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Zen Motherhood: Why I'm pretty Sure Buddha Was A Mom

by Angelica Shiels Psy.D. (follow)
Find Dr. Shiels on Facebook: facebook.com/pages/On-the-Yellow-Couch-With-Dr-Angelica-Shiels, and read her blog at ontheyellowcouch.com
Motherhood (11)      Zen (3)      Mom (2)      Buddha (1)     

mom behind buddha statue meditating

If you are a mom who at any given moment still has some remaining hairs on her head, cells in her brain, or power in her voice, you might just be a zen guru.

Because somehow, you have managed to not pull all the strands out of your pony tail, bang your face repeatedly into the wall, or scream your voice into oblivion. And for a parent, THAT restraint is just about as zen as it gets.

“Zen,” is basically fancy-talk for managing to keep your shit together despite the chaos, destruction, and unchangable difficulty that surrounds you….. Errr, what I mean to say is despite having kids.

Buddhism teaches four little facts that someone along the line dubbed “the four noble truths.” Believing they are true does not conflict-with or require any certain religious beliefs. Believing them as true simply requires taking a quick look around. However, if you are a mom, no quick look around is necessary, because you have most definitely been blugeoned over the head with these truths.

1) Truth #1: Some suffering in life is inevitable.

Ummm… Kind of a killer out of the gate. No one said this was going to be some touchy-feely-lovey-dovey doctorine— just that it was true.

But do I even need to explain this one!?

As moms , we usually know at least a little bit of physical unpleasantness during sleepless, back-breaking, breathless, heart- burning pregnancy.

Then we get another form of physical suffering right when our babies are newly born. I’m pretty sure functioning for months on end with maybe a few uninterrupted hours of sleep at a time ( if you’re lucky) is the definition of suffering. Sleep-deprivation misery is in the dictionary right next to a picture of a kid who is teething clenching down on your nipple , and is closely followed by a duplication of “Dora” on repeat, being irrationally screamed-at whenever you dare to let your guard down, and cleaning peanut butter, poop , and other crust out of curtains every ten minutes.

And those aren’t even the teenage years.

Truth # 2: We suffer when we WANT something to be different than it IS. The pain is in the WANTING.

How often do parents have a sense of WANTING something to be a certain way instead of embracing it as-is?

I personally struggle with acceptance when my four year old still tantrums (He SHOULD have grown out of this, my subconscious cries, and then I get all kinda of twisted frustrated, clinging to the fantasy of an emotionally stable pre- schooler.)

I struggle when my six year old can’t for the life of him coordinate tying his shoes or remember that “what” is not spelled “wut.” Or when my two year old turns and kicks so much that I break a sweat getting him into his carseat.

And shouldn’t my kids just LISTEN to me when I tell them to come in for lunch or tell them to go upstairs for bed?

And I sometimes get so crabby, growling to myself how nice it would be to go ONE day without living in a food-toy-pee-grass-market cyclone.

Sometimes it is so difficult for parents to just stop WANTING it to be different; easier, less chaotic. Because it’s HARD to endure difficult, unpredictable, and chaotic day in and day out.

But yet moms do. We somehow find it in us to accept it all. Because motherhood makes us HAVE to…. And eventually we get good at being just so damn zen.

Truth # 3- Happiness can be attained if we live each moment one at a time, instead of dwelling on the past or imagined future.

Parenthood is full of calls (or more specifically whines and odors) to direct our attention toward the immediate present …whether we like it or not.

Number three is less a “noble truth” and more a survival tactic that moms adapt whether they know it or not. If you have ever grocery-shopped with a couple toddlers, you know the value of focusing on the moment and saying the hell will what just happened and what might happen next. The mantra is something like, “just get the milk…. Okay, now just pick up the thrown yogurt… Okay, now just give screaming kid a few crackers even though we didn’t pay yet…Okay, just make sure the kid doesn’t get hit by that car….Okay, just get the flailing octopus child in the car seat…”

More importantly, this noble truth is referring to the concept of life as a string of ever-changing moments. Each moment of cereal all over the floor is simply a moment that will eventually morph into a moment of clean floor; Each moment of screaming, poopy kid, will eventually morph into a moment of clean, sleeping kid; And on and on.

Moms understand more than anything—because they live it constantly— that the “moments” of screaming, anger, fatigue, guilt, and desperation are nothing more than moments about to change.

Truth # 4: Obtaining happiness is a journey along a path that requires all kinds of intentional behaviors and thoughts (specifically stuff like awareness and truth and wisdom…).

Motherhood is a constant experiment attempting to discern “What the hell am I supposed to do or think to make this even minimally easier?!”

Maybe if I pack more snacks during our errands or put a lock on the door at bedtime or read to them more or make a sticker chart …. Maybe if I put caramel sauce on their broccoli they’ll eat it….

And in all of this experimentation, we over-practice intentionality…then finally, at the end of all of that….

We reach zen.


We pass out before out head hits the pillow.


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