Overcoming Overwhelm and Banishing Perfectionism! 

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You know when someone asks you how you are, and you say ‘good’ or ‘fine’ because in that moment you are. In that moment, it is hard, and unhelpful to call to mind any recent  ‘not OKness’and get stuck into it. 

Even when we are going through a period of difficulty, it might seem best just to bang a tight lid on tricky feelings and hope they go away. Quite often, in time, this is exactly what happens. However, sometimes they stay there churning away, until they almost become part of the furniture, and we get used to them being there. Then, out of the blue, a moment comes where they start jostling for attention. At that moment, you might allow them to break out. You might acknowledge them. You might talk about them. This telling, in itself, can be a panacea. It can be an opportunity for change. It can be an open door. 

Sometimes they bubble out of you, and you can release them. All it takes is seeing them, or rather, seeing them anew.

I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the wonderful Clesia Mendes for her supercool YouTube show ‘Womanhood From The Inside Out’. I could talk to this lady for hours, she is such a gem. 

We chatted about a number of things, including my own story of not feeling a good enough mum, wanting to be perfect, worrying about my life, my kids, and my parenting. I talked about how I came to see myself, my life, my kids, my husband, and my parenting in a new light. That I saw how my family is a bizarre and beautiful, ever changing creation, with its own weather, its own weirdness, and that each of us is as good and as perfect as we ever need to be. I may have mentioned that that had an enormous impact on how I feel about life in general and myself, my kids, my husband, and my parenting in the specific. 

Here is the interview: 

I talked about a way of visualising the mind and how that changed my perception, so I would like to share an extract from a blog post I wrote about it. This is a story of coming to an understanding about toddler sleep habits! 

Read on….

One of the things that I get worked about is Miss just turned 1’s sleeping habits. The issue of baby sleep has become one of the most contentious topics on parenting websites, forums, and the topic of various research endeavours. Thanks to the mighty net, each of us has a plethora analyses and advice, not just the word of friends, relatives, and acquaintances, perhaps the odd baby book, but also forums and Facebook groups, ‘parenting experts’, and scientists. There are loads of books and ebooks to choose from too depending on your chosen approach. 

Now, of course, being woken repeatedly throughout the night does tend to be tiring. On top of this though, is a list of niggles and anxieties: I am not intervening enough; not setting good enough routines; exacerbating her waking by co-sleeping; in danger of losing more sleep if I stop co- sleeping; night weaning might get me more sleep, but there are some benefits for Miss 1 if she carries on feeding at night; I don’t want to wean completely because I am enjoying the extended breastfeeding relationship and this is likely the last time I will be doing this; perhaps I should be prepared to do almost anything if it guarantees more sleep; perhaps I should have sleep trained after all; consulting literature reveals that there are pros and cons to sleep training, so either way I have probably done stuff wrong; perhaps I am doing the kids a disservice by being tired and grumpy too much of the time; maybe if I …..and on and on and on.

...Nicola Bird, Life Coach, and Wise Lady Entrepreneuress, helped me out with a simple insight…

It’s not the circumstances of my life that are overwhelming, it is the way I think about them which makes me feel overwhelmed.

At any given moment, I am constructing my perception of reality through my thoughts. Thoughts arrive unbidden in my mind on a constant basis and tell me stories about what is happening in my life. Such as why Miss 1 doesn’t sleep through the night, and the devastation it will cause because, clearly, she is never, ever, going to.

Nicola used an analogy involving TV newsreels to make me more aware of my thought patterns:

Imagine that your thoughts are a ticker-tape playing across a TV screen; one of those strips at the bottom of the TV, which keeps you abreast of incoming news items. The ticker-tape stories are played out in greater detail on the screen above.

As we move through our daily life, the ticker-tape flashes up responses to what is going on. For example, it reports on our behaviour and that of others. The story we connect to these behaviours appears in technicolour on the screen evoking emotional reactions.

The more that we pay attention to a particular story, the more vivid it gets. The story starts to feel more and more real. We start to make it real, even though it started out as pure imagination. The real fun happens when you start to try and pay attention to every story on the ticker-tape and begin to make them ALL real at once. This saps energy and leaves no room for what is actually going on in the present moment. We start to live in our heads. We smother our own personal resources. We start to feel less than well.

We can’t just switch the TV off. It is part of us.

On the other hand, we can just turn the TV round. Put it in a corner. Pay less attention to it. Take it less seriously.

I commented that I thought this idea would be useful.

‘It’s not just useful, it’s liberating’ said Nicola.

She was not wrong.

Miss 1 is so very far from sleeping through the night that the very idea of ever sleeping again seems laughable at times. Like I said above, I react to this in various ways. I have spent untold amounts of time thinking about strategies to help her sleep longer, and still more wondering what, if anything, I did wrong. I start worrying about the long term effects of poor sleeping on my mental and physical health. I get jealous and resentful towards hubster because he is not up as often as me. I get frustrated with her because, to be honest, I expected a bit more sleeping to be happening by now. I see this stretching into the distance for months and years to come with no end point in sight.

Well, none of these thoughts are helping in any way and this is actually interfering with my ability to deal with the present moment. The stories I am telling myself about the future simply haven’t happened yet, so they can go. The strategies I have read about, heard about, thought up, whirl around my head, but they don’t quite fit today, my baby, my current situation, me. Get rid of them all. It’s just clutter. The theories about how this came about. The expectations about little one reaching milestones. Out you go. Good riddance. Oh, and the beating myself up for getting cranky and impatient. I will lose that, because I am only human after all.

