mindful parenting

Dirty Feet, Happy Heart

Dirty Feet, Happy Heart

Contributed by Kristina Komorowski 

 

 

Imagine with me a little girl in a white sundress, sitting on her great-grandmother's porch. Now, follow this little girl as she stands up and walks through the screen door into the house. She walks innocently around and  in-between the grown-up’s legs and pensively around the knobby feet of the large armchairs that are scattered around the house. She stops and turns her attention to a brown wispy bundle on the table. She carefully and suspiciously picks it up, making sure the adults do not see. The smell meets her nostrils before the strange bundle does. Curing onions. Beautiful golden bulbs, flaky and speckled with soil.

I was a rebel, or at least I liked to think of myself as one. I turned away from college life, wanting to be free of the obligation to study day in and day out, choosing to fulfill my life with music, parties and as little responsibility as possible. Like most of us do, I eventually realized that I had to settle down and start behaving like an adult. I worked retail and then an office job and finally settled nicely into the role of mother. When asked as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up (in the back of my head, at least) the answer was always the same: A mom! I quickly realized after having two beautiful boys that my dream job wasn't the calling I had thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom and I adore my children but it didn't give me that feeling like I'd finally opened the door and found what I had been looking for.

I became so deeply wrapped up in putting my family before myself that I saw my personal goals become even more distant. I did this for so long that my closest of friends encouraged me to get a hobby. I remember distinctly sitting with a glass of wine in my hand and tears in my eyes crying, “What am I supposed to do?!”

I'll never forget the day I discovered my calling. It was the type of moment where life stands still and if you don’t pay attention to the sign, you could easily miss it. I was hurriedly unloading groceries fully aware of the clock ticking towards dinner time and I grabbed a few onions to toss into our vegetable bowl.The smell stopped me in my tracks. As I lifted the crunchy sweet bulbs to my nose and inhaled ever so deeply, I was immediately brought back to my inner little girl wearing the white sundress smelling great-grandmother's cured onions. Couldn’t I grow these? Shouldn’t I grow these? Surely I can grow these. The thoughts ran rampant. I excitedly began opening this door. I searched for various gardening techniques online, I purchased a few books and read countless blogs about urban gardening. It wasn’t enough for me. I needed more.

I decided to start small, taking a few months of classes through The OSU Master Gardener program. Luck had it that my youngest son was sick the day they presented the vegetable growing portion of the course, so I experimented with the knowledge I read from our handbook, and soon began growing food out of raised beds my husband built. I quickly found out that I got more pleasure sharing what I grew with my friends and neighbors than I had ever imagined was possible. I could hear my passion about the plants when people would ask me basic gardening questions or how I grew my own food. Something was happening and I wanted to continue exploring this new found love. I began to find more farming and gardening books in the free boxes around town, I began following masters in the industry on social networking sites and by reading University publications. I found myself so flooded with accessible knowledge that I needed to hone in my new craft. I knew that I could read sun up to sun down but because that required time that most mother’s do not have, I decided instead to take the plunge and ask for help. I recognized that by putting in the time now this new passion of growing food would likely benefit my family, my community and my soul for a lifetime.

Today, I am a student of the Beginning Urban Farming Apprenticeship program which is a part time farming program that teaches adults the beginning elements of food production. I am confident that I have found my calling! Despite the current Portland heat wave this summer, I’ve been proudly and happily digging, sweating, harvesting, watering, and knowing that my efforts will soon pay off. I’ve cried on the farm numerous times, allowing the soil to absorb the pain of the busy world. Being connected to the soil brings me to this state of tranquility that only those who’ve dug in the earth can really understand. The soil is a healer and not only of the body and mind, but of the soul. It brings out your angels and demons. It will make you feel strong and it shows you your weaknesses. Listening to the bees hum, the leaves rustle, my breath as it exits and enters my body, the groans of pain and the cheers of excitement over a newly harvestable food source is what makes my soul come alive. I am a totally different person in the elements. I have found a new side of myself that I never knew existed. I am powerful and yet weak, open, vulnerable, humble and thankful. Working with men and women who share the same goals only intensifies my experience. I am beyond grateful for being able to be a part of a community where we all ache for the ability to share our food and knowledge with the people around us.

