Time Warp Tuesday: Comments Please!

I know it’s the last day of my week long blogging hiatus but when I heard what this Time Warp Tuesday’s theme was I felt I had to put up a little something. It just felt like too perfect an opportunity after my reposts this week.

You see, this week’s Time Warp Tuesday is called Comment’s Please! The idea is to revisit a post that you liked and that got very few comments. I felt compelled to participate in this week’s TWT because I basically reposted all these past Mindful Monday pieces this week because they got very few comments when they were first published. I was hoping that if I put them back out there again, maybe they would ring true with someone who wasn’t reading me over a year ago when they were first published and that person would let me know in the comment section.

The Buddhist teachings of mindfulness and loving kindess are important parts of my life. Buddhist teachings have been some of the only pieces of wisdom to provide me comfort during TTC, our loss and the uncertainty of parenthood. Buddhism helps the world make sense. It brings me immense comfort amidst the suffering of life. It seems like the perfect lens with which to experience infertility, loss and motherhood.

I have to admit, I genuinely don’t understand why my Mindful Monday posts got so few comments. I know that Buddhism as a religion or belief system might not be for everyone but its teachings seem to transcend organized religion. Even if one believes in G-d or any other deity, the power of mindfulness and staying in the present moment seem like valuable teachings.

Perhaps the relevance of these teachings is not as universal as I believe. Perhaps I don’t present them all that well. Perhaps people just aren’t interested in this kind of stuff when the hustle and bustle of every day life is tugging them elsewhere.

I hope people don’t read this as a plea for pity. I’m not personally hurt that these post didn’t get many comments. I’m merely curious that they don’t seem to inspire much reaction. (Approaching a situation with curiosity instead of judgement is another valuable lesson Buddhism taught me.)

So today, for Time Warp Tuesday, instead of linking to a specific post, I’ll just ask that you pick any of the reposts from the last week (scroll down on the main page) – whichever you find most compelling and comment on that (if you feel so inclined).

What kind of posts most inspire you to comment? What kind of posts do you rarely comment on? Is there anything specific a blogger can do to better ensure you’ll comment (like end the blog with prompts such as these)? How do you feel when a post you hoped would receive comments fails to do so?

Repost: Avoiding the Second Arrow

Imagine you are sitting on the couch watching TV with your partner. You’ve had a few glasses of wine and are feeling pretty good. Laughter spills out of your mouth as you share stories and anecdotes with the person you love most of the world. It’s a wonderful night.

Suddenly water is seeping through your shirt and into your pants. You realize the 20+ ounce cup of water you were just holding slipped from your hands on it’s way to your mouth. A significantly sized swamp has formed on the couch cushions and a waterfall is gushing onto the floor. But you can’t even be upset about that because there, in the middle of the newly formed wetlands, is your brand new iPhone4. Not even a month old and already immersed in water. You cannot believe it.

You grab it and quickly remove the cover while simultaneously drying it off with a towel you grabbed from who-knows-where. Now dry, it seems unscathed but you have yet to turn it on. You do so and all seems fine until a warning appears on the screen. “This accessory not made for iPhone. Distortions will occur.” You have not returned the case to it’s protective position so you know that is not the accessory it’s referring to. You realize sadly that the accessory it’s referring to is the water that is probably seeping slowly into the circuitry. Your iPhone is sarcastically appraising you of the situation – your iPhone is f*cked.

Now, if you’re me, you get fairly upset at this kind of development (which actually happened to me on New Years Eve – luckily my iPhone ended up working fine a few hours later). You think of all the money you spent that is now wasted. You think of how long it will be until you can get another phone for under $200 (two year contracts WHY?!), you throw yourself on the floor lamenting you misfortune and declaring “woe is me” for all to hear. And then you get really upset and you kick yourself over and over again for being such an idiot and you declare yourself the clumsiest mofo around and you decide that no one has EVER done something so stupid in their whole life and your generally berate yourself for your silly mistake, even though it was just that, a mistake.

That, my friends in the second arrow. The first arrow is the dumb thing you did (poor a full glass of water all over your brand new iPhone) but the names you call yourself, the blame your heap on yourself, the guilt you feel, that is the second arrow. The second arrow is what allows the first arrow to do so much damage. The second arrow is what really hurts us.

