An Afternoon Oasis in a Sea of Stress

An Afternoon Oasis in a Sea of Stress

What a perfect afternoon.

An afternoon to remind me of the power of one-on-one time. Of observation and connection. Of slowing down.

Straight after GG’s nap – when he’s often super grumpy – I took him out for a date. And yes, I totally bribed him out of his bad mood with ice cream, I’ll admit it. But watching him eat it was a meditation. He loved every lick, every bite of the cone. He was so in the moment he couldn’t even speak to me while he ate.

Every meal should be like a 3-year-old boy eating ice cream.

After the ice cream we ran around an empty mall. Hopped, jumped, fell to the ground at his whim. I showed him how to do somersaults in a baby play area. I fought the urge to play with my phone when his attention wandered from me, and instead kept mine glued to him. Yet another exercise in mindfulness. In staying in the present for once.

On the way home we stopped to fill the car up with petrol. He got out with me and asked questions. A million “why’s” that for once I had the time and the head space to answer. Or try to answer.

Why is petrol dangerous for little kids, anyway?

It was just an hour and a half, but we so needed that time, GG and me. Time together with no agenda, no bathing or dinnertime or bedtime battles. No baby sister or other adults. Just us.

When we got home, some kids from his new kindergarten were meeting in the local playground, so his dad took him to join them. And so it was just me and Little A at home. Again – a rare treat.

Babies seem simpler, but I think that’s just because we don’t pay them enough attention.

Every move this kid makes is an exploration, an experiment, an expression. Every turn of her hand is a preparation for her next move, or bite of food, or request. And I’m her mama, I know her back to front, I can preempt her requests before she’s even made them – but sometimes it’s beautiful not to. Rather, to lay next to her and see the world through her eyes for a few moments.

We ate, played, bathed. For once I wasn’t rushed as I washed her, fending off GG’s “help” in the form of buckets of water on her head. Instead I watched her examine each toy with her mouth, giggled with her, cuddled and marveled at how big she’s gotten, though it seems like she was born just yesterday.

It all sounds awfully flowerly, I know. But that’s really how it felt.
An oasis of joy in a sea of stress, emails, anxiety, drop offs and pick ups.

A reminder of what it’s all about.

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On Patience and Parenting

On Patience and Parenting

I think I just drove home behind the worst driver in Tel Aviv.

He pulled out from a driveway with no warning, then proceeded to drive at 30km/h for about 10km along a relatively clear suburban road.It didn’t take long for the anger to start building inside of me, along with urges to honk my horn loudly and speed around him. But as luck would have it I was feeling fairly mindful and centered, and decided to take the opportunity practice my patience. I wasn’t in a hurry and worst case scenario he was going to slow me down a few minutes.

Easier said than done.

I took a deep breath and continued crawling along behind the (apparently elderly) driver, totally into my little exercise. Yet within moments my mind was again yelling “overtake him!” “come on!” and “hoooooooonk.” I’d almost decide to follow through when I’d remember I was meant to be being patient and settle myself back down. It was only a few minutes until he took a different turn from me and the ordeal was over – but it felt like hours. Over and over and over – deciding to be calm and then feeling the rage bubbling up. Mindfulness returning, breathe calming, and repeat.

That’s the thing with patience – it’s not an on-off switch. Sometimes we’ve gotta choose it over and over and over again, even in a short space of time and on relatively unimportant issues.

The experience made me think of GG, and how hard it is sometimes to be patient with toddlers. He’s really into construction at the moment, and spends a lot of time building towers out of duplo or magna tiles. Usually he’s pretty happy in the process but sometimes he gets so frustrated, and my first instinct of course is to fix it, to show him the way out of his suffering. But I want to let him sort these things out himself and so I hold back, take a deep breath, and maybe reflect his frustration back to him.

 

Patience 101

And then a second later, almost before I know it my hand is reaching out to steady a tile for him, giving him pointers, “suggesting” a solution. I have to keep reminding myself over and over again – patience. Just breathe. You don’t need to do anything.

 

It goes against something inherent inside of me and yet with practice I’m finding that sometimes it kicks in all by itself. Those moments where everything just flows – there’s an element of automatic patience at play. Just letting things be without acting on the need to get involved, to fix,  to meddle.

No easy feat but totally worth it when it works – for the look on GG’s face when he makes the tower all by himself. Or when I get to arrive home calm and proud of myself for managing to follow through with a minor task I set myself just for fun.

Said, woman, take it slow
It’ll work itself out fine
All we need is just a little patience
Said, sugar, make it slow
And we come together fine
All we need is just a little patience

– Guns N’ Roses

Stuffing My Face Mindfully

Stuffing My Face Mindfully

I am hungry all the time.