I want to share this journey with everyone I meet. It was the soil that helped me see what my gifts are.  I am a nurturer. I nurture the soil, I nurture my children, and I will forever continue to nurture my soul. 

Trust your inner voice, your inner child. Stay inspired and honor your gifts. Lastly I encourage you to ground yourself daily. Go stick your hands in the dirt.

I dare you.

“The Meaning of Life is to find your gift. The Purpose of life is to give it away.”  -William Shakespeare

Kristina Komorowski is a Texas native who moved to Illinois after high school. She fell in love with a Polish man and together in the Winter of 2010 they created a home in  Portland Oregon. They have 2 beautiful children in SE Portland and dream of life on a small farm. They love everything nature and get great joy in sharing their rich bounty.

Kristina is currently a student of the Beginning Urban Farming Apprenticeship program. See more at their website to learn more:http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/beginning-famers/BUFA

If you would like to follow their journey look for Kristina on Instagram: @Mamakomorowski or send her an email: kkomorowski13@gmail.com

Intervening

 

Intervening 

Contributed by Robbyn Peters Bennett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing that I speak openly about the need to end spanking, people often ask me for advice on how respond to a parent who threatens or spanks their child in public.  Their fear of course, is the offending parent will strike back with the classic response, “mind your own business” or “who the hell are you to tell me how to deal with my child!”  And then later on, is the child the worse for it?

Alice Miller, author of “For Your Own Good,” talked about the importance of the Witness in helping a child buffer the effects of abusive treatment. A witness sees and acknowledges the suffering of the child.  I suspect in some cases, a witness who voices disapproval may cause a parent to feel shame, which may further provoke the parent to blame or attack the child at home. At the same time, the child does hear another point of view beyond the message of “I am bad. I do bad things and deserve to be hurt.” The child also hears, “it is not OK for me to be hit.” This is a very powerful message.

Sometimes, witnessing may be the only thing we know to do.  The role of being a witness for a child has often left me with a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction.  Yes, I spoke up, but I still felt I was abandoning the child to his fate and was unsure if I had really helped the parent.

Awhile back, I tried something different. I was at the airport with my granddaughter who was six at the time. She was getting ready to return home after a sweet summer visit.  We were both pretty sad.  We wandered into a gift shop looking for some kind of craft she could enjoy on the plane ride.  As usual, I was overloaded with bags and suitcases and I accidentally knocked over a toy from the display. I’m not always the most graceful and my granddaughter started to giggle at my exaggerated “oops” face. A woman standing nearby let out a sigh of relief, “Oh god. At least it isn’t my son!” A young boy about my granddaughter’s age was launching through the isles flopping his legs and arms about nearly missing the candy trays and dental floss display. It was like his body was floating through space where there was none.  His mother grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the store. Just watching those two gave me a pit in my stomach.

My granddaughter and I found our way to the waiting area after we purchased some greasy airport pizza. The worst. We ate a few pieces just in time for the intercom announcement, which was urging her to board. She waved me goodbye after our elaborate hug, handshake, love you more than the ocean is deep goodbye ritual. My heart ached with that deep sadness that comes from your children and grandchildren living too far away, followed by waves of love and gratitude. My husband and I decided to wait and watch the plane take off, a sweet and lost ritual in today’s airport experience where usually only passengers can linger at the gate.

It was then that I saw the mother and that rambunctious boy sitting on the floor, also watching my granddaughter’s plane.  The mother was yelling at the boy, threatening to spank him “if you don’t knock that off!” Things were escalating and the mother rose up to grab hold of him. It always makes me cringe when I hear a parent threaten a child. My initial feeling is always an urge to retaliate against the parent. It enrages me.  I took a deep breath and heard myself exhaling. Her son was becoming more and more upset, yelling back at her, and then it happened. He punched her and ran away. He did to her, what I felt like doing.

Maybe it was my grieving heart that opened me up to the suffering of this mother. Maybe it was because he hit her. But when I looked at her furious face, I could feel her exhaustion. I could feel her feelings of being defeated, overwhelmed, and completely alone. I walked over to her.

I just let all the judgment and anger go.  I opened my heart to her and felt tears welling up inside of me.  I gently rested my hand on her back and said, “Be kind to yourself, mommy. I can see you are doing the best that you can.”

