Around this time last year I was enjoying Summer in beautiful, sunny & wild South Africa with my family sat on a terrace in Camps Bay with a gorgeous view on the rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean and a sun about to set… as good as it gets!
Now, after having enjoyed a family walk in my nearby Vondelpark on this clear, sunny and mild Winter day, I am taking a moment to reflect on this challenging year in the comfort of my cozy home and feeling grateful.
2020 has certainly brought many mindful life lessons with it including appreciating more the everyday blessings: family, home, health, warmth, comfort, privilege, togetherness, savouring nature, being in the moment, going within, embracing not knowing, slowing down, letting go of planning and control, surrendering, being grounded and growing my resilience, and the importance of self-care, physical touch, community & connection.
What are you grateful for? What are your 2020 highlights?
Looking back at some of my highlights of 2020…
This year started for our family in Cape Town, South Africa on the top of Table Mountain!
We went skiing as a family in lovely Val Frejus.
We experienced home schooling our children and felt more grateful than ever to the amazing work teachers do.
I gave my first mindfulness and mindful birthing courses online which turned out much better than I could have imagined
I qualified as a Yin Yoga teacher and gave sessions in the Vondelpark
I supported 5 families as a birth doula
I became a Somatics Coach and took on my first coaching clients
I contracted Covid-19 and self-isolated for over a week in my own home, weird!
I didn’t travel to France and see my family ☹
We spent our summer holiday hiking in the beautiful Swiss mountains
We had some lovely overnights stays in the Netherlands and discovered new places including gorgeous Bergen aan Zee and surrounding dunes
I co-hosted my first city mindfulness & coaching retreat including an amazing ecstatic dancing session
Our family spent the first Christmas ever in the Netherlands
THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING – MINDFULNESS OF THOUGHTS & POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS
Is your glass half-empty or half-full? How you answer this question reflects your outlook on life and ultimately how happy and healthy you are. Our thought patterns dictate the way we perceive and explain reality, including our relationship to ourselves and to the world. Yet when we look at these thoughts more closely, they are often inaccurate or only partially true.
The good news is there is nothing fixed about our brain and the way we look at things. We always choose our attitude to whatever life throws our way, the more awareness we have, the more this ability for conscious choice is activated. We really can reprogram our brains to an extent. Through mindfulness, cultivating non-judging and non-reactive awareness of thoughts, as well as working with affirmations we can significantly shift our mindset in a matter of weeks. Cultivating gratitude is itself a powerful way to see the glass half full so if you don’t have a gratitude practice check out last week’s post on gratitude.
Challenge of the week : Work with positive affirmations either by tuning in to my affirmation practice daily and/or creating your own affirmations. Write down 1 to 3 affirmations that really resonate for you and repeat them daily as often as you like and try to remember to use these also in stressful moments after some practice. And of course share your favourite affirmation or words that empower you mentioning @experiencemindfulness and #moodboostingchallenge. Chances are someone else in your network really needs to hear them too and sharing them reaffirms them for you causing a ripple effect. Last but not least I may surprise you with a freebie 😊
More food for positive thoughts :
Working with Difficulties : Our mind doesn’t really make the difference between reality and imagination that is why our stress response gets activated not only by real physical threats but also by the imaginary tigers of our mind. The beauty is we can flip this around by imagining the best possible outcome and using positive affirmations as a counterbalance to our inner critic. Have a challenge coming your way? visualise the most positive outcome you can imagine, play it in your mind, connect with your senses – how does it feel? What do you see, hear, smell, notice? You can even play some music and dance to your success if that doesn’t feel too “up there” for you.
Negative thinking is toxic literally. Your every thought produces a biochemical reaction in the brain. The brain then releases chemical signals that are transmitted to the body, where they act as the messengers of the thought. The thoughts that produce the chemicals in the brain allow your body to feel exactly the way you were just thinking. So every thought produces a chemical that is matched by a feeling in your body.
Practice mindfulness of thoughts : We cannot control what arises to mind but by watching our thoughts we gradually become freed from their tyranny, gain perspective, space and have access to other ways of thinking about situations. Each time we recognize a thought as a thought when it arises and register its content, then let go of it and come back to our breathing and a sense of our body, we are strengthening mindfulness. We do not need to fight with thoughts, struggle against them or judge them. Rather, we can simply choose not to follow the thoughts when we are aware that they have arisen. “From thoughts come actions. From actions come all sorts of consequences. In which thoughts will we invest? Our great task it to see them clearly, so that we can choose which ones to act on and which ones simply to let be.” – Joseph Goldstein
Reframing negative thoughts : If you have a persistent, repetitive negative though you can write it down and rephrase it into a positive affirmation. And use that affirmation every time the negative though pops up again. Over time, we can begin cultivating new, more constructive thought patterns, new ways of seeing ourselves and the world around us.