I really needed reminding that thoughts are just stories. Stories which tell me about what I fear and desire, not stories which predict what will happen in my own or my kids lives. Stories which have the power to shape my family’s lives, but only because of the effect I allow them to have on my own feelings. Paying untold attention to my thoughts sends me in circles, repeating the same stories to myself, when there are no answers here to resolve my feelings of overwhelm. In fact, these thoughts are creating that feeling of overwhelm.

Now, Miss just turned 1 is Miss 2 and a half, and she still wakes up, and still does not want to sleep alone. That is fine. I get my rest. I am OK. She is OK. We are all OK. 

I hope you find this as useful and liberating as I did! 

If you would like to talk about thoughts, life, perfectionism, or overwhelm, or anything else, come do so! Leave a comment or find me on Facebook.

Come join us in the Mamajestic Facebook Group too! 

I highly recommend that you check out Clesia’s show in general. That’s Womanhood From The Inside Out. There are a whole bunch of fascinating women to get to know and much to learn from their experiences.

Also, Clesia and I would LOVE it if you shared our video!

Lots of love,

Alexis xxxIMG_1308

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Being a Peaceful Parent

I am sitting in the playground on a Wednesday afternoon, feeling the breeze kissing my face, while listening to the happy chuntering of my three rugrats, as they swing, climb, and bounce. The warm tarmac supports me, and a blue sky stretches out above me, the air is sweet, fresh, and bright. All is calm.

It is Thursday morning, and I am slumped in an exhausted daze on my exercise mat. My baby is finally sleeping, after an interrupted night of discomfort and crying (troublesome ears and/or teeth), and my older kids are at nursery. I am immobile, confused, and wistful desperate. Hot tears fall among the crumbs of unknown origin, probably biscuits or toast, that seem especially attracted to blue yoga foam. Everything looks unkempt, and is tinged with the odour of recently changed nappy. All is disarray.

Searching For Peace In Parenting

If someone asked me what kind of parent I want to be, then I would say ‘a peaceful one’. It seems a natural desire. After all, if you do not wonder about who you want to be, what you should expect of yourself, then how can you work towards it?

I always fancied being a bit like this…

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The fact is though, that you do not get to pick just one kind of experience in your parenting. Part of being a rockstar human parent is to have a changing mental state, which is sometimes peaceful and sometimes not. Such is life!

The good news is that it is not necessary to worry about not being peaceful all the time, or indeed, to try and become peaceful all the time. This realisation in itself has made me see that truly, there is nothing actually wrong with being sad, or disappointed, or pissed off. Those experiences represent a set of thoughts being had in the moment, which are transitory, normal, and, did I mention transitory? Which means, ickiness will pass, making way for glorious summery feelings and butterflies, and unicorns and whatever you may get your peaceful yayas from.

Furthermore, there are not really ‘kinds of parents’ because each person is who they are from moment to moment, and that in no way means that they are a ‘type’. So, that mum who always seems immaculate, punctual, and well put together, even though she has three more kids than you do, has her moments of crazy, unkempt chaos. That mum who seems to be falling apart at the seams, and in constant pursuit of her diminishing sanity, for no apparent good reason, she has her moments of sheer clarity and calm.

Human Adaption Takes Many Forms and Feelings

We are all human, we all have the capacity for peacefulness, and we all have thinking which gets in the way of that at times. For some of us, we have thinking that takes us away from our innate peaceful nature a hell of a lot. Some people seem to struggle with difficult mental and physical sensations a little bit more at certain points in their life. There is NO shame in that. Also, there is no need to become someone else who you believe is better than you because SHE doesn’t ever sit on the floor sobbing or feel like ignoring her sweet, helpless, baby’s cries. This experience is painful, I know, I have been there, but it is not an indication that there is something wrong with you.

Adapting to the constant changes of mothering life can be a challenge. It is important to acknowledge that mums face a lot of pressure to be perfect, when the reality of caring for small people is that you become a ninja warrior, responsive to multiple demands, rapid changing parameters, and swishing  with your majestic sword at judgements about the choices you are making.  Now and again, it all feels a bit much. The first thing to drop is concern about judgement, and temptation to self-critique. Neither is helpful when compared to your cool ninja ‘assess, repair where needed, and move on’ skills. With the multiple demands and shifting parameters, then getting centred and re-centring yourself over again and often will help you. Your mind may shift from one experience to another, but you can always return to your badass peaceful core.

As I type, I am 99 per cent sure that awesome shoes help with this too, but cannot quite justify how…

If you feel that what is going on for you mental state-wise is not part of the ups and downs of family life, and you want to know more about postpartum psychology, go to Postpartum Progress, to better understand what Postpartum Depression and Anxiety look like. Again, these conditions are absolutely temporary, through appropriate and constructive support.

The Fix-It Illusion

Doubtless, you will come across all kinds of articles, books, and blog posts that will encourage you to resolve negative feelings by following their tried and tested baby raising methods. These are based on the idea of controlling circumstances in order to feel better. Also, you may come across literature that tells you it is not OK to experience a lack of peace, and you should act with haste to master your negative mindset before it masters you. These are based on the idea of controlling your thoughts in order to feel better.

