I have a stack of books on my night stand and on the floor in front of my night stand I have a basket of books. I am known to read more than one book at a time. One on something to feed my spiritual side, one to tap into my creativity, to inspire and one to entertain, usually a good novel. Right now my novel is The Help, by Kathryn Stocket. The story carries me out of my own world and feeds my curiosity, wonder, watering me mentally and in some ways spiritually as well.
Reading words that someone has carefully created on the page awakens my soul and definitely fills my cup.
I don’t make it a priority though. I often save reading until the end of the day, when the house is quiet and it is time to crawl in bed. I end up reading less than five pages, even though I’m riveted, the heaviness of my eyelids too much to fight off.
A couple of times this week, I grabbed The Help off of my night stand and put it on the kitchen counter or the living room coffee table so that it was in my sight, reminding me of my desire to read more often, to really make it a part of my daily life. It helped. I got in a few pages of reading when I otherwise would not have done so.
What do you need to put in your sight so you remember your needs and not just leave them tossed aside?
My husband and I have a long standing joke about a cup of tea.
I will be craving a cup of hot, soothing tea, a caffeine pick me up, so I’ll boil water and make myself a cup. Many times I just boil the water not getting to the cup of tea part. The kettle will whistle and I’ll turn off the burner and be too busy attending to the kids needs, I’ll forget about the hot water in the kettle.
If I do actually make it to putting a tea bag in the cup and making a cup of tea it won’t be uncommon if I leave the cup on the kitchen windowsill to cool – forgetting about it, and discovering it hours later.
If my husband makes me a cup of tea and here’s where the joke is, he’ll say, Honey, I’ll just put your tea on the windowsill so you can forget about it.
This is what can happen not just in parenthood but in life, when it comes to attending to our needs. We make attempts then get interrupted and distracted and forget about it. Pushing it aside, telling ourselves we’ll just have to wait. Other needs come first, our children, our job, our spouses, our parents, etc, etc. So like the cup of tea on the windowsill, we turn cold and forgotten.
This is where practice comes in. Start with putting the cup of tea in a more visible place, limiting the possibility of being ignored. Make a list of the things YOU want to do for yourself: long walk, reading a book, meditating, watching a movie – uninterrupted, phone conversation, taking a class, painting a picture…whatever it is, then place that list in a visible place. Seeing it every day may help remind you, Hey, I want and need to take care of myself.
Then practice a new phrase, one that allows you to sip and savor your cup of tea and attend to the list on the fridge: I matter, I will make my cup of tea, and drink it too.
Today I was filling my cup spiritually, physically and mentally by showing up to yoga class. This has been an odd week for me with one child home for Spring Break, the other still in school. I have felt lopsided. Regular schedule out of whack. So I needed some order, some cup refilling. With the hubby away for the next four nights, I hired a sitter, grabbed my water bottle and headed to hot yoga.
Earlier in the day, before yoga, the kids and I colored eggs. And I have to say every year, I love this activity. I let them go crazy, tons of cups with colored dye all over the table. This year they got into it even more than in years past, experimenting with the colors. It was a proud creative parenting moment. Proud because they were the creative ones, I didn’t have to be the one forcing the activity, or the only one doing the activity, they were in to it.
Later in yoga class something out of order, off routine happened. Right after our fourth pose, just as the sweat was dribbling down my back a yogini spoke up and said, Someone is banging on the front door and it looks like they really need to come in. I couldn’t see the front door, but I could her a loud male voice, not angry loud, just loud.
The instructor went to check it out and came back asking if there was a Jane Doe in class. Jane stood up immediately and went to the lobby, hubby John Doe followed. We all got back to our business of sweating, centering and breathing.
Soon hubby came back, but wife was still in the lobby. I could see a portion of the lobby and snuck a look to find that a child was sitting with her mama, Jane Doe. The rest of the 90 minutes went on with hubby back in class and mom sitting in the lobby with her child. I don’t know the story, I just know a little girl wanted her mama right when her mama was doing something just for her.
That happens though, right? That happens to all of us. If it happened to me, if the sitter showed up to class with my children what would have I done? Well, our sitter is only twelve and doesn’t drive so if something were truly wrong, an adult would have gotten me and of course I would have headed to the lobby leaving my mat and towel behind.
Not knowing the particulars, I felt for the mom. Hubby got to come back and finish class while she held her daughter. She looked so calm, so unruffled when class was over and I caught eyes with her in the lobby.
Maybe the little bit of class that she got was enough. Maybe holding her daughter was all she needed right then too. For it can work like that sometimes…filling our cup can happen in the moment we are holding our child, being where we need to be. Dying Easter eggs.
I appreciate this week’s weekly question proposed in The Prosperous Writer, an e-zine, by Christina Katz. (www.christinakatz.com)
She asks, How do you stay healthy? Have you always been healthy or is good health something that you have had to cultivate?
