10 Gems for a Better Summer – 10 Gems for a Better Life
In the snowy wintery months that now seem so long ago, I discovered knitting again. It was with the encouragement of a teacher at my sons’ school that I found my hands nestled around a pair of slender, wooden knitting needles, my fingers gently finding their way in a dance with a ball of sea green, woolen yarn. It was while my younger boy Adrian was deep in play at our parent and toddler class that I found myself moving rhythmically in a rocker immersing myself in this meditative work so that Adrian may be freed to find his way around the room independently. The teacher—a lovely woman with a deep dedication to recognizing and cultivating the inner lives of children—helped me along. She used wonderful imagery of a fisherman’s work as a way of demonstrating the way in which my needles and yarn should interact. It was the same kind of imagery she uses with the children and so I was learning both about knitting and about ways that I may teach my own children. I fell in love with knitting again in that quiet room and since have begun a couple of very simple projects. Mostly I just make rows—back and forth, back and forth—creating rectangles that can be used as baby blankets or perhaps sewn together into hats or purses and such. I have found deep relaxation in this practice. I knit sometimes while my children play which has allowed me to be both present with them and interact with them while still transporting myself into a place of deep inner calm. I knit in the passenger seat of the car when my husband is driving which has deeply calmed my unnerving backseat driver nature.
Recently I was talking with Jonah about the various jobs that people have and he was explaining to me what he thought my job was. His description included my most important job of caring for he and his little brother, Adrian. He also seems to have picked up on the fact that I am a writer despite my never really having talked with him about it. And finally, he said that my job was “knitting.” I have thought long about what I would like for my children to remember about their childhoods. One aspect of that is what they will remember about what I was “doing” in moments when I wasn’t engaged directly with them. I am heartened by the idea of them remembering me knitting. I am heartened by the idea that my hands will be remembered as being filled with something as natural and colorful as wool and wood.
This addition to our lives has created a subtle shift. It has increased a sense of peace in me—especially at times when I might not otherwise feel peaceful. I can also use knitting as a meditative tool to come back to center when I am feeling out of balance. I’ve come to realize in life that real and lasting transformation often occurs with seemingly minor adjustments like this one. I’ve also been thinking—as the summer is so very quickly unfolding—about other ways in which we may all benefit from small changes that yield hefty results. These are a few suggestions that I have come up with. I hope that you may find a few gems here for yourself. Wishing you a rich and memorable summer. Wishing you peace. Wishing you continual growth and connection with your beautiful children for they are living miracles in our midst.
- Put something in your hands that isn’t electronic. For me it has been knitting, for you maybe it could be wood working or clay molding or drawing or strumming a guitar. As I begin knitting I notice my heart-rate slow down. I notice that there is a space present in me that wasn’t there before. I can take it anywhere and both be with my children and also provide them a little space to just be in what they are doing. What would you would like for your children to remember you holding in your hands when they were young?
- Pack and travel lightly. There is a great temptation when we travel—especially with children—to bring every comfort of home along with us, even when we are just heading for a day at the beach. As a single woman I used to be notorious for traveling lightly—sometimes with only a small sling purse—and yet always having everything that I needed when I got where I was going. Embrace your inner Bohemian and try leaving some of what you think you need behind as you go about your adventures this summer and notice what happens. Great ingenuity may be found in times when we must do without or be creative and make things work. This practice may also be used as a metaphor. Choose to let go of some of the heavier things that you carry around with you in life—painful memories, grudges, injustices, mistakes—and notice how much more fluid your travels can be. Notice the lightness in the steps of your little ones when they see that you are carrying a little less.
- Learn about the true nature of self-care. I recently had the privilege of attending a woman’s retreat at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health to celebrate my 40th birthday. Author and teacher, Renée Trudeau introduced me to a more nuanced concept of self-care than I had previously considered. It went beyond the idea of self-care as simply creating time and space for ourselves as mothers—as parents—and explored more deeply into the realm of moment-to-moment intense listening to our inner voices, allowing our inner-wisdom to come forth and guide our days. This concept may be explored simply through a 5 minute dedicated morning meditation in which you create intention for your day or through studying Renée’s book “The Mother’s Guide to Self Renewal”or one of many other books which can be excellent sources of inner work such as: “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, “Seat of the Soul” by Gary Zukav or“Wishes Fulfilled” by Wayne Dyer
- Be open to what the Universe has in store for you and befriend the moments of your life. Befriend even the seemingly “bad” moments. Life is filled with so many ups and downs. Our most fiercely planned days often end up being the most disappointing. Let your children be your guides as you embrace each day with excitement and anticipation and curiosity for what it holds for you. Given the opportunity, each and every day is ready to wow us with it’s beauty. A simple stroll, a game of ball, a conversation met with intention can change your life and the lives of your children.