I guess in that moment it didn’t occur to me that she might turn her fury on me. She slumped down and started to weep. She cried and cried and told me everything.  Everything. How her son is autistic and he gets crazy, how her teenage daughter who is on the plane hates her because she didn’t do right by her when she was younger, and yet she did the best she could and didn’t know what to do, and how she is working full time and moving soon and needs more time with her son, and isn’t sure about how to make ends meet.  She talked and she talked, sharing her worries and pain. I mostly listened, while rubbing her back and smoothing her ponytail, gently pulling the bangs from her eyes. I listened. As she talked, she softened. I listened, nodding, and understanding. Her son, who had been ramping up for a fight, started rocking himself moving a little closer over time.  The mother didn’t seem to notice.  She had so much she needed to tell me. As her tears subsided, her son crawled into her lap. She held him, kissed his forehead and started rocking herself with her son in her arms. “Thank you,” she said, as I stood up to go. I don’t remember what I said at that point. The whole day was so surreal.  I know I didn’t change her life, and that her son would continue to struggle along with her. But somehow, the harshness of life seemed a little less so.  There was this moment where this mother found relief and her son found comfort, and I felt compassion where I often mostly feel despair.

What we see in others is so often just the surface of their deep struggle and suffering.  Parents who bully and aggress their children are parents who are out of control and who need those of us who can, to connect with them. Feeling into the world of another person and problem solving with them takes time. In neuroscience, it is called co-regulation.  It sounds scientific, but it really is an art form. We all want our children to manage their emotions and relate to others with courtesy, warmth, and empathy.  Children learn these skills by developing the self-regulatory equipment of the brain and this essentially happens through our connection with them.  Deep connection is the art of co-regulation.  Psychiatrist Alan Shore, MD explains how the development of self-regulation occurs within relationship with another brain. We essentially are our relationships. The beauty of co-regulation is when we are able to stay connected with another person who is distressed, feel into their world and create a sense of safety, we feel better.  When I was able to connect to the mother at the airport, when I was able to listen and rub her back and understand – I felt better. I felt connected.  Connected to her, to my family, to the little boy, to my granddaughter, to all the mothers and fathers that struggle and to myself as a mother and even to myself as that vulnerable child.

Robbyn Peters Bennett is a psychotherapist, educator, and child advocate who specializes in the treatment of mental health problems due to early abuse and neglect. She also helps parents whose children struggle with tantrums, anxiety, bullying, and ADHD using sand tray therapy, with a sensitivity to advancements in neuropsychology. She believes children do well when they can and that behavioral problems stem from unmet developmental needs and lagging skills.  Her work with children supports the attachment between the child and parent,  so that the child's developmental needs can be met within the parent-child relationship. 

Robbyn also works with adults suffering from anxiety, depression, and symptoms of post traumatic stress.  She works from a Jungian perspective, and believes that the psyche contains the seeds to its own cure. To learn more about her work, go to http://robbynpetersbennett.org

 

The Ritual Reveals Itself

The Ritual Reveals Itself

Contributed by Kelly Sunrose

 

 

 

 

 

The spring is a special time for my practice. I celebrate the anniversary of my practice (18 years, half my life) as well as the anniversary of my becoming a yoga teacher (9 years, a quarter of my life). It’s only natural to reflect on how things have changed, the expansions and contractions, the elements that have remained constant (in a sense) through all of that time.

I carried around a book about meditation for 7 years before I started to sit still. “You can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait.” The Supremes sang the truth.

Somewhere between my very first class and today, the state of being that is yoga began to reveal itself to me until I had the visceral, embodied memory that it is, indeed, my natural state. The times of longing for it were manufactured by my own ego. My attachment to the story that I’m separate, less than or greater than everyone else.

abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah

stillness is the result of practice for many years without attachment to the outcome.

-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.12

My morning practice has the potential to set the tone for my entire day, so I am devoted to it. The work is to remain open to whatever happens during that practice.

At least five days a week, this is the sacred ritual that begins my day.

