A Promise To My Children

I promise I will listen. I will listen while you talk about toys, video games, ball tag, and anything that is important to you now, so that as you get older, you’ll know that I care about what you have to say, no matter what. I will cultivate strength in listening to you by listening to myself—my body, my heart and my intuition, despite any distracting dialogue that may be running through my head.

I promise to never intentionally make you feel ashamed of yourself. I will never talk down to you, embarrass you, or make you feel ashamed for anything you’ve done. In order to hold this promise, I will work on releasing shame from my own body. I will recognize shame in myself as it rises, and I will release it with tenderness and forgiveness toward myself. I will not be ashamed to share with you, my own stories and lessons learned, when the time is right.

I promise to respect you. I respect your opinions, your feelings, your desires and your needs. Even when they differ from my own, I will respect you and give you space to grow into your own understanding. I will respect you by actively learning how to respect myself—my opinions, my feelings, my desires and my needs.

I promise to be honest; not just with my words; but also with my feelings. I will honor this promise by connecting with myself—being honest with my own feelings and inner dialogue. I will recognize when I have not been present; I will be honest about my absence and honest about my return to awareness.

I promise to forgive you—for anything. I will learn to forgive you by actively forgiving myself—for each moment that I lose awareness—for each inevitable mistake that I make as I learn how to be your mother. I will forgive myself over and over again.

I promise you love. All that I have is yours—physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I will recognize and honor the reality that in order to love you, I must also love myself—wholly and unconditionally. I recognize that whatever I hold back from myself, will be held back from you. I will work to release any and all barriers that inhibit unconditional love.

I promise to let you go. I know that you don’t belong to me. I know that you have been generously placed in my care, and I accept the gift of you with more gratitude than I can hold in my heart. I promise that I will let you live your life. I will allow you to make your own mistakes and move through difficulty so that you can learn who you are in your own way. I honor this promise by learning to surrender. I’ll practice surrender in every moment, every breath, every thought and every feeling. I will accept that life is in motion, and I will not cling to it as it passes. I will let it go—again and again and again.

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The Wonderful Things

A few weeks ago, I posted a follow up piece to ‘The Wonderful Things’ titled ‘The Single Most Important Thing I Do For My Kids Each Day’ (you can read it here.) This post is the original, which some of my readers have requested I re-post. This post was actually written a couple of years ago, but it is still something we do in my home every night. My kids are almost teenagers now, and they love it just as much.

I have recently started a new addition to our bedtime ritual. As I tuck each of my boys in at night, I share something wonderful that I had observed about them during the day. My boys call it ‘The Wonderful Things’. It has quickly become a much anticipated part of bedtime, and it is regularly talked about during the day as they wonder what behaviors will make it into the prestigious category of ‘The Wonderful Things’. I started it as a way for me to let them know that I appreciate their efforts. I believe that growing up is hard work and that the daily rituals that have become habitual and natural to me as an adult are still being learned and practiced at their stage in life.

What I did not expect is the enormous shift in their behavior. The moment they knew that I was paying attention, they started to pay attention. I started receiving more random hugs and offers to help. There is less resistance toward picking up dishes, brushing teeth, cleaning rooms, etc. I find it interesting to observe how the simple act of conscious awareness helps us to make the choices that reflect how we want to carry ourselves in the world.

I must admit, this new ritual takes real effort in observation, and as I am learning to be more aware of their behavior, I’m beginning to become more aware of mine. I quickly realized that I never take time to look at ‘The Wonderful Things’ about me. I’m very quick to notice the things that I do that are not wonderful, and in fact, those ‘not wonderful things’ stick with me for a very long time and shape the way I view myself.

My practice of observing the beauty and grace in my children has now evolved into seeing the beauty and grace in my husband, family, friends, nature, music, and even myself. And just like the shift that is happening in my children, I’m feeling a shift, too. The more aware I am of my own wonderful things, the more I want to express it. One of my favorite quotes is by Genpo Roshi, which states, “God, Goddess, Koan, mantra, anger, fear, hope, faith…I become that on which I’m concentrating.” I’m beginning to see how much truth there is in that quote.

