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Book Club: Week Five

I’ll be honest, the beginning of chapter 6 of Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children – Becoming a Mindful Parent scared me a bit - uh oh, there’s a lot about meditation and even “dukkha” here.  Is this finally going to be the part in the book where things get just a little too New Age-y for me? But I pushed through it and I’m so glad I did because this chapter, more than any other, taught me some very applicable lessons.

In it, the author encourages us to stop worrying (and lamenting) so much about life being imperfect, and to start asking ourselves what each moment requires of us.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the chapter, which is in reference to a mother listening to her toddler scream in the back seat of her car:

The main reason I am so stressed and angry is because I am trying to make this moment something other than it is.  Some moments simply suck and we just need to let them pass like clouds through the sky… I need to stop trying to change the moment, just let it be what it is, and breathe.  and didn’t my daughter have the right to be cranky, anyway? Didn’t I forget to bring a snack for her? So I breathe in, out, in, out.  She still screamed, but much of my misery was gone.

That anecdote right there got me.  That’s the calm and controlled mom I want to be!  And I really appreciated the different options for responding to a moment that were given.  Briefly, they were:

  • Compassion
  • Humor
  • Solitude
  • Patience
  • Generosity
The author went into a good amount of detail on each of these and I found a small revelation in every segment but there were two that stood out to me the most.

Humor

I grew up in a household where it was practically a sin to take yourself too seriously. Yet, somehow, I often find myself biting back my instinct to laugh.  Often it’s my need for control beating it back. With two toddlers under my watch, I sometimes feel like I’m hanging onto order by my fingernails and the slightest crack in my mama armor will lead to total anarchy.

 

What this chapter pointed out though (I was nodding my head as I read this) was that parents can often see the humor in the situation if they’re recounting the incident after it’s happened.  So why not cling to the humor in the present, when you most need it, instead of only realizing it later on? The author said it best when she wrote:

 

Family life, in my experience, offers a multitude of moments in which we can either laugh or cry.

Another revelation about humor for me was the importance of teaching children to be able to laugh at themselves:

The ability to shrug off a joke made at your expense, as opposed to going on a rampage, helps prevent a child from being the target of bulling.  I heard this at a Bully-Busing workshop where parents were also advised to joke with their children to make them more familiar with how humour works and where the line is between well-meant humour and cruelty.

Solitude

In this segment, the author writes time to be alone is essential for self-reflection, learning, and growth.  But she also writes that, because we have so little free-time as parents, we often get overwhelmed by everything we’d like to squeeze into the limited amount we do have.  The challenge is to be able to delight in solitude without clinging to it.  This is something I’m currently trying to figure out, in a big way!  I wish, in fact, that there was more written on the subject and I’d love to hear from any of you who have figured out a way to cherish your free time without resenting it when you don’t get it.

I’d also love to hear which of these areas resonated the most with you.  What could you and your family use a little more of – compassion, humor, solitude, patience, generosity, all of the above?  Share with me in the comments.

If you’re new to our book club, you still have of time to buy the book before we tackle the next chapter, What Can I Do About All the Housework? on Tuesday, November 20th.  I’m particularly excited to discuss this one – it should be a nice meld of mindful parenting and Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life.

You can also check out our discussions of previous chapters here.

 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan October 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm

First off, thank you so much for introducing me to this book. It came at a time I really needed it and I have enjoyed reading it very much. I’m excited to join the conversation!

I also really enjoyed this chapter. The section on joy really resonated with me; “there is so much more potential for joy if we could only stop buying into our opinions as though they are great truths.” As an over-analyzer, I get wrapped up in my thoughts so much that I know I am missing potential for joy in my everyday life.

Similar to the child crying into the back seat, there was an excerpt in the book about trying to meditate when it was extremely hot and how the teacher instructed to “surrender to the present moment” and even though it was hot and uncomfortable letting go of the battle and not making the moment anything other than it is provided freedom. I tend to be a complainer when uncomfortable (especially in heat!) and this was such a revelation to me. Sometimes things suck and there’s no changing that so don’t fight it, just let it come and go.