Book Recommendation : The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
“Start listening to the voice in your head. The voice comments, complains, likes, dislikes and so in. It isn’t necessarily relevant to the situation you find yourself in at the time; it may be reviving the recent or distant past or rehearsing or imagining possible future situations. Here it often imagines things going wrong and negative outcomes, this is called worry. Sometimes the soundtrack is accompanied by visual images or “mental movies”. Even if the voice is relevant to the situation at hand, it will interpret it in terms of the past. This is because the voice belongs to your conditioned mind, which is the result of all your past history as well as of the collective cultural mind-set you inherited. So you see and judge the present through the eyes of the past and get a totally distorted view of it. It is not uncommon for the voice to be a person’s own worst enemy. Many people live with a tormentor in their head that continuously attacks and punishes them and drains them of vital energy. It is the cause of untold misery and unhappiness as well as disease. The good news is that you can ‘free’ yourself from your mind by listening to the voice in your head as often as you can. Pay particular attention to any repetitive though patterns, those old gramophone records that have been playing in your head perhaps for many years… watch the thinker, be there as the impartial witnessing presence. You will soon realise: there is the voice and here I am listening to it, watching it. This ‘I am’ realization, this sense of your own presence is not a thought. It arises beyond the mind. A new dimension of consciousness has come in. The thought then loses its power over you and eventually subsides because you are no longer energizing the mind through identification with it. This is the beginning of the end of involuntary and compulsive thinking. When a thought subsides, you experience a discontinuity in the mental stream – a gap of “no-mind”. At first the gaps will be short, a few seconds perhaps, but gradually they will become longer. When these gaps occur you feel a certain stillness and peace inside you. With practice, the sense of stillness and peace will deepen. There is no end to its depth. You will also feel a subtle emanation of joy arising deep from within: the joy of Being.” – Eckhart Tolle
How will this boost my mood?
Positive thinking is an ultimate mood booster. Essentially, when you think happy, inspiring, or positive thoughts, your brain manufactures chemicals that make you feel joyful, inspired, or uplifted. Positive affirmations can be used to boost self-esteem, encourage positive transformation or motivation. To be effective affirmations require regular practice for lasting long-term changes. Research has linked affirmations to lower stress and rumination as well as to academic achievement. Positive thinking helps make us more resilient to difficulties when they arise.
Challenge of the week : start a daily gratitude practice if you don’t have one already! Share your gratitude journey, something your grateful for, to lift yourself & others up. Every time you share tagging me & mentioning hashtag #moodboostingchallenge you become eligible for a free ticket to the Mindful Circle, a self-compassion workshop or a private coaching session.
Gratitude is a simple yet powerful mood booster and the beauty is the more you are grateful, the more what you attract what you are grateful for. Really, don’t take my word for it, experience it for yourself.
How to practice gratitude? For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving you may have had a wonderful opportunity recently to reflect on and share what you are thankful for. You can continue experiencing lasting benefits by taking this on as a regular practice. Take a few moments daily to reflect or preferably write down 3 to 5 things you feel grateful for. Research shows that the simple act of journaling 3 times a week about things you are grateful has amazing benefits on our well-being.
Extra Tips : And you can get more creative with your gratitude practice. Fill a gratitude jar with 1 thing you are grateful for a day. For families you can have a gratitude circle at the dinner table where everyone shares one thing they are grateful for on that day.
If you are practicing already, that’s amazing, please inspire us by sharing your gratitude practice or its benefits for you on social media using #moodboostingchallenge
If you are starting on your gratitude journey, it is not unusual that the practice can feel forced and unnatural. There’s nothing wrong with that, just carry on a few weeks with an open, non-judgmental mind and you will likely actually start feeling grateful.
When gratitude arises in a daily moment bring your full presence into this moment. Notice how it feels, how the mind is at ease, the body relaxed and warm. Chances are the experience will become even more enjoyable through your presence. The more mindfulness we cultivate, open and full presence, the more gratitude arises.