I challenge my readers to take a day or a week, or a lifetime to shift your awareness. Make an effort to see only the wonderful things about yourself, your family, your friends, your children and your life. I promise you that what you will find is a different world entirely.

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The Single Most Important Thing I Do For My Kids Each Day

If you’ve got kids, I know you’re busy, and I don’t want to add one.more.thing to the long list of things you already do for them each day. However, this one simple thing that I do seemed to take on a life of its own and turned into something that not only improves my kids’ lives, but mine as well.

Every night when I tuck my kids in bed, I tell them ‘the wonderful things’ that I noticed them doing that day. It’s usually nothing big—it’s helping me take in the groceries or doing homework without being asked—what’s big is the message behind it; the message that I see them. I recognize what they’re doing, and I appreciate it.

When I started this a couple of years ago, I wasn’t expecting anything; I just wanted to make sure that I focused on the good things they were doing, because, ahem, I admit, that sometimes I was way too quick to notice the not-so-good things, and I didn’t want that to be the main source of attention they were receiving from me.

‘The wonderful things’ quickly became the highlight of our bedtime routine, but it wasn’t forgotten the next morning—they thought about it all day, and worked on ways to add to the list.

If you decide to do this, don’t be discouraged if you can’t find three wonderful things (I tried to go for just one wonderful thing, but they insist on three), and I’ll be honest; sometimes I can’t think of anything. Sometimes the day is so busy that I just haven’t had the time to notice specific behaviors.

If I can’t think of anything, I make it light and fun; I laugh about it or make up something silly. Or, I apologize for not noticing and ask them to tell me something wonderful that they did that day. The important thing is that there is dialogue around their achievements and that the focus is on the good stuff, not the bad.

If they’ve had a particularly hard day and the behavior has been, well…less than angelic…then we talk about how they handled it; we talk about how they let it go or if they learned anything from it. Sometimes the wonderful thing is that they are talking about it with me in that moment.

The most important thing is that you shift your focus away from the negative and place it on the positive, because whatever you focus on becomes bigger. And when you make it a point to talk about it, you’re holding yourself accountable for your awareness. The very best part is that your kids will take ownership of their behavior because they know that they’ll be recognized for it, and that is worth every second of one.more.thing to do for your kids.

xo,

Emily

PS: I wrote about ‘The Wonderful Things’ when I first came up with the idea a couple of years ago…if you’d like to read about it, you can check it out here.

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How to Balance Work and Life and Everything In Between

A few years ago, I found myself without a sitter for my two sons, who were about five and seven at the time. I was scheduled to teach my Yoga class at Utah State University, and I figured I could set them up with a movie in the back of the gym while I taught.

About 35 minutes into a 50 minute class, they began to get a little restless and started to wander around a bit. They didn’t leave the room and they remained silent, so I figured all was well.

A few minutes later, the fire alarm went off.

I immediately scanned the periphery of the space and found my two kiddos, standing stone cold and beet red next to the little red box on the wall. One of my students rushed to the main office to inform them of the false alarm, but it was too late; if there is an alarm, the fire department is required to respond. The building we occupied was huge. Numerous gyms, two swimming pools, locker rooms, offices, classrooms…everyone had to be evacuated, fully dressed or not.

In the end, everything was fine and my boys learned what that little red box was all about.

I learned that sometimes the work-life balance can be….messy.

Messy, but do-able.

It doesn’t matter if you work from home, away from home, or if your primary work is being a stay-home parent. It takes balance to make it all work, and balance is never at a still point. Balance is about shifting, moving and compromising; it’s about the give and take; the picking up and letting go. It’s about knowing how to care for your work and care for others; but also care for yourself.

Here are a few ideas that might help make it easier to juggle it all:

Trust. This is a big one. You’ve got to cultivate the trust that, as a family, you’ll be there for each other. You’ll hold each other up and fill in where there’s a need. Trust that life will support you and things will work out every.single.time. …even if it’s not exactly the way you had imagined or hoped it would. Trust that the work will get done, the house will get clean, your children will be loved, and at the end of the day, you will rest and be ready for another one.

