“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” - Deepak Chopra
I'm inherently a fiery Pitta, Type A, determined, go-getter. It's how I've always been as long as I can remember.
It makes me laugh when I look back and think about how I wrote my online dating profiles. If you’ve ever experienced the online dating world, you’re familiar with those profiles where you’re forced to think about yourself and describe your personality into words that a potential match might find attractive. I know I stressed my ambition and high energy, probably even above my kindness and compassion.
My corporate marketing career was LIFE. I measured my success in terms of promotions, dollars and how fast I could move.
I felt enormous pressure to get As in high school to get into a great college, pressure to keep a B average in undergrad to keep my scholarships and grants, pressure to stay up all night finishing that research paper in grad school.
I smoked weed (and cigarettes) and drank an excess of alcohol to try to calm my stress and anxiety that all this pressure caused. The epitome of the monkey mind, mine was filled with constant restlessness and chatter. I angered easily and would get furiously impatient by slow walkers or drivers.
Part of the pressure I felt was external. The patriarchal education system and corporate environment in the US rewards those who are relentless in not just getting shit done, but overachieving in getting shit done. But I wonder how much of it was self-imposed pressure? Because I know I put an enormous weight on my own shoulders to succeed.
I never imagined I would enjoy yoga. Part of the reason even with my ballet background and my love for fitness that I waited until late in college to try yoga was because I had no interest in slow movements, controlled breathing practices or sitting still in meditation. If you told my college-self that in my mid-30s I would be teaching other moms mindfulness, meditation, breath and movement practices, I would have laughed in your face. I never event had an inkling that one day I would want to slow and settle down, get married, raise a family and stop running.
It happened and today my yoga is about bringing balance into my life and sometimes that means ignoring the urge to constantly move, to climb higher, to “succeed” at motherhood and teaching and entrepreneurship. It’s about establishing a peaceful coexistence between hustle and ease to avoid burnout. It’s about connecting to my breath, moving my body, experiencing stillness through meditation, and finding equanimity in my mind.
It’s also about a constant quest for deeper truth and deeper awareness for who I am. The deeper I dig, I wonder if my true self is really that ambitious, determined, driven, woman, or has that part of my personality come to the forefront because that's all I've ever known, because of the aforementioned societal and self-imposed pressure?
Has the quieter, more introverted, calmer and more feminine one always existed deep within me, subverted by the fiery, go-getter? Perhaps I never gave myself a real chance to explore that other side because I couldn’t stand still long enough to see it.
These are all things I’m still exploring in my yoga practice. What I do know is that I previously thrived in environments where my drive, ambition and high-speed pace served as an asset to success. Even though my business and entrepreneurship still offers me a chance to hustle, I thrive in motherhood and marriage quite differently and I believe becoming a mother is the perfect opportunity to pause, reflect and reset.
So, how do we use the transition into motherhood as the catalyst to start living life in a softer, more easeful way?
How do we find stillness in the beautiful chaos of motherhood... in an environment that doesn't appreciate it?
Here are some strategies I’ve adopted.
- Adopt an attitude of flexibility. Let’s face it, languid 90 minute yoga practices, long solo walks, weekend boozy brunches with the girls and 8-hour Netflix marathons are things of the past. Your baby’s schedule dictates the day and they’re the boss, especially in the early days and if you’re breastfeeding. I find when I release expectations of how the day will go, I’m less likely to feel impatient, stressed or angry that I didn’t meet an artificial deadline I gave myself. I still attempt to plan my days loosely, but some days I’m unable to work on my business or do my yoga practice until the kids go to sleep. So, I let it go and try again tomorrow.
- Press pause and breathe. If you feel yourself getting anxious and feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, it’s time to press pause. Acknowledge your feelings, anxieties and fear, then let them go. Try going to bed early for a few days and see how you feel. Dim the lights, turn off your screens, put your phone on the other side of the room. Even if you know you won't fall asleep right away…lie down or sit in bed, close your eyes and tune into your breath. Notice the speed and depth of your breath. Feel the movements your body makes as your breathe. Then start to slow your breath and lengthen your inhales and exhales. If it helps to count your inhales and exhales, do that. Breathe in through your nose to the count of 5, release your breath out your mouth to the count of 5. Many times the deep breathing and counting is enough to help you drift off to sleep.
- Embrace the flow of change. As soon as you figure out your baby’s schedule, sleeping and eating patterns, they switch things up on you. At the same time, your work and domestic engineering roles might shift. If you or your partner go back to work after an extended leave or a summer off, your family’s schedule will change. If your baby starts daycare or one of your older children begins preschool, your schedule will change. Or, maybe you’re taking on more responsibility at work, adapting a new meal-planning or workout habit or starting a new project. Allow yourself to roll with all these changes and release expectations you put on yourself and your baby to adapt perfectly or right away. Gift yourself and your family time and patience to adjust.
- Make space for meditation. With a finite amount of hours in a day, work to do and a family to take care of, it’s difficult to see when you might fit in your meditation practice. I recommend starting with 5 minutes right when you wake up. (Stay tuned for a blog post I’m working on to teach you how to meditate while nursing/feeding/pumping). No one is going to tell you to go meditate. No one is going to tell you to go sit in the corner for quiet time. You have to honor yourself and love yourself enough to know that you need some space to spend a few minutes sitting alone. Once you realize the effects your practice has on your mind and body, you'll want to prioritize those 5 or 20 minutes and keep going back again and again. If you miss your practice one day, no worries. Acknowledge that you weren’t able to get to it, let it go and try again tomorrow (see #1). Scroll down to get a free meditation recording to help you slow down.
Let’s teach our children that it's ok to slow down, to rest, to be still. So they don’t have to constantly be pushing forward and moving up. Sometimes it’s ok to float.
I’d love to hear from you! Try 1 of these tips or all 4 and let me know if you feel a difference in your mindset, stress level and/or Type A-ness!
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