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OWN IT — Embracing Motherhood as Path

By June 21, 2017Blog, Media

An arti­cle I wrote for The Yoga Lunch­box about Spilt Milk Yoga — What it is — Where you can get some more — and How moth­ers are chang­ing the world!

 Moth­er­hood is a fast-track oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain­ing self-knowledge.

What does self-knowl­edge mean? What is inner work and how do we DO it? How does one actu­al­ly self-transform?

Moth­er­hood is like the most intense, long haul retreat you could ever go on; you meet your best and your worst behav­iours, and no mat­ter what you have to show up every day and be “Mum”, even when you don’t feel up to it. And yet, it’s espe­cial­ly when we don’t feel up to it that we have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to find a new way forward.

If we choose to approach motherhood as path then the truly confronting, life-changing, deeply human work of mothering becomes a fast-track opportunity to gain insight into our habits and choices, and cultivate some new behaviours more aligned with our aspirations.

Moth­er­hood has pushed me to the edges of my love, anger, tol­er­ance, exhaus­tion, and self-doubt, time and time again – it has called up my most base emo­tion­al reac­tiv­i­ty, dredged up old fam­i­ly sys­tems, and forced me through the min­cer of my own worst behav­iour. Whether my kids are 3 and 6, 9 and 12, or now 13 and 17, I’m a per­son-in-progress, learn­ing, espe­cial­ly when I’m a mother-meeting-challenging-moments!

Moth­er­hood has giv­en me dai­ly oppor­tu­ni­ties to grow my capac­i­ty for patience, to find new ways to love and be along­side some­one at their most vul­ner­a­ble, even when that some­one is me. I have had count­less oppor­tu­ni­ties to be more self-respon­si­ble, to set clear­er bound­aries, to slow my heat­ed reac­tions down. But how do we catch our­selves in the many spilt milk moments? And what do we DO then?

Working out what to practice, when and how, and having the wherewithal to find options other than shouting, crying, collapsing inward, zoning out, or missing the moment, is where the inner work of motherhood lies.

Over the last 25 years I’ve coached and direct­ed indi­vid­u­als and groups in self-inquiry and reflec­tive learn­ing process­es. Using action meth­ods to reflect on spe­cif­ic moments from each person’s own set­ting, enables insight to emerge from the whole self, as all of our men­tal, emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal intel­li­gences are engaged.

This fits beau­ti­ful­ly in a yoga frame as we live and respond in action. By engag­ing the sen­so­ry body, we are able to lit­er­al­ly prac­tice and feel the effect of doing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent­ly. This is an expe­ri­ence of embod­ied trans­for­ma­tion; inten­tion inte­grat­ed into a devel­op­ing sense of self that is respon­sive to our liv­ing, to the choic­es in front of us, to our capac­i­ty to change.

Last year US pub­lish­ers, Famil­ius, pub­lished my book Spilt Milk Yoga – A Guid­ed Self-Inquiry to Find­ing Your Own Wis­dom, Joy, and Pur­pose Through Moth­er­hood which takes the work of self-inquiry, cou­pled with con­tem­pla­tive yoga prac­tices, and applies them to the dai­ly jour­ney of motherhood.

Spilt Milk Yoga is the practice of growing ourselves through the process of growing our children, coming to know ourselves, understanding why we do what we do, articulating what we want to cultivate, and creating new ways forward for ourselves, so we can live our lives as we want to, as mothers, today.

Spilt Milk Yoga is NOT a par­ent­ing book, or a book of yoga pos­es, it is the yoga we do on the inside; devel­op­ing our inner flex­i­bil­i­ty, grace, strength, soft­ness, steadi­ness and bal­ance. By apply­ing self-trans­form­ing prac­tices to our expe­ri­ence as moth­ers we pro­found­ly effect not just our own lives, but the lives of our children.

Being a read­er of the Yoga Lunch­box, you’ll prob­a­bly know that the word “yoga” means to yoke. To yoke some­thing is to har­ness its ener­gy and turn it to good use. By con­scious­ly yok­ing the work we do as moth­ers to grow­ing our self-knowl­edge, we align each to enrich the other.

I want to turn attention for a moment to that little word OWN in the subtitle; Finding Your OWN Wisdom, Joy, and Purpose through Motherhood. That OWN word matters.

In the spilt milk moments of my day, I have to OWN my behav­iour in order to work with it. In the face of my OWN expe­ri­ence and cir­cum­stance, the most fruit­ful prac­tices are ones that lead me to my OWN wis­dom, joy and pur­pose, not some­one else’s, MINE.

In coach­ing stu­dents, par­ents, pro­fes­sion­als, and moth­ers the most pro­found rev­e­la­tions, trans­for­ma­tions and shifts I’ve wit­nessed occur when peo­ple con­nect to, artic­u­late, and come to know their OWN truth. From there they are able to ori­ent to their OWN pur­pose, con­nect to their OWN wis­dom, and wake up to, and effect, their OWN actions and choic­es. This is embod­ied trans­for­ma­tion, a shift made by the whole self.

