Two nights ago just before dinner, I was setting the table. I was in a cheerful mood. I was looking forward to the food I had cooked and spending a good half an hour catching up with my teenagers who had been playing their video games for the past hour, or surfing the Internet. I noticed my two preschoolers were happy, and as we sat down to eat, the teenagers seemed like they were in a good mood as well. Then... I wasn't sure what happened. Somehow, a few minutes into the meal, my oldest boy was just mad. I looked at the other and he was mad too. My four year old started crying. My stress level shot up almost instantly. The kids all started yelling at each other. I just sat there with my mouth open for a second. What - the - heck?!
After calming the boys down and soothing the little girl, I looked at my nearly 13 year old and asked, "Why are you mad?" He thought for a moment and exclaimed, "I don't know!" I asked my 14 year old the same question. He opened his mouth, shut it, opened it, shut it, and finally said he didn't know either. The little one was crying because she is so sensitive to peoples moods and could just feel the hostility radiating from the boys. I ended up sending the younger one to his room to cool off, and it hit me. They had so much stress built up that as soon as they had a calm moment, it spilled out of them. Where did the stress come from? I believe it came from the activities they were doing just before supper.
I am a long time practitioner of yoga. That being said, I'm not that flexible and as I have had many breaks from yoga over the past decade, I'm kind of bad at it. I'll get better with practice, and then I just get busy with life and forget. But each time I delve back into the calming soothing world of meditation and asanas (yoga postures), I study it further and learn more about the spiritual side of the practice. Yoga, you see, is not an excersize program. It's a lifestyle and the poses practiced in many gyms and health spots here in the western world is but 1/8th of the experience. But this article isn't to teach you about the many limbs of yoga. There are very many books written by yogi's and guru's who have far greater knowledge than my limited understanding.
I recently read this passage in a book called "B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga, The Path to Holistic Health" written by the man himself. This man, Iyengar, is one of the truly beautiful people in the world and just reading snippets from his life and philosophy are enough to create my unwavering respect and devotion to his teachings. According to Iyengar, "The five organs of perception, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin, are the gateways to the mind. For better control of the mind, the senses need appropriate nourishment. Soothing music for the ears, soft, natural light, or beautiful , peaceful scenery for the eyes, and fresh pure air and the scent of flowers for the nose, all help to nourish the mind. The tongue needs nutritious, delicately flavored foods. The skin should be kept clean and soft, and supple. Finally, the mind must be nurtured by developing clarity of thought." - Clarity of thought, is often what I think of when I read or hear the word "mindful" in use, when not in reference to meditative practice.
How many times have you spent an afternoon at a playdate or had your kids' friends over, or hosted a party (or just had a crazy busy day!), and as soon as you're on your own in the calm and quiet, you put in a movie you've been meaning to watch? Or put on loud music to clean up? The truth is, we all do similar things. We sit down to relax with video games, or t.v. or loud music. Even the Internet can cause us a great deal of stress from Facebook posts that irritate us, chat room arguments and message board debates. And there is nothing wrong with enjoying these things, but I feel it's important do address what these Outside forces do to our delicate emotional construct.
Stress is a physical reaction to overwhelming senses, just as much as it is an emotional response to having a lot of negative thoughts and pressure. You may not realize it, but just playing a video game causes your facial and neck muscles to tense, you often hold your breath, your body is releasing stress hormones into your blood stream to trigger your heart to beat faster and bring up your adrenalin levels to enable you to either fight or flight. But there is no need to go anywhere, no adversary to physically challenge. The same thing happens when we watch t.v. shows or movies with a lot of action or drama. Humans are highly emotional beings and in this modern world we often feel without realization. So when you or your child is spending time in front of the t.v. or computer, they (or you) are so tuned out of their bodies and focused on the action on the screen, that they are dulling their minds abilities to detect changes in their own selves. A perfect example of this, is when people eat in front of the t.v. A person might take a bowl of popcorn or a bag of chips to sit on the sofa and before they know it, they have eaten the entire bowl or bag. They are so enraptured by the moving screen and what is going on Outside, they failed to feel it when they became full, or even when they became so full that it began to cause physical pain.
