7 Ways to Cultivate Resilience When Life is Tough

7 Ways to Cultivate Resilience When Life is Tough

On the heels of four weeks of illness in my house, there’s not a lot left of me.

I won’t lie: it hasn’t been a pretty time here.

Last week when my littlest went off to nursery on Wednesday morning, and I stepped back into the house after dropping him off, I nearly collapsed. The joy with which I went to FINALLY have a bath and not be worried about children was HOLY.

And then it came – the call to come collect him as he was feverish. Of course I went – giving great thanks that I’d had that bath versus did anything else, because, you know, occasional hygiene is nice when you’re a mama!!

I’ve been mothering for thirteen and a half years now, most of that on my own, so I’m really really good at cutting away non-essentials. But I know I’ve exceeded my limits when I start reaching for the coffee, wine, chocolate and treats, constantly browsing FB on my phone, browsing the sling boards and generally feeling crappy about myself because everyone else looks like they’ve totally got it together and are progressing with life while I’m caught in a loop and descent, bank accounts overdrawn, bills coming in. And I physically cannot do more right now so there’s a healthy portion of guilt attached as well…essentially I caught myself giving up all my good habits just to cope, even when I *know* it’s not helpful.

I had to catch myself because as a sole parent there’s not a lot of room for backsliding. Or there is,  I suppose, on some level, but I *really* don’t want to go there. I have a lot of hopes that we can live better and more happily in this coming year, and I want to be able to show up for myself and my kids. Plus I love my work and I want to get back to it – but I need to be healthy and present for that to happen.

Life, and particularly motherhood, isn’t about that linear path to the prize and it’s done. It’s a much deeper journey, one that requires us to circle round and round again, facing old demons until we can make a friend of them. So for me, this month is about cultivating RESILIENCE. 

I sat down and re-committed to these seven steps:

(1) Declutter: I’m decluttering the crap out of everything to the extent that I am able at present. It’s an ongoing project, really, but we’re getting there! This also helps with any temptation to bring in excess over the holidays…we are keeping it simple and holding to our clutter-free dream. Energy flows totally differently through a decluttered space. It means there’s room to cook, create, move and just be in ways that feel good.

(2) Get off the phone/FB! This is a hard one for me. When I’m lying down in the dark nursing a poorly baby, scrolling through FB is so so tempting. But it isn’t good for me, energetically it’s an addiction and a power loss that drains me, so I am committing to putting that phone down and using that time to think or meditate or rest instead…and to accessing social media more mindfully.

(3) Drinking enough water. Confession – I love coffee, I love wine, I don’t really love water or herbal teas in the same way, however good for me they are. Lately I’ve been reaching for the coffee and the wine…but water is making a return and I notice a huge difference in how I feel. I was tracking it for a while, and I will again, but for now easing in is what feels possible and right.

(4) Sleep and rest, getting enough of it is hard to impossible with poorly little ones, especially if I’ve got that phone in my hand in the middle of the night (I have a baby pretty nearly attached to the boob all night long, which is good for him as he’s only just coming back to food again, but it’s not exactly quality sleep for me). I’m recommitting to tracking sleep, making it a priority over screen time, and to clearing the bedroom to make it more amenable to rest and sleep.

(5) Walk, run, dance, move, exercise. I let my non-negotiable practice slide. Easing back into it, with forgiveness for myself, making the changes I need to make around what this looks like and the timings (colder weather, poorly little one impacts what’s possible for me). Just being kind to my body, walking, stretching, basic strengthening is a start.

(6) Forgiveness. Oh my goodness, this one is huge. How many stories are locked up – old, old stories – power loss and resistance to change in them. Forgiveness is a process and a practice. I’m working with it all the time now, multiple times a day. Forgiving myself is the hardest and biggest part of that.

(7) Gratitude. This is another one that’s helping me shift my unhelpful patterns and thoughts and beliefs, seeing the richness and kindness and beauty that already exists in my everyday life. That there are so many things that are already okay now, and that I want more of those things, for myself and for the planet. I don’t have a gratitude journal, (maybe I’ll get there one day!), I just do it in my head in opportune moments.

