Thursday, July 5, 2012

Garden (Time Out) Meditation

Welcome to the July Mindful Mama Carnival: Mindfulness and Nature
This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Carnival hosted by Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ

This month our participants have shared their experiences of mindfulness and the natural world. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

It's almost nap time and we've had a challenging morning. Daniel is alternating between screaming and whining about something which I'm not sure I totally understand. To help cope with his big emotions, he's begun to kick me repeatedly from his seat next to me on the couch.

After several attempts at redirecting this energy into other (less painful) outlets to no avail, I stand up and tell him, "I feel upset when I hear screaming and whining. Kicking hurts my body and it hurts my feelings. I need to take a break." There may be some protest, but after a couple repetitions of, "I'll be right back," I've succeeded in retreating—glass of water in hand—out the back door and into the fresh air.

I sit down on the back steps...and I can breathe again. (So I do!) I draw in full, deep breaths of cool air, savoring the extra oxygen, the smells of the outdoors, and feeling the change inside my body.

I don't have an agenda; there are no tasks to be completed. Somehow, though, I end up wandering out into the yard and into my vegetable garden.

I visit one group of plants: inspecting their leaves, admiring their delicate flowers, feeling a flash of excitement when I see a new ripening fruit. Wait—is that a tiny welling of pride? I notice that I feel gratified and satisfied in the part I've played in cultivating these simple miracles of plant life. From tiny seed to hearty, food-bearing vine, I was there to witness and hold the space for every intermediate step.

I move on to the next area, repeating my inspections and ritual of admiration. I may redirect a stray sprout or right a tipping stalk, but my aim is not to get things done. Like a mother absentmindedly grooming her baby as he nurses, I'm simply focusing my energy and attention on these growing things: showing them some love.

In turn, as I open my mind and my energy, Mother Nature pours in beauty, light, and life.

Somewhere along the way (when I wasn't paying attention) all the anger and frustration I was feeling simply disappeared from my body. I am no longer thinking of all the tasks on my "To Do" list, of strategies to try to help Daniel with emotional regulation...of all the things that were distracting me from being able to focus on the present.

As I exhale, the difficult morning moment drifts away on the Summer breeze.

I inhale, and I'm filled with new energy, a focused sense of purpose and perspective. I've experienced a renewal of spirit that can only be found outside. My cup is full once again.

Only then can I go back in and reconnect with my child.
So I do.

Mindful Mama Carnival -- Becoming Crunchy and TouchstoneZ Visit The Mindful Mama Homepage to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Carnival!

On Carnival day, please follow along on Twitter using the handy #MindMaCar hashtag. You can also subscribe to the Mindful Mama Twitter List and Mindful Mama Participant Feed.

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction has found a connection to nature in her very own backyard, thanks to her chickens.
  • Healing Gemstones and Crystals for Children Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses which genstones and crystals are best used by children to support physical, emotional, and/or spiritual healing.
  • A Gardener’s Meditation Andrea at Tales of Goodness shares how she finds peace and renewal through gardening.
  • Weeding My Thoughts Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how nature keeps her in the moment and stops her endless stream of thoughts.
  • Grounded in Nature Rani at OmSheSaid shares her walk in nature, and through expressive words, shares this journey to coming home.
  • Embracing the Magic of Moonlit Nights Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares ways to embrace the magic of moonlit nights with your children and as a woman.
  • Meditation for a Mindful Mama Alinka at Baby Web guides you through her research on the science of meditation, its numerous benefits, and presents to you a life changing meditation exercise.
  • The Wild Within Naturemummy at Motherhood: My Latest Adventure reflects on the soothing qualities of wild places.
  • Nature’s Lessons in Mindfulness Tat at Mum in Search wants to bring the same mindfulness that comes so easily in nature to her relationships.
  • On Manicured Nature: We Roam in Small Spaces Featherstory at The Aniweda Dream shares her gratitude for her limited natural settings and her plans to expand her children's experience with the natural world.
  • Garden (Time Out) Meditation Do you ever need a time out for yourself? Amy at Anktangle finds that during a difficult parenting moment, taking pause to spend a few minutes outside is just the thing she needs to be able to experience renewed patience, focus, and energy.
  • Nature Makes Me a Better Mother Terri at Child of the Nature Isle could not imagine parenting without Mother Nature.
  • The Healing Power of Sunshine Karen at Playful Planet shares her experiences of reneweal in the natural world.
  • Natural History Kenna at A Million Tiny Things gets out into nature, 200 years ago, and isn't sure she likes it there.
  • Nurtured by Nature Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares with us how being in nature helps her feel centered and connected.
  • Mindfulness and Nature Zoie at TouchstoneZ explores the connection between mindfulness and the natural world.
  • A Sense of Awe and Wonder Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the feeling she never fails to get from the natural world and how it guides her to the mindfulness she craves.


