Friday, August 19, 2016

Observing

Part of being mindful is just watching. I see myself watching my kids. I see the receipt I forgot to say no to. I see myself crumpling it up and putting it in the recycle bin.

I pause. I remember the receipt is coated with BPA. I see myself pick it up and put it in the trash bin. I resolve to avoid more receipts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mindful anger

I got angry. My daughter was tired and cranky, and we were both hungry. We got home and found the driveway blocked, both yards covered with leaves and a big mess back there, along with the fact that the tree trimmers were not supposed to arrive yet.

I yelled. I railed at the world. Halfway through, I caught myself - here, this is anger. I'm really angry. I'm feeling it. This is me angry - a tightness in my chest, shoulders hunched, neck tight, brow furrowed, breath forced. Breathe - this is definitely less big a deal than the weight I give it now, but I'm not ready. I am enjoying my anger, this feeling of indignation, of "how could they?!"

Then I get perspective. Someone says, you know, those are nice guys, just talk to them. Someone says, don't yell at me. My daughter looks on in awe, wondering what is next. I sigh, I drift back down to earth. It's ok. It will be okay. It was okay. Here, now, we can get through this.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Jetlag and mindfulness

After travel, I lie awake in bed, unable to sleep.

This is jetlag - I tell myself, if I don't sleep now, I will nap during the day and the cycle won't end. The kids and my schedules will be off. I fear the chaos that may come.

Then I see, allow our bodies to rest. Even here in bed in the middle of the night, I can remember to be mindful. This is a good time to meditate as long as I want in bed, a time to sit and reflect, to just be aware of the busy-ness about me, to breathe and enjoy the silence of the night.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Mindful while sick

It is very difficult to be mindful while ill. Especially the congested sore throaty kind. With kids. On a plane. In the middle of the night.

Still, it offers an opportunity to rest, drink all the water I want and need, meditate, and not worry about the kids so much.

Avoiding the extra plastic is difficult as well, with all the disposables on board. We brought our water bottles to use, and some cloths to wipe hands, but the rest is as it is. Flying itself is the least green of travel choices, so we will offset this trip and plant some trees, then avoid air travel for a while!

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Mindfulness and the recycling bin

Each place has its own recycling system, but most differ from the United States - separate everything seems to be a motto. When recycling is separated well, it is less contaminated, meaning more can actually be recycled when sorting happens.

So if you have just been dumping everything into your bin straight after use, give it a mindful once-over. I'm going to gently rinse my ice cream boxes, scrape out peanut butter jars, bag my paper bits, and generally be a little more careful about what goes in the blue bin. This makes a good opportunity to see what is coming in and going out as well. The family will have to play along, too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mindful cooking

We try to eat organically grown foods, buy locally grown produce, and avoid overly processed items. I'm not above the treats and sweets, however. Still, there is a joy in cooking.

The key to mindful cooking, a teacher recently told me, is preparation. Get all your ingredients ready. For us that might mean gathering garden vegetables and herbs together, or going shopping at the farmers market. Spend time chopping all the vegetables (I do mine Sunday night with conversation! Kids can help!). Decide what you will make - simple one-pot meals, rice dishes, stews, soups and lots of no-cook sides are good to please all palates. Prep ingredients by measuring them out into bowls in advance.

Now you can get to cooking. Breathe, put love into it. I like to sometimes have calming music, but it's not necessary. I pour and mix, I listen to it sizzle, smell the aromas, look at the colors, stir, feel the heat, sometimes taste. I try to stay present instead of daydreaming.

Sometimes I use the oven. The kids press the light button to take a peek. Sometimes we cook in the solar oven - they watch the shadows and turn it. Sometimes we use a rice cooker or toaster oven or dehydrator or waffle iron or cake pop maker or some other fascinating device.

Usually, we cook on the gas stove. Electric or something else might be more eco-friendly, but for now this works well. The kids come and pull up a chair to stand on. They pour in the premeasured ingredients. They stir and sprinkle, drizzle and saute. They inhale, they lick fingers. We ooh over the bubbles, aah over aromas, mmm over sips. We dance while we wait, or they go play while I stand and breathe and the water gets ready to boil, the sauce simmers, the rice cooks.

Finally, with a flourish, the stove is turned off. Dinner is served.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Mindful on the plane - again

Another plane ride. We are sitting. He child asks constant questions. I listen, and answer. The announcement goes. The rain pours. Buckles click. A cacophony of sounds and it all registers, comes and goes. This is a lesson in attention, I tell myself. This is a lesson in acceptance, and in patience.