Book recommendation : The Gratitude Project : How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good
Articles for further motivation on the benefits and science of gratitude
Gratitude is really offering a perspective shift focusing on all that is right with us instead of what is wrong. Our minds have a tendency to focus and ruminate on things that are not as we want them to be. We can tend to magnify our problems, blow them out of proportion. Gratitude helps restore balance and change our outlook on life.
Need more inspiration? Gratitude has tremendous benefits on health & happiness. A gratitude practice is associated with increased wellbeing, protects people form stress and depression, allows for more fulfilling relationships, better sleep and greater resilience. This is a powerful practice to increase life satisfaction, decrease worry and improve body image with long-lasting benefits.
Challenge of the week: treat yourself lovingly, with softness & kindness & share a post about a self-compassion moment you tagging @experiencemindfulness with hashtag #moodboostingchallenge and win a chance to attend a free self-compassion workshop (value 35 euros).
Book recommendation: Self-Compassion : Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind – Kristin Neff
What exactly is self-compassion?
Self-compassion is all about being kind to yourself and treating yourself as a good friend especially in hard times. This is easier said than done as the way we talk to ourselves is often unkind and filled with self-judgments. When we are stressed, these harsh self-criticisms tend to strengthen and can make us feel unworthy, inadequate and incomplete. And where do they come from? Our overactive brain, our compulsive relationship to thinking. Guess where they don’t stand a chance? Your under-utilized heart.
Self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness—that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.
Even in Buddhism which is all about selflessness, you actually have to care about yourself before you can really care about other people. Developing self-compassion is an essential first step to allow us in turn to become a more compassionate person and express this compassion increasingly outwardly. If we feel inadequate or insecure, we harm ourselves by beating ourselves up and we also tend to harm others around us, either by taking out our anger, irritation or frustrations on them, needing or expecting them to love us in ways that we are not able to love ourselves and if we suppress our feelings, we keep ourselves from really, truly connecting with others in a meaningful way as we are too absorbed with our own ill-being.
Mindfulness and self-compassion can free us from past painful and self-limiting beliefs and toward a new perspective of non-judgmental awareness and acceptance of who we are, just as we are. Learning to open our heart to the loving-kindness within us and in the world around us will eventually help us live more freely and fearlessly.
We cannot achieve world peace without first achieving peace within ourselves … inner peace. In an atmosphere of hatred, anger, competition and violence no lasting peace can be achieved. These negative and destructive forces must be overcome by compassion, love and altruism which are the essential teachings of the Buddha.” Tenzin Gyatso – H.H the XIVth Dalia Lama”
How will this boost my mood?
Self-compassion is a powerful way to achieve emotional well-being and contentment in our lives, helping us avoid destructive patterns of fear, negativity, and isolation. The nurturing quality of self-compassion allows us to flourish, to appreciate the beauty and richness of life, even in hard times. When we soothe our agitated minds with self-compassion, we’re better able to notice what’s right as well as what’s wrong, so that we can orient ourselves toward that which gives us joy.
Like high self-esteem, self-compassion is associated with significantly less anxiety and depression, as well as more happiness, optimism, and positive emotions. However, self-compassion offers clear advantages over self-esteem when things go wrong, or when our egos are threatened. Self-compassion offers us the resilience needed to thrive in tough times.
The Closing of the Bones is a way to honour and celebrate a new mother. This ritual acknowledges the huge transformation she has undergone in pregnancy and childbirth. It makes space for the enormous shift that she has experienced physically, mentally and emotionally.
Physically, it guides her back into her own body, brings the bones back into place, helps her pelvic organs shift and blood flow. Women who are honoured in this way experience a sense of calm and grounding, re-establishing her sense of self.
A safe space is created for this ceremony, in a warm & quiet room. We start with some time to share where the new mother is at, how she is feeling now, looking back on the birth, anything that needs to be heard. She then lies on a mat on the floor and I guide her through a special meditation to honour her journey.
With the help of a rebozo (Mexican scarf), the hips of the woman that have widened and open to accommodate the growing baby and to give birth are gently rocked and pulled back into place. The gentle rocking movement has a soothing effect.
Some warm oil is applied and a gentle massage of head & feet begins. We also massage the belly, lovingly taking care of this area where a baby grew. Both giver and receiver acknowledge this great achievement.
For the last part of the ritual, a woman’s body is tightly wrapped using 5 rebozos. We wrap and honour different parts of her body—feet, knees, hips, shoulders, head. The woman is then left to rest as we hold space for her. Some short closing meditation can be done to bring her back to center, balance her energy and relax her.