What I suggest is different. It is based on the understanding that peacefulness is what happens when there is nothing inhibiting our natural, default, calm mental state. There is no need to control circumstances or thoughts in order to feel better. Without our further interference, or meddling, a state of calm will return. When thoughts that inhibit this process arise, they can be recognised for what they are, and this acknowledgement reduces their impact.

Ways To Encourage Peacefulness

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Here are a few ideas that I found helpful:

1. Let go of the past.

The past is but a memory, and it is easy to forget that at times. Many parents use the past as a way to beat themselves up. The hours ticking by on the clock do not always eliminate feelings of shame because you overreacted when your son threw milk all over the sofa AGAIN, or because you yelled when no one was listening to you saying that it was time for bed.

The past can also be a reason to be angry with your spouse. They did not see that it was their turn to do the washing up tonight, even though you did it the last three nights. They slept all night long, while you got up with a miserable teething baby.

Whether you feel bad about yourself or others, it is not practical to harbour those misgivings. It is a way of tormenting yourself, when instead you can choose to move on. You can admit responsibility for a mistake and make reparations where needed. You can be more communicative with others to get on the same page. You can help them help you out. With each new moment, there is a fresh start.

2. Let go of the future.

If the past is a memory, the future is a fantasy. However real the fantasy may appear, it is pure invention. Life rarely conforms to fantasy, for better or for worse. We need the concept of the future so we can make plans. Too much thinking about the future leads to anxiety or stress because the more you dwell on what will be, the more you want to control it, and the more you fear that you cannot. Well, that’s correct. It is not really in your control, so it is best to realise that and allow for flexibility.

So, if your son did not say ‘Thank you’ when you gave him a present, or your daughter just doesn’t seem to get this potty training thing, it doesn’t mean that he will grow up to be ungrateful or she will still wet the bed at 15. These normal parenting fears happen because we cannot yet see how our kids will learn politeness or bladder control, and we wonder what to do about it.

There are no guarantees, but applying pressure from a place of fear is more likely to result in a fight than learning experience. Better to set a good example, and support their natural urge to get along with others or rock those big girl panties and let them work it out. Let them surprise you. They will.

3. Embrace the present.

The present is all that is left when you let go of the past and future. This is all we ever really have and all we ever will have. Every moment we experience is a present moment. The good news is that, with the past and future out of the way, we are freer to really observe what is in motion around us, to connect with others, and to feel the stillness within that leads to a sense of peace. When we are not busy counting up faults or inventing calamities, the world around us appears that more beautiful.

When there is a challenging situation, focussing on the present helps you to deal with it, because you can be methodical and get down to practicalities. It is much less tempting to multitask when you are not already doing six things in your mind. So, when your toddler has done a poo on the floor, the baby is crying for a feed, or your tween is threatening to leave home forever, you can take a deep breath and do your best to sort it out, one task at a time.

4. Break the Pleasure/Pain cycle.

You know how you promise yourself a glass of wine when the kids are in bed, and then you find yourself rushing through Green Eggs and Ham to get to it (He doesn’t like them, oh wait, he does. OK. Night night. Where’s the cork screw?).

Well, not that enjoying a nice tipple is a bad thing in itself, but when you focus on that reward, that desire, that pleasurable thing your future self will have, that can make putting the kids to bed into ‘the trial I have to go through before I get wine’. You can also end up drinking just because it is Wine O’clock. It has nothing to do with savouring something marvellous, and everything to do with habit. Bedtime will feel like a chore, rather than a shared moment with your children. They may well also pick up on that ‘I want wine and a nice sit down’ energy and respond by trying to postpone bedtime.

When you are acting out a pleasure-pain cycle, you feel it, and you know it. It is astounding how many things you can do it with: Work is the pain to get that lovely money; You spend the money, you have to look at your bank account; you want nice endorphins, you have to get moving first; Lycra is the penalty for enthusiastic exercise.

None of these things is inherently bad or good, unless you make it so with your thinking (Lycra may be the exception). Whichever thing is the pleasure and whichever the pain, the good things in life are always diminished by this cycle, and the bad are augmented.

When you really embrace the present moment, the pleasure-pain trap falls away, because you are not fighting to be something else or somewhere else. It is easier to make peace with whatever you are doing. Everything is more enjoyable for it.

5. Take the ego with a pinch of salt

The ego is a voice in our head that chatters away, informing us how we are doing, and of imminent threats or gratification.

For instance, it will tell you that when you cared for your sick infant, even though you were ill too, you proved yourself all kinds of marvellous at parenting. As a result, you will be sainted and angels will sing in your wake.

Alternatively, it might say that when your kid was ill, and you were ill, and you still had to get up in the night and nurse them all day, that this parent job is NOT fair. One day you would just fall down and DIE and then everyone would realise how put upon you were, how unappreciated.

You are so much more than your ego can ever imagine. You are an amazing invention of nature. After all, it is a peanut sized lump in the left brain hemisphere. What does it really know? It is difficult to brush off its ramblings all the time, but when the ego gets quieter, we can get in touch with the rest of the brain, which tells us that we are just fabulous and so is everyone else, which is a great place to parent from.

6. Be nice.

It is a very simple truth that when we are nice to other people, they are more inclined to be nice back.