  1. Sometimes that's just what we need - to go to a place of wonder and take it all in. The garden is a great place for that.

    Also, let me thank you for describing your son's behavior. My son has started to do the same thing when he's frustrated: he sits next to me and kicks me, and for some reason it just lights my fuse, which really surprises me because I am generally really patient. There's just something about kicking that triggers a negative reaction. Next time I think I'll just get up, walk away, and take a moment for myself. Maybe in my garden!

    1. You're welcome, Jenn. I find myself particularly triggered by being physically hurt by Daniel, whether he's kicking, hitting, biting, etc. I find that setting a firm limit isn't only very effective, it's totally necessary for me.

      When he's unable to redirect his energy elsewhere with some prompting ("Kicking hurts me. Please kick this pillow/stuffed animal/ball instead."), then I really just have to remove myself bodily from the situation and take time to regroup.

  2. Wonderfully written. The pictures really brought me into the peacefulness of your moment. When my little one reaches those stressful times I hope I can draw from your advice!

  3. What a great and effective way to balance yourself! It's amazing what a few minutes of change of environment can do :)

  4. that raspberry looks so delicious! I find myself appreciating my garden in a whole new way this year (my first summer as a mother) as well...and...concerned where I will find my center come winter!!
    I find myself short on mothering role models, so I must admit I really admire the way you handled Daniel's "alternating between screaming and whining about something which I'm not sure I totally understand. To help cope with his big emotions, he's begun to kick me repeatedly from his seat next to me on the couch." I hope I can be so patient when my turn comes.
    P.S. I love your blog

    1. Thank you so much! I've been practicing a lot with the way I talk with Daniel about things he's doing that are hurtful or dangerous. It's important to me to be gentle with him when it comes to "discipline," and this is one of the ways I take care of my own needs so that I can better help him to regulate his emotions. Bonus (his OT pointed this out to me recently): it models for him how to prioritize self-care and make choices about what kinds of interactions he wants to have with others. I'm by no means perfect at it, but I'm a work in progress! ;)

  5. Lovely how you focus on the small moment. The "time out for mom" is a way underutilized parenting trick. I wish I remembered it more often! Wonderful writing.

  6. Gorgeous pictures Amy!

    As my daughter has recently decided that I am her personal jungle gym, I find myself empathizing with that aspect of what you've written! And I think to often I let it get to a point that I'm just too frustrated, when taking that break at an opportune time would be so much better for all involved. Thank you for that reminder.

    As for the garden - there is little else I find that inspires such pride! Definitely a place for relief and renewal...

    1. Thank you! I love photographing my garden. There's just nothing like seeing things grow and change!

      Taking breaks has been a real challenge for me, too. Writing this post was (in part) a way to remind myself of the great value in those moments. Thanks for reading!

  7. Wonderful story. Like you, I often find solace in m garden, although at times with a much less graceful exit. I admire your ability to set you troubles aside and let nature heal you. Thanks.

  8. What a beautiful example you're setting for Daniel, and for those of us (me) who struggle with finding a way to take those meditative moments when we need them. The garden can such a perfect place to found peace! Thanks for this, Amy.

    1. I struggle with it, too...which is why, when I *do* find something that works for me, I'm happy to share it. It helps me to remember that I'm taking those times out for both of us, which helps it to feel less self-serving.

  9. Wow you are one mindful mama! You set a great example on how to deal with whining kids with patience -one that I as mama of three can learn from - my ideals have slipped a long way as each add to the madness and noise levels.

    1. Patience is definitely a challenge for me, which is why I work so hard at it. And I'm not perfect by any means! Just making the effort is valuable, I think.

  10. Beautifully written! Loved the moments of peace! especially your vision of how "mother nature pours in beauty, light and life!


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