My morning ritual really begins the night before. I create conditions that support an early morning by winding down early. When my 4 year-old daughter gets in bed at 7pm, I slip into my evening-wear, tidy the house, turn on the robot vacuum (game-changer for a working mom, by the way), shower & lay out my clothes for the morning and retire to my bedroom to read or watch something on my iPad. (This is my social-time with my husband, so I am looser with the rules about “no tv in bed.”) We are usually fast asleep by 9pm (we adopted this particular ritual about 9 years ago).

I wake up feeling super-refreshed between 5 and 5:30am. (I do set an alarm as a back-up, but don’t really need it if I adhere to the 9pm bedtime.)

Quiet as a mouse, I tip-toe downstairs once I’m dressed and washed.

While I wait for water to boil, I step outside into the first sounds and smells of morning. Non-attached listening is one of my favorite meditation practices. Morning is so good for this.

I make myself a brew of hot water with lemon, and sometimes ginger, turmeric and honey. This practice is newer for me, but it feels SO good to start the day with water. It’s usually too hot to drink right away, so I carry it to my meditation cave to hold in my lap while I ready to sit.

For the last 9 years, I’ve meditated consistently. Mostly every day, but I like to be loose about it because… practice without the non-attachment for me is the road to suffering. There were times when I was still practicing law and again when my daughter was a baby where I would make myself a little crazy just to get in a 20 minute sit, and that very rarely leads me to Yoga, so I am loose about it. I know that I am a kinder human, a better mother, a more loving wife when I meditate, so I treasure the practice. I treat it like my sweet necessary luxury.

After I sit, I move a little bit. Many days, it probably looks like I am just rolling around on the floor, but there is a lot of intention behind that rolling. Locating the balance of effort and ease in the movements requires attention.

After practice, I drink tea or (on occasion) coffee. A hot drink in the morning is a practice in mindfulness. Boiling the water, selecting the cup, steeping the tea, pouring the milk, holding the cup, smelling the brew, the very first sips. It’s a ritual of joy.

When I begin my day this way, the rituals keep on coming. I am in relationship with presence and able to attend to what and whom are with me. I am so grateful for this practice.

 

 

Kelly Sunrose began practicing yoga 18 years ago under the glow of the Hale Bopp comet. Kelly is grateful for every teaching that has illuminated the path, from the grocery store parking lot to the top of Meditation Mount. Kelly has been teaching her signature blend of investigative, devotional yoga since 2006, when she was certified to teach by the Shambhava School of Yoga.

Kelly continues her studies with Kira Ryder, Erich Schiffmann, Patricia Sullivan and many beloved others. Since 2009, Kelly has shared full-length videos and audio recordings of her classes at sunroseyoga.com. In 2015, she joined the teaching family at Yoga Anytime (http://yogaanytime.com). She creates spaces and experiences for transformative practice in-person and online.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family.


Attitude of Gratitude


 Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life. ~Rumi

The attitude of gratitude is one of the most reliable methods of developing inner joy. It’s an attitude that humanity should adopt 365 days a year. This isn’t a profound blog entry; it’s more of a reminder to say “Thank-you”… all the time. It’s good for you and it’s good for others around you. We are constantly faced with obstacles and new challenges and it’s through modeling how to embrace life that we teach those around us how to embark on their own journey of self-study. That’s right, showing gratitude for all of it, the ups AND the downs. As though it isn’t important enough in and of itself, remember that our younger generation, the littles, are watching our every move. They are learning how to tackle life through our example. It’s a big deal and a big job. That’s why we asked moms and dads around the world how they help teach gratitude to their children.

This is what they had to say:

 

  • Our family has a gratitude jar on the dining room table with slips of paper and a pencil.  If anyone in the family notices or recognizes that someone is being kind they write it down and put it in the jar.  Once a week, we read the pieces of paper and discuss the kindness that was associated with the action.  It helps refocus our entire family on acts of kindness and the feeling of gratitude to others.~Sheri Louis, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • Every night we each (including parents) share at least one thing we are grateful for and one kind thing we did that day. It is amazing the refocus it has created in our daily reflections and in the valued importance we as, a family, place on gratitude and kindness. ~Colleen Reuland, mother of 3, Portland OR

 