So, when your kid is struggling with the world, which amounts to them fighting you every step of the way to not get dressed, or eat their breakfast, or participate in a fulfilled family day you planned, give them a break. Know that their assault is not a true attack on you, or what you want them to do. They are acting from the state of mind they are in, and need to get themselves out of their funk. They might need to be left alone awhile, or want you close, or need to eat, or sleep, or whatever. Where possible try to help them attend to their needs, and do not judge them.

The same goes for dealing with grown up family members: Say, your other half is stomping around because you drank the last of the coffee. Know that their overreaction is evidence that they are having one of those mornings, not a personal slight. There is no need to act defensive because when they calm down, and they will, they will be ready to see how wonderful you are after all, and you can forget the whole affair.

This is not to say that if the level of spite coming from the other person is truly violent or insupportable, you should put up with it. Rather that we should realise their behaviour is not truly about us, and therefore react out of a reasonable position, rather than fighting back in our own defence.

7. Be open. 

We each inhabit our own version of reality, because everything we observe about the world is filtered through our thoughts. No two people see the world in exactly the same way. We each have our own set of social expectations which affect the way we see other people’s behaviour. Sometimes the meaning we give to those behaviours align with what other people think and sometimes not.

When you see that your daughter just wiped her nose on the curtains. When your son is angry with you for moving the toys he had carefully strewn across the stairs. When your Aunt Linda tells you that you should really stop breastfeeding and did you realise how spoiled your baby will become. These are all indications that the other person is living in a different reality. As far as they are concerned,soft furnishings are a great alternative to tissues, cluttering stairs is not dangerous, and babies are greedy little rascals who need to be Taken In Hand.

How you handle a misalignment of reality depends on how important finding agreement is. Sometimes, it might appear important, but turn out to not be a big deal.

When children don’t realise that spreading dirt and germs has consequences, or that playing on the stairs can lead to tumbles, then it is in their interests to help them add these considerations to their own reality. This is best done at leisure, as if you are introducing them to a curiosity. Though, let’s face it, sometimes you might find yourself putting the point more forcefully, this is less likely to actually sink in. Where possible, it helps to say ‘How interesting! Can I suggest you use a tissue because we can throw that away when it’s dirty, but it would be hard work to take down the curtains and wash them.’

When someone is opinionated about the way you are running your reality and you know you cannot agree, then you can often just ignore them. There is no need to be angry or offended because, as far as they are concerned, they are helping. If someone is offering large amounts of unsolicited advice you can always thank them for their interest, then explain that you are not saying they are wrong, just that their way is not your way.

It is always worth considering that sometimes other people may have something figured out that is really cool and worth taking on board. By allowing for misalignments of reality, you can be open to that incredible new idea that so and so had about snot disposal!

No. Actually. Tissues are great.

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You may well notice that the seven helpful ideas boil down to two, even more simple ideas:
1. Stay in the present moment as much as possible,
2. Avoid passing judgement on yourself and others.

It really is not complicated, and it almost always involves doing less rather than more.

Yay! Rest thy ninja sword and have a nice cuppa.

Parents often give themselves a raw deal because they want to create a wonderful environment for their offspring. We get bogged down in the details, and in an effort to grow, it might slip your mind that you are damned brilliant already. If this is true for you, please let me remind you that you are awesome, just as you are.

Voila! Simple!

What is your experience of peacefulness and everything else in the smorgasbord of maternity?

Show me in emoticons, rant, or leave lingering, delicious, peaceful musings…..

The mind boggles at the possibilities:)

Come and Join us in the Mamajestic Facebook Group and Share Your Badass Ninja Warrior Wisdom!

Lots of love,

Alexis xxxxxx

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How Grounding Develops From Birth To Adulthood

In the first post in this series, The Special Ingredient In Your Engagement With The World, I talked about how it is through our grounding that we experience connection and engagement with the world outside ourselves. Furthermore, our level of grounding in what we are engaging with impacts our clarity and peace of mind.

In this second part of the series, I want to explore how our grounding develops from birth into adulthood, and why this is so useful to understand!

Grounding, Perception, and Reality

Let’s start with an explanation about how our experience of grounding works:

As we only ever experience the world through our thoughts, then it is as if there is a glass window between what we experience from ‘in here’ and what is ‘out there’. Sometimes the glass is clear and we can see that ‘out there’ reality in loving detail. Other times, the glass is misted up, and we cannot get a good picture of ‘out there’. We might even have some bizarre stained glass effects in places. What we see is distorted, cloudy, and the more we press our noses up to the window pane, the harder we try to get a glimpse of the world, the more we mist the glass up.

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When you are deeply grounded, the perceptions that are coming from within you, through which you understand the abstract and physical worlds, are in harmony with what is out there, with what IS. If we want more grounding in a particular area, then we can study and experiment, but the big leaps come from getting an insight which transforms the nature of whatever your focus is on, bringing it into greater alignment with its true, objective existence.

Grounding, Connection, and Engagement

As newborns, it takes us several months before the idea of being a separate entity from everything else even occurs to us. This means that in developing this kind of grounding, our sense of connection with everything else in the world, we are not learning, but remembering something we once experienced all the time, and later forgot.

Because we are born into a state of complete and total connection with all that is around us, this is a point of grounding which is inside us, waiting for us to rediscover it. This connection to everything out there that is not you, is what affords you deep engagement with the world outside of yourself.