Okay that’s not entirely true. When my mouth is full of food I’m okay, as well as directly after (most) meals. A few minutes later I have a short window during which I’m just peckish, and then BAM! Starving again.

So what’s a girl to do, right? I’m pregnant, gotta eat. Especially after the first trimester – then if I let the peckish feeling go on for more than about 5 seconds I’d be rewarded with instant nausea. Gotta eat.

But I just realized – I’ve been eating crap, basically all the time. Somewhere during this emotional rollercoaster of the postpartum period, going back to work full-time, getting pregnant then miscarrying, getting pregnant again and having to terminate that one, and then this current pregnancy, I got stuck in the comfort food zone. And understandably so. I was just so focused on “taking care” of myself – being kind and giving myself a break – that I forgot about other way to take care of myself with food.

Nourishing my body.

My decision a couple of weeks ago to put my vegetarianism on hold for health reasons was the trigger. As I went through ways to get the most out of a few servings of meat a week – not eating meat with dairy and upping my veggie intake for example – I finally brought some awareness to how I’d really been eating. For longer than I’d care to admit. And as soon I had the thought, it was a done deal. There’s no point eating meat to feel better now and prepare my body for birth if I’m gonna keep downing pastries every second day and subsisting on a predominantly carb-and-cheese diet. Delicious as it may be.

Just like that, my diet changed.

I got back to eating nutritional snacks like nuts and veggies and fruit in between meals, and while my appetite is still mammoth it feel does like I have a bit longer between the crashes. I’m also craving healthier foods more often, and happy for a bit of dark chocolate here and there (ok every day but come on! It’s a superfood) rather than fatty, sugary desserts all the freaking time.

But what I’m eating isn’t the point. It’s not about diet and it’s certainly not about weight loss. It’s just about how when we open our eyes – and really look – everything changes.

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Pregnant Priorities

Pregnant Priorities

I’m 19 weeks now, and I’ve realized that the only way to get through this pregnancy without feeling like absolute crap all the time is to prioritize. If I want to get 8 hours sleep every night – which I do – I basically have no option but to give my family, my job and my health top priority. Everything else has to take a back seat.

The truth is, I learnt this lesson a while ago. That if I wanted to live a conscious, intentional life – which I do – I can’t do everything. I can’t even attempt it. I learnt that in order to make space for quality time with my son and my husband, there needs to be blank spaces in my schedule. Time to listen to each other, to prepare healthy food, to do what we feel like at a given time. Time to be.

This way of living doesn’t come naturally to me. My gut tells me to go go go, all the time. To fit in catching up with friends and seeing family and chatting on the phone and going out and making it to three yoga classes a week and however many hours my job demands. My motto was always “I can sleep when I’m dead.” And it was a lot of fun for a time there – but that time has passed. Maybe it’ll return one day, who knows, but this life we’re building now requires a calmer pace.

Back to now. To be honest, my life right now is pretty repetitive. Wake up around 6am, spend a couple of hours with my boys, head to work. Come home, couple of hours with GG, get him to bed. An hour with the husband before I crash if we’re lucky. Repeat until the weekend.

On the weekend there’s a bit more room to breathe. I can generally make it to a yoga class, maybe catch up with a friend, and fit in plenty of slow family time. I do everything I can to take afternoon naps, in the hopes that they’ll fuel me through that urge I have at 2pm every other day to curl up under my desk and take a long snooze.

I also started eating a bit of meat (for the first time in over 10 years), which has made a big difference to how I feel overall. As an ideological vegetarian I still struggle with this decision, but it’s the right one for me for now. I was totally exhausted and suffering from two-day long headaches before I tried out the meat and now I’m feeling so much better. Again, it’s a matter of conscious priorities.

There are things that I miss. Time with friends, relaxing with my husband at night and jogging to name a few. But there’s a special feeling building at the same time, an excitement, anticipation. And slowing things down a bit gives us a few extra moments to really be in it. To honor this in between time before the addition of the next member of our family.

Even if I’m passed out on the couch for a good chunk of it.

How to Be a Mindful Working Mama

How to Be a Mindful Working Mama

Being a working mama is hard. I went back to work full-time after seven months on maternity leave, and the month that followed was one of the hardest of my life. I was nervous about leaving GG, getting my brain back into work mode was hell, I was racked with guilt, and exhausted to boot.

Now, one-and-a-half years later, I feel like I’m starting to get a handle on it. I’m sure in a few years time I’ll have loads more insight to share – it’s a skill after all, and this is all just practice – but this is what I’ve learned so far:

1. Choose Your Job Wisely

Being an awesome mama and having a thriving career aren’t mutually exclusive – but not every working situation is a good match for the gig. Especially not in the first few years. I had a high-pressure job that required insane hours and dedication a few years back and I loved it – but I recognize that right now is not the time for such a position.