- Try new things. I am generally a gentle yoga, peaceful music kind of girl. I remember hearing Sean Corn—a well-known yoga instructor—interviewed onOprah Radio talking about the proliferation of yoga studios across the United States today. She happened to mention that sometimes she recommends to her gentle yogis to try a more intense class and to her very active yogis to try a more gentle class. This message resonated with me and when I recently had the opportunity to try both Dance Yoga and Zumba I understood the power of this suggestion. After both experiences I felt invigorated in a way that I hadn’t felt since my days as a sprinter on the track team in high school. Drive home on a different route. Eat an ethnic dinner if you are usually All American. Try being an observer if you are normally the life of the party. Notice new and worthy parts of your being and enjoy.
- Try old things. My son Jonah has recently come to the age where he can really begin engaging in sports. We have set up a pseudo soccer field in our front yard and a basketball court in our driveway. It has been such a joy to play these games with him. I am impressed by his use of the word “diagonal” to describe his method of kicking the soccer ball into the goal and the way he processes the rules of basketball and how he is learning that in this instance it is ok to “take” or even “steal” the ball. Playing with him has also unearthed a part of me that I haven’t seen in a while. I’m remembering that I can feel a sense of excitement with competition. I am remembering how it feels to belly laugh when you get head to head with someone in a soccer rally. I am remembering what it means to play with my whole body. I am remembering. Revisit the parts of your being that you haven’t seen in a while. You will be welcomed back with open arms.
- Be process oriented. I recently heard a friend talking about the fact that the more she accomplishes on her to-do list the more she finds that she needs to do. I really relate to her sentiment and I am coming to realize that I will never, ever finish all that I think I need to do. At the end-of-the-day—at the end of our lives—the completion of all of these tasks will not matter so much as how we did them. May we all ask ourselves, how are we approaching these tasks and most importantly, how are we approaching these tasks with our children in-tow? Dinner at my house is infinitely tastier when my son Jonah has cut the carrots for the soup, when I have a happy Adrian playing with mixing cups at my feet. It is infinitely tardier and messier, but it is always a process that I can feel good about.
- Find peace in the chaos. There is a wonderful story that Eckhart Tolle shares in his book “A New Earth” about J. Krishnamurti, the great Indian philosopher and spiritual teacher who spent 50 years traveling across the globe trying to convey in words a message of inner peace and acceptance that can hardly be put into words. At one of his talks in the later part of his life he offered what he called, “his secret.” “I don’t mind what happens,” he said. That was all. This is not a message of apathy. It is a message of acceptance. I notice that in my life when I sit with this level of acceptance, the pain of chaos, the pain of things not going how they “should” is significantly lessened. I notice that in the joy I am not so afraid of fully embracing it. I’m not afraid of when it will leave me. Give J. Krishnamurti’s secret a try and observe a powerful shift occur. Your children will benefit most of all. It could even change who they turn out to be.
- Enlist the help you need. Parenting is nothing less than a transformational journey. Feelings—both old and new—have arisen in me since giving birth to both of my sons that I could never have imagined. How could I ever have known the sorrow that I would feel for Jonah recently when he shared a precious gift of nature with a friend and it was carelessly discarded? How could I ever have known the rapid change in my heart rate that would occur each time Adrian cried when I needed to leave him for even a short while? How could I ever have known the impact of my history on my children today? There is so much that I have needed to examine and even transform and release in myself in order to continue on the path of mindfulness with my children. I have not taken on these challenges alone. I have recently enlisted the help of a wonderful therapist in sorting out my old wounds. I have sought the help of loving family for support and encouragement. I have leaned on friends who are mothers (and some who are not) to share in our journeys and just be together in community. I have counted on my husband to travel along this path with me. Whatever your challenge may be in connecting with your children in a mindful way, know that there is no shame in asking for help. Whether you need a therapist, a clergy member or a friend’s shoulder for support, do not travel this path alone. Reach out. Heal. Release. Be renewed. I am here with you in spirit.
- Always be gentle and kind with yourself. I’ve said this before. Find at least one thing you could do for yourself to care for your own inner child. A warm bath, quiet writing in a journal or a long talk with a friend, will go a long way. The way we treat ourselves translates into the way we treat our children. Love, forgive and celebrate all that you are and all that you can be.
Hurray! Happy summer to you all …..
Photo by Keith Reagan