Now, hold on, you might say, that’s lovely, but babies can’t walk, talk, work, even lift their heads up. They might be at one with the world in a profound way, but they can do precious little in it. What use is grounding if it is not coupled with getting out there in the world and doing stuff beyond cooing and farting?

Our grounding grows with us, and is the only way of getting out there in the world and doing new stuff.

As we get older, we expand our ranges of experience, encountering everything from our bodies to mountains, to song, to lasers, to marshmallows, to Ethics, to football, and so on. As we have developmental leaps in our physical and mental abilities, our grounding brings us to new ways of connecting with ‘out there’ and manipulating it for our benefit or enjoyment. So, we might well learn new skills like playing, or drawing, or driving, or building, or cooking, and as we develop our experience and knowledge of how our universe and its contents operate, then our grounding runs broader and deeper, acting as a solid foundation for further engagement.

Different Degrees of Grounding

As we learn to operate in the world in more sophisticated ways, there will be areas of natural grounding, and others of acquired grounding.

We all have unique natural abilities and talents which spring from a deeper grounding in a specific area, while other things we access through education. Some people get calculus, others are brilliant growers of plants, some people can make funny faces, and others save lives. Training and teaching can do a lot to help us learn, but grounding also brings in the insightful and effortless application of our raw spirit, and that itself can’t be taught.

For instance, I was not a natural driver. I took my test four times, yes FOUR (stop sniggering). I understood the basic movements and theory used in the practice of driving with relative ease, but found that there was not an instinctive sense of how to apply my knowledge. It was all intellect and no inner oomph. I got confused, and second guessed myself when trying to respond to this clunky machine and the road it was progressing down. It took me years to gain an intuitive understanding of how to extend myself into the vehicle, and judge more or less where I wanted to put it and how I would get it there without really thinking. It took me a long time to truly enjoy driving. The scratches on the side of my car are a testament to my almost successful learning attempts!

On the other hand, with cooking, I get it. I may not ever have learned really high level cuisine stuff, but I have pretty good instincts for food (albeit with a few disastrous meals in the mix). I can hear when my onions are sizzling at the right temperature, and feel for what ingredients go together, and what techniques to use when bringing them together. I am curious about food, and do engage in the book learning side of gastronomy too, reading cookbooks and blogs. This is pure inspiration, and helps me execute new ideas. I rarely follow an exact recipe though, because I like the sense of ease that comes from having an idea and going with it. Also, I like to use up everything in the fridge. Usually, it works out OK and I have a good time doing it. My ideas about what I am creating are realistic enough and in step with what is actually real, so that the results created are a reflection of that grounding.

It is worth noting that, as human beings, we are built with certain, natural areas of grounding. Our instincts help us out a great deal in maximising our physical, mental, emotional, and interpersonal development, and thus our advantage in our environment. For instance, our ability to form attachments to our major caregiver is a survival mechanism, for which we are fitted various natural talents like smiling and snuggling. Though we grow our grounding to different extents and at different rates in these basic areas of human development, we all receive gifts from the same range for our general use and enjoyment. These natural gifts are then shaped and tailored to the situations we find ourselves in as we grow and the reality we find ourselves interacting with. So, nature and nurture both influence the grounding we develop as we grow.

Doubtless you have experienced degrees of grounding too, expressed in different areas of your life. You may be able to identify a lack of grounding felt in the times that something feels cumbersome or confusing, and where you struggle to produce the results you are after. A pretty good grounding is often enough to get by on in some areas. After all, no one is expert in everything, so it is important to emphasise that there is nothing wrong with shallow grounding per se. I have little grounding in astrophysics, and that does not present a problem. I am developing my grounding in the workings of steam engines, because my son has a train obsession, but in general I have managed to get by just fine with only a very shallow foundation in this area.

A Few Final Notes

We are designed to develop our grounding as we grow, so that we always have areas where we have a deeper or shallower grasp of reality. Grounding is not static, but can shift from shallow to deep if we have a fresh idea to go on, new knowledge to apply. There is always more scope for grounding, but to reach the deepest point of understanding, it must develop in its own way. It cannot be forced, only encouraged by our attentive and conscious learning. Our grounding forms the foundation for our interaction with our environment, and the people and events which shape our lives.

To read about how grounding and consciousness interact, go back to Part One!

Knowing about grounding is so useful when it comes to learning anything new. For instance, when you have your first child, and are wondering how you will ever learn to fathom this alien little being, the answer is ‘your grounding will develop’. When you are about to have your second child, you have about a billion more thoughts about birth this time around, and you are trying to figure out how to play it, the answer is ‘look to your grounding’. When you are struggling to keep track of several small siblings in a crowded playground, and you don’t know which way to turn, the answer is ‘get back to your grounding’. When you get in touch deeply with the difference between what is real and what is preying on your mind, the latter will drop away.

This is what happens in the face of your unshakeable grounding!

If you want to settle down and feel your grounding, I suggest you find a quiet place.

 

What can you let your grounding help you with? What is your experience of grounding?

Did you find this post helpful? If so, feel free to share it around.

Come and try out one of my services to deepen your grounding in pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or mothering.

Beyond anything else, I would love to hear what you think about grounding. So, do come and share your thoughts in the Mamajestic Facebook Group or leave me a comment below.