I’ll give you a beautiful example of a moment of embodied transformation from a recent Spilt Milk Yoga group. Participants were reflecting on a spilt milk moment from their week and what they were wanting to cultivate in response to it.

One moth­er, Anne, said she want­ed to fol­low her intu­ition in moth­er­ing moments when she lost her way. She described a grow­ing sense of unease and anx­i­ety in her gut, espe­cial­ly when she had to make her daugh­ter, Bel­la, do spelling home­work. Her school had expressed some con­cern that Bel­la had a learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ty, so home­work time was fraught with the addi­tion­al pres­sure of Anne’s desire for Bel­la to focus, to prac­tice, to learn, espe­cial­ly as Bel­la much pre­ferred doing cart­wheels in the lounge.

I direct­ed Anne lay­ing out the scene she had in mind from her week. Anne is amid din­ner prepa­ra­tions, shep­herd­ing home­work and jug­gling the busy­ness of the evening. Sud­den­ly Bel­la shouts “Done it!” and aban­don­ing her half-fin­ished home­work leaps up enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly to show her mum her cart­wheel prac­tice. Anne enters the lounge sees the half-fin­ished, mis­spelt, home­work, gives up, and with the feel­ing in her gut inten­si­fy­ing, turns to the kitchen to pick up her phone as a dis­trac­tion. This is the crit­i­cal moment Anne has iden­ti­fied in which she wants to con­nect to her intuition.

Have you ever heard someone say they followed their gut instinct? I interviewed Anne to find out more about her gut feeling, coaching her into the role of her gut where she could give voice and form to this powerful force in her life.

Revers­ing roles between her­self and her gut Anne was then able to meet, engage with, and come to know this part of her­self. And who do you think she met? “I am your intu­ition,” her gut feel­ing told her, “I am telling you to Stop, Breathe, and Look at your daughter.”

In order for Anne to enact this instruc­tion I direct­ed her to become Bel­la for a moment, upside down in her cart­wheel­ing joy. “Look mum, look,” she shout­ed excit­ed­ly “I’ve been prac­tic­ing and I’m get­ting bet­ter. I know I’m not skin­ny like the oth­er girls at gym and I’m not as good, but I’m prac­tic­ing, I’m learn­ing, I’m get­ting bet­ter and I can even do this!”

Back in role as her­self, watch­ing and hear­ing her daughter’s words, Anne saw some­thing that changed her world. Bel­la did have stick­a­bil­i­ty, she did have focus, she was prac­tic­ing over and over, she was learn­ing a skill. Bel­la was prac­tic­ing learn­ing. With this real­i­sa­tion Anne was flood­ed with relief and joy, and cel­e­brat­ed Bella’s stick­a­bil­i­ty, and her own learn­ing, with a few cart­wheels of her own.

To strength­en the con­nec­tion to her intu­ition I had Anne and her intu­ition make a deal. “If you ignore me,” said her intu­ition “I will send you a strong sig­nal in your gut to lis­ten.” Anne told her intu­ition “When I get that sig­nal I’ll remem­ber it is you, my intu­ition, telling me to Stop, Breathe, Look, and I will LISTEN to myself!”

Anne fin­ished the ses­sion with a strength­ened con­nec­tion to her intu­ition, with renewed trust in her­self, and her daughter’s abil­i­ty to learn. She could see that Bel­la was good at learn­ing and prac­tic­ing, and that she as a moth­er could be more pur­pose­ful in sup­port­ing this expres­sion of her daughter’s abil­i­ty to focus, prac­tice, and learn. Need­less to say, the oth­er moth­ers present were all affect­ed by Anne’s work, and the learn­ing and wis­dom were shared and appre­ci­at­ed by all.

Weeks lat­er Anne told me she felt the sig­nif­i­cance of that moment across gen­er­a­tions. Lis­ten­ing to her­self and real­ly see­ing her daugh­ter had shift­ed her rela­tion­ship with her moth­er and her grand­moth­er. She told me that although it was a change just between her and Bel­la, she felt as if she was chang­ing the world.

Mothers are world changers. This is the work I am interested in. This is the work I am committed to.

By meet­ing moth­er­hood con­scious­ly as path we engage with a mighty force for self-trans­for­ma­tion that has the pow­er to affect us all; our chil­dren, our fam­i­lies, our com­mu­ni­ties and our world, across generations.

So back to you, moth­ers, friends of moth­ers, part­ners of moth­ers, chil­dren of moth­ers. To all the moth­ers work­ing your butts off and hearts out being the best moth­ers you can be, and won­der­ing how not to go crazy in the lag between per­son­al and social enlight­en­ment – you are the moth­ers I wrote Spilt Milk Yoga for, and this work is ded­i­cat­ed to you.


OWN IT – Embrac­ing Moth­er­hood as Path

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