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Gimme a W

Because I need to call the Waaaahmbulance.

Ow! My arm.

What did I do last night? Bruised knees – part of dancing on a wooden stage. Slight pull in one calf – from when my tap shoes skidded on the shaving cream residue still on the floor from the previous performance. Crunkly eyelashes – from multiple coats of mascara… but I could not remember doing a one armed cartwheel/ I don’t even know what to call that trick, not in my repertoire… I could not remember a drunk person falling on me… I could not remember lifting anything particularly cumbersome or heavy.

What did I do last night?

Oh wait! What did I do yesterday lunchtime?

I’m a 40 year old cheerleader with a 12kg child.

A 12kg child who woke up precisely 4 minutes before our squad was due to appear at a festival, and was too much in need of mummy cuddles to be interested in any other potential care giver.

So there we were, at a community event, running a community workshop, with me as the one who was leading the big group warm up dance.

So I just did it. With my toddler on my hip, held there with my left arm.

4:11 of medium intensity cardio, Baby sitting on one pom-pom as I waved the other about with double enthusiasm for balance… I noticed the extra weight as we did 1,2,3 jump, and during the side traveling rock-stomp around in the circle; but mainly I was balancing my focus between teaching the basic moves and checking Baby’s welfare – was her head not bobbing around too much, was that security biscuit she needed to hold not choking her…

As you do.

Etc etc – it all went along – at some point she was happy to hop down and I noticed the great relief of no longer holding her in one arm.

Performance/workshop over, time to sit and feed snacks to Baby before heading home to get ready for cabaret tech run.

Blah blah blah, amazing night of women’s performance, happy juices flowing as I feel at peace with my need to share absurd dance comedy with unsuspecting audiences.

Home, sleep, sun comes up.

Ow! My arm.

Knowing that tiredness and pain are both things that can be a source of grumpiness, I pledge to go gently while my arm heals.

Times of exertion call for times of replenishment, and I’m ok with the ratio changing as I gather birthdays behind me.

Recovery time may be longer, but if I settle into that truth as a beautiful truth, leaning into rather than resisting it; then I can enjoy some slow days with less expectations on myself.

Let the floor stay unswept for today, have a storybook marathon in the teepee, model self-kindness and patience with the process of healing.

Because if I try and operate as though I’m not tired and hurting, yes, I can get the things done, but I get cranky and snappy. And that’s not the tone I want our family to have.

So I come back to myself.

What do I need right now to be the best mum I can be with what I have in this moment?

Caregiver state of mind is everything.

As my mum’s beautiful teacher Lama Yeshe said: “May I be gentle with myself. For only then can I be gentle with others.”

And gentle is what my kids need from me.

It is a secret strength that I am working on. Slowly, and with patience!

The Dawn Chorus

“Mummy! Where are my toes? Where’s Garden Bunny? Where’s my orange blanket? Where are Mummy’s toes?”

We are going through a phase of 4:00 am existentialism.

It’s ok. I quite enjoy the window it gives me into the workings of Little One’s blossoming mind… although, I am glad that my strategy of hugging her quietly through her musings seems to shorten her wakefulness, rather than turning it into a full blown discussion by responding to her queries.

Such a relief really, when she drifts back off to a peaceful sleep and I kiss her soft curls and listen in wonder to her easy breath…

And then: here come the thoughts.

And then: here come some more.

And now: here come the thoughts about how I’m having thoughts and therefore must be awake… and could be asleep… and would be better off asleep…

And there ends any chance of me getting back to sleep.

I have a bag of tricks to dip into at such times – yogic breathing, body scan, counting backwards, ‘lying down meditation’ (you know how when you’re in sitting meditation you sometimes drift towards zzz – trying here to transfer this phenomenon to horizontal plane)… anyway, there’s something about that time of day, when the trees are still still, and you know that even at the coast the first glimmer of light hasn’t yet hit; but if the brain is awake, it goes into alert. None of the tricks seem to work.

I can still relax and allow my body to rest; but am I really getting the true level of replenishment I need to keep up with my daytime self?