Lots of love,

Alexis

xxx

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The Special Ingredient In Your Engagement With the World

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Last week I attended an online masterclass by Jamie Smart, author of the best-selling book ‘Clarity‘ and hosted by Emma McDevitt, founder and director of The Coaching Exchange.

Among many other handy nuggets of wisdom, I brought away the answer to a question that had been niggling in the back of my mind. A question that I could not quite articulate, let alone answer, until the missing piece of the puzzle popped up, courtesy of Jamie and Emma.

I had a big insight about GROUNDING. To be specific, how it relates to engagement and connection with everything in our experience that is not us. Also, I saw how engagement in the process of carrying, birthing, and raising children is connected to our grounding at a particular moment. As soon as that fell into place, I had a series of realisations which I hope will be useful to you too.

I have written a two part series of posts all about grounding. Part One is all about what grounding is, how it shows up in our lives, and some working examples of grounding in practice. Part Two: How Grounding Works From Birth To Adulthood, is about different degrees of grounding we experience in different areas of life, and how nature and nurture are involved in the process.

So read on to hear all about it!

Mysterious Pools of Consciousness

Several years ago, I read Alison Gopnik’s Philosophical Baby (you may have heard me mention it a few times now), in which she describes the difference between how adults and young children experience their Consciousness, or rather, their ability to be aware of their thoughts. Gopnik used the term ‘a stream of consciousness’ to describe adult awareness and ‘pools of consciousness’ to describe that of children. The main idea is that adults have a more or less continuous internal commentary going on, while small kids have not yet acquired these inner voices. So, adults talk to themselves in their mind, while little ones simply do not think in that way yet.

You hear pre-schoolers chattering away in their games, and this is what eventually becomes our inner voice, along with other internalised chunks of language, like those helpful instructions your parents use a lot (i.e. Slow down. It’s not a race. Use a plate.). Before this process occurs, children are aware of going into one activity to the next, with no interim chatter. They just get into something and drop farther and deeper into it, until something occurs that draws them out again. I found this idea quite arresting, but could not put my finger on why this phrase should reverberate in my head as it did. A. Pool. Of. Consciousness.

In my mind, I had a vivid memory of watching our children playing at the beach, completely engrossed in their sand and buckets, as if nothing existed except the grains running through their fingers or heaped onto their spades. That is what it is like to be in a pool of consciousness. It feels pretty damn good too. It is a state of complete peace and total engagement with the world.

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My question was ‘what draws people into a Pool of Consciousness?’

What Lies Beneath Deep Engagement In Life

We have all been children, and all known this ‘pool of consciousness’ type engagement with the world. It is as if whatever we are in contact with becomes an extension of ourselves. For a moment, we lose our separateness, and we become the object or person or motion that we are engaged with. The writer and their laptop, the surfer and the waves, the driver and the car, the child and the handfuls of sand, are all bound together by this glorious, liberated feeling, where we are one with our surroundings, with what we are doing. We are not ourselves, and we are more than ourselves, and we are without the worries and fears that otherwise might trip us up.

All in all, it is pretty awesome.

Grounding is the path on which we usher in this experience of engagement (and flow and vitality, oh yes and love and happiness).

There is a quiet, yet probing feeling. It is more than being in the present. It is a deep grounding in the actual real world ‘out there’, as opposed to being deluded by the narrative of our inner voice. Grown ups get wrapped up in the voice’s projections of how reality is, was, or should be, while little ones do not. This is because the chief purpose of childhood is to learn and grow, while adults are responsible for sorting out the practicalities which allow them to do this. It makes sense for grown ups to know things, categorise stuff, and build up complex mental maps of reality. Our inner voice is really handy for this.

What we often forget to do in the demanding modern world, is to keep the lightest hold on what we ‘know’. The voice ceases to be a tool and becomes our master. This is dangerous, because the voice only has a limited grasp of what is actually real and what appears real. In looking only towards what we already think we know, we lose connection with ‘out there’ because it is always changing.

When we allow ourselves space for engagement, we allow ourselves to explore what is ‘out there’ in a more playful manner. We can feedback new information to ourselves, and incorporate this learning into our perceptions. It is like an automatic update system for the mind. For this system to function well, we must be able to look in another direction than into our existing personal thinking about life, the universe, and everything. This means that we can  look away from any anxieties and preoccupations which are scuppering our connection to objective reality, and see the objects of our attention anew.

Grounding is the extent to which you are able to see that world ‘out there’ for what it actually is, rather than as a projection of what is going on ‘in here’.

This is true clarity. It is feeling alive in the most powerful way. So, it is worth taking time to understand it.

I love this quote from Don Deacy, a former client of Jamie Smart’s:

“Grounding is balance. An ease of movement and interaction with the world. From grounding comes our ability to flow, to extend our senses, to ride the waves, to take the knocks and keep our equilibrium.”

Putting Grounding To Use

Deep ‘Pool of Consciousness’ type grounding is felt in those magic instances where your learning and insight come together in such a way that you feel guided, at ease, and confident, and know just what the next step you need to take will be. You feel at one with whatever you are engaging with. The right study at the right time enhances this raw material, and the potential for outstanding results. For the person diving down, the doing of the thing itself offers immense pleasure, regardless of outcome, and is borne forward by a sense of wonder and rightness. An example of this is the way Mozart’s natural talent and flair for composition allowed him to take all he learned about music and apply it to dazzling effect.