For the most part, yes I have always been healthy but as a mom I have had to cultivate new habits to replace the unhealthy ones I had created from the stress of parenting. As a parent we empty our cup daily and it is up to us to be creative and listen to what we need in order to refill. To fill my cup physically, I have a new focus, Bikram yoga. I started going two years ago on my 40th birthday. But it was only this past September when I committed myself to going four times a week. This activity feeds my soul in so many ways.
My original excuses were time and money. The classes aren’t cheap and they last 90 minutes. But because I have put myself first I’ve made it work. I said no to guilt, shame, and excuses. By saying yes to self-care and refilling my cup I have become stronger, healthier, calmer and on many days more balanced. Bikram Hot Yoga is a 90 minute moving meditation connecting with my body, mind and soul. The results are lasting, life giving, healing.
As a former runner my body was ready for something different. As a mother I needed to clear my head and as a woman my soul was thirsting for a deeper connection.
With yoga I see my body reshaping, getting stronger but most importantly I am learning the very best health lesson…remembering to breathe. No matter how great all the sweating makes me feel, if I’m not breathing I’m not refilling my cup.
This lesson to breathe comes home with me from the yoga studio and gets an opportunity to be practiced in my daily life.
When I hold my breath through the parenting drama I cut off all hope, energy, and love. Remembering to breathe calms me, centers me and keeps me from losing it. And isn’t that what good health is all about?
Many years ago my step-dad built a cabin in the woods on a cliff overlooking the water. Driving down the dirt road you could only hear the tires on the gravel and the wind rustling through the trees. Anyone who slept there would claim it as the best night of sleep and would sleep in later than normal. The silence of the woods had the most amazing calming effect, boosting everyone’s spirit.
When I lived in Tokyo, I would take a train to the country on my days off, escaping the noise, pollution and people. Seeing the green trees would transport me to a place of calm, an awareness of how stressed I was living in a crowded city miles and miles away from my native Pacific Northwest.
This morning a mom offered to take my son, and the two boys I watch every Thursday for a couple of hours. She drove off with a car full of five boys, leaving me with a new plan. I would absorb the silence, fill my cup with self-care, instead of emptying my cup with housework. The house is unusually quiet and I feel myself settling into this gift, aware of how much I need silence.
Sometimes all we need to re-charge is a cup of silence. We may not be able to drive to the woods, hop on a train to the country or send our children away, but we may get five minutes to sit in silence. Let me re-phrase, we may get the opportunity to create five minutes of silence. I could have ignored the gift and filled this time with stuff that doesn’t replenish my soul.
What would happen if you turned off the radio, I-pod, television, telephone ringer and just sat in the silence?
Would you feel guilty? Want to quickly fill that void with noise?
You may very well have difficulty embracing the silence at first. You may feel completely weird and uncomfortable. On the flip side you may eat it up and be transformed to a state of calm.
In yoga the other day the instructor said to us as we lay on our backs in the resting pose, Now just receive…lots of benefits from this resting place. They make it sound so simple, so natural. Just receive.
Instead of just receiving we as parents, women, human beings fix, control, analyze, doubt, agonize over, get all guilty and make it oh so complicated.
When was the last time you received a compliment without going into a long excuse or explanation instead of just saying thank you?
I see these little gifts as moments of opportunity for a free re-fill.
When my husband says, You look good or a friend says, I like that idea I am going to practice simply saying thank you and receiving the benefits of being acknowledged and appreciated.
When was the last time you received the gift of time and filled it with busyness?
I also see these moments of opportunity, a time to hold out your cup for a free re-fill.
When my kids are sleeping, like now, I am going to seize the moment and exercise, write, breathe, rest and reap the benefits, standing strong with a full cup.
SHOULDs don’t usually fill ones cup. I will be as bold to say, If you think you SHOULD do it and your heart is not in it then it ain’t fillin’ your cup sista.
I learned something last week that was life giving. I learned that if you decide to do something in consolation, meaning when you are in a good place and decide to back out of it when you are in desolation, meaning not in a good mind set you ain’t doin’ anyone any favors.
Last Saturday during my hot yoga class I vowed to myself to come back on Sunday. It was going to be my church. I was having a great session, noticing the benefits, my body, mind and spirit singing and connected, that I wanted to come back on Sunday.
Well, on Sunday, home with the family, having a wonderful quiet morning, bonding not rushing off to church I felt like I SHOULD stay home. We were gelling as a family. I felt guilty about leaving them to go to yoga. I felt guilty about my decision to take care of my soul, my body, myself.
After polling the family…they were cool with me leaving, so I went. And backing out of the driveway, I remembered what I read a few days earlier, When you are in desolation, don’t go back on decisions you made in consolation. In other words, never back out of something you decide to do when you are in a good place just because in the moment you are in a bad place.
I was so grateful I stuck to my guns, instead of staying home with the family because I felt I SHOULD. We had a great rest of the day together when I returned. I was able to be more present for them because I had filled my cup spiritually and physically.