Similarly, two of my close friends are currently in the process of getting themselves out of work situations that are negatively effecting their personal lives. Two part-time jobs instead of one full-time job sounded like a great idea in theory – lots of flexibility and variety – but it turns out there’s no such thing as a part-time job. Instead, these two awesome mamas are neither seeing their kids as much as they want nor paying the bills, so they’re realizing that it’s time to reel it in.

A full-time job can sound daunting right after maternity leave – especially if you’re off work for more than a few months, but if you choose a family friendly workplace and set some boundaries it’s actually a lot less work.

2. Choose Your Childcare Wisely, Too

This is crucial. If you have an uneasy feeling in your gut about how your baby is being treated, you’re gonna feel guilty about leaving them and going to work. If you feel 100% comfortable about the daycare situation, you’re more likely to feel like you’ve made the right choice. For me, it was even bigger than that. I went back to work when GG was seven months old, and he’s been in a small family daycare ever since. From the first month I realized that not only was this okay – it was great for him. While we all had to adjust to eight hours apart five days a week, the clear reality was that GG was blossoming. He gained so much from making friends, learning how to go to sleep by himself, eating in group and making close relationships with other adults that now I wouldn’t have it other way.

3. Be Where You Are

Once you know that you’ve got a job that fits the life you want to lead and childcare that works for your family, it’s all about being where you are. If you’re thinking about work when you’re at home and home when you’re at work, you’re not being the best of yourself. Your work will suffer and so will your parenting. This is where you need to switch on your mindful attention.

Here’s what works for me: as much as possible, I use the Pomodoro Technique to maximize my efficiency at work. I write detailed, prioritized to-do lists for the next day before I leave the office each day, and then I work in 25-minute time slots to get through the tasks. This is the kicker: I turn my phone onto airplane mode for 25 minutes at a pop, during which time I’m totally focused on the task at hand. I check texts, emails, Facebook etc. in short breaks in between.

When I leave the office – I leave the office. When necessary I get in a few more hours at night once GG’s asleep, but from when I pick him up in the afternoon until he’s asleep, I’m in mama mode. I don’t answer phone calls, I don’t play with my phone except to take photos of him doing ridiculously cute things and I don’t check my emails. I enjoy every moment we have together – and I’m sure I’m a better mother for it.

When you’re at work, be at work. When you’re at home, be at home. Leave the exceptions for real emergencies.

GG visiting me at work last summer. A bad example of boundaries but a very cute photo. 

4. Take a Mini Meditation Break

I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a lifesaver for me. I have an alarm set on my phone for 11:45am every day. If I’m not in a meeting or involved in an urgent task when it goes off, I shut my office door and meditate for 10 minutes. Ultimately I’d like to be meditating every morning/night too, but it’s not happening right now and these mini meditation breaks help me keep a base level of mindful attention throughout the day. Give it a go and see if it works for you.

5. Reconnect at the End of the Day

I find mindfulness really important to ease into the transition from work to mothering. I make a point of pausing before I knock on the door at daycare or walk in the door at home if GG is already home with his father or grandmother: I take a deep breath, and ground myself. I make sure I’m fully present for that moment when we reunite at the end of our days.

Up until recently nursing was our reconnection ritual – now it’s finding a new place. Sometimes I join him in whatever he’s doing, sometimes it’s a long hug, sometimes a conversation. Making that conscious effort to really be with him for those first moments flicks the switch, and I’m home.

Who I Am, Today

Who I Am, Today

It seems that every time I’m in a transition period, I get the urge to write. I notice more and more words swirling around in my head, forming themselves into sentences and paragraphs and blog posts. Begging me to let them out. Elaborate metaphors and repetitive musings on the perfect headline.

I am a writer, after all.

This blog, in its first incarnation as The Juggling Act was born as I took part in a 10-day Vipassana meditation course, while I was in between jobs and about to settle down with my now-husband. I was bubbling with inspiration to share what I learned on that course with the world. More recently I changed the name to Mama in the Moment, in the midst of two pregnancy losses, a reinvigorated mindfulness practice, and endless hours fun and learning with our two-year-old son GG.

Why am I telling you all this?

As part of my most recent push to get this blog off the ground, I signed up for a Blogging University course, Blogging 101. This is my first assignment: to write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post.

So, who am I? 

I can tell you who I am today – it’s not exactly who I was yesterday and I’m making no promises about tomorrow. Well, tomorrow I’ll probably just be one day older, but who knows what happens next week or next month.