Today, I’d wondered this for long enough that I had begun to tune in to the very beautiful sounds of the day awakening.

I could hear the trees starting to breathe more deeply as the birds began to rustle themselves awake and whisper to each other that the light was changing.

I could hear morning dew twinkling.

I could hear the low clouds that had blanketed the night thin themselves out and release a gentle morning rinse upon the earth (and my clothesline of nappies).

I could hear twigs and leaves drop to the ground as the birds got more active.

And then the singing.

So much singing. With such jubilance and clarity. I was inspired to get up and see if I could magic up a cup of tea to enjoy while it was still hot.

Oh the light!

I’ve long considered my sixty year old Rose bush at dusk to be my absolute favourite play of light. But today was pretty freakin special.

All my lying down meditation had me well primed to really soak in the wonder of how every single day the sun comes up.

I watched, from my corner lounge in the corner windows as the golden glow rose up from the east, easily visualising the glimmer it would now be casting over the ocean.

I breathed deeply, integrating into all my cells the gratitude at having this delicious solitude; just me and the dawning day.

What a sublime treat.

Inside the house, my old hound snores, all is quiet from the children’s bedrooms. Incense smoke unfurls, and my tea cup is warm in my hands. This is it.

The very here and now.

“Mummy where’s Garden Bunny?”

Little footsteps carry a little voice down the hall towards me, and the moment I am in is richer even than the one before, as I scoop up a bundle of pyjamas and golden curls and we snuggle into the bliss together.

Lucky lucky me!

(Written in thirty second spurts throughout the morning, long after the sun and Little One had risen).

Panty Liners

I don’t even know when or how it happened, it must have been gradual, or I just forgot one day… I don’t know, I try to practise mindfulness in daily life, but that’s because it’s essential to my functioning. It doesn’t mean I’m on top of everything. It’s the magic glue that helps hold me together and respond with loving awareness to my children when their developing brains aren’t supporting them to be pleasant. But anyway, I haven’t lost my train of thought; surprisingly, I know this is a piece about my pelvic floor and its incidental recovery from massive weight gain, pregnancy, childbirth and nowhere near enough post partum orgasms…

Yes. Hooray for me. I no longer need to anxiously insert a panty liner before working out. Or before leaving the house. And I definitely don’t need to leave a class half way through to change my panty liner. I do still wear only black leggings, however. Because I invested a tonne of dollars into quality active wear as a gesture of self love when I knew that keeping me going is essential to a) keeping my kids going and b) modeling empowered feminism to my kids.

No martyrdom here please, my life choices are choices, and if I’m not enjoying the way my life is, let me figure out what I need to do to change that. There is only now – it might as well not suck!

For me, that’s the main thing I want my kids, my students, my friends to take away from our time together. That we are agents of change, and that life circumstances are invitations to practise our personal power.

So when my ladybits were left in a state of softness after my magical female body lovingly and enthusiastically gave itself over to the work of building a tiny human, I could have let them stay that way. And spent my whole life paranoid that I smelt a bit like wee. And gone through who knows what huge big feels every time I jumped or sneezed or coughed or even laughed. Avoid laughter? No thanks. And I get hayfever. So…

… I set alarms in my phone to remind me to do the elevator squeezes – ten sets three times a day. Heaps of times, I would put the alarm on snooze, and by the time it went off again, I would have totally forgotten all about them.

That’s why I needed the alarms.

Heaps of times too, the alarm would go off at fairly public moments – during a counseling session, at playgroup, driving in the car with my teen and her friends.

Lots of times I would actually say “oh, that means it’s time to do pelvic floor exercises”, and co-opt the people I was with into being cheerleaders for my elastic hammock, and hopefully their own too.

Is that embarrassing? I don’t think so. I think people like talking about their muscle building prowess with most other muscles, and lets be real; the pelvic floor muscles are pretty major heroes when it comes to keeping it all together.

