As parents, partners and caregivers, we often feel stretched and compressed to balance our multiple responsibilities. So I am sharing my 3rd annual “call-to-action” that I launch each spring through my teaching practice, 3 Jewels Yoga.
#MarchMindfulness is a time to renew our commitment to cultivating skillfulness in thought, word + deed.
#PAUSE to #BREATHE.
#TUNEIN to your body (sensations) + mind (thoughts, perceptions, moods, emotions) + heart (intentions + aspirations).
#NOTICE without judgement what is present.
#TEND to yourself with #COMPASSIONATE actions — be it meaningful movement, words of affirmation, or spending time in the company of a #goodspiritualfriend!
Today I kick off my annual #MarchMindfulness campaign to promote the practice of bringing skillful + compassionate awareness to how we engage, are impacted by, and then respond to the world around us.
The Satipatthana Sutta (Discourse on The Four Establishments of Mindfulness) is a foundational text and, ultimately, guiding practice in Buddhism. It is the inspiration and heart of my #BodyAwarenessBootcamp series, which ended this afternoon, and truly the ground in which my teaching practice is rooted.
How do we fully establish ourselves in mindfulness? We are diligent in developing a clear comprehension of the realities of our body and mind. It begins with the thread of the breath:
be aware that [you] are breathing in.
be aware that [you] are breathing out.
be aware of [your] whole body.
be aware of [your] whole body.
Throughout each day this…
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before their shopping trip yesterday, my mate and i discussed our son’s inevitable request for a new toy. i was emphatic that the singular focus and purchase be new pajamas.
but i know my partner and our son very well [that’s my sigh of exasperation you’re hearing] so was hardly surprised when K bounded up to me with his new mini-figure in hand. showing me the micro-catalog that came with the package, he excitedly pointed out the next collectible he wanted to get.
i excused myself to go to the bathroom, so our conversation continued through the open door (’cause that’s how we do):
me: i really don’t think you need all that.
k: i know i don’t need them, mommy. but i like them, which makes me want to buy them.
my mouth fell open! did my on-the-brink-of-5 year-old child really just discern the difference between a want and a need?! And, on top of it, understand that it was his appreciation for the object that sparked his desire to buy it?!
i called K into the bathroom, saying i wanted to see his face. we high-fived, and i told him to kiss his brain (what we say whenever someone has a cool idea or solves a problem) because i liked the way he thought through the idea about shopping for new toys.
i can only hope that the seeds we plant and water in K about mindful consumption will bloom into skillful decision-making as he navigates the material world.
All our ancestors are in us. Who can feel himself alone?
In May 2003, my sisters and I returned to Lansing, Michigan to be with our grandmother Gene (Hayes) Merchant during her heart surgery and subsequent recovery. Facing the illness and major surgery of a beloved quickly puts the value of life, family, and knowing one’s roots into new perspective.
Over the next few weeks, Tamara, Atia, and I sifted through several boxes of photographs on a mission to label, organize, and preserve these aging, delicate treasures. We were fascinated by the stories Gramma told us, bringing hundreds of captured memories—smiling faces with familiar features who gathered to share joyous occasions, milestones, or simply everyday wonders—back to life. We had also come across birth certificates and other documents, which provided some vital information and offered us a clearer picture into the past. From that moment, I was inspired to renew the vow I had made when I was 12 years old to research and document our family legacy.
After attending my first Rhodes Family Reunion in Hamilton, Canada the summer of 1989, I was excited to explore our German heritage. But books on German genealogy indicated that most records had been destroyed in World War I. A little discouraged that I could not immediately begin my search, I remained determined to someday have the means to put together the story of how we came to be.
The opportunity finally arrived soon after I had returned to my home in Brooklyn, New York in July 2003. The journey began in the Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy at the world-renowned New York Public Library (the one with the lion statues featured in dozens of movies) in Manhattan where I discovered that Wesley Rhodes had served in the Civil War. Along with viewing census records of my great-great parents, Sylvia (Rhodes) Hayes & James Hayes, I obtained a copy of Wesley’s file card from the Civil War Pension Index.
I immediately enlisted the help of Tamara, who lives in Maryland, to visit the U.S. National Archives and Record Administration in Washington, D.C. and copy Wesley’s file. I was amazed when she excitedly called some weeks later that August to tell me that there were actually two huge folders of documents. (It was the best birthday gift I could have asked for!) Neither of us expected there would be so much information! But, as you well know when the government is giving you money, war veteran or not, it doesn’t come easy: they want proof of the proof! As thrilling as it was to hear my sister read the documents to me, I was eager to touch this history myself and visited the N.A.R.A. in October 2003 to collect additional information.
