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Virtual Book Club: Conclusion

We’re finally wrapping up our book, Buddhism for Mother’s of Young Children, today!  Although I have truly loved this book, I’m not so crazy about the way I handled book club – one book just dragged on way too long.

So some changes will be made but I think it will all be for the best in the end.  In the meantime, lets wrap up the last three chapters, all of which I really enjoyed because I felt they were filled with concrete ways to implement the author’s ideas.

CHAPTER 8: CAN I CHANGE MY WAYS?

This is a question we have to ask ourselves whenever we take on the task of reading a new parenting book – it’s one thing to read it, it’s another to actually live it.  The concept of being more aware of our daily routines and encounters – and being mindful about how these things affect us – is hugely relevant to parents because we all get sucked into the monotony of parenting from time to time.

I appreciated how in this chapter Napthali took several all too familiar parenting scenarios and challenged us to see them as opportunities for “cultivating and deepening a penetrating awareness”. She advises to stop viewing bickering siblings/unpleasant car rides/temper tantrums/etc. as unfair (why is this happening to me again?) and to look at them as a chance to practice non-reactivity and to model for our children the behavior we’d like to see.

Obviously this isn’t always going to be possible, but I love the idea of being able to handle stressful situations in this way. It actually reminds me a lot of the positive parenting approach we generally try to adhere to at home and I think those attitudes will be the foundation towards building the kind of lifelong relationships I want to have with my kids.

Which leads me to point #2 – how can we actually change our ways once we finish this book? Napthali’s advice is simply to practice – constantly. Well, I’ve always been a “fake it till you make it” kind of girl so that works for me.  I also like her suggestion to pause and try something new in that moment when we notice ourselves falling into a familiar reaction.

In times of stress I know I find myself harping on the kids a lot more and I always feel bad about it at the end of the day.  I’m slowly getting better at identifying my feelings of frustration or anxiety (which often don’t even stem from the kids).  The next step is to overcome those feelings and try something new – I’ve found, for instance, that my kids don’t love to be told what to do (they get it from their mother) but they’re often up for a challenge.

CHAPTER 9: HOW CAN I HANDLE MY NEGATIVITY?

Chapter 9 flows seamlessly from chapter 8 and I was drawn in with the following line:

Part of the job description for motherhood is an ability to endure bad days and even, at times, a whole string of them.

Amen, sister.  The suggested technique for dealing with this not-so-pleasant truism is genius in it’s simplicity – THINK LESS.  The author astutely points out:

Most of us assume we can think our way out of any unpleasant situation or mood.  If that does not work, then we think even harder: we worry… This is attachement in action, a stubborn insistence that things be other than they are [and it] hurts us far more than the external problem itself.

Once again the underlying theme of this whole book is driven home – in two words: let go.  There was a lot of great take-aways in this chapter but I most appreciated how specific the author was on how to do that; bringing our attention to our breath and/or performing a body scan are favorites of mine. (Have you ever done this? It used to be the only thing to cure my insomnia). And I LOVED the suggestion to teach the techniques to our kids as well.

CHAPTER 10: HOW CAN I BE MY BEST?

The take home from this final chapter for me was how beneficial regular meditation can be (that kooky Dr. Oz apparently knows what he’s talking about).  Research is cited to back up the claim – which I always appreciate:

Tests using the most sophisticated imaging techniques suggest that meditation can actually reset the brain, changing the point at which a traffic jam, for instance, sets the blood boiling.

-Time Magazine 2003

I also thought it was really interesting that the author talks about meditation in relation to developing emotional intelligence (something I’ve been a huge proponent of fostering in my kids ever since reading this).  Plus there’s mention that most mothers report they meditate because they feel it improves their levels of patience and calmness – something I struggle with!

The author also talks about the use of writing and even drawing to deal with an agitated mind. Personally I’m not so sure about the idea of drawing but staring a daily gratitude journal has been on my list for a while now.  Finally, this chapter talks about the importance of self-care and quotes the Buddha:

To keep our body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep the mind strong and clear.

I whole-heartedly agree.  In fact, I just shared with you guys on Thursday how finally taking control of my nutrition has brought me a lot closer to being the kind of mom I strive to be.

Question of the day

What did you guys think of the book?  Did it leave you hopeful that you might actually become the calm and mindful parent you strive to be? What were your main take-aways?

Along with a commitment to try to fit meditation into my daily life, I came away with a mantra to let go of the notion that every moment needs to be a happy one.  I’m slowly learning to be more present, to allow myself my emotions (and my children theirs), and to keep reminding myself that all things are transient.

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