by Monette Chilson
Every time we fly, we are reminded to put our own oxygen mask on before we help our children with theirs. But how often do we heed that advice in our earthbound lives? At some point, we’ve all fallen into the trap of doing for others (usually our children) until we collapse exhausted, like a fish gasping for breath on the beach. How did we end up beached, and more importantly, how can we unbeach ourselves?
Parenting is inexorably intertwined with acts of nurturing, but what kind of example are we setting for our children if we neglect ourselves in the process? With Mother’s Day fast approaching, there is no better time to reflect on your own presence in the world and seek out way to be more fully engaged in the life-giving opportunities that fill our days.
One goal of mindful self-care is to fully connect with our inner life, so that our outer life can be enriched. Nurturing implies a sustenance that is sensory in nature, one that feeds our souls on many levels. With that in mind, let’s take it one sense at a time.
Seeing… We take in more visual stimuli in one day than people a hundred years ago did in a year. Unfortunately, much of this stimuli is in the form a digitized reality. To counterbalance this virtual reality of ours, we must intentionally notice the simple profundity of the actual world we live in. We can do this by stopping to cultivate just one moment each day to acknowledge the beauty we encounter in our everyday ramblings. How much easier could this first exercise be? No need to do anything but open your eyes and appreciate what’s already there.
Your vision of simple beauty can be related to your parenting life, nature or anything that strikes your fancy. You can meld your online world with your real one by snapping a photo of your moment and sharing it on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #simplethings. If you have so lost touch with what constitutes a moment of simple beauty for you that you find yourself at a loss for where to start, take a peek at what other people have hashtagged as their simple things. You’ll find everything from children’s feet to a single exquisite orchid blossom, the perfect cup of coffee and plenty of sunsets.
As Glennon Melton so eloquently conveyed in her blog post Quit Pointing Your Avocado At Me that captured the attention of moms everywhere, your day doesn’t need to be chock-full of these moments. No one’s life is like that—contrary to the sugar-coated lives spun on social media. And please do not feel guilty about that! One moment of simple beauty a day will suffice. The rest of your hours may be complete and utter chaos. Find your one moment and see it. Really see it.
Hearing… We have experienced a proliferation of sounds that rivals that of visual stimuli. We can plug in and tune out so easily—maybe too easily. Earbuds, Beats and Skullcandy are all super-hip, cool ways of insulating with a self-selected soundtrack. A little like living in our own little individual juke boxes. No more communal, “What station do you want to listen to?” “What’s on the radio now?” Try this little retro activity on for size. When you’re in the car with the kids, play your own version of Name That Tune, humming a ditty while the others try to guess what it is. Or if you want to tune in together, play the bumper sticker game where you tune into whatever station you spot first on a nearby bumper sticker. We listened to some awesome classical music that we would have otherwise missed while playing this one recently! In those non-carpool moments when you’re out in nature, solo or with kids in tow, play the quiet game for five minutes, bringing your awareness to all the sounds you hear that you wouldn’t have noticed in the midst of life’s usual chatter.
Tasting… We will take a page from the Slow Food movement for this assignment. Pick a food, any food. Do not eating it standing up. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t eat it while chasing after a toddler, dog or other wayward creature. Don’t multi-task while you do it. That’s right. No scanning your emails. No swiping of counters between bites. No throwing a load of laundry in halfway through. What’s the point in this lavish gift of dedicated nourishment? It’s to learn how to nourish yourself. To make the time. And to remember that you’re worth it.
Smelling… Seasonally, you just hit the jackpot on this sense. The fragrance of nature is at its strongest right about now. Just walk outside and inhale. The smell of new beginnings is intoxicating. Do this regularly and you’ll begin to discover olfactory nuances that will plant you firmly in the here and now. You’ll reacquaint yourself with the summery smell of fresh cut grass, fall’s slight pungentness and winter’s invigorating crispness, so clean in its absence of aroma.
Touching/Feeling… Though the fifth sense is usually interpreted as touch—as in the sensation we experience when we touch something—I interpret it as a kinesiological experience. Nurturing ourselves via this sense means doing things that feel good to our physical bodies—going for a walk, doing yoga, sitting still, dancing around your living room or turning a cartwheel. My kids have an agreement with my mom that they will never consider her old as long as she can turn a cartwheel. She still can, much to their delight. So, keeping turning cartwheels, metaphorical or literal. Keep doing whatever it is that makes your body sing like no one is listening.
Use this Mother’s Day as a starting point for a new sense of self-nourishment rather than an isolated day in which nurturing the nurturer is allowed. Go out into the world ready to see it in new ways that go beyond what your eyes typically take in. Listen to it. Smell it. Taste it. Feel it in your bones. Your will feel more alive, and so will your children. They are learning from your actions so much more than they are from your words. Teach them well.
Monette Chilson is the author of the award-winning book Sophia Rising: Awakening Your Sacred Wisdom Through Yoga (Bright Sky Press, 2013). She is a contributor toYoga Journal, elephant journal, Integral Yoga Magazine and Christian Yoga Magazine. You can find out more about her melding of yoga and faith at www.SophiaRisingYoga.com.