Early October, I will be co-hosting a special city retreat at the Centre of Mindfulness:Awaken Your Potential. This 2-day immersive experience will combine mindfulness, coaching and conscious movement practices to support you into living a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
For this city retreat, I have partnered with lovely and talented colleague Anne Gélébart.Anne is a certified life and leadership coach atAngel Coaching Int.passionate about uncovering people’s potential. In these powerful 2 days we’ll explore your purpose, clarify your vision and support you to assert your values and what you are committed to. We’ll uncover limiting beliefs & conditioned tendencies that may limit your potential. You will learn many tools & practices to work with these and build resilience in challenging situations. We can guarantee that you will leave this retreat inspired, empowered and with increased clarity on how to align your actions with your vision.
We have an early bird offer until the end of the month so make sure you register in time. Readherefor more details and registration.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you are” – Carl Jung
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Delphine Petit, kraamzorg (maternity care nurse at Aide Maman Amsterdam. Read her interview of me below.
Can you please tell us who you are and what exactly is a Doula and Mindfulness.
Firstly, thank you Delphine for this opportunity to highlight the work I do, which I feel very passionate about.
My name is Marjorie Lumet. I am originally from France and have been living in Amsterdam for 12 years with my South African partner and my girls who are now 5 and 9. I am a mindfulness coach, mindful birthing & parenting trainer and doula.
A doula is someone who supports the birthing woman and her partner physically and emotionally during the process of giving birth. This can be at times very hands-on: massage and acupressure for pain relief or relaxation, supporting with positions, breathing techniques and general comfort, facilitating and guiding partner support. Emotional support is also key in this intense moment, encouraging words, cheerleading, reassurance. A doula’s role is to support the birthing woman and her partner to feel safe and remain centred and calm. This also entails creating a peaceful environment in the birthing room. A doula does her best to ensure the mother’s wishes are respected as much as possible.
Birth is a very intimate and special moment in a couple’s life so the role of the doula is to be of service, to observe what is needed, give support where required and hold space when desirable. Research shows that continuous support from a doula shortens the length of labour and very significantly reduces the need for pain medication and for medical interventions, such as administering Pitocin or cesarean birth.
Usually, a doula’s role begins before birth with prenatal preparation sessions during which the birthing couple share their concerns and wishes around birth. A doula provides information and resources so that the birthing couple can understand their options and make informed choices.
A doula is also sometimes skilled to give a birth preparation course. This is my case where I train couples in mindfulness skills which are of great support in birth and well beyond.
Mindfulness is present moment awareness with a non-judging and curious attitude. Paying attention in this way is deeply transformative. It allows us to open up to our full potential which is often limited by stress and unhelpful mental beliefs & behavioural patterns. Cultivating mindfulness allows us to develop another way of looking at ourselves and the world around us, a more positive, open and kinder way. Instead of spending considerable amounts of energy replaying the past, stressing or worrying about the future, our work, relationships and all the things we need to get done, we are able to gather our attention to fully enjoy the moments of our life as they unfold. Through non-reactive observing, we respond consciously to stress and difficulties that arise rather than react automatically. Over time we liberate ourselves from a lot of unnecessary stress and release unhelpful beliefs or habits we’ve developed over the years. We begin to make space for what really matters and supports us to thrive. Mindfulness supports us towards more well-being, joy and harmony in our lives as we live them.
And it is not just me saying all this, mindfulness is very widespread nowadays because the need is huge. There is an extensive body of research demonstrating the many benefits of mindfulness on physical and mental health as well as emotional resilience
That said, you can probably imagine that inviting the practice of mindfulness into your life before becoming a parent is of immense support. It’s more than just a good idea to “sort yourself out” before becoming full-time responsible for a cute being that is totally dependent and fused with you.
Parenting is very much about being in the present moment, paying attention to our children. Children thrive on compassionate attention. It is a solid foundation for them to develop on. However, if a person doesn’t relate to themselves with kind presence, it will be very difficult for them to bring this compassionate attention into their parenting.
Additionally, becoming a parent is probably one of life’s biggest transformations. As joyful as it may be, this rapid change also comes with its fair share of stress. And stress and pregnancy isn’t a good combination as we know. Learning mindfulness in pregnancy allows to reduce stress, to slow down, relax and tune into the amazing pregnant body that is transforming rapidly as well as honour its needs.