The solitude section was another that struck a chord. I need to remember that spending time alone helps us understand ourselves and trust our judgment and gives us clarity on what’s going on. I haven’t quite figured out exactly how to do this though. I’m struggling with knowing how/when to fit meditation into my everyday life. When I’m reading the book and shortly after I feel like I have a good understanding of how to incorporate the lessons into my life but after a few days I lose my grasp on it all. I would love to hear how others are incorporating any lessons learned into their everyday life, maybe towards the end of the book?

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Steph at Modern Parents Messy Kids October 17, 2012 at 2:48 am

Megan,

I couldn’t agree with you more about often getting wrapped up in my own thoughts and missing out on the simple joys around me. Since reading the chapter I’ve been trying to savor my littles laughter more (and not worry so much that the majority of it is manic laughter at the dinner table – making for a hectic meal).

I also loved what the author said about just letting go. I physically felt more relaxed just reading that – imagine how I’d feel if I could actually pull it off under stress!

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts :).

Steph

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kiki October 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I have to agree with you about the struggle not to miss out on the potential joy of the present moment. “Joy is exactly what’s happening minus, our opinion of it.” The fact that it’s always available to us is such a powerful gift. Just this weekend I was at a yoga class and the instructor was talking about joy being a treasure that we find within ourselves and that we should claim it without guilt, that we should savor and enjoy it, that we earn it. Never to let someone else’s joy diminish our own, to have the courage to find it in any moment. I couldn’t help but think back to my reading of this chapter.
This morning started off a little askew – my husband was stressed about work, running late, couldn’t find some work documents, our two year old was fussing about breakfast and not wanting to get dressed and the dog was ready to go out… I could feel my husband’s stress level rising and rising and I thought back to this chapter and said to myself, “this is temporary and I have a choice in this moment.” I couldn’t do much to change the situation but I chose not to let it freak me out and unravel me. It wasn’t a pleasant way to start the day but I feel like my son and I bounced back much faster because of my lack of anxiety around the moment.
I too hope I can hold onto these reminders, it’s all too easy to slip into old patterns. Maybe the author’s suggestion of hanging reminder notes? Something as simple as JOY on a sticky note inside the fridge, on a dashboard…
And the section about humor and how it can aid our children in these times of bullying – Steph, I totally agree with you about this being a light bulb moment!

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mpmk October 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Kiki,

Love the idea of simply putting the word “Joy” somewhere you can see it each day. So powerful and so simple!

Congrats on finding a way to realize that we can’t always change the situation, only our reaction to it. It makes so much sense to me when I hear it but is so hard to actually do when stress levels are high!

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Abby October 16, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I just wanted to thank you for introducing me to this book. While I do not yet have children, I already have this book on my must-read list for when that time comes. I hope you continue your book club when this book is finished. I can’t wait to see what you choose next!
~Abby

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Steph at Modern Parents Messy Kids October 17, 2012 at 2:48 am

Abby,

You’re so ahead of the game!

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Dana October 16, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Thanks for getting book club back on track! These chapters really resonated with me and where I am right now as a parent and individual. I feel like I highlighted tons of passages this time. You hit a couple of the really poignant ones already. This quote rang very true for me: “through regular time alone, we come to trust our judgment as we start to see more clearly what is going on in our own lives.” I can definitely tell a difference when I don’t take my opportunities for solitude, however small they may be.

Deepak Chopra hosts free meditation challenges every so often and that’s been an easy way for me to stay committed to practice a quiet mind (or at least try!). I believe there is a new 21-day challenge starting on November 5. Here’s the link to sign up if you’re interested:
https://www.chopracentermeditation.com/Bestsellers/LandingPage.aspx?BookId=172

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mpmk October 18, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Thanks for the info. Dana!

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