Be Present. In order to maintain some small amount of order in the chaos, practice being present. Whoever or whatever is in front of you deserves your undivided attention; and your attention might bounce from one thing to the next as rapid as a ping pong ball, but each moment deserves your unbroken focus and awareness. If your mind is scattered between twenty things at once, you might end up feeling fragmented and broken, and whatever or whoever is on the receiving end of sparsely scattered attention will only be partially fulfilled. Give all of you to whatever is in front of you, even if it’s only for three seconds, and both you and the receiver will be felt, heard, seen and appreciated.

Fill up. Another key element to juggling the work-life balance is to fill your own cup. That means you must do whatever you need to do for yourself to feel replenished. The moment you feel drained or depleted, that’s your sign that it’s time to refill. For some, that might mean taking the entire weekend away from it all; for others it might mean taking a few minutes to be alone or going out for an evening with friends. Figure out what it is for you, and do that thing. It’s not selfish, it’s essential.

Forgive. Do I practice all of these tips, all the time? No. That’s why one of the most important things to remember as you juggle work and life and everything in between is forgiveness. Forgive yourself daily, because you won’t always get it right, and you can’t expect anyone else too, either. Forgive yourself and forgive others, because ultimately, we’re all in this together, and you’re doing the very best you can.

Add joy and pleasure. Add joy and pleasure to your life like it’s your job. Seriously, it is as important (if not more) than anything else you do. This one is hard, because there’s this idea floating around that pleasure and joy only come after the work gets done. If that rings true for you, untangle yourself from that belief system. You don’t have to go crazy or do anything elaborate; just do one tiny little thing each day that brings you pleasure—don’t wait until you feel like you’ve ‘deserved’ it, because guess what? You’re alive, and you got up this morning, so you already deserve it. Go do something wonderful for yourself. Right now is  a perfect time for that.

At the end of the day, balancing life can be messy, but it’s also a fun and crazy ride full of twists and turns, ups and downs, growth, surprises, and moments of pure magic. The never-ending mystery of it all is worth every second. Enjoy the ride.

…and for a quick glimpse of my magical, messy life as I prepare to teach my yoga classes, take a look at my latest Instagram post. You can check it out right here.

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Photo: Unbrelievable

A Note to Parents: Because You’re Worth It

I totally get it. I know that you are busy. I know that it’s pushing it to get a luxurious ten minute shower, let alone pursue your passion, but let me put a little spin on the matter:

When it comes to your children, what you do is way more important than what you say.

You can tell your kids all day long how important it is to love themselves, follow their passion, and pursue their dreams, but if they don’t see you doing it, then all that talk is well….just talk. And I know that it’s hard to justify pursuing your passion when you’re trying to help your kids pursue theirs, but what if you looked at it in a new way? Instead of seeing it as time you take away, what if you see it as something  you give?

What if you do it for them?

Take time for yourself for them.
Follow your dream for them.
Accomplish your goals for them.

And what if that’s not the way you were taught? What if your own parents put everything aside and dropped off their passions for the sake of yours?

Do it for them, too.
And for their parents, and theirs.

Being a parent isn’t about cutting out the essence of you. You’re still creative, smart, passionate and beautiful, and you have unique ways of expressing those gifts. You don’t have to choose being a parent over self-expression; you can have both.

Start small if you have to.

Daydream everyday; like it’s your job.
Instead of doing dishes, do yoga.
Work on your novel while the kiddo’s take swim class.
Pull out the paints for them and for you.
Drop ‘em off at dance, and then go dancing.

Whatever feeds you, will feed them also.

You know why?

Because the commitment you make to yourself will show them how important it is to commit to themselves. And because your drive, your desire, and your passion for what you love, will show them how to love and nurture their own unique gifts and talents.

Fill your cup, so they know what it looks like to fill their own.

Do it for them.
And do it for you.

Because they’re worth it, and so are you.

notetoparents