As a young mother, I was always looking for balance. I thought that balance was something I could create, should create, in my home and believed it to be within my control. Over the years I’ve learned that the only thing I can control is myself, and I’m not always successful at that. That’s why I’ve been so attracted to meditation and mindfulness, practices that help me to keep an inner balance
Meditation and mindfulness are not the same, though they compliment one another. I had a note on my bulletin board for years that said, “Meditate” and I could never find the 10 minutes to do so. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is not an action, but a mental practice and can be done any time, all the time. It’s something that really is accessible to new moms. It’s an inner dialogue that witnesses our experiential landscape in a non-judgmental way.
Because of my interest in mindfulness, I am excited by the work of Cassandra Vieten, author of Mindful Motherhood: Practical Tools for Staying Sane During Pregnancy and Your Child’s First Year (New Harbinger: 2009). When my children were babies, no one was connecting motherhood and spirituality though it seemed apparent to me that they were one and the same. To be a better mother, I had to access deeper spiritual dimensions of myself. It both amused and angered me that it was considered laudable to get up at 3:00 AM to mediate but deplorable to get up at 3:00 AM to take care of your baby. I tried to bring these two dichotomies together in my own thinking. Cassie’s work heralds a whole new, yet timeless, paradigm shift for mothers.
Cassandra Vieten, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist, director or research at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, co-director of the Mind Body Research Group at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute and co-president of the Institute for Spirituality and Psychology.
Her research has focused on mindfulness-based approaches to cultivating emotional balance; the involvement of emotion regulation in addiction and recovery; and the factors, experiences, and practices involved in psychospiritual transformation. She is co-author of Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life.
Cassi is also an avid soccer player and mom of eight-year-old Indigo. I had the privilege of interviewing her this past summer at Ghost Ranch, an education and retreat center in Abiqui, New Mexico, an hour north of Santa Fe. Cassi met her husband at Ghost Ranch where they both volunteered one summer and both of their families have been going there for decades.
Ghost Ranch is best known for its association with Georgia O’Keefe, who had a house there for many years and painted in the area. In fact, one of the exciting new offerings at Ghost Ranch is the Georgia O’Keefe Landscape Tours, hour-long tours to the scenes and locations of O’Keefe’s paintings. Ghost Ranch offers a dazzling array of course offerings in such diverse disciplines as Archaeology, Paleontology, Art, Health and Wholeness, Music and Performance Arts, Outdoors and Hiking, Religion and Spirituality, and Peace and Justice to name just a few. Every year they hold a Family Week during which there are classes for both parents and children. I took my children there several times when they were growing up. There’s a swimming pool, dining hall and lots to explore. Ghost Ranch offers a potent combination of immersion in nature and intellectual stimulation.
Ghost Ranch was the perfect setting in which to interview Cassi because the philosophy of Ghost Ranch is a living example of mindfulness. An old friend, Gail Anderson, who is now marketing coordinator there, chauffeured me to the interview. I am grateful to her for making it so easy to interview Cassi and to Ghost Ranch for granting her the time to do so.
Cassi’s definition of mindfulness sounds easy: pay attention to what you feel, to the emotions you are experiencing, to what you think and to what you want to do. By practicing this type of self-observation, we have a means by which to come back to ourselves moment by moment and in times of crisis. It helped me very much to hear Cassi’s stories of the women she works with. I feel calmer every time I listen to this interview.
You can also feel calmer by listening to a guided meditation by Cassi. She suggests that it’s something you can listen to while nursing, during a lunch break, while your baby is sleeping in the car seat, immediately upon awaking or before going to sleep. In addition to the mediation, Cassi’s website, Mindful Motherhood has other helpful resources for moms interested in personal transformation, including a free downloadable pdf “guide” and “reference sheet” for the Mindful Motherhood Yoga Series. Look for a Mindful Motherhood online course through the Institute of Noetic Sciences (and hopefully on Mothering.com) in November. Also, read some of Cassi’s blogs on All Things Mothering.
My interview with Cassi Vieten is just about 30 minutes. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.