There is no point in striking yourself with the second arrow. The second arrow is not useful or productive. The second arrow can only inflict pain and suffering. While things can seem very bad indeed, it only makes them worse when we berate ourselves for our part in them.

Of course it is good to learn from your mistakes. You can tell yourself, “in the future I should not leave expensive electrical devices lying around when I’m drinking water,” or “if I were being mindful when I was drinking that, it wouldn’t have happened.” These statements are true and, if said correctly, devoid of judgement or blame. They are simply facts being stated with the intent of avoiding similar arrows in the future.

If we only had to worry about first arrows life would be a more positive, productive place. Unfortunate things would happen but our responses to them would cease to cause us suffering. If we could approach all things, both good and bad with equanimity (that word again – I promise I’ll write about it soon) we wouldn’t have to worry about every little negative thing that happens. If we could remember that impermanence is the basic state of all things, small missteps in the road would not cause us to stumble. If we could avoid the second arrow we’d be happier and more content all around.

I have spent much of my life piercing myself with the second arrow. I’m great at making myself feel like shit for the dumb stuff I’ve done. I’ve lost so many valuable things and each one caused multiple wounds to my self-esteem. And now, looking back, it’s those self-inflicted wounds I remember the most, that caused the deepest scars. It’s tragic to think that my own responses to my misfortunes were more hurtful than the misfortunes themselves.

So the next time you do something that results in a negative consequence, think about how you are responding to it. Are you piercing yourself with the unnecessary second arrow or are you avoiding it? Only you hold the power to dodge the second arrow. It takes practice and self-restraint but it is possible. I promise you, if I can dodge it, so can you.

Worry’s undue suffering

A big thanks to all who have commented on these re-posts. I have to admit, rereading them, and your comments, has been a salve on my currently troubled soul. This turned out to be a perfect week to return to these teachings. I will definitely bring Mindful Mondays back into the rotation once this week is over. 

I’m also happy to report that I’ve been doing good work on my book. I can’t wait for all of you to see some of what I’ve done at the end of the month! 

I am a worrier. Feeling overwhelmed by the uncertainty of life was one of the reasons I started looking into Buddhism. I wanted to find a way to to accept that which seemed unacceptable – the inevitable pain and suffering of life.

I’ve slowly and thoughtfully been reading Buddhism for Mothers by Sarah Napthali. I really love the book and I don’t want to speed through, lest I rush past any of the thoughtful lessons that I know apply to me and my anxious, fear driven existence.

The night after I wrote my post about my Acceptance of Suffering I began the chapter in the book about worry. It seemed perfectly timed. Of course worry is a huge part of every parent’s life. We worry about the wellbeing of our children, if they are safe, healthy, happy and fulfilled. We worry that they are eating the right foods, being exposed to developmentally appropriate stimulation, thriving both mentally and physically. We fear they won’t be accepted for who they are or won’t be included by their peers. There are literally countless reasons we can worry for our children. The liberating thing is, while we will inevitably worry, we can choose when, how much and about what. We can also choose how to shoulder the burden of our worry.

As I read the chapter on worry, I came across the most amazing quote. I mentioned it in my 300th blog post as one of my top mantras of the year. This placement in the “Top Three” is telling, as I only came across it in the final days of 2010. But it seemed to speak to me on such a deep, personal level – it was like it was meant just for me. Thank you Mark Twain for saying this.

‘My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes . . . most of which never happened.’

This quote spoke to me because my life has also been filled with terrible misfortunes and the majority of them have been of the not-actually-having-happened variety. Reading this quote I was suddenly, violently, aware of the fact that I could chose whether or not my life was spent lamenting the tragedies that had not yet occurred or appreciating the present moment despite the great uncertainty of the future.

After having my daughter I realized that my twenties had been all but overrun by the tragedies I expected would befall me. I had been so worried about experiencing infertility and pregnancy/infant loss that somewhere, deep inside, I was wounded by those tragedies, even though they had never taken place. The weight of the anxiety surrounding whether or not I would become a mother had become so all consuming, so smothering, that I could hardly accept its fantastical foundation. I had created tragedy in my life where there was none. How tragic is that?