  • Teaching my children gratitude doesn't come in a form of a plan or formal training...it comes from a way-of-life, a flow of gratefulness that comes from the heart. As a mom I have to lead by example even when I don't feel like being or expressing gratitude. Other ways of teaching my children gratitude include reminding them to say "thank you," talking about what they appreciated about their day at the dinner table, asking them what they are thankful for during holidays such as Thanksgiving, etc. I also think it's important for them to understand how to be thankful for each other so we often talk about what we appreciate about one another. ~ Valerie Reed, mother of 3, Belleville PA

 

  • At dinner time we discuss the days "highlights" and one thing they are thankful for today. Even though it will move toward low lights inevitably, it is an opportunity to notice what is going well first, and then what is difficult. Putting the positive in first seems to create a nice balance of positive reality in order to make space for the challenges in life. ~Christy Strange, mother of 2, Portland, OR

 

  • We take a moment together to pause and be thankful for both the big and little things in life -- from taking in the awe of the sights and sounds of Mother Nature on a hike, to the cozy perfection of a mug of hot cocoa together. We also try to go around the dinner table and say one thing that we are grateful for from the day, or sometimes we do that same thing just before going to sleep at night. ~Marie Tindall, Mother of 2, Portland, OR

 

  • My daughter taught me gratitude. You can see she is grateful for every hug, every kiss and every “I love you”. ~Karen Blomstedt, mother of 1, Portsmouth RI

 

  • We talk a lot about water and food waste. Last year my 6 year old son raised over $800 for Charity Water in Kenya. ~Sarasvati Hewitt, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • I teach my daughter about gratitude by seeing her share her gifts to the world. I honor that and then tell her "thank you."  I feel so grateful to see her light shine in that! ~Kelly Sunrose Conner, mother of 1, Portland OR

 

  • I talk about gratitude with my son during dinner. We don't say "grace" but rather offer a blessing which usually involves putting words to the gratitude that we have for all of the gods and goddess' and all of our guides and teachers. We thank them for our health, our strength, and any other quality we feel important to offer thanks for on a given day. We offer gratitude for the farmers and all those involved in making our food accessible. And finally we offer gratitude for one another, I thank Zion for his compassion and his kindness, and he often will thank me for my presence. We take turns doing the blessing. It is a part of our day that really touches my heart. I love this time where we are able to look inward and express our love of life with clarity. ~Sondra Bloxam, mother of 1, Portland OR

 

  • With my oldest we talk about what we are thankful for and why. We practice gratitude by saying thank you. I think kids learn by example and repetition so we sometimes play a game of gift giving where they can practice how to show gratitude for a gift.  ~Denae Weaver, mother of 2, Green Bell PA

 

  • We volunteer at a food bank. At night during prayer we talk about the non-material things we are grateful for. We try to teach gratitude through modeling it. ~Ursula Rocha, mother of 3, Alexandria VA

 

  • One way in which we teach gratitude to our kids is by taking them camping for a week every summer. When we return home after a week of being outside in the elements, our small house with its running water and air conditioning seem like a palace! ~Molly Cohen, mother of 3, Franklin MA

 

  • My boys are 8 and 10 and for as long as they remember we have taught them to give on their birthdays. Every other birthday they choose an organization to donate to in lieu of receiving gifts. The process of choosing the organizations and presenting the gifts has humbled them. In their preschool years, we would make a gratitude tree that hung in the house. We would add paper leaf cutouts with grateful notes on it. It was always overflowing with leaves that didn’t fall with the change of the seasons. Now I think the best way to teach gratefulness is to model it. Hearing dad thank mom for dinner, hearing mom thank dad for all the time he puts into coaching their teams, telling the boys how wonderful it is when they help around the house… it all makes an impression on them. One I hope they carry into adulthood. ~ Caitlin MacNeil, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

  • Every night at bedtime we each talk about one thing we are grateful for. I try to expose them or increase their awareness at least to the fact that there are other children in the world who might be homeless or ill. I think stepping outside of their paradigm is important and it fosters gratitude. ~Jill Whitchurch- Dixon, mother of 2, Vancouver WA

 

  • In general I try to model gratitude by thanking people for even the littlest of things, like, “Thanks, Ms. Maria, for putting a clip in my hair so I can see better.” I also try to point out the beauty in nature, like an interesting cloud, how the breeze feels on your face, or the color of the grass. I see my daughter starting to do the same now! ~Elizabeth Wegner, mother of 2, Alexandria VA

