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Parenting

She lets her kids get away with whatever they want!

24 August, 2016

A modern child respecting parent’s job is a balancing act.

In any split second we are juggling body autonomy, the desire to respect people around us, a critical analysis of the rules or the status quo, safety or well being and the fact that our children are actual people with minds and bodies of their own.

To some people this balancing act may look like “letting her kids do whatever they want” when actually it is “letting her kids do whatever they want – because they are free human beings with autonomy and will- as long as it isn’t harming anyone, physically or mentally.”

Child starts doing roly polys on sofa – quick assessment: causing harm, no… ROLY POLYS ARE AGOGO!

Child starts doing roly polys on sofa at GREAT AUNTY SHEILA’S house- quick assessment : causing physical harm, no, challenging normal sofa behaviour, yes, therefore causing mental harm for Great Aunty Sheila, yes… ROLY POLY’S ON SOFA ARE EMBARGOED! Or, we might get that judgment wrong and believe Aunty Sheila’s happiness isn’t dependant on normal sofa behaviour and say ROLY POLY’S ARE AGOGO when really they should have been EMBARGOED and now Aunty Sheila is cross and parents these days let their kids get away with anything!!!!!!

Arghhhh….

But I think it requires consideration, the mental harm thing. We are standing up for children and their right to be themselves in this strange, rule bound world. But we may need to take time with them to explain that sometimes grown ups don’t cope very well when rules are broken or when things don’t go their way. (Sometimes we need to tread gently this way, and then sometimes we might need to say to a grown up “This child is doing nothing wrong! She is harming no thing! Why do you desire to control her or this situation?”)

The mental and physical harm goes for mamas and papas too- it’s why the activities I don’t interfere with look different to yours, or even my husband’s. If my kids want to make a potion out of bits of food and mud and soap I won’t stop them because I can’t see the harm in it (but I can see the joy and learning they are getting from it.)

My husband, however, has different parameters and he would say that mentally he is not up to that free style potion making, so he is far more likely to step in and redirect (in an ideal world still allowing that urge to flourish, but in a less messy place/ more limited ingredients.)

Personally, I feel like I have seen urged squashed and joy diminished by breaking a child’s working bee, so I try to just let things flow for them. But I’m not going to judge people’d different parameter – especially if they are working on expanding them! (I feel like that needs a *wink* emoji!)She lets her kids get away with anything!

I wonder what people mean, when they talk about kids getting away with whatever they want? Is seeing a kid in flow upsetting?

I sometimes wonder if grumpy grown ups (myself included) when they try and quench a child’s energy or enthusiasm are being triggered by their own controlled childhood. A child’s exuberance brings up, in a deep unconscious way, all the times we were made to sit on our hands and not make a peep because we were children in an adult’s world.

I love to hang out with grown ups who celebrate a child’s wildness. Who have come to terms with their own childhood oppression and are now able to take full delight in a child’s desire to stick their fingers in a jar, climb in the furniture, pick the petals. These grown ups are the greatest!

I am laughing inside a bit, because don’t you think it’s true that children go wilder when they are in an environment that tries to control them?

A few weeks ago we went to a new friend’s home. It was filled with bits of art and sculptures and beautiful, breakable things I was a little bit terrified inside. I knew one of us was gonna shatter something.

But we were all so welcome. The children were treated with the respect and honour we were given, as guests in their home. They relished it when Ramona reached in and grabbed the last two mussels from the bowl.

After dinner, instead of rushing from corner to corner, picking every piece of pottery up and eventually breaking something, Ramona and Juno curled up on the couch and fell asleep!!! Harhahahahahaha. It was as if they just floated into dreamland on a cloud of welcome and inclusion.

I couldn’t help but compare this to other situations where it seems my children ride a wave of tension… the weight of expectation is so heavy upon their shoulders that they crumple into every bad behaviour expected of them!

But of course… we know really there is no bad behaviour…

There are only children yielding to the urges inside of them, and there are only adults finding these urges an inconvenience.

There are only children with needs unmet, trying to communicate and connect in a way that makes us uncomfortable.

How hard it must be for kids, trying to figure out this ridiculous adult world.

