By Rebecca Cunningham and Susan Whelehan
Issue 105 March/April 2001
As a new mother, you have a limited amount of time and energy. These meditations offer you a manageable and valuable source of comfort and strength. We hope you will use them as you wish: daily, weekly, or at the drop of a diaper.
Meditation is meant to accompany your breathing. Some of the mantras read as two short sentences. We suggest that you use the first sentence as you breathe in, and the second as you breathe out. We have italicized the first sentence as a visual reminder of this. We also suggest that you divide a one-sentence mantra into two parts, breathing in on the first and out on the second.
The bottom portion of each selection contains a mantra that summarizes the meditation. You may want to copy this portion and carry it in your pocket, tuck it into your nursing bra, stick it on the fridge, or whatever to remind you throughout the day to stop, breathe, relax, and reflect.
You may choose not to copy the mantra but instead use the whole page as a visual reminder to stop, breathe, relax, and reflect.
This collection of meditations is for you to use in the way that works best for you.
Blessings…and keep breathing.
There are times when anger accompanies me through the day. It slowly simmers as the third shirt of the morning is covered with spit up. It steams while I juggle you, the groceries, the stroller, and the front door keys. It is close to boiling over when a dirty diaper lands face down on the carpet and there are no clean ones close by.
And then you work your magic. With a glance, a gurgle, or a giggle, you invite me to let anger go: to join you and enjoy you on today’s journey.
I let anger go. I come with you.
I can make this day a meditation by trying to be awake to all that happens. I don’t need to be “The Perfect Mom.” I do not need to have all the answers. I only need to know that I am deeply connected to all people, to this planet, and that this moment is precious.
I want to look at all things today with gentle eyes, appreciating the beauty and mystery of life.
Wake up! This moment is precious.
I listen for your breath without knowing I am listening. It is the changing rhythm that accompanies my day. I hear the echo of your first breath as you climbed to the surface of this world. It echoes when you catch your breath in the depth of a dream. It is there as you struggle to breathe and gulp in nourishment. It is there in the moment before the wave of your crying.
Short, quick breaths. They show you fiercely grasping onto life. Breathe… Keep breathing…
I hear your breath. I give thanks.
Before it comes there is the breath that holds the silent pause. A moment of warning. Now the torrent of cries comes thundering forward. Crying. It swirls into the nooks and crannies of my bones and the sinews of each muscle. I’ll try to stay calm. This is the only way you have to tell me what you need.
What is it? What are you asking? I am listening. I am ready to learn your language.
I am calm. I am listening.
Your tiny hands guide me on today’s path. They beckon me to journey with you. With wild, flashing fingers you translate your impatience. Hunger shows itself in clenched seed fists. They open into exotic flowers, frozen in a gesture of satisfaction when your belly is full. And when you sleep, your hands, like stars, guide me along your dream-traveling.
Only if I pay attention can I decipher your signing. I must watch closely.
Your hands invite me on today’s journey.
Being a mother means that you never get to actually…it would be nice to just manage to…after I finish the…enjoy a cup of…then I’ll…think I’ll try to…only just…
Stop. Breathe. Be glad. Give thanks.
Another bag of used baby clothes. Another call to connect me with my former life. Another “You look wonderful!” when I know the bags under my eyes could hold the laundry. Acts of kindness made by people who look outside of themselves.
Maybe they have been here and so they know and feel connected. Maybe they haven’t been but want to be, and feel connected. Maybe they have just cultivated the habit of recognizing that we all are connected. Maybe they are just that kind.
I give thanks for all kindness. I seek to be that kind.
Oh, to see and hear and feel you laugh. Such delight! Such presence! You pass it around the room. You make strangers smile. You lift my spirits and help me remember what is really important. Such is the power of laughter. Your laughter lifts my spirits.
How is it possible that such a tiny person can create such a mess? Mountains of laundry, dangerous piles of dishes, and spit up everywhere. How did it get on the curtains? It must be a testament–this mess–to your life force.
It has been sent–this mess–to challenge my obsession with conquering chaos, with cleanliness. It is here to remind me that a growing life cannot be managed, organized, buffed, polished, folded, or otherwise straightened up. This mess is a sign of your life.
Bless this mess.
The mirrors in my home capture many truths of my everyday life. Indeed, Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn say that parenting itself is a mirror in which we get to see the best and worst of ourselves.
May my mirror today reflect courage, humor, kindness, patience, gratitude, wonder, respect, and, at the end of the day, forgiveness.
Parenting is a mirror. What is mine reflecting?
I can count on night coming, but I cannot count on how much sleep I’ll get. I can count on night coming, but I cannot expect hours of uninterrupted rest. I can go to bed worried that I will be up soon, or I can go to bed and know that I will get some sleep. Yes, night has changed for me. And it will someday change again. I will make the most of it now.
I am in the moment. I relax.
My Aunt Jane, mother of nine, told me one of her favorite quotes: “And this, too, shall pass.” It helps her get through the hard times, knowing they won’t last forever. And it reminds her to rejoice in the good times, to really take notice, for they won’t last forever either.
This is the only moment that I have right now. Help me to be fully present to it. Now.
And this, too, shall pass.
Too often I begin my day with the holy grail of “Perfect Mother” hovering before me. I vow to be confident with every gesture. I pledge my allegiance to eternal cheerfulness, cleanliness, and competence. I devour how-to parenting books living in the fantasy world of super-momdom.
Enough! I will be gentle with myself as I grow into this new role. I will recognize today’s quest as an opportunity to learn how to be your mother in this moment, now.
I will be gentle with myself.
Nothing I ever did could have prepared me for this reality, for this moment. Sometimes I waste time worrying about your future, your schooling, your career, instead of enjoying you now.
Perhaps the greatest gift I can give you is my presence. It is so hard to be in the present. But you ground me. Perhaps that is your present to me. Let us be together now.
I am in this moment. I give thanks.
This moment’s tiredness spreads itself across my shoulders and into this day. Like a yoke balanced on my spine, it holds both a witness and a warning. As a witness it sees the magnitude and monotony of daily routines. It also warns me, this tiredness, to recognize my limits when frustration easily flies from my lips.
I know that I will not always be this tired. But, for now, let this tiredness remind me to seek rest and acknowledge the loving work of mothering.
I am strong. I rest.
Worry taps on the window and lets itself in before I’ve opened my eyes. It skitters underfoot and settles in for the day. You haven’t eaten enough…you’ve eaten too much. You didn’t nap long enough… you’re sleeping awfully long. You seem fussy…you’re too quiet.
I will sit face-to-face with worry. I welcome conscientious caution. I reject paranoia. I will open the door and let worry out.
Open the door. Let worry out.
I said “Yes” to the life growing inside me. I said “Yes” to the unknown journey before me. Every day, each feeding, diaper change, walk in the park, and wiping of your runny little nose is another “Yes” to my love for you.
It is sometimes given grudgingly, unthinkingly, or yawningly. But I trust that it is given enough times lovingly, that when the day comes when I fail you and I ask forgiveness you shall answer, “Yes.”
Let me give my “Yes” lovingly.
Both elementary school teachers, Susan Whelehan and Rebecca Cunningham live in Toronto , Canada . They each have two children. As new mothers, they felt a need for a book of brief meditations to help them along the way; when they couldn’t find one, they decided to write it themselves, and so Meditating Mamas was born. Artwork by Novalis, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Canada.