This inability to feel our own bodies is becoming increasingly alarming. Studies have shown that one cause of obesity is that many people today can no longer distinguish between thirst and hunger and wind up eating when they're body is actually parched. So they in turn become dehydrated and sluggish - which they rapidly remedy with a caffeine beverage or a sugary snack. The fact is, humans are not meant to live like this. And this disconnect with our bodies causes an underlying sense of chaos. Allowing the Outside world to overwhelm our senses amplifies this chaos by causing unnecessary stress that we may not even be aware of.
For instance, my husband is a fan of daytime t.v. At least, if he has the day off he will get bored and because we do not have cable, he will turn on Springer or Judge Joe Hatchet to keep himself entertained. I find I get very irritable and unduly upset if I watch or even listen to these shows. I have to leave the room. I simply refuse to subject myself to stress if I don't need to. I also intentionally stay out of emotionally charged places on the Internet, such as debate message boards or the comment threads on controversial articles. While there is a time to devote to such activities, it is not the right time when I am either trying to relax, or when my sour mood might be taken out on others who don't deserve it.
Instead, I use my relaxation time to do things that actually relax me, like Iyengar proposes. Soft, calming music. An activity that I can do quietly, like knitting or painting or hand sewing. A quiet bath (that does not include children beating on the door), and I also make a point to meditate as often as I can, even if I can do this several times a day. I try to focus on the effect Outside influences are having on my mind, body and soul, so I have better control on how I am affecting the world around me. When I feel angry, what other emotions or physical sensations am I ignoring? What is going on internally and externally to cause these feelings? Meditation can help bring one Inside themselves, to better identify when something is off. Reducing the Outside world and focusing on the Inside world can have a marvellous effect on ones mind, body, and spirit, and reduce stress - rather than intensify it, for you, your mate, and your children.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. It will be updated by 3:00pm PST on Monday. April 30th:
- Unschooling My Heart - Patti at Canadian Unschooler discovered that Unschooling her kids was EASY compared to the bigger change required to Unschool her heart.
- Change (Variety) - Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet writes about how variety is the spice of life.
- No More Threats - Amy at Presence Parenting flips the idea of parental control through threats on its head, for good.
- Why Are You Mad??? Turn Off the T.V and Meditate - Destany of They Are All of Me discusses limiting stress by focusing more on your Inside self.
- Co-ed Sleepovers? Changing My Mindset – Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama takes a hard look at her previous beliefs about sleepovers.
- Change Can Mean Puddles - Jorje of Momma Jorje has had to clean up some puddles after major changes.
- On Acceptance - Laura at Authentic Parenting writes about how she ditched the constant longing for change and came to accept herself as she is.
- Blissed Out on Birth, Drunk on Baby Skin - Melissa from Mothers of Change passionately explores the changes she would like to see come to the maternity care system, and our universal love of the smell of a newborn baby.
- Changing My Mindset, One Challenge at a Time - Wolfmother at Fabulous Mama Chronicles speaks candidly about her challenges in changing how she parents.
- Because Mommy Said No - Dawn of Raising Natural Kids discusses the use of a common phrase that makes Mommy out to be the bad guy when, in reality, she is making decisions out of love.
- Through Adversity We Grow - Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children chooses to take a positive view on change and growth.
- Life is Change - Rae of Ital Livin' writes about the large changes her family has made within the last year.constant in life.
- A Changing Voice - Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots discusses how in order to grow change is unavoidable. That does not mean the process is easy though.
- Being. Changing. Believing. - Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making It All Work reminisces on the changes that have shaped her adult life thus far, and molded her into an adaptable, but still type-A, believer in change.
- Motivating Change In The Face Of Apathy - Brenna at Almost All The Truth is asking the question many of us who actively work to change the world ask ourselves: how do we get people to care?
- She Changes Everything She Touches - Change is the only thing we can count on in life, and Jen in Canada examines some of the biggest things she'd like to tackle before the birth of her second child.