7-ways-to

It’s way too easy to fall into worry and anxiety about money and the future (small and large scale) and the planet. These things are real and need to acted on as they are seen! But the point of power for change doesn’t lie in that worry or fear. It lies in our own strength, our own building of resources, our resilience in times of challenge and change. Until we’ve go that in place, we can’t really sustain our action for others.

My baby is back at nursery today, yay! (No judgement, mamas, he loves it there and I love him having another safe place to be besides home with me. I admit with my first I did not feel this way about paid group childcare for babies, but that’s a story for another time.) I’m not sure if he’s really fully well enough or will make it through the full week, but we’re getting there, and regardless he and I are spending this time feeding that resilience.

While I’m taking December slowly, I’m going to be running the LIVE 9-day rebalance again in early January 2017 – our theme will be ‘New Beginnings / Fresh Start’. If you’d like to join us, you can add your email here and/or you can request to join our FB group here.

Start from the centre

When I returned from California following my father’s memorial, the words I heard echoing, the one thread placed down, ‘Begin from the centre.’

But coming to that centre – even glimpsing it – requires unlayering. I’ve spent so much time being things to others (mother, wife, friend, lover, student,teacher, mentor, guide, doula, counsellor), and the obligations and the failures in particular add up and fill the space with a weight and a clutter if one isn’t careful, and I’ve not been careful.

And so the unlayering, the cutting old ties, the calling back of power and self, the gradual glimpsing of that centre.

Begin from the centre. As everything is falling to pieces, it’s surfacing. It’s a start.

Non-negotiable practice

It’s summer now, and being at home with 4 children, including a 13 month old who’s breastfeeding in that way only a 13 month old can, my days could easily be (and often are) consumed by the needs of others. There’s been a lot of upheaval lately that results in an intensifying of their need-level, and an unfortunate corresponding reduction in my capacity to meet those needs as my own space and time is so easily eroded.

There’s always a reason for not having the time – the floors need cleaning, the dishes need washing, the baby needs feeding or changing…even when we skip the floors as much as possible, the rest really needs addressing fairly regularly.

I’ve really noticed the impact of the erosion of the small spaces and routines I’d carved out for myself, kind of like the avalanche of small but utterly necessary tasks has gotten to a tipping point. There’s no room for mama, and that’s not healthy or good. (If you are some awesome super-organised and super-fit mama, please don’t judge us ordinary mortals! But I’m pretty sure I’m not totally alone on this one.)

Walking – real walking (sometimes interspersed with a bit of running) that makes me sweat – is a key non-negotiable practice for me and I’ve let that slide more than I’d like.

I walk every day anyway, but I walk with children, with a dog, with a baby tied to my back or my front. That means I’m outside (yay!), but I’m not sweating (boo!).

This week I’ve taken time to notice what that does to me:

*My stress and anxiety levels increase.
*My patience levels decrease.
*I end up angry and frustrated more often.
*I feel my body chemistry is off.
*I don’t sleep as well.
*I spend more time hiding out on the world of social media.
*I eat more crap to compensate for the crappy feelings in my body.

I’ve been in this space before, many times. I know, however much I’d love it, no ‘giving mama time’ fairy is going to swoop in and make things easier for me. I know that the more my energy erodes, the harder it gets, the more things fall apart. So I’m returning to non-negotiable practice.

What this looks like for me, to start, is that I get out there with the baby in the buggy, on my own so I can walk fast, no matter what. Even if I don’t have enough time. Even if my house is dirty or the bigger kids have to wait.  Luckily for me my baby loves getting out there too. Luckily my baby generally loves my non-negotiable practice too

These are my anchor points, the foundation for the kind of life I want to be living, the choice to be living now as the kind of woman and mother I want to be. And I know from experience what feeds me, will feeds the rest as I become more patient, more present, more in control of the choices I’m making (vs. making reactive ones).

There’s so much that doesn’t get done on a daily basis. Even more the case when there are children about. What’s important to me is living each day as I want to be living, even in the midst of chaos around me.  At the end of the day, whether I’ve been out for my walk or not, those things will still be there…or not.

I’m committing now to 40 days to start. I’m keeping it simple. It’s part of my personal MuTu® System reboot (I’ll share more about that very soon) – but it is regardless my commitment to my family and myself, my non-negotiable practice.

What’s your non-negotiable practice? Please share in the comments below so we can inspire each other to keep going…and if you’d like to join me for the next 40 days, please do!