Last but certainly not least, mindfulness is an invaluable skill in birth itself. Birth is all about remaining centred and breathing through intensity as well as relaxing as much as possible in between contractions. Our conditioned reactivity to pain, which usually consists in ignoring it, pushing it away or fighting it isn’t helpful obviously in birth. The mindfulness skills couples learn support them to be with discomfort, to relax into the pain. To keep attention focused on the body and breath rather than get caught up in emotional reactivity or fearful thoughts. We do a few series of pain practices together (holding ice cubes) and use a variety of techniques to work more skilfully with the fear or pain that may arise in birth. These techniques include mindfulness, focused attention, breathing and sounding, touch & massage, visualisation and positioning. In childbirth the pain is part of a transformative process allowing a child to be born. The less we fight it, the less pain we actually experience and the more we support birth to unfold optimally.
I teach private individual courses but also group courses based on the “Mindful Birthing” program developed by Nancy Bardacke, an American mid-wife and mindfulness teacher who has been a pioneer in bringing mindfulness skills to expecting families.
How did you come up with the idea of working especially with mothers?
Through my own experience really. Becoming a mother, propelled my journey into mindfulness. Before being a mindfulness coach, I worked in the corporate world for 15 years in media agencies. When I became a Mom the corporate environment I was in, including the rhythm and structure, just didn’t fit with my needs, values and concerns in my new Mom life. I felt frustrated. I was always running trying to keep up with my life rather than living it, enjoying it.
For a long time, I lacked purpose in my job but I felt this more strongly when I became a Mom. I questioned increasingly what my contribution to the world was and how was I shaping the future. And becoming a mom was a radical life change of course. I found myself wanting to spend more time with my daughter, slowing down to enjoy her and watch her grow rather than outsourcing that as much as I was to childcare. I wanted to be healthy and happy and juggling motherhood and a demanding corporate job I didn’t feel passionate about wasn’t delivering on that. So, in my desperation I discovered mindfulness. I attended an 8-week course and was so inspired that halfway through the course I decided to train as a teacher so I could share these skills with my environment.
I now know through my clients that my own journey of adjusting to motherhood is certainly not isolated but shared by most women. There’s a name for it ‘matrescence’, the process of becoming a mother, encompassing all the many physical, psychological and emotional changes after birth. New parents often feel inadequate, insecure, guilty as if they aren’t doing anything right. I feel passionate about equipping mothers with solid mindfulness skills and guide them through this transition from pregnancy to early parenting. To encourage them as they enter this nurturing role to nurture themselves too. Many of us haven’t learned this and our modern environment often depletes rather than nurtures with its distractions and hectic pace at times. Dad’s obviously go through an immense shift too and the more connected couples are, the better equipped they are to grow together and support one another.
I love working with pregnant and new Moms for all these reasons but I don’t work with them exclusively. I also cater to students, plenty of men and women with or without families, high-achieving professionals suffering from stress-related complaints or wanting to bring about positive transformation in their lives. I love having that diversity and I feel it helps me keep an open mind. Plus, I get to witness how the skills I teach are precious for anyone regardless of their life situation.
Can you tell us what a family can expect from your sessions? How do you work?
I give a lot of different courses and workshops but I’ll focus on my offering to expecting parents.
I work both in a group and individual setting.
The gold standard mindful birth preparation course is the 8-week course that combines mindfulness and childbirth education. In this course, couples learn in depth the practice of mindfulness and also have a solid birth preparation course including attention to early parenting.
I facilitate this in a group setting and sessions last 2,5 hours. Each session offers a combination of mindfulness meditation, childbirth theory & education and group sharing and questions. The body needs to move so we always have time for stretching, I integrate movement practices, combining prenatal yoga postures and Qi Gong. Sometimes we do specific birth practices that can be quite hands-on, for instance birth positions and partner support where we use touch, massage and acupressure points. In a group setting, group reflections are also important to the learning process and create a sense of community.
I also offer shorter courses and workshops to cater to different needs, a 5-week course as well as a series of 3x workshops to prepare together for birth.
For private sessions I come to the family’s home and adjust the course content to their specific needs. I can also offer a pregnancy relaxation massage.
My group courses are mostly in English but individual courses can be in French. And I also speak pretty fluent Dutch and Italian which is handy to know
What is “Nouvelles Mamans “?
Nouvelles Mamans’ is a community aimed at making the journey into parenthood just a little bit smoother through offering support, connection and information to new and expecting parents. We host regular events always around a specific theme relevant to pregnancy, birth or early parenting. There is some knowledge sharing around the theme and plenty of space to share stories, concerns and experiences in a warm, informal and non-judgmental setting.