Letting people know that I’m a mum who’s recovering my pelvic floor is not as embarrassing as having to run to the toilet after 60 seconds of jumping rope (or ten, as it was the first time I went to boxing after baby). It’s not as embarrassing as regular light bladder leakage or more serious incontinence problems. I think my daughter would rather grab my phone from the cradle while I’m driving and switch off the alarm (with muscle flex emoji), than be put off having children because I never want to jump on the trampoline with her baby sister…

So, as I said, in who knows what interval, I stopped buying panty liners, because at some point I must have stopped using them at a rate of ‘keep the entire industry in profit’.

And that’s the thing about support. Sometimes we really hardcore need it in a big big way. And we’re hypervigilant about clutching to it and keeping it in place. But, my Super-vag and I have discovered, that when we couple external support with mindful behavioural choices and strengthening work that is at least mildly consistent; then that urgent, desperate need for the ‘absorbent bleached cotton product’ lessens; and eventually our ecological footprint can lighten a little bit more. And we are more free to enjoy more of what life offers as enjoyable things. Even sneezing – maybe enough of those could make up for that lack of orgasms? But I don’t wanna go through too many tissues…

Peace begins with your lovely smile

“Peace begins with your lovely smile”.

Thay’s skilfulness in including the word “lovely” in this calligraphy works instantly to soften me into smiling.  For if others find it lovely, of course I want to offer it.  And in being inspired to offer a lovely smile, I benefit too.
Is the smile the beginning of peace when it is received, when it is smiled, when it is inspired? 
When I remember to decide to smile, even the breath before the smile is more peaceful than a breath taken with a furrowed brow.  When I know that my smile might bring joy to others, I feel into the broader value of my smile.
When I allow a gentle smile to come through me, I feel instantly more calm.  My heart lifts, my breath softens, my whole body relaxes.  And my readiness to respond to life mindfully is expanded.  
How does your lovely smile generate peace?  

Happiness

Happiness
Is here and now
I have dropped my worries 
Nowhere to go, nothing to do 
I don’t need to hurry

Happiness 
Is here and now
I have dropped my worries
Somewhere to go, something to do
No longer in a hurry

How wonderful! That by the time we come to the end of the second verse in this simple song, it is such a real possibility!

We live in a time in the world where the footprints of hurry are causing pain to the earth, and to our collective consciousness. Hurry is such a contagious energy; and whilst there is a gentle movement growing to decline the invitation to be ever busy and in a hurry, it can still feel like it takes more discipline to do less than to say yes to all the opportunities that come to us.

When this song was new to me, I distinctly recall thinking “nowhere to go, nothing to do!!?! – what an absurd luxury!”. But really, what is absurd is that such a concept should seem like a luxury, not to mention an absurd one!

I love the Plum Village practice of having a “lazy day” each week; a day where we have a chance to catch up with ourselves in our bodies. At first unspiralling from the habit of having a very full diary was difficult, even uncomfortable for me. Life is so full of so many exciting opportunities to do, learn, see, talk, listen, meet, play… so many verbs, such limited time! 

But what is the quality of our experience when we are so preoccupied with cleverly slotting it all into the schedule, planning our route to the next thing whilst we are at the current thing? How available are we for the people we are with, for ourselves, when we are busily trying to manipulate time? Are we fully present at our appointment with life? Are we able to see that here, now, in the present moment, is the very pureland we are conditioned to be chasing?

I am really seeing a difference, thanks to this song, and the permission I needed to consider a lazy day as a valid thing to schedule; in how I parent a toddler with my youngest child now, compared to her older sister, 13 years ago. What a radical thing, to allow enough space in our day, that we can walk a block at toddler pace, enjoying instead of feeling frustrated and anxious about looking at tiny leaves, patterns in the pavement, shapes in the clouds. There is even enough time to be aware that my tea is there! 

How long does it take a toddler to walk a block? As long as possible!

Right now, my parenting is my teacher, my toddler is my bell of mindfulness. And I feel so grateful that her natural way of doing life waters the seeds of mindfulness that are planted in me from times when I could study the dharma more fully.

I remember standing in a very long queue in a busy Paris train station the day after a delicious week in Plum Village, and humming this song to myself as the queue slowly moved. For me, the songs of practice can act as short cuts to some of the essence of the teachings, and I really appreciate this!

I wonder how it is for you?