You can find me and others doing this over on Facebook – not a big formal thing, just a bunch of women supporting each other in carving out space – just pop on and let us know your personal non-negotiable practice, and you can use the hashtags #rebalancingwoman #40days and to keep us posted out you’re getting on.

Breastfeeding in a bottle-feeding culture – 8 reasons why I’ll be at the Global Big Latch On 2016

It’s World Breastfeeding Week this week, and the Global Big Latch On 2016 will be taking place on Friday and Saturday.

I’ve been breastfeeding for over 10 years now – 4 children, and I’m currently  13 months into feeding my fourth. I’ve breastfed as a single mother, and as a mother in relationship. I’ve breastfed a severely ill, hospitalised toddler – while also breastfeeding her newborn brother. I’ve traveled internationally many times while breastfeeding, in the USA, UK, and Europe.

You know what?

Breastfeeding still doesn’t feel ‘normal’ to me. We live in a bottle-feeding culture. Everywhere I go, in every conversation I have with people outside of a very closed and select group (of breastfeeding mothers and supporters), breastfeeding is the strange thing. It’s often laudable, yes – we all know that ‘Breast is best’, right?! Except it’s not.

Breastmilk and breastfeeding isn’t ‘best’, it’s normal – biologically normal, historically normal. But when it comes down to it, I’ve found myself more often needing to explain, to argue, to defend my baby’s right and need to be normally fed. Because what is biologically normal still isn’t culturally normal…or in many cases and spaces, even truly socially acceptable.

Top eight reasons why I’ll be at the Global Big Latch On 2016 this Friday:

8 The delighted surprise from my first health visitor when my exclusively breastfed newborn had gained enough weight to be signed off by her second visit. (I’m pretty sure that was a rare occurrence for her, she wasn’t expecting it.) This to me doesn’t look or feel like breastfeeding is normal.

7 Women are still not being offered breastfeeding solutions to breastfeeding problems – and are not being given access to knowledgeable, skilled help when they want it and need it. Pressure to feed, pressure to quit. You can’t win as a mother in this game.

6 How difficult and uncomfortable it is to latch that baby on in public. I’ve been doing it for over 10 years. I still have an awareness of what people can see, am wary about how they might react. Yes, I do it, openly, frequently. It’s still not ‘normal’ or comfortable in the sense of widely accepted or unnoticeable because it is so common.

5 ’But how do you know if he’s really getting anything?’ The obsession with measuring what’s going in, the assumption that it’s a simple matter of extracting a uniform substance to fill the baby’s stomach, and most of all that the BOTTLE is the best unit of measurement. This is NOT the reality of breastfeeding. Milk composition changes throughout the day, and over weeks and months, according to meet the baby’s specific, individual needs. And the BABY, when allowed free access to the breast, is the one who puts in the order. How can we reduce that to the number of ounces in a bottle? We can’t.

4 ’Your baby is low weight (or overweight), you should breastfeed less.’ I’ve had both of these, with two children two times over falling into each camp, in my time. (Obviously with the lower weight children, I was being advised to up intake of other foods – ironically mostly things based on cow’s milk that would have been hugely problematic due to their food intolerances.)

3 Traveling to the US Embassy in London to have my then month old baby’s birth registered – seeing lots and lots of babies under 3 months on the train and in the waiting area – my baby was one of two I saw breastfed, the other one was heavily covered by cloths so no one would see or comment on the feeding.

2 “You’re not really feeding, you’re only using your mummy as a dummy” – words from a health care provider to my 12 month, special needs baby who latched on during her visit. (Because you know, human breasts are just a substitute for those factory manufactured things that you buy at the shop!)

1 The other day on FB, this story crossed my newsfeed (trigger warning – infant death). A formula fed newborn, a healthy baby, suffering horribly and dying, utterly preventably, because the family didn’t know that powdered formula wasn’t the safe and normal way to feed a baby. They hadn’t been warned that formula could be contaminated. They probably didn’t know there was any real alternative because let’s face it, breastfeeding doesn’t feel normal, acceptable, or even possible to many people.

Babies every day, in countries all over the world, are affected similarly. And it’s totally, totally unnecessary.

To me, this isn’t about eliminating formula feeding, or in any way judging families who feed their babies breast milk substitutes. There will always be some need in some cases for babies to be fed in ways other than directly from the mother’s breast. I absolutely respect a mother’s right to choose what is right for her baby and her family.