Soon we will be above the planet. A lesson in perspective. Moving but not moving, a lesson in change. Landing - a lesson in courage, in patience again, in impermanence. Here we are, fasten your seatbelt!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mindful crying

Sometimes things can send me over the edge. I'm generally a dispassionate person, though the right movie sends me into tears. In real life, I rarely cry due to pain or suffering, but it happens occasionally, as it did recently when I encountered a day packed with constant tantrums and language that really hurt.

After a good cry, I managed to stop and just feel how I felt. So this is sadness and this is anger. This is self pity. That dull ache in my heart, leaky eyes, a semblance of headache, jaw clenched, body drained.

I gave my daughter some loving kindness. Then I remembered myself - this is so hard. It's ok, you're human. I hope you will be safe and happy.

A good night's sleep and the world rises anew.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Minding the laundry

Drying clothes on the line is meditative, too. Take each item, wring out if necessary, flick to straighten, hang, clip.

Each piece placed, considering the sun, the organization of the clothes by size and type, pairing socks, and I am focused on this task, not daydreaming. I feel the sunlight on my skin, see the view, hear the sounds of the city,  smell the nearby flowers, taste the breeze.

The laundry, too, smells lovely, feels cool and damp. On the sunniest days, I watch the first nearly dry by the time the last are hung. I take a deep breath and exhale, then turn to survey the clothes.

I'll be back later to rotate, move some in if it drizzles, collect the dry ones and fold. By for now, this is complete as it is.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Car meditation

A long ride (when you are not the driver) is perfect for a nap, but also meditation, because you can be alert for the driver and kids but not knocked out!

I sit, and the kids squabble, but eventually they settled down with a snack or gazing out the window or a little game they have invented, or a song they like. I get a few minutes to close my eyes or stare out the window. Eventually one falls asleep, and I am here, quietly, breathing, letting the landscape pass, the road sweep under me, the silence pervade the car, no longer inside a vehicle but the vehicle itself, no longer watching the view but immersed in it.

I'm jolted by a crying child, but I can go back to this quiet when I get a moment, seeing with new eyes.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Impact of Mindfulness

Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, has a great article on Mindfulness in regard to waste (just the topic of this blog!)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Mindful paper use

We are hoarders of paper at our house. Scrap artwork? Uh, yeah. Envelope? Yes, please. Cereal box? Oh yes! Cardboard box? Yay!!!

I pretty much never get unused paper, and even that is secondhand or promotional notepads or discards. The kids are used to drawing on their own old artwork, and go to the paper bin for anything from magazines to old school worksheets. They re-color old coloring, turn it into origami, then paper airplanes, then for collages. Kids can understand that paper comes from trees, so it's good to use less and help them live - for shade, birds, fruit, and more.

I, in turn, save those leftovers for notepads or grocery lists or journal paper. When they finally make it to the recycle bin, they are sometimes rescued for making new paper, projects, origami - or they make their way out to be turned into new paper.

Mindfulness, kids, technology

I was going to write a post on technology and how we and our kids are addicted, and how we should get off for the sake of the planet, but this one just pretty much did it for me, for adults at least:

https://medium.com/swlh/how-technology-hijacks-peoples-minds-from-a-magician-and-google-s-design-ethicist-56d62ef5edf3#.tya50w9ws

Practical tips here:
https://medium.com/swlh/distracted-in-2016-reboot-your-phone-with-mindfulness-9f4c8ad46538#.son63122x

For kids, I try sometimes to give them the first choice of something real over a technology solution:

Instead of...
a video game - play a board game
Instead of...
Netflix - watch live television (if you have a DVR, pause during ads and then forward), or an audiobook
Instead of...
Kindle - read a paper book (from the library!)
Instead of...
Looking it up online - check an encyclopedia or the library Instead of...
Audiobooks - read or tell them a story
Instead of...
A movie - see a play
Instead of...
Email - send a card or letter
Instead of...
Text - make a phone call
Instead of...
Online - go offline!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Mindful bathing

Children love water. We water plants, wash hands, bathe.

Here, whike we are in India, the scarcity of water makes it all the more precious. We fill a bucket with heated water, then add cold water until just right. The kids get a mug with which to pour water on their bodies, and a half bar of glycerin soap. They get to play, enjoy the feel of the water on their skin as long as they like, and save any leftover water for the next person!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Mindful consoling

As parents, we are often consoling our children, and asking obvious questions - did you fall? Are you okay?