For some reason this quote told me something I already knew in a way that made me actually understand it. If you live your life always fearing future tragedy, it will be as if you’ve lived through the very tragedies you want so desperately to avoid. You are basically condemning yourself to the pain you’re so scared of. Only by accepting the possibility of it and letting it go can you truly be free.

I used to read blogs about loss and feel soul wrenching sorrow for the women whose lives had been devastated by terrible misfortune. I felt such sadness for them as I pondered how horrible it would be if those things happened to me. My compassion wasn’t completely selfish, as I believe we do have to imagine how a person’s loss would affect us if we can ever honestly consider their pain. But the lingering sadness and desolation, that was me reflecting their loss onto my own life. That was me nourishing my worry and fear. That was me creating tragedy where there was none, at least not for me. Then, after feeling that desperate pain, I began to writhe against the unfairness with bitter disgust. I would become so angry at the world for what it could do to some but not to others. I couldn’t stomach the arbitrariness of it all. I couldn’t stand that I’d never know my own fate before it befell me.

Now I feel I can hear about other’s suffering without possessing it. I can (and do) put myself in their place and feel their pain, if only for an instant, but now I do this out of love and compassion, and not out of fear. I read their stories so I can feel empathy towards them and send them loving kindness. I abide their pain so I can honor it.

Buddha taught that the mind is everything; what you think you become. In the same way, tragedies you imagine can all but become a reality, for if we suffer their possibility surely they can hurt us with the same strength as their realization would. There is enough suffering in life, we don’t need to create it unduly. And if we do succumb to the fear of uncertainty, we have no one to blame for our suffering but ourselves.

The unbridled joy of a truly open heart

I was really tired today. I almost didn’t go to yoga. I thought of a whole slew of reasons why I might not go, gave myself tons of possible excuses for bowing out.

When I got home from work I cleaned up the kitchen and then tried to take a nap. I might have gotten twenty minutes, I’m not sure. I was still so exhausted and wasn’t sure if I wanted to go but Wednesday nights are yoga nights and I felt the routine of it seeping in. I signed up online for class. I told Mi.Vida to be home by 6pm. I started putting on my clothes while Isa took a bath and before I knew it I was walking to class.


Yoga tonight was great. The pace of the class was prefect for me. I felt strong even though I was obviously challenged. I remember thinking multiple times that I was so glad I had come.

And then we did savasana.

That’s when it happened.

During savasana, or the final resting pose, I had what can only be described as a transcendental experience. I was lying there, focusing on my breath, when an intense feeling of joy and gratitude overcame me. The only way I can describe it is to say that my heart felt truly open, fully and completely so. I suddenly saw everything in my life and was overwhelmed by the bounty of it, by all that I had, by the limitless love I had the great honor of sharing with others. Everything in my life seemed absolutely perfect, just as it was, my family, my daughter, my partner, my parents, my job, my apartment – things I generally complain about seemed faultless, utterly perfect. My apartment wasn’t small or moldy or cramped or messy but warm, inviting, bright and safe. I literally could not conjure one negative thought about it.

As I sat longer and longer with this open heart, and realized it wasn’t vanishing as quickly as it came, I started testing other people and things that I was generally disgruntled about. The woman at my work whose political views chaff and who got pregnant on the first month trying, both times and who gets to had free child care from her in laws for the last five years, the one I can’t really stand? When I thought about her all I felt was love and an intense desire for her continued happiness. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced. It was like she was a different person in my eyes.

This experience couldn’t have lasted more than five minutes but I feel like it transformed my life. To know that opening my heart in that way is possible, and to know how good it feels, has changed me. I came home and immediately sat down to write about it because I never want to forget how incredible this experience was or how momentous it seemed to be. I need to remember that a path towards that kind of awareness, either via yoga or mindfulness meditation or something else, is a path worth journeying.

Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Perfect Moment Monday: 15 seconds

This is my first time participating in Lori’s (of Write Mind Open Heart) Perfect Moment Monday. Thank you Lori for giving me cause to reflect on this wonderful moment shared with my growing girl.

My daughter is not much of a snuggle bug, but I am. I’m hoping that some day she’ll indulge me every once in a while with a good long snuggle. Right now I have to make due with quick, fierce embraces that end before I’ve hardly realized they began.