When I watch my children, wading in their pools of consciousness, there is such deep concentration available in those quieter minds of theirs, so much less self-obsession and insecurity. Though they are conscious, they are unselfconscious. Though they already know much about themselves and the world, they can let that go on a whim, and embrace a whole new understanding of who they are. The same goes for the way they view what is going on around them with non-judgement, and get involved in it with abandon.

Sure, it’s not as if children never have tantrums or get annoyed when grand expectations are derailed, just as grown ups do. However, they also mess around a lot more with who they are and what is real, and experiment with their realities to see what feels good. They are not obeying some pre-decided Order of All Things, which cannot be changed, or electing to create an ongoing thought-storm around a particular area of their existence.

So, for example, my daughter, aged six, digs around for ‘treasure’ and finds shiny pebbles, bits of foil, and bottle tops. She is engaged in her thought, but she is also in  touch with reality, completely engaged with what is. It sounds paradoxical, but for her, she IS finding treasure. No one is going to tell her that treasure is actually only gold coins and diamonds, so her paper treasures do not count.

My girl knows that her finds are not precious jewels, but all the same, she allows her bits and bobs to be treasure, and does not judge or compare them to objects of greater monetary value. There is no lie in the game she is creating. The game is not about values. It is not even about her, but is an experimentation with story, with earth, with tangible objects, with exactly what is to hand in that moment. The pleasure is in the finding, not a question of what is found and how it can be audited.

The real difference between children and adults is not that adults are not so imaginative or playful, but that we don’t realise, or do not remember, how much we make up. Kids understand they are the players. Adults forget this, because they get concerned about what the game should be about, or who is winning or losing, or how to play a better game. Before you know it, you think you are at the mercy of the game you invented, all because you forgot that it was you who created it.

Grounding and The Childbearing Journey

Now, time to bring all this around to the topic of having babies and parenting:

To show how grounding can make a real difference in experiences of Childbearing, I want to explore how we make use of various labels for labour contractions and parenting ‘types’.

There are various ways to view the phenomena of contractions and a number of labels we might apply, like ‘rushes’, or ‘sensations’, or ‘tightenings’, or the more traditional word: ‘pains’. The contractions themselves are simply the tightening and relaxing of the uterine muscles. The meaning and label given to this process by the labouring woman has a huge influence on how they are experienced.

If you are pregnant, heading into labour, and you know contractions as ‘pains’ AND you are quite certain that pain is unpleasant or scary, you will get an experience of pain which is unpleasant or scary. There is no room for play or negotiation. If you have the slightest glimpse that contractions could be sensations or rushes or tightenings, you can see even a tiny possibility that they might not be so scary, then the door is open for the experience to be something other than painful and scary. You suddenly have more options to experience these contractions in other ways.

Contractions can be the strumming of a bass, the intro to the song of your baby’s arrival. They can be exhilarating, and you can welcome and ride contractions, or tightening sensations, or rushes. This is not something you do with your intellect. You have to know that contractions are a rhythm of sensation, in the same way that my little girl knows her playthings are treasure. They are bass beats. They are good, pulsing, waves of feeling that you do not need to be afraid of. Babies being born have their grounding to help them, and you have yours to help you. I promise you that this is so.

To take another example, consider the many labels that can get thrown at parents:

There is the Helicopter parent, in constant vigilance; the Neglectful parent who is too into her phone to pay attention; the Gentle parent who is baby-wearing and co-sleeping; the Incompetent Parent, who cannot be trusted; the Slacker parent, who can’t be arsed to get dressed; the Tiger parent, who locks her kid on a balcony for refusing to do their piano practice; the Perfect parent, who is always kind, clean, with nutritious snacks and educational activities to hand. None of these stereotypes are actually real, they are caricatures that we use to connect kinds of parenting behaviour with individuals we encounter, including ourselves.

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Alexis was experiencing a lack of grounding.

When faced with human behaviour, our grounding points us towards what is real, and away from these stereotypical constructions which can be so demoralising, damaging. If we are grounded, we are aware that labels and people are not the same thing. This means that uncharitable assignations cannot derail us in our efforts to build relationships with others, and to treat ourselves with care.

When we are coming from a place of deep grounding, then we are able to see that we are NOT a label, we are a person who is worthy of love, respect, and belonging, and the same goes for everyone else. In order to express love and kindness for those we care for, we have to extend this compassion to ourselves and other parents. Going deeper in our grounding is the most efficient way to develop a fulfilling engagement with everything and everyone in our lives, to enjoy ourselves, and to enjoy our SELF. It affords us a look at the sunny day of reality instead of gazing into a cloud of inner chatter.

Grounding reminds us, that we too are treasures, to be cherished and enjoyed.

Grounding Is Your Silent Supporter

When it comes to becoming a parent, for the first or a multiple of times, then grounding is something you can rely on through pregnancy, birth, and beyond. After all, even though it may not always appear to be the case, creating, birthing, and nurturing our young is a natural process. Even if you feel like giving up and running off to some kind of island for beleaguered souls, the more you know that you can breathe and be kind to yourself when the window is foggy, the less you will worry about difficult emotions. Look at the fantastic capabilities of your body and mind, with which you make brand new life. Take a look around you and really see that you AND your children have deep grounding from which to grow.