Family, please know how blessed we are to have access to such valuable information. Many people cannot begin to piece together their genealogy, to verify stories that have been passed down orally for generations, or to come upon surprises such as Tamara and I did! Contained within those files are birth, marriage and death certificates, letters written by Mary (or perhaps her daughter Annie on her behalf) to the U.S. Pension Bureau, depositions and affidavits from friends corroborating Mary’s and Wesley’s history, and even a document of Wesley’s health examination, recording his height at 5 feet, 8 ½ inches, weight at 185 pounds and his various ailments.
This booklet is my first endeavor to encapsulate the remarkable legacy of Mary Roth and Wesley. For me, it is one of love against odds, courage, determination and the quest for freedom.
My little guru happily demonstrates how to relax the mouth during the inhale + exhale for this yogic breathing practice! #dhammaWITHmama
I have found Kaki (Beak) breathing technique to be one of the simplest to teach, learn, and, most important, to make a regular part of my practice. I use it to cool down my body when I’m running or practicing an energizing yoga sequence, to quiet and center my mind while meditating or when a task that requires my full attention, and to feel relaxed whenever I am feeling stressed.
You may practice this anywhere, at any time—sitting, standing, lying down or walking. With eyes opened or closed (as long as you’re not moving, that is!)
Begin by observing your natural breathing cycle for several moments. Use each exhale to relax your muscles and to feel connected to the earth. Use every inhale to create space in your body and to maintain a lengthened spine.
Relax your tongue and gently bring your lips together to form an “O” as if…
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I cringe every time I see a parent or caregiver taking shortcuts when it comes to car seat safety: improperly installing and securing a car seat; putting a child into type/size of seat they are too big or too little to safely ride in; leaving straps twisted and/or unbuckled; allowing underaged kids to sit in the front seat without even knowing/understanding the impact of airbags on their little bodies.
Newsflash: These are milestones that are not to be rush.
7 out of 10 kids in child safety seats
are not properly buckled in – SeatCheck.org
Let’s get educated. Let’s stay aware and informed…and hold everyone who transports our children to the same standard of care.
Parents Central – Car Seat Recommendations
Find a certified car seat inspector in your area: Seat Check
My nEWLY-TURNED 4-yEAR OLD correctly finished my thought TODAY. wHEN I asked HIM how he knew, he said MATTER-OF-FACTLY: “I know everything! Kids have useful brains!”
my on-the-brink-of-four-year-old child just told me (threatened, was it?) that i would not be his best friend if i didn’t let him have ice cream for breakfast!
he wasn’t mean about it. but he was as sincere as a little one who’s coming to understand the “suchness” of friendship could be. he really wanted that statement to mean something to me.
i held back the laughter. (the ridiculousness of it all: K is cute and funny when he pouts and rationalizes; he’s persistent in his requests for sweet snacks at inappropriate times; we have this debate several times a day!)
i then probed deeper, talking with K about feeling sad or mad or disappointed at not getting what he likes when he wants it. i asked him what it meant that i’m not his best friend. but he’d already changed his mind, climbing into my arms for a hug.
here begins another teaching moment for the family in patience, fairness, friendship, teamwork and kindness. always exhaling…to invite mindfulness to the madness.
Last year, I worked as a substitute teaching assistant for a preschool program and had the opportunity to observe the dynamics between teachers, program assistants, and students in several classrooms.
One teacher quickly won my heart when I heard her say “Kiss Your Brain” in praise of the kids’ engagement in a group lesson. It wasn’t about having the “right” answer or being the best and smartest. It was a simple celebration of their ability and willingness to use their brain power—thinking, imagining, problem-solving, asking questions—and sharing it with others.
I’ve carried this practice into my home as well as into my yoga and meditation classes. With my son and the children that I teach, this phrase is a seed of self-compassion to nurture confidence and a sense of competency. It has the power to foster a love for learning without the pressure of performing to a certain standard of achievement. I also see its usefulness in cultivating a teaching-learning environment where equity, collaboration and cooperation (rather than competition and criticism) can bloom—equipping our children with a skillfulness that will serve them in all their relationships.
For myself and adult practitioners, it becomes a gentle reminder to honor these brilliantly-designed brains of ours. As we learn more about our neurobiological processes and their impact on mind (thoughts, words, feelings) and behavior (actions, habits), we can discover tools to work with rather than fight against our brain/mind to generate skillful behavior. Kiss your brain can be used as a mantra or affirmation to generate a new way of seeing and relating to ourselves. Through this practice of self-understanding, self-compassion ripens beautifully.