : )

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Lora Carroll August 17, 2012 at 5:26 am

Kiki,

I am sorry for the delaying my response. I did not receive notification of your comment and just happened upon it right now. I love your idea to share gratitude as a family around the table – especially with your young son. What a great practice to share together. Glad you enjoyed the Shawn anchor talk. I love TED talks. They are so eye opening. I look forward to chatting more next week during chapter three! Cheers, Lora

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Anonymous August 8, 2012 at 1:11 am

Does anyone know where I can buy this book for iPad? It doesn’t come up in the iTunes store and I can’t find it here in Australia. :(

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Lora Carroll August 8, 2012 at 2:15 am

Do you have access to Kobo? That is where I bought it online.

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Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com August 8, 2012 at 3:34 am

Amazon has a free kindle app. I downloaded it onto my iPad then bought the kindle version from them. Worked like a charm :).

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Anonymous August 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm

Okay thanks! I will try it. This book just seems so interesting and has come at the perfect time in my life! I’m dying to read it!

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Anonymous August 8, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Can’t seem to buy it from Australia :(

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Mauri August 8, 2012 at 1:21 am

This book sounds so interesting to me–I’d like to catch up with you all. I’m a stay at home mom. Recently, I had the chance to accept my dream job. In the end, I turned it down because I could see how it would push our family to the limits of time together, proper pacing in our family life, and my peace of mind trying to juggle home and work. It was a hard choice to make (and I’m still daydreaming about that path not taken), but it was the choice that lets me live in the now and be present in my role as a mother of young children. Maybe a dream job will come around again at another stage of life; but when will my kids be 4 and 7 again?

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Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com August 8, 2012 at 3:37 am

That is so true Mauri, our kids are only young once and for such a short period of time. Yet, it is still not an easy thing to put everything on hold for years at a time. (And to remember that many aren’t in the position of having the choice of whether or not to stay home with their kids.) I applaud you for making such a selfless choice. It will be interesting to see how it shapes you, your children, and your relationship in the long run.

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echis August 8, 2012 at 3:32 am

It struck me how often I am yearning for what I don’t have (author spoke about getting a full-time “worthy” job). But once you get what you want, there is always something more and happiness once again eludes us. Live. In. The. Moment. be grateful for what you have NOW. How much time do we waste wanting?

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Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com August 8, 2012 at 3:38 am

I agree and I think people are starting to realize the value of this more and more. (How many quotes do you think there are on pinterest on the topic of being present these days?) What I love about this book is that it gives you the tools to actually do it.

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Lilly August 8, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I am a litte late to the book club, but hope that I can stil comment. I loved the message of being in the moment, which is something I struggle with. I’ve noticed that I always find something lacking in the present moment, and I am beginning to understand howmuch it affects my happiness. I loved when the author said that she wanted her boys to remember her as someone who always listened with attention, making them feel like they were the only people in the world. And that their “most basic needs for attention came before the housework, the schedule, and the phone calls.”
The other idea that I struggle with is with the grasping or clinging to our loved ones. My catastrophizing makes this a pretty big struggle for me, and even though she made a gret case for opening and relaxing the grasping, it is still a web that I need to untangle, and I don’t really know where to begin.

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Meg August 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I’m finding this book really resonates with me as well – even though I’ve always heard those adages of be present, grass is always greener, etc. too. Like you, this book is what’s finally getting through to me. We recently made the decision to move about 1000 miles away, but not for another 2 years, so it’s really testing my patience of being present (as I’d rather “work” towards the move) and not focusing on what our lives will be like after the move.

Like others have said, I too really struggle with grasping/clinging to loved ones and worrying about catastrophes affecting our family (I’m a huge worrier by nature). I think adopting the gratitude practice that Napthali suggests will be a huge help in not only being grateful for what I have now, but will also help remind me to stay in the present.

Thanks again for choosing this book – I think this is the best parenting book I’ve read so far!

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Shereen August 11, 2012 at 2:15 pm

This chapter really resonated with me because I have definitely been feeling that same pull of deciding on a career path and when/if to go back to work full time. I’m currently at home with my son and working part time for a nonprofit that I really love. And yet, I feel this pressure to start a “career” and “do something” with my life. Especially since I just completed grad school before my son was born, 3 years ago. I think for me part of the reason I want a career is to distinguish myself and the other part is because I want to contribute to the betterment of the world. But then it makes me stop and realize, for that first part of distinguishing myself, that’s where I need to let go, because it’s a selfish desire. And for the second part of changing the world, I need to recognize all the ways I can (and do) do that just by the way that I live my life and not necessarily through a job.

I’m really enjoying this book! I’ve already read Ch. 3, and I think it’s my favorite so far. Can’t wait for next week’s discussion!

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Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com August 17, 2012 at 8:13 am

I struggled with the same things when my second child was around 6 months old. It’s hard not to feel like you have this window of time when it’s acceptable to be away from the working world, and if you surpass it than it will be really hard to re-enter the workforce later on. Eventually I had to learn to let go of those worries and enjoy being home with my kids for now.

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