Spilt Milk Yoga isn’t about the age of your children. It’s about YOU as a human in progress. I wrote Spilt Milk Yoga because I needed a way to give shape and a sense of progress to the mush of reactions, practices and aspirations going on in my head.
I have used this Intention chapter numerous times regardless of my children’s ages and for different situations, and my answers are always different. I wrote the guts of this chapter when my children were 3 and 6. Now they are 13 and 16 but I am still practicing Intention. I guess that’s why it’s called “having a Practice”; it’s ongoing.
In this blog I’ll share the Spilt Milk Yoga chapter on Intention and my self-inquiry answers today, as I practice using Intention to choose what I grow in my inner garden.
With intention as your compass you will always be travelling in the right direction.
HOW DO I GET THERE FROM HERE?
I’m in the back garden. It’s a nice day. My 6‑year-old is jumping on the trampoline. My 3‑year-old, who is a little less predictable in her ricochet trajectories, gets on too. It is a delightful, playful, good thing to do. It’s also tinged with danger, anxiety and a high possibility of things going wrong. I am enforcing turn-taking. I am keeping them safe. I am on hand to catch, guide, observe, encourage, rescue, represent in the negotiations, educate in good citizenship and loving relationships. Play is complex work!
I am also thinking that it’d be good to hang out the washing, that I need to get ready for the next thing, that I need a shower, to shop for dinner, and that deep down I want a break. I’d like to be hanging with another adult, perhaps at a workplace, or in my studio, doing my thing. I can’t let go of the feeling that I want to be somewhere else. Yup, I’m frustrated, stuck, feeling my potential going to waste.
Of course, being with my children is wonderful, mostly in fact. Wonderment and joy are a big part of our days together. I don’t want them to ever think I resented mothering them or felt burdened by them. It is my own thoughts and habits burdening me. I want to be with my children and clear of the burden. I know there is no substitute for being here, putting my all into this important work of play. But in this moment, I don’t feel fulfilled, stilled, at peace. I feel life is passing me by, happening somewhere else. I feel torn, underutilized. Is this the thing; that fulfillment is in any moment regardless of place and task? I imagined the prerequisites for fulfillment to be so much grander than this. It is good, this moment, but I am at sea about my purpose.
Intention is behind every action. Intention lifts you out of the ruts of old habits onto more a conscious path. Conscious intention is a compass that orients you to your true north. In new situations intention will guide you where you have no map. Without intention you are more likely to react to pressure in the moment, to make haphazard and inconsistent decisions and feel doubtful that you are going in the right direction.
The practice here is intention. Being intentional means you are more responsible for how your actions shape your life. To form intention it is necessary to tune in to what you are wanting to develop, what you aspire to, and the goals you may have in any situation. It is important to frame it in the positive. Rather than something you are trying NOT to do “To not compare myself to others”, make it something to DO “To stay centered in my own worth”. From here you have something to hold onto in challenging moments.
To appreciate the joy and worth of this moment of play.
To stay steady in the face of my child’s anger.
To be present when my child comes to me for a cuddle.
To value the good things I provide for my child.
The vaguer your intention, the vaguer the result. Your intention will change and develop but it is important to practice articulating your intentions nonetheless.
Write down a recent mothering situation you found challenging. What was challenging about it for you?
My daughter is distressed starting a new school and it is taking her a lot of inner strength to get through the days. At home she’s telling me how awful it is for her. I want to fix it for her, take away the anxiety and fear she experiences. But when I hear her distress I start to catastrophise too, “perhaps this was the wrong decision”, “what if she’s not ok?” “what if… what if…”. I want her to learn how to steady herself, not to run away from the challenge she’s facing, I can see it’s an opportunity to develop her resilience. But I get distressed at her distress. This won’t be the only time life will be challenging, I want to assist her knowing that there is a valuable opportunity here to develop some life long skills and philosophies, that she isn’t powerless. I want to be able to be alongside her, not to give deaf advice or push her to get over it, or deny her experience.
What are you wanting to develop in moments like this?
I want to develop my own steadiness in these moments, my own resilience, trust, acceptance and power to act. I want to be truly alongside at this time, steady, accepting, present.
Turn this into a Statement of Intention. (Remember to frame it in the positive.) My intention is to: use steadying practices when she comes to me in distress, to breathe consciously in order strengthen my own sense of acceptance, purpose and faith in our ability to learn and grow. To be present for her, to listen for cues for when to coach her toward action.
Put the above two answers into a statement;
In my life as mother I am practicing: steadiness.
So that: my children can come to know and accept their own fear alongside their power to act in the face of anxiety. That they feel my love and steady presence alongside them as they learn to be alongside themselves.
What is one way you could you practice this intention in your mothering day today?
When we check-in after school I’ll slow down, breathe, simply listen to her experience, and trust that she can meet this challenge. I’ll reflect back to her any action I hear that she is taking to create healthy choices for herself in the face of her anxiety.