The events we host are in English and French language depending on attendees. We cater to French families as well as a larger expat audience. Starting a family away from home, in a different culture and system can be disorientating, isolating and challenging at times so I believe the power of community is important. Dutchies are very welcome of course too and we’ve had the pleasure of having quite a few locals attend. We love having babies, kids and partners so the whole family is warmly welcomed.
I launched this initiative earlier this year in January. A group of birth workers offer their regular support as well. We are a team of 4 at the moment and have expertise in different areas: mindfulness, yoga, massage, Chinese medicine, dance and have in common a holistic approach.
On top of our professional experience, we are all mothers and have experienced what it is like giving birth and raising our kids in the Netherlands. We share our personal experiences where relevant and offer professional support and information where needed and possible. Finally, most of us have quite an international background but we have a French connection in common, hence our name
Why the name “Experience Mindfulness”?
That’s a great question which no one has ever asked me before so thank you for bringing it up.
I believe it sums up the essence of Mindfulness. Mindfulness or presence if you will is not something that can really be cognitively explained. You could read 100 books on it and yet not fully grasp it. We tend to get so stuck in our heads and forget that there are other ways to know. It is something that needs to be experienced directly, it is a felt sense of the experience of being alive. When you experience mindfulness, practice it, feel it, understand how it is impacting your body and mind, then you can go beyond the concept.
In mindfulness we move from thinking to feeling which is all about experiencing what is. We pay attention to our senses, to sensations in the body, we connect to our whole being. The body is an anchor to our awareness, always available, always giving signals.
Bringing more present moment awareness in our lives may sound simple but it is not easy, this process requires commitment and regular practice or experience !
Can you tell us what makes you Happy?
Every morning, I spend about an hour practicing mindfulness and yoga or Qi Gong. sometimes I go running and then meditate. I enjoy this morning ritual and it helps me start the day with positive energy. If I skip it, I really feel the difference.
My kids make me happy, although sometimes they really irritate me too of course
But what I really enjoy is when we have quality time. I notice that this is facilitated by having nothing on the agenda, just unstructured play or connection time. I try to make room for a short moment of real connection every day with both of them, mostly following their agenda.
Being in nature is also a great source of happiness, nature calms and energizes me. I am definitely an outdoors person and I really need my daily walk in the park.
Traveling and backpacking, learning new languages and discovering new cultures used to be a passion of mine, nowadays I enjoy our family holidays. My partner is South African and I love visiting there. The nature is so grand and wild, these big open spaces help me feel free and even more alive if that makes sense.
And my work makes me happy. For years my work was not a source of joy or even satisfaction. Now I love what I do I allow my curiosity and intuition to guide me as I further develop my skills, they are my new “boss”, it is so liberating! I enjoy guiding and coaching clients. I witness sometimes amazing transformation which is very inspiring and rewarding.
Certainly a lot has changed in the world and in our own lives in the past months. Our work and work spaces, our mobility and shopping experiences, our relationships, social life and habits around fitness and entertainment have all shifted dramatically.
And when our world is shifted upside down, when the ground seems to be disappearing underneath our feet, it can be scary, disorientating and challenging. That said, these challenges also offer clarity on what is important and possibility for growth and expansion. With all our habits transformed, there has been this incredible opportunity to move out of our comfort zone (hum despite being mostly in the comfort of our home, strange paradox), shift out of automatic pilot and create new habits. So as we carefully take steps towards moving outwards again, what new habits have you consciously created that you want to hold onto? Or maybe you’ve not consciously created habits but have been busy binge-watching Netflix, that’s ok, no judgment here, really? That said it is never too late to invite the reflection in: what new habits do I want to invite into my life and nurture? Make intentions, write it down, remind yourself daily, whatever helps you keep these in focus!
Personally, I’ve taken on some new habits that I want to nurture: practicing yoga and meditation every morning, daily walks, gardening, spending more time cooking nourishing meals. I even started running again. I am really not a disciplined person and my motivation comes not from pushing myself but because I’ve experienced how great I feel when I do these things and notice the difference when I don’t. Now and again I get caught up in less helpful habits especially when I am tired: mindlessly browsing social media, spending too much time on the computer without breaks or comfort eating – all of which makes me feel more tired. As long as this is occasional it is ok for me but I do less and less of it as it is everything but nourishing. Make sure that the habits you choose or things you actually really enjoy and make you feel great, joyful and alive rather than things you feel you should do. Whatever brings joy and vitality to your day will be more likely to stick.