*       *       *       *       *

I sit on the pillows in the playroom, watching my daughter entertain herself – first with books, then stuffed animals, then musical instruments, then books once again. She flits from one toy to another, her attention easily stolen by something bright, shiny and just out of her reach. I track her quietly, silently, observing her in all her one and half year old glory. She’s growing up so fast, I don’t want to miss these precious moments.

Suddenly I catch her eye. She stops, a huge smile blossoming on her face. She turns to me and I sense her body readying for movement, fast and furious. Without thinking she lunges forward, barreling towards me with reckless abandon. She crashes into me, trusting I’ll catch her, keep her safe. I grab her gently and tickle her softly, then let her body fall to rest next to mine. I have her blankie and she grabs it from me, bringing it to her face.

We lay there, still and quiet, my nose buried in her hair, breathing in her sweet essence. She looks up at me, searching for reassurance that it’s me, that I’m with her and when she sees me she smiles again and lets her body melt into mine. We lay there for what feels like a life time but is probably only 15 seconds. Fifteen glorious seconds intimately shared with my ever changing daughter. Even if we snuggle like that again, she will be a different girl. She will never be in the same as she was right then, resting quietly in my arms. She will never again be precisely who she was right in that moment.

I hope I always remember, even when my daughter does not seem so ever changing, that every wonderful moment shared is unique and should be experienced as such. We are always changing, with each and every breath, we just need to recognize it is so.

Mindful Mondays: Touché Monday, Touché

When I first went back to work after my maternity leave I was living for the weekends. Every work day I counted down to the weekend, when I spend uninterrupted days with my daughter. Every weekend I felt the precious minutes with Isa slipping away, I could see Monday rushing towards me – inevitable, unstoppable. Eventually I realized I was miserable all the time, even when I was with her. Then I took a step back, revisiting some of the most basic Buddhist teachings.

Be present. Be mindful.

I decided that I would no longer spend my weekdays longing for the family time of Saturday and Sunday. And I would not spend those precious weekends dreading their eventual end. I decided that I would live in the present moment feeling acceptance and avoiding judgment. And since I knew I couldn’t actually live in the present moment, I vowed to at least live in the present day and not count down to circumstances I deemed necessary for the manifestation of happiness.

I did this for several months and I was content, genuinely so. The weeks at work were more pleasant and the weekends at home were wonderful. The Sunday blues stopped descending upon me and Mondays ceased to seem insurmountably awful.

Today I woke up with that feeling again; that feeling of, Curse you Monday, my old nemesis! And all day today I’ve been stumbling, crushed under the weight of the week looming ahead. Touché Monday, Touché.

Why is Monday getting the better of me again? Why am I struggling to stay in this day, this moment and not peer anxiously into an unknown future? It’s difficult to be present. I struggle to be mindful. It’s more challenging to do both when I’m tired and run down. I always feel tired on Mondays because it’s so hard to get to sleep on Sunday nights. And of course there’s the business of my impending summer vacation.

I only have five weeks until school is out. Five weeks. I’m trying so hard not to count down until the break. I’m attempting to live each of the next 33 days for itself and not solely as a stepping stone to summer. The next few weeks are precious. They are the last weeks of my daughter’s first year. Isa will turn one in less than a month and I don’t want to squander this time with her wishing it were another time. Just typing that out seems so ludicrous to me.

I know if I wait desperately for summer to come it will go by faster and be less satisfying when it’s finally here. If I live each day free of any preoccupation about summer break I will enjoy that vacation more. And I know I can accept each of these coming days for what it is. I know I this. I just need to do it.

Thank you Monday. Thank you for being a faithful teacher; one who always returns to review the lesson, lest my complacency allow me to forget.

Mindful Mondays: Wanting too much?

“Want little and know how to be satisfied.”

When I was first trying to curb my conspicuous consumption I made a bracelet with that line printed on it. I hoped the words encompassing my wrist would be a constant reminder, willing me to be satisfied with what I had. At the time I was thinking only of things, material possessions. Of course now, entrenched in motherhood, I’m realizing that there are so many other things I want… uninterrupted sleep, quiet personal time, someone to clean my house, to go out with friends or my husband, more quality time with my daughter. Sometimes I feel like all I do is want. And the land of wanting is not a satisfying world to inhabit.