 

  • Through yearly giving tree projects we buy gifts for families that don’t have enough money to afford them. We also donate all of our old items- including scooters/bikes/clothes to homeless shelters that house families. We talk as a family about our good fortunes and do what we can to help others in need. ~Michele Bell, mother of 2, Lake Oswego OR

 

  • Children know how to say thank you but they must learn how to feel thankful. I think modeling thankfulness and kindness are the most powerful instruction tools we can offer our children. ~Kristina Komorowski, mother of 2, Portland OR

 

 

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

Mindfulness vs. Mindlessness

Contributed by Justina Hertzler

 


Mindlessness, aka losing my mind, often overwhelms me when I'm at my most vulnerable. Those times when I have to accomplish something in a short period of time while maintaining the calm amongst two tiny people who can sense my growing anxiety. A place I've been in several times over the course of writing this entry.  "Just a minute," or "give me a sec," are flying out of my mouth left and right, while my brain switches into multitask mode.  As if on cue, tiny number two hones in on my location, starts yelling, signing "milk," and demanding to be picked up.  This causes tiny number one to scream and run around the house, inciting dog, assuming the loudest gets the most attention (which is mostly true).  I check the time, feel my anxiety level ratchet up a notch, and push on, despite feeling paralyzed by the noise, and growing needs of the kiddos. Insert favorite mindfulness practice.  Slow down.  Stop multitasking all. the. time.  When I calm my mind, peace settles around us, and time seems to slow down.  It allows me to get down on my children's level to assess their needs, and block out the distractions whirling around in my head.  It may be but a lingering moment, but it feels like an accomplishment.  It’s my answer to my despair about the speed of life.  Intentionally taking one task at a time, literally keeping a slower pace, has been a relief.

 

One might wonder why, if I so desire to slow down, am I'm often hurrying my three year old.  "Lets go, we have to hurry" was a common command at our house until recently.  Resisting the urge to constantly hurry my children, mostly the three year old, is a daily practice  That's not to say that I'm never in a hurry, or that I don't try to quickly usher my children out the door at times.  I've just decided to remove "hurry up" from my vocabulary, attempting to respect the environment we all share.  It also makes for a more pleasant exit.  I adopted this the instant I read Hands Free Mama, "The day I stopped saying hurry up."  My three year old is always mindful, always noticing, always with insight into our adult lives, and she is slow.  As she should be, that is the freedom of childhood.  Instead of rushing her, I give her more time to process.  Instead of hurrying her out the door I make time to engage in what she is doing at the moment, and take it in with her.  Deleting "hurry up" is a reminder to savor this time with my children, rather than rushing mindlessly from activity to activity.  

 

During the day I have very little time to myself to just think.  My youngest still naps twice a day, but her sister is on overdrive from morning until night.  Talking to me or at me, engaging me at every possible moment, is a trait that I work hard to embrace, but gets the best of me at times.  I really enjoy peace and quiet.  No background music during the day (unless we are having a three year old dance party), no ear buds on runs, no special play lists for long drives (probably a pod cast or two, I'm not that crazy), so the all day barrage of three year old banter is tough.  My reprieve comes when I'm nursing the baby to sleep, in three 20-minute windows.  It's tempting to take my phone into the quiet dark room and mindlessly browse the web while she is nodding off to sleep.  But this time feels sacred.  Instead I've committed to just being during naptime.  Rocking back and forth with a sleeping baby and just looking at her, being mindful of this place in time.  No phone.  It's my favorite.  There really isn't an email or text that can't wait.  My children notice when I have too much going on during the day.  Having time to collect my thoughts rather than checking status updates, keeps us all sane.  

 

I want to be here, in this season of life as long as possible.  My three year old can't wait to be a "mommy with a kid, a baby and a daddy (husband),'' but I'm hoping to take the slow road to that party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justina Hertlzer lives in Lancaster Pennsylvania with her two beautiful daughters and Brew Master/Frisbee throwing husband. She is a Registered Nurse and Magical Mama committed to holistic health, mindful parenting, and global transformation through personal healing.