It is human and normal to have clouded judgement regarding what is real from time to  time, perhaps even often. It is also the case that your grounding can support you, even as you learn to dive deeper, more loving, and more daring than ever. Perhaps through this process you may also revisit the simple absorption and pleasure of a pool of consciousness, in the midst of that ordinary, everyday stream. Grounding is the key to deep engagement with the world ‘out there’ and with all our experiences have to offer us.

So hurray for grounding! Plus, I am so pleased to have worked out what was niggling me about pools of consciousness. Thank you Jamie and Emma for unsticking me!

Do come back and check out Part Two: How Grounding Works From Birth To Adulthood

If you want to learn more about getting grounded, then I highly recommend reading either of Jamie’s books: Clarity and The Little Book of Clarity. Find out all about him and his work here.

You can connect with Emma, and join a vibrant community of coaches, at The Coaching Exchange

What is your experience of grounding?

Did you find this post helpful? If so, feel free to share it around.

Come and try out one of my services to deepen your grounding in pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or mothering.

I would love to hear what you think about grounding! So, do come and share your thoughts in the Mamajestic Facebook Group or leave me a comment below.

It is always awesome to connect with you all ‘out there’. Sending you good wishes!

Lots of love,

Alexis

xxx

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Christmas presence 11: Let The River Flow!

On the 11th day of Christmas, Alexis said to me….

Let the river flow!

Isn’t it funny. Last week Christmas was such a big deal, and suddenly whoosh! It’s gone past. In hindsight, it seems less structured, less significant. It is just a memory. Just a thought. Just like 2015 is about to be. 

The thing is, Christmas was always made of thought, it is just much more obvious in the rear view mirror that this is so. Our thoughts are like a river, bringing life into view, and then taking it off downstream. Sometimes, it is such a relief to have that river take something away. It sweeps stuff off your mind. 

I can remember that the last few Festive periods, I have been so ready to take all the decorations down, pack up, and get on with ‘normality’. I couldn’t wait to throw it all into the river. I don’t feel that just yet this time. Each day can unfold in its own time, and I will see what the river brings, what it takes. 

The difference for me is seeing that the river will always take life with it. That string of present moments. Last Christmas, I felt like I had to divest myself of it. This year, I can see it bobbing on the horizon, about to fall off the edge of the world, at least for 350 days or so. Merry lights atwinkling, and splash. Going. Going….

Moving towards the New Year, perhaps your thoughts are turning to reflection on 2015, and to your hopes for 2016. Perhaps you are thinking of betterment, of renewal, of goals and achievements. 

Here is a wee video about resolution! It got hijacked by a cheeky elf;)

Wherever we are, we can only ever be in this moment, only the presence experiencing these thoughts, only a blink in the eye of everything. 

I bet you anything that any behaviour you want to shift in the New Year is a result of thinking you have at the time. A result of having a lot on your mind. I know mine is. 

So, it’s nice to know that, no matter what, the river will carry stuff off my mind. If I don’t cling onto it, it will do so with more ease. When we don’t think of things, they cease to exist for us. That doesn’t mean it is helpful to try and forget, only that recognising the nature of thought and its propensity to change helps us to stay present and clear. 

Sometimes, like with Christmas, changes in circumstances help us to let things flow away, to not cling. I give very little thought to Christmas in the spring or summer. It’s not a big part of my circumstances, and  therefore not salient in my consciousness (though, it might pop up once or twice).

Other times, we have to allow things to flow away. These thoughts can be tricky to let go because we have coupled some associations to our ongoing circumstances. When we have recurring thoughts over a period of time, that thinking becomes habitual, and often feels every real.

So, my body is a part of my ongoing circumstances, and over time, I couple associations with its mass, such as the thought that being 65kg is OK, but being 75kg is not, and being 85kg is very bad. My experience of my body changes, so that no matter what weight I am, I can have a healthy mental experience or an unhealthy mental experience of its mass.

Because I have this recurring idea, which I begin to take seriously, that 65kg is happier and better than 85kg, I am more likely to have an unhealthy mental experience of being heavier. So, if I am feeling heavy and unhappy, the answer seems to be that I cannot be happy with my body until I am lighter. Of course, I can be glad of not being heavier, and I can see that once you get to a certain mass, weight loss becomes bad. Nonetheless, my habit becomes to see my weight and happiness as being linked, and being heavier than 65kg as undesirable. The more I think this habit, the more real it feels.

The fact is, there is no necessary link between my weight and my mental health. Knowing this, I may still choose to lose a bit of weight, because common sense tells me that it is a good idea for my physical wellbeing. However, the need to associate my weight and happiness disappears, as does judging myself. This is actually helpful from a weight loss point of view, because when I get annoyed about my weight, it is my habit to reach for the chocolate.

I may not always see this, but the more I see it, the more I see it.

If we don’t hold on, thought flows away. If we don’t take it too seriously, it flows away. If we don’t do anything, it flows away. 

And new things will come. 

So, forgive me the use of the imperative, but don’t decide what you can add or what you can gain in 2016. 

Think about what you can let go.

Splash!….Going….going…..going…

What thoughts are you clinging to? 

What can you allow the river to take off your mind? 

Come and tell us in the Mamajestic Facebook Group. Come share your experiences with us! 

Lots of love,

Alexis

Xxx

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