To me, it is about knowing what we are choosing – and having a REAL, genuine choice. We don’t have that at present.

When breastfeeding is the norm, a whole host of obstacles to women’s breastfeeding success are lessened or removed altogether. Healthcare providers become better versed in supporting women through the common (and uncommon) challenges. The social stigma of feeding one’s baby is public disappears. Women have access to better alternatives when substitutes are needed.  Formula manufacturers can only be held *more* accountable for the products they are putting out into the marketplace. No baby should be suffering and dying in this way. No parent feeding their baby formula should be unaware of the risks, the need for proper preparation, and warning signs to look out for.

Normalising breastfeeding is at its heart about normalising and ensuring safe feeding for all babies.   All mothers need to be informed of what safe infant feeding means. All mothers should receive as a matter of course clear and accurate information about infant feeding. All mothers deserve access to safe, sustainable, nourishing food for their babies. We don’t currently have that. That’s why I’ll be at the Global Big Latch On 2016, and very likely in years to come.

Come join us at Wharton Park, Durham (or at a location near you) this Friday, 5 August 2016, for the count. If you’re not currently breastfeeding or pumping, you can still be counted as a supporter – and breastfeeding women and women preparing to breastfeed need to see that they are supported.

Find out more or book in online at The Global Big Latch On.

Giving time and space to death

My father died recently. He was 90 years old, and I’m certain it was utterly the right way and time for him, but it still came suddenly, and the waves of rippling change are just beginning to be felt.

I find that I want to give this space. Space for honouring him and his life. Space for acknowledging the changes in me that result from this shift in what I think of as a generational barrier between me and what’s beyond. That’s half-gone. And it changes things.

There’s not a lot I want to say right now. I’m going to be taking most of the summer to focus on my children and this transition, to give space to thinking and feeling and to my own body and soul weaving and healing.

But the things I do want to share now are these – these things that stand out for me on this cusp of change.

*Death, like birth, requires a sacred container for holding experience. This is true for the person passing, but also for those close, and it’s not just about the moment of passing, but about the moments around it, extending into time, before and after. It’s important that we give this to ourselves and our families.

*It’s good to acknowledge death. Even if you’re uncomfortable with it, say something to the family. We notice. We see who shows up. We appreciate the effort at connection and the expressions of love and sympathy.

*I wish I had gone to see my Dad in California before he died – I wish I had found a way to get there, no matter what, for any one of those moments of quiet life and celebration that I missed. That’s the only thing I regret, that I didn’t find a way to do that, and it changes my priorities significantly.

*Family photos are always a gift and a great thing to be taking time for, regularly, formally and in formally. I’ll be doing a lot more of that.

Family

My father gifted me with so many things, he was a primary care-giver for me throughout my childhood and into adulthood, in a way that few fathers are. He made certain that I had every advantage he could give me – thanks to him, I made my way to Smith College (I was one of the rare students to have a father who was a graduate – he had attended the School for Social Work), and then onward to New York University. He taught me a lot about spirituality and religion, and about living in harmony with the land. From my childhood, I remember his organic gardens, his morning yoga, his Saturday morning blueberry pancakes, his photography and his gifting me my first camera when I was about 4 or 5, chopping and hauling in wood for winter, tapping the trees to make Maple syrup in early spring, and so many other things.  His life and death have been a gift to me as his daughter.  For anyone who would like to read more about him and his life, there is a beautiful collection of words and photos here.

 


 

I’ll be writing and sharing here on the blog over summer, and back to normal in September in terms of classes and clients and such. There will be some great new things coming as in June I was so fortunate to be part of the very first MuTu Pro training in Orlando – I’m looking forward to sharing locally the core healing that this system brings for pre- and post-natal mamas.  We’ll be starting up some FREE walks locally (walking daily is a key part of the MuTu system), so if you’re interested in joining best way is to contact me on Facebook on the Rebalancing Woman page.

(Current clients and students not to worry as we’ll still be carrying on as usual and I will be in touch very soon, just landing from my time away and little people settling too).

Massive love and thanks to all those who have been so supportive in this time, and who have expressed their love and connection in various ways.