“Just being sentient and in a body with the sun coming up is a state of rapture.” – Rumi
To all the mothers bringing new life into the world right now this is an awareness of breathing and body practice to support your well-being. Now more than ever is the time to trust in your amazing body, inner wisdom and strength, and ability to birth freely and nurture your child. It has always been there but the noise of the world and the dominance of the patriarchy sometimes make it difficult to see and feel. Sending you love and well wishes.
It is been 2 weeks of working from home and home-schooling and I have to say I am starting to become somewhat adjusted to, even comfortable in this new normal. I know I am not alone in this as many around me have expressed the same, sometimes we need more time, it is a process! The capacity for human adaptability never ceases to amaze me, this just goes to prove how we are capable of so much more than we bring ourselves to believe we are sometimes.
Also collectively, it is amazing how we can all press on the pause button in the face of a global health threat, albeit an invisible one. Why we haven’t been able to do this yet in the face of climate change, an immensely bigger threat, also keeps me busy. I suppose it is because this disruption is less immediate, more gradual and our systems are reactive and better equipped to deal with short-term threats.
Anyway, narrowing the lens and transitioning from the macro to the micro, coming back to little me. The first week of this situation was a major adjustment for me, as for most of us. I didn’t dwell in fear and went straight into acceptance as there clearly wasn’t any other option that would serve me well. I didn’t really think over things much and activated doing mode to take the necessary actions to adjust to these changes.
I digitalised my mindfulness and mindful birthing courses despite having major resistance with switching to online, there just wasn’t any alternative.
I was brutally aware that this situation of uncertainty, this threat to our health and life as we know it would bring about a lot of suffering. Plenty of fear, anxiety and worry around falling ill or losing loved ones, isolation and loneliness, depression, financial insecurity, etc. I immediately felt the urge to help. I thought “How can I be of service?” “What is this situation asking for me”, “What do I feel called to do?”. I felt ignited with purpose.
I also felt somehow immediately excited about the opportunities that come with such a shift. This situation is like a forced retreat, we are cut off from external distractions, invited to pause, reflect, slow down, do and appreciate things differently. This space to reflect has the potential to bring us in touch with what really matters, to connect to ourselves, our loved ones, our families, to heal ourselves and our relationships. To rethink how we live. To live in the moment, to recognize the sacredness of each moment, because more than ever we don’t know what the future will bring (we actually never did know but now we are reminded of this!). There is an opportunity for us to awaken, to live from our hearts, because that is where peace resides. To come into being. The practice of mindfulness and self-compassion are powerful tools to do just that.
I started weekly mindfulness and self-compassion meditations to support others to stay grounded, loving, peaceful and in the moment in these times. These sessions are donation-based, every Thursday evening. You can join us by registering on Facebook or send me an email.
As a mother, mindful birthing teacher and doula, I also feel passionate about supporting expecting and new parents. Being pregnant, giving birth and becoming a parent can be scary at the best of times but is particularly challenging right now. I have set up weekly meetups with a group of mothers & doulas to support expecting and new parents in this vulnerable phase. Please join usor pass this on to new families.
Finally, I’ve been really busy taking care of my kids, creating a home-schooling schedule, supporting them in their work, but also making sure to balance that with having fun, playing, connecting and safeguarding their well-being.
We are thankfully blessed with health and all doing well. But it has not been easy repurposing the work I do to online AND offering extra support sessions to support my community’s well-being (which means working more than I usually do) AND juggling this with home-schooling and motherhood. I am sure any parent, working or not, suddenly finding themselves in a position of home-schooling can concur. My partner is a lawyer and has continued with his hectic work schedule at home so he’s been on conference calls incessantly and the care of the children has fallen mostly under my responsibility.
The first week of this situation I was in survival mode, busy with everyone but myself. At the end of the week I was useless and completely wired adjusting to these big changes. I had a good cry on the Sunday, to release all the tension and adrenaline in my body caused by the stress of the situation and all these new responsibilities I had taken on. After that, all I could do was sleep for the rest of the day.
I realised if I was to stay sane, healthy and in a place where I could meaningfully support my family and others, I’d better take care of myself more seriously. Of course, I am aware that taking care of myself is important as I am in care roles, as a mother and mindfulness coach so I do make space every day for the practice of mindfulness in some form or another. However, I realised that what I am already doing wasn’t going to be enough to carry me through these times. I needed self-care more than ever if I am going to be a center of peace and sanity: RADICAL SELF-CARE.
