In the past couple of months, I have had several wonderful conversations with soon-to-be Moms. This always takes me back to own first experience being pregnant which was 22 years ago and yesterday. The contrast between these practical, thoughtful, organized women and the raw mess of uncertainty I remember being makes me wish I could make a cup of tea and offer some reassuring words to my younger, preggo self.
I spent my first pregnancy overwhelmed at the vastness of all that I would need to know as a new parent. All that I would need to teach this new little person. I read books, took in negotiations between Moms and their misbehaving children at the grocery store and watched my trail-blazing friends with their toddlers. The more I watched, the more I realized I was in over my head. This feeling would be the most extreme when I would visit my parents. They had all the answers. My Mom knows grammar better than most teachers I ever had, she can name just about any flower, tree, bush you happen upon and she did easily and regularly make us delicious meals, all perfectly timed (there have literally been times that my entree was ready a full day after the sides. Sadly, I am not kidding.). Once, she sewed (from scratch) a down vest for my Dad. A DOWN VEST PEOPLE! Yeah-after my visits with them, my overwhelm would turn to out right terror. And my Dad? Ask him anything. Serioulsy, ANYTHING. About the name of the clouds present that day, how to irrigate an orchard, wire a house for electricity or the function of the spoiler on the wings of a Boeing 747 during final approach. Anything– I am telling you.
But when my son, Sam, was born I learned the secret most new parents find out but never seem to talk about: The pressure is off because they are going to teach us far more than we can ever hope to teach them.
My boys are now interesting, strong and openhearted men of 20 and 22. I am thrilled to still be learning, expanding and evolving through the blessing of being their Mom; this happens sometimes in big ways, but mostly in small every day ways.
This is one of those seemingly small but absolutely perspective-rearranging lessons that I got from my youngest, Dominic:
Sometime during his senior year of high school, I noticed Dom and his buddies would greet each other as they arrived at each other’s houses, at school or on the phone by simply saying, “What’s Good?” No hello first. No ridiculous beer commercial greeting of “Whhuuuuussss Uuuuuuupppp?” Just simply “What’s good?” I smiled every time I heard this and thought it was such a wonderful way to frame the beginning of a conversation.
Then Dom started greeting me this way, in the morning or late at night as he was slipping in just before (or sometimes after) curfew. Every time, no matter what the hour or what I was doing, this simple question would make me pause and start scanning my memory for the most significant good thing to report.
A few years after witnessing and being the recipient of “What’s good?” greetings, I read the book Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson, Phd. and discovered that Dom and his friends had actually been dabbling in neuroscience. That this is not only a great way to greet a friend but it can actually rewire the brain. In Buddha’s Brain, Hanson claims that our brains are like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive experiences. This hard-wired negativity bias has been a survival mechanism, keeping our species alive all these years by scanning for threat. Here’s the rub, we are no longer running from saber-toothed tigers. Our cell phones, our busy workday, overpopulation and our commute home have become our saber-toothed triggers. Our sympathetic nervous system records these negative, stressful experiences and, unless we have a way of mitigating that stress, it can make us feel that we have a tiger chasing us through our day.
There are many practices that can help us diminish stress and our negativity bias, and you already know some of the very best or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. Yoga, meditation, prioritizing “white space” in your day and connecting with community.
Here is another: Meditating on what is good. Research supports this practice as increasing neuropaths ways for positive feelings. It is a meditation called “Taking in the Good” and this is how it works:
Take your seat, close the eyes and think of a moment in the last 3 days that made you smile, laugh or feel loved—a positive experience. Now for 20 seconds, hold that thought in your awareness as you try to “feel” that moment. In every cell you try to translate that experience into an exaggerated physical feeling throughout the entire body. You can contemplate the various qualities of the feelings it creates; bring a vivid picture of that moment into your mind. Now turn up the volume on that feeling, imagine your whole being soaking in that positive experience. Marinate in the felt sense of the experience. Remain curious and open during this practice and know that sticking with this memory as a physical experience may at first be a challenge. It is not currently how we are wired and changing wiring will take some time, dedication and effort.
If you would like to hear Dr. Hanson talk about “Taking in the Good” click on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA3EGx46r4Q
With Mother’s Day around the corner, I invite you to think of a sweet moment with your own Mom or simply witness a Mom in the trenches at the grocery store. Look for that magic moment, then see if you can wire it in.
And when you next arrive on your mat, close your eyes, drop into your breath and ask yourself, “What’s good?”