I am a mother. A mother trying to be as mindful and intentional about raising my beautiful son as possible. I believe that respect and communication are the most crucial parts of this budding relationship. I question what we’re doing and how we’re doing it all the time, whether my poor husband likes it or not. I love being a mother.

I am a writer, of sorts. At the moment I am the Editor in Chief of a happy nonprofit site called Goodnet.org – check it out; I like to think there’s something fun and inspiring for everyone at any given time. I also blog, here.

I am a wife, a daughter, a sister and a granddaughter.

I am a friend. I like to think I’m a pretty good friend, but the past couple of years have made me question that at times. I used to be incredibly social – out all the time and in touch with dozens of friends at a given time. It was a juggling act that I loved dearly, but not surprisingly I haven’t been able to keep it up since having a kid. I cherish the moments when my girlfriends and I do catch up and I laugh like I haven’t laughed since I stopped smoking pot. Those laughs nourish my soul.

I believe that meditation and yoga – and probably many other contemplative practices – hold the key to true happiness. The thought of more and more people using these tools to sort their minds out – me and mine included – makes me happy and hopeful.

I was born Jewish, but recently I’ve been thinking about coming out as a Buddhist. Shh… don’t tell the rabbi. I’m guessing there will be a post or two on that when I’m ready.

I am a woman, and proud of it. More and more so over the past couple of years, with my initiation into the weird and wonderful world of motherhood. The female body is amazing. I wish I felt that way about my own body 100% of the time – I’m working on it.

Elana Goldberg
This is me, right now: 9:25pm, on the couch, probably mere minutes away from sleep. Nice to meet you!

Well, that was a rant.

Next question:

What topics do you think you’ll write about?

Meditation, mindfulness, parenting, pregnancy, health, yoga, family, relationships and women’s business. Not in that particular order.

Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

I’d love to connect with mindful people around the world – mothers or otherwise. People who want to see the best in themselves and the people around them. Honest, thoughtful, beautiful people.

If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what do you hope to accomplish?

This is an important question – and again I can only answer for right now.

At the moment, I’m writing to polish my voice – in terms of my writing and also something deeper. I feel that I have a message to share, and I’m working on building the strength and confidence to shout it from the proverbial rooftops and feel okay with whatever happens after that. Some days it seems like the most natural thing in the world to do, other days it fills me with fear. If I blog successfully through the next year, I’d hope there would be more of the first kind of days.

From a more analytical perspective, I’d also like to grow my reader-base. I recently opened a Facebook page for this blog and I’m loving seeing the community develop there, too. So if what you’re reading here speaks to you – I’d love for you to either follow the blog or join me over on Facebook.

And that’s the end of the assignment! How did I do?

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Opening Your Mouth

3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Opening Your Mouth

I recently read an interesting article about three magical questions that supposedly have the power to increase emotional intelligence. The idea is simple – before you say anything, ask yourself:

1. Does this need to be said? 

2. Does this need to be said by me? 

3. Does this need to be said by me now? 

 
I read the article a few days ago and the questions have been running around and around in my head since. I don’t know much about emotional intelligence, but from a mindfulness perspective the concept is brilliant – regardless of the answers to the questions. The point is in the asking.

On this blog I babble and rant about mindfulness meditation and mindful eating, mindful walking and mindful breastfeeding – but what about mindful speech? How often do we pause before speaking to our kids, our partners, our colleagues, and take a moment to connect with the words that are already on their way from our brains through our mouths and into someone else’s ears? Or in other words – are we present when we talk?

The first question brings us out of our thoughts, forcing us into the role of observer in order to answer. A sentiment that seemed all important when it arose in the mind might look less pressing on a quick second round of investigation. Next, the second question allows us to look at ourselves critically, to question our role in a given interaction. Perhaps it’s not our place to comment, or maybe there’s someone else who would say this better? And lastly, the third question slows everything down, preventing a knee-jerk reaction and offering alternatives.

Whether we find the answer to the three questions is yes or no, there’s much to be learned from the process. We avoid saying something ranging from useless to hurtful or – and this is the interesting bit – we realize that we’re about to say something important and helpful. Sometimes the answer to all three of the questions is a resounding “yes,” and we can connect with the true purpose of our speech, and really stand behind our words.

This is mindful speech – wise, present and powerful.

Like all practices, this sort of thing takes practice. The last few days I’ve been jerking through the three questions in my head, ruminating on whether or not to speak and when in a way that probably leaves me looking weird and dumfounded a lot of the time. I’m guessing it’ll become second nature as time goes by – the questions will just merge into some sort of pause-slash-question-mark moment, and the answer will be clear.

In the meantime I’m enjoying the process, using it as yet another reminder to come back to the present – and talking a little less than usual, too.