So I asked myself what does radical self-care look like? This last week has been the process of exploring what that means for me and what that looks like and here is how far I’ve come.
–Negotiating with my partner to have 2×1 hours slots to myself in the day, one in the morning and one after lunch. And he often takes over from 19h to put the kids in bed as I have mostly evening courses.
–Starting each morning with a walk in my nearby Vondelpark, coming back for a long sitting meditation, sometimes followed by journaling if time allows.
–During the day, taking time for breaks and nourishing activities with and without the kids – regularly checking in with myself “how am I feeling, what is it I need right now?”.
–I’ve been dancing and singing more throughout the day, with and without my girls
–Taking time to cook nourishing food, also with boosting the immune system top of mind
–Stretching and doing yoga throughout the day with my girls often joining in
–Going out to play for a couple of hours with the girls every day
–Having max a couple of hours where I am really available for / working with the kids and the rest of the time encouraging them to work independently
–Family quiet time after lunch where we spend 30 minutes to an hour reading
–Doing something relaxing and/or creative every day with the girls, I took my painting material out again after years of being in the boxes
–Not checking in with the news unless there’s something I feel I need to know or understand, asking my partner who is a serial news watcher if I missed anything of importance.
–Ending the day with some reading or listening to something inspiring, practicing a body scan meditation, sometimes self-massage, lighting candles, soft music, bath, gratitude practice.
–Going to bed no later than 22h and making sure that I switch off my devices by 20h
I’ve been practicing what I preach more than ever and I am starting to feel wonderfully peaceful. I have less time to myself and somehow, I feel like I have more space. How bizarre? I’ve been even more connected to my body and how I am feeling than usual and connecting more to my children. Not having external pressures and all sorts of social and kid’s activities is very relaxing I find. Of course, I miss giving courses in person and human contact. But I must say I am feeling more peaceful than I have in a while and I can give this gift to my children and others.
FINDING MY TRIBE
My partner is an introvert and talking about emotions, feelings isn’t his cup of tea. Reflecting around both the challenges and opportunities that this time brings on an individual and collective level which I find fascinating, really isn’t his thing either. His idea of winding down after a busy work day is watching news and TV shows and action or thriller movies, as well as thankfully the occasional comedy show. The saying that men and women are from different planets really resonates in my home. I know I am not alone in this. But I did feel a bit lonely being at home and not having anyone I could connect meaningfully with when I really needed to more than usual. So there is probably some work to do around my relationship and this situation is forcing me and many of us to be confronted with that fact. I see that as a much needed opportunity. In need of immediate support, the other question was “How can I build meaningful connection in these times?”, “Who can carry me so that I can care for my family and hold space for others?”
So I started looking for support, looking for my tribe in this new online reality. I found support in so many places, many of which were unexpected. Firstly, the courses I host create a collective learning community so definitely the deep sharing there has been precious. I’ve attended a women circle which was a healing experience and intend to continue looking for this sacred feminine connection. I have been doing online dance and yoga sessions. My doula community has been a huge source of nourishment and meaningful exchanges. I’ve also been strengthening the bonds with my community of mindfulness trainers. I’ve had chats with the neighbours and many friends far and near. Lots of Whatsapp exchanges and hilarious videos shared. With one group of friends we’ve been sending one another our funny dance videos. I’ve been connected to my family more than in the past and I’ve initiated weekly zoom reunions (my parents are divorced so this frequency of ‘seeing’ one another is completely new for them).
I’ve been receiving tons of inspiration to stay healthy physically and mentally in these times as I am sure you all have. Wisdom and support is exploding from everywhere. And actually it is a bit overwhelming just how much inspiration is out there. Staying on top of it all can be stressful in itself. Too much input even wise is just too much. So even if there are tons of resources that I want to tune in to now, I have decided to tune in to something no more than 30 minutes a day and to do my best to choose wisely amongst this wellness offering overload. On the weekend if there is space and will I allow for more time for this.
I really value just being with myself and with my family. I realise that there is as much depth within me than there is breadth out there. It does feel good to hear things that resonate with my own experience or the occasional new insight, new way of looking at a situation. So this tuning in supports me in my own process but it is a fine line between support and overwhelm.
So these are some of my reflections from 2 weeks of this ‘social distancing’ or ‘pausing and staying within’ situation. Ready for week 3!
I’d love to hear what radical self-care and finding your tribe looks like for you so please send me a message or join our sessions.