Why I don’t give unsolicited advice on FB (or anywhere)

Has it happened to you? Recently, a few times over, I’ve posted on social media – not a question, mind you, not asking for help – and the wisdom poured in, “This is the way to do it.”

Of course, if you’re a pregnant woman, or a mother with a new baby, even better, all you need to do is step outside your door…so as a mother of four I’m already an expert in the nod and smile technique.

But truth? I’m fed up. There are few things more irritating to me than unsolicited advice, on social media or IRL. You know why it really bugs me, and why I never, never, never give my opinion unless asked (and even then, I may hesitate)?  Because it presumes the person on the receiving end is less. Because it is an attempt at control over something that quite frankly has nothing to do the kind advisor.

Now I know people mean well, they really do. (If you’ve done this to me, I love you, and I don’t hold a grudge. But equally, please stop.) I know you’re wanting to be helpful, to share your experiences. This is a great thing. If you’re a friend of mine, you very likely have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. I really welcome that sharing when you frame it as your own experience, not as unsolicited advice.

Because seriously, we need to knock this nonsense on its head. If you are in the helping professions, please understand, no one is going to listen to unsolicited advice (least of all me). Giving advice where it’s not been asked for will be, at best, an irritation. At worst can be devastating to someone in a tough place who is already doing the best they can.

Please, please, please if you are knowledgeable and want to share that knowledge, offer it up in the right way, as the gift it is, where it’s welcome – when someone has asked you for it.

In all cases, let’s start by acknowledging the people we meet as whole human beings, with stories and complex life experiences of their own, and with full responsibility for their own lives and well being. Whether or not we understand them, or whether or not we know what these are.

One of the most powerful teachings I’ve been given as a healer is that we’re not here to make people better. We’re here to see from the beginning the wholeness that is already there. (What this means for you if you come to work with me is, I’ll never look down on you. I’ll never pretend I know more than you about your life, your struggles, or your path. I will honour what you bring, and be your number one ally and supporter. And *if* you ask my opinion, I’ll offer it so that *you* can decide what’s right for you.)

When we begin from a place of wholeness and respect, giving space to the experiences of others and their capacity to handle them, we can create much more genuine interactions with powerful positive impact.

But telling me what to do when I’ve not asked you? It’s disrespectful, and a turn off. Please knock it off.

Inner self-talk and affirmations

Affirmations? I’ve not been a huge fan of affirmations in the past. They’ve often felt to me like smoothing a delicate and elaborate sugar-sweet icing over the top of a caved in, half-baked cake. Anyone who knows me, knows that healing to me is very much about meeting every part of ourselves, not sugar coating or sweeping the pain under the carpet.

That said, I have worked with mantras and affirmations. I’ve had some success with them, but I’ve gravitated more toward mantras in other languages than I have towards affirmations in my native tongue. They felt awkward. Artificial. Wrong. It’s only recently I’ve come to a new understanding of working with mantras or affirmations without denying that inner pain so many of us are working through as we bring healing to our lives.

Believe me, I know pain. We all have inner mantras in our self-talk. These tend to be default, and things that don’t always totally surface to conscious awareness. Suddenly we will surface and hear what we’re saying inside. Often it’s not pretty. It’s not been uncommon for my personal inner mantra in the past to be along the lines of, “I want to die.” (Just keeping it honest, folks!) This is of course another way of saying, “I want to be released from this pain and I don’t know how to move through it right now.”

Life is hard sometimes for all of us, and the gift of most healers comes from lived experience.  In the best sense, living and experiencing the patterns of the wound, making these whole within the self, so that can in turn be shared with others. I’m a-okay in my self and in my self-care, and I seek help when I need it. Yet having worked with many people over the past years, I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing the darkness of it. A lot of us are carrying deep wounds from childhood and beyond, that are surfacing for healing, and these  wounds, when they begin to speak can hurt.

I believe we need to be courageous enough speak this kind of thing. The pain is real. The key is to see it, and acknowledge it, so we can pass through it and heal. This is what I mean by ‘rebalancing’. I’m not afraid of this pain, or the vulnerability of acknowledging I have experience of it. Pain and suffering are a part of the human experience. The need to stop denying or suppressing it, the need to recover real balance and reclaim the joy and vitality of living is why I won’t shy away from the truth of what so many of us, me included, have carried.