Many of us know intuitively what we need to refill our empty cup: a run around the lake, a weekend without children, to watch a favorite TV show uninterrupted, a pedicure, lunch with a friend, Sunday worship.
I am in the middle of a throat virus. I am tired, low in energy and need 800 mg of ibuprofen to swallow without wanting to cry. Although I may think I need lunch with a friend, a weekend away, or a run around the lake to fill my cup, my body has another plan. Rest, liquids, moving slowly. Honey, lemon and quiet contemplation.
For over a month doctors and physical therapists are working with me to figure out my ankle issues. Shooting pain up my leg that I didn’t ask for. I don’t want to do my stretches and wear the brace…I want to go for a run around the lake.
We have all been there. That place of impatience wanting our present condition to be over with. Well, sister it is your gift to give yourself permission to not do and to just be. Yes, you didn’t ask for it but baby you needed it. So there.
What is this cup I speak of anyways? I have been using the expression, “My cup is empty or full” or “Damn, My cup needs filling: for some time now. Many of us use the expression. This idea, this expression has moved me to starting a business around it and now a new blog. So what is THE CUP?
For me, my cup is my soul. My essence. My being. My source. When I don’t tend to the cup or I have used up all the good in it, I am drained, bitter, angry, confused, hungry … empty.
Since becoming a parent it has taken me awhile to figure out what fills my cup. My needs have definitely changed since my kids were wee little ones. When our first child, my sweet bird daughter was a baby, caring for her filled my cup. Watching her every move filled me to overflowing. Now that our children are 8 and 5 ½ my needs have shifted along with theirs, often pulling us apart.
So that the gap doesn’t get too wide to reach across I need to care for my cup, nurture it, love it just as much as I love and care for our children.
My cup holds my heart, my passions, my yearnings, that still small voice. And when I am too drained or busy to tend to my cup the whole family falls apart.
Nothing makes me sadder than to hear a friend say they feel too guilty to do something for them self. Too tired to follow their heart, too busy to listen to the voice inside. That is when we need to take a breath, a deep long breath and ask the question how can I get a re-fill?
I am learning it doesn’t take much to refuel your soul. And it is different for everyone. I need a walk, a few moments of silence, some music, to read something that spins my brain waves or a connection with a friend. Others need a workout at the gym, to volunteer, a bubble bath, or a drive to Starbucks.
Our needs can change but I know for sure even if we don’t define it as such we all need to regularly fill our cup, emotionally or spiritually, mentally and physically.
When given time alone with only the sound of your breath, it can be staggering, scary, down right unreal to a parent.
On my first Mom Retreat this past January the women attending were given three hours of silence. “What can I do?,” one woman asked. “Anything,” I told her, “but take care of others, this time is about taking care of you.”
I instructed the women to go for a walk, take a run, take a nap, paint with water colors, make clay beads, write, stare out at the Puget Sound, read a book. Some women were scared by that amount of time unscheduled, all for them. But the others were excited and thought three hours wasn’t nearly enough time.
We initated the moment with a rock. I had gathered rocks from the beach and scattered them on our center table. One woman at a time chose a rock and handed it to a woman in the circle saying. “May this silence, fill your cup.” When we all had our rocks in hand or stuffed in our pocket we dispersed to find our silence.
Having been on a silent retreat before I was excited for the time. The first thing I was going to do was take a nap. But I couldn’t nap, my mind was going in a hundred directions, so I got up and made clay beads. Unhappy with my creative endeavor, I went for a walk on the beach. There on the beach, my dad showed up. He does that sometimes since he died over seven years ago. As the sun came out I was washed with the warmth of sunshine and filled with gratitude for the opportunity to hold this Mom Retreat.
Back in circle, when we broke silence every one shared about their experience. All valued the time no matter what they did; paint, write, run, sit, play.
After sharing our experience we were ready for champagne, a toast to our new found appreciation for silence. With full cups, we clinked our full glasses. Who can’t drink to that?
As parents it is easy to run on empty without realizing we need a re-fill. The purpose of my Mom Retreats is to provide space for moms to get away from their demands and leave the guilt at home.
I am happy to report my first Mom’s Retreat – Refill Your Cup – in January, was a huge success. Five women attended, affirming my intended goal – hold space for mothers to “Refill Their Cups”. We stayed on Vashon Island in a rustic, roomy home, swept away by the views of Mt. Rainier and the Puget Sound.
I hired two cooks, so the women didn’t have to cook a meal or wash a dish. The agenda was set to provide sharing time in our small group, silent time, play, and reflection. We met in Circle a few times to carry on conversations about “refilling our cup”, silence, journaling and meditation. I led the women in two short meditations using Thomas Keatings Contemplative Prayer as a guide.
We were women of different faith practices, different experiences of God and sitting in Cirlce we were more than moms. We were women connecting with our Divine within.
I will be holding another retreat this spring and this new blog site will report about future retreats as well as provide a cup or two of weekly wisdom.
All moms deserve a re-fill, ideally before they run on empty.