Buddhism teaches that your expectation govern your sense of fulfillment. The greater your expectations, the greater the probability that they will not be met. When expectations are not realized, you are unhappy. This makes sense. If you want to experience certain things while on vacation (like warm, sunny weather or quiet, relaxing evenings), and they don’t materialize, you will be disappointed. You may be so upset that you don’t get appreciate the things you are enjoying, like good food or the company of friends or family.

As a mother who works out of the home, I’m constantly wanting things that I probably am not going to get. I can maintain these expectations and continue suffering, or I can change them. It’s as simple as that. I’ve noticed that a general theme of parenthood is feeling out of control. It’s easy to feel like your basic expectations are not being met. It can be overwhelming. Realizing that your own expectations are actually holding you hostage and creating your unhappy state can set you free.

Of course, we will always have wants and needs. No one would recommend attempting to abolishing all expectations without proper guidance and years of training (although if you were able to do this, genuinely, you would achieve enlightenment). The reality is, it wouldn’t be possible for 99.99% of people. And of course some expectations are necessary, like the expectation of being treated with respect for one’s emotional and physical well being. But most of our unmet expectations are more about what we want than what we physically need. Human beings have desires, and they always will. Luckily, just being aware of them can help us alleviate their grasp on us and our happiness.

I wrote recently about how hard parenthood has been on our relationship. Mi.Vida and I have really struggled recently. This week he is going to Austin for the SXSW music festival. I’m very excited for him to get this time with his friends doing his absolute favorite thing, listening to live music. When we discussed having children going to concerts was the one thing he was terrified to lose and I’m truly thankful that he gets this opportunity. I know it will make him genuinely happy.

I’m also a little jealous he gets five days away from responsibilities both at home and at work. It should also be noted that I’m going to miss the living shit out of him.

With all of this on my mind,  I suddenly found myself overwhelmed this weekend by the desire to go out on a date with my man. I wanted to reconnect with him away from home, sans the constant distractions.

I also really wanted to see a movie, in a theater, with popcorn and a huge well of Diet Coke. I wanted that really, really badly.

We went round and round trying to figure it out but it just wasn’t going to work. Seeing a movie takes too much time and would have us out too late for either set of parents to watch Isa. So I had to give up my expectations of a movie date. And I decided I’d only be willing to do that with much petulant fan fare and a general attitude of depravity. Let’s just say I was moping around the house being a right pouty little biotch.

Then I found my bracelet under the table (where Isa had casually discarded it during a meal) and I read those words for what felt like the first time.

Want little and know how to be satisfied.

Picking my sullen frown off the floor along with my bracelet, I stopped for a minute to figure out what I really wanted. Did I really want to go to the movies? Well yes, but that wasn’t a good idea for this date for a number of reasons. I could easily see a movie with a friend some other time, when Mi.Vida could watch Isa and I wouldn’t have to feel rushed (he doesn’t really like seeing movies anyway). What I wanted, what I really needed was to just be with Mi.Vida. And we could pull that off at home. We could put away our smart phones and computers and order in (or even cook) and clean off the table and light some candles and open a bottle of wine and have the experience I really wanted, while at home.

Of course Isa might wake up and we’d have to deal with that, but it wouldn’t be so bad. We could have what I felt like I needed without it being a big deal. And I certainly didn’t need to mourn not going to the movies of ruminate on how I never get to do what I want. Because that is not true, I get to do what I want all the time, and I’ll always get to do what I want if I have realistic expectations.

In the end, Mi.Vida and I did get to go out for dinner. My folks were able to come by and see Isa and stay for an extra hour and a half so we could go out. We had a lovely dinner and spend the entire time talking about non-parenthood related things (well almost the entire time) and we shared a bottle of wine and scooped tastes of each others meals into our mouths and had a really. nice. date.

The whole time I kept thinking, this is so nice, this is so much better than I expected. I simply reveled in it, savoring each and every minute.

And the next time I want to do something that motherhood seems to render impossible, I hope I can remember to want little and learn how to be satisfied, and make the best out of whatever presents itself.

In what area of your life do you feel your expectations are not being met? Do you think you could change your expectations in any way? If you did, do you think you’d be happier?