What I do know is that while the pain is very real, and these kinds of inner mantras carry a message for us, they are not helpful or healthy for us to be holding and repeating day after day. They are very much a signal that our bodies and our selves need something. It’s our job to figure out what, and apply that thing it liberally.

Here’s an important truth: The feeling is real. The pain is real. Very often, the story we’re telling ourselves about the pain is not real, and therein lies the key to healing (ie, becoming whole). We are not meant to hold that pain indefinitely. If it is coming up, it is coming up because it is an indication of where we need to look to bring healing.

The best way I’ve found to work with this level of pain is not to deny it. When it hurts, it hurts, and it’s no good someone telling you from the outside that it doesn’t. We can suppress it for a time, but it will pop back up again. And that’s Shadow.

So, how can affirmations help in this picture? I’ve been learning that there are a couple of ways that work for me, both of which acknowledge the energy of resistance and shadow. I’ll share one experience.

I’ve recently been re-reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, and pulling out the ‘ultimate success mantra’ from there to work with. I’ve copied it out in the past, said it occasionally, but only this time did I really take in what he says about it in the book – that the act of repeating it, and working with it, is also about allowing the release of the energy we are holding within ourself that is working against it (ie, the ‘upper limit’). That was an ‘Aha!’ moment for me. That in working with this mantra (which is really a kind of affirmation), my goal isn’t to impress it upon my mind or my body, but to watch what energy it releases in me, and what it opens me to receiving.

I’ve been working with this mantra daily this week, and it’s been so interesting to watch the process within myself. The way that I can ‘forget’ the words and get them jumbled at times, the way the energy moves through my body. Sometimes the words prick. Sometimes they feel like a delicious invitation. Sometimes the beginning is easy and the end is hard, or vice versa. I can feel and see energetically what’s leaving my body, and what’s being restored. It’s pretty incredible, and I intend to keep working with it. (If you’re wondering what the other method I’ve used with success on this point is, it’s EFT, but that’s a story for another time.)

Best bit? I was walking into town this morning and I realised that my default inner mantra has changed, effortlessly. The cake is getting remade from within (amazing how that can happen). And that’s a great feeling.

"I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, and I inspire those around me to do the same."I’d love to know, what’s your experience of working with affirmations? Please share with us in the comments below. Thank you!!

Want to join me on this healing and rebalancing of life, at no cost at all? Just add your name and email to the boxes below, and I’ll send you an invite to Bloom! the FREE 9-day rebalancing course for women, where I share some of my best tips and practices for bringing balance back to life. When you do, you’ll be joining hundreds of women from around the world in this shared intention for bringing better balance to ourselves, our lives, and to the world we live in – and that is a real, powerful force for positive change.

Also, once you’re in, I’ll send you an invite, too, to our closed Facebook group where you can share your experiences and insights along the way – we all need connection with likeminded folk and community, eh?! Thank you for being part of it.

Balance and Bloom!

Balance isn’t static, it involves constant engagement of physical muscles and agility, of emotional processes and language, the use of our power, and our energy, in those continual course-corrections we make…often so subtle we often don’t even notice we’re doing it.

Women hold the balance, in so many places, in so many ways – we hold the balance not only for ourselves, but for our children, our partners and our families, for that wider movement of awakening of the planet itself.

We cannot sustain this work of balancing on our own.

If we try, by choice or neccessity, sooner or later we begin to see it in the impact it has on our bodies, the loss of vitality, the emotional volatility, the painful imbalance in our cycles and in our lives.

We need connection. We need community. And we need space for healing and revitalising our own bodies, our own dreams, our own lives.

Rebalancing is the process of realigning ourselves, assessing, letting go, bringing in what we need to hold that state of health and well-being so that we can carry forward that balance.

Balance and Bloom! 9-18 April 2016

Balance and Bloom!

For 9 days, women from around the world will join together in a powerful healing group process – you’ll connect with daily energetic rebalancing sessions, take part in simple self-care rituals, and get access to powerful journeys and meditations to support your own rebalancing process. Best of all, it’s free!

Missed the deadline? No worries, you can still join – the course will carry on in a DIY format, so you can sign up anytime, and work through it in your own time. You can join here now.

I’d love to know – what’s your best tip or resource for finding balance when you get knocked off kilter? Please share in the comments below!