I am trying to take a moment to just be - here, lean in,let me hold you, oh, darling, I'm here. I'm here, and now. I'm holding her, present, breathing, needing nothing more. Her tears smear my cheeks, my neck. No stuff, no toys.  We are consuming nothing but space and oxygen. This is green, this is mindful, this is just a few moments of totally present.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Meditation in bed

We are in India - hot and jetlagged. I awake and it's only 4am, kids turn over next to me in our one shared bed, awakening and asleep.

I consider just waking up, but I know it will stir the household, plus my body needs rest. My mind is awake. So I start to breathe. Just a few deep breaths lying down. My back hurts, so I raise my knees.

My breath deepens, then flows to a rhythm that's familiar. I feel my soft belly, the one that once housed life, rise and fall. I drift to memories of their birth, then return, breathing.

My body grows languorous. It grounds into the bed, a feeling of sinking. I breathe and return.

My mind stills. I breathe.

My little one stirs beside me, "Amma," she calls.

Yes, I breathe. I am here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Mindfulness in flight

It's not an occasion that happens to everyone, but travel is kind of its own retreat. International travel with children might well be a trial by fire.

You just have to let go during travel - go through security, do a lot of standing around, be alert and ready, wait at the gate, watch your bags, sit, buckle, eat when meals are served, be quiet when the lights are off, steady yourself through turbulence, prepare for landing. It parallels a meditation session, in a way.

Here I am, a seven hour flight to Frankfurt, not too bad by overseas flight standards. Over four hours in, I have watched no movies or TV (yet), though I plan to. Whike children watched TV and explored, here is what I did:

- got in and settled with a drink, sipping slowly and answering my children's excited questions, helping them get settled and find their headphones and stuff
- exercises - eyes and in-seat yoga and breathing and abs sitting up and stretches
- mindful walk to and from bathroom
- ate a lunch silently complete with champagne and tea while daughter ate hers and I fed her
- wrote three blog posts and sent four emails and took a photo and sent an ecard
- gratitude and journaling
- compassion and lovingkindness practice
- read a full magazine article about climate change and today's page in Simple Abundance
- did some brain teaser games
- filled out some calendars for July and August
- said some Sanskrit prayers
- sang to myself
- drawing for fun
- got kids some extra snacks and vitamins from bags
- watched the flight route
- meditation for 40 minutes

It has been a lovely trip, and I might never have thought plane travel without a good book or show possible otherwise. Of course I am lucky the children aren't having tantrums or crying, that I have let them watch as much as they want, eat when they want, sleep or not - they are old enough to mostly occupy themselves.  Flights when my children were younger were horribly tough, but sweet in different ways (ok, sometimes only in retrospect).

My daughter is napping now as the lights are off! I think I will watch something uplifting, then rest, too.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Mindfulness, green, and children

If I were to rename this blog, I would call it Green Mom Sangha, because those three cover the things I am most passionate about and interested in and love - being sustainable in everyday life, sharing and being with my kids, and mindfulness, to which I have devoted more time lately.

There are many, many books, blogs and other materials available to those who wish to bring mindfulness to parenting, and likewise being mindfully green is an emerging, growing area. Still, if you want to be green AND mindful with your kids, you have only a few small choices, and not necessarily instructions. So...I hope to fill this gap with a few posts. Please let me know if this is useful to you!

I'll start with getting outside. Fresh air helps children appreciate nature to want to take care of it, and a view of trees is calming, giving oxygen. From the point of view of mindfulness it gives us a lesson in interconnectedness and impermanence, as trees grow, leaves fall, flowers bloom and wilt, then compost below to give new life.

A simple way with little ones is to go for a walk. A stroller for the younger ones is fine. They may have food and drink but avoid other distractions for yourself and them. Put away the phone. Take out the earbuds. Carry a single bag to pick up trash along the way.

Stroller and walking meditation

Walk - slowly and deliberately. Feel the ground beneath your feet, the handles in your hands, the flex of your toes.

Notice the breeze on your face, the ground before you. Each step is a lift, a movement, a careful placing of your foot. Bring your attention to your breath - in and out.

When your child needs your attention, stop the stroller. Go to her kindly, and help silently, with a gentle smile. If she is screaming, console her as long as she needs. If he wants to go back, turn around. If they want to examine rocks, let them. If they ask a question, answer. If you or they see trash, pick it up.  If you see something beautiful you want to share, stop and share it. This is the moment.

When your are stopped, breathe. Slow your walking. Focus on the in and out of the breath. You may wish to count your steps or your breaths.

When thoughts arise, stop to return your focus to the breath, or slow down. You are here, now, in the ground under your feet. You are solid. You are all together, and free.