Where saying the word “thank you” trumps a grateful smile, or where even the word “thank you” bossed out of you opens the door to receiving something, or where you don’t see adults constantly badgering magic words out of each other…

So I won’t let the children hurt people… (but if they do hurt someone or do something unsafe you won’t find me reprimanding them or punishing them. You will -on a good day as opposed to those grumpy stressed out days that pop up- see me intervene to stop it happening, and requesting that we keep things kind and safe, then you probably won’t see anything. Because the follow up to that is an empathetic conversation and an acknowledgement of needs unmet, it’s decisions made together about how we can make sure everyone stays safe in the future. Long term, punishment impacts well being, compared to an empathetic response that promote the development of empathy… so I’m not gonna forsake their well being even if it looks like they’re getting away with something…)

Where was I?! Ah yes! We won’t let the children hurt people … and I will probably try and stop them breaking precious things… and I will absolutely ensure their safety. Aside from that, I am simply here to help them navigate this strange place, to create space for them to follow up their wishes, to personally, mentally rise to the challenge of letting kids be kids for a while.

If that is letting them get away with whatever they want….

so be it.

***
PS New Youtube video from today; non violent parenting, child shaming and unmet needs…

Parenting, yurt life

The Endorphin Experiment (Week 6)

11 August, 2016

Two weeks ago we hiked through a pine forest and burst out at this long, empty beach. The sun was shining for the first time in about 83 days and, thinking about how I’d been grieving summer for weeks, and acting so quickly that I couldn’t talk myself out of it, I shucked off my welly boots, peeled off my socks, pushed off my puffa jacket and wriggled out of my jeans and jumper. I careered into the sea, pale wintery limbs and boobs awaving, and dove under a wave. I sprang to my feet as Tim and Ramona ran in, both butt naked too.

I don’t know what they were doing, for, in hindsight, I can see that for me it was all a very clear and measured part of my Endorphin Experiment! Doing what I love, living well in my body, following urges. And what an endorphin buzz! And the glee stayed for hours! Endorphin Experiment

***

Yikes! Week Six of the Endorphin Experiment  – skipped a few weeks there! I have still been doing my experiment though, so I’ve lots to catch you up on.

(Please Read Endorphin Experiment Week 1 and Endorphin Experiment Week 2 to get up to scratch.)

Firstly, this has been a costly experiment… I went overdue TWO TIMES with The Endorphin Effect and now owe $4.30 to the library.

But, guess what, I didn’t stress out about those four buckeroonies!! Nope, no worries, I just tapped into my endorphins and felt good immediately.

Really?

Okay, I can’t tap into my endorphins immediately, instantly, on demand just yet. Not every time. But there have been at least 8 experiences over the last 4 weeks that would have unleashed a wave of cortisol or other stress hormones over me that I was able to prevent using the techniques.

Key Techniques:
I am going to try to get across concepts that are written about in The Endorphin Effect in exhaustive detail, including ancient Eastern spirituality and medicine, as well as biochemical research… so be gracious as I go ahead and cover them in five paragraphs! ha.

Strawberries
Strawberries is the shortcut William Bloom uses to talk about those things that fill us with delight – it’s based on a parable he tells in the book. It might be memories of amazing days, thoughts of people, works of art, the smell of the ocean. I wrote a list of my strawberries in Week One and my ongoing job is to be able to recall the feeling my strawberries bring me at the clicks of a finger, and also, to build more strawberries into my life.

I have put pictures and poems up around our home and, genuinely, as I walk about the home my eyes catch these things and I tiny glimpse of feelgood begins – these days I stop, breathe and let that feel good wash over me, rather than stopping.

Inner Smile
That thing I described in that last sentence is essentially the “Inner Smile” – it is taking a moment to stop, breathe, think about my strawberries, and imagine a smile beginning in my centre and unfolding to swallow my whole body.

I know. It sounds crackers but it works a treat. And if you are put off by the “Inner Smile” please don’t read further…lol of lols…

Curled Deer
The Curled Deer is getting into a state of restfulness where all your body energy can flow. It is the other half of the Inner Smile, but perhaps more for those times when you feel unenergetic and in need of peace rather than glee.

Big New Concept and Task:

Unboundaried Dreaming

Bloom makes the case for doing big, colourful, intuitive dreaming when you are riding a wave of feelgoods. Doesn’t that make sense? We so often plan in a panic. The shit hits the fan and we go “ARGH RIGHT WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO” and we end up locked in a cycle of limited scope. Like, our baby has 3 bad nights in a row and we decide to stop night breastfeeding.

Nooooooo!

The alternative is to tap into our endorphins and then take some time to imagine the future as we want to see it.

I can *really* see this as being an important parenting tool.

I decided to give it a go with my relationship with my children.

I did strawberries and inner smile, waited till i could actually feel the bubble of delight begin in my stomach and fizz out over my body, and then began imagining my life with Ramona and Juno.

I imagined our mornings as peaceful and our interactions as respectful. I imagined some of the normal points of tension in our day, but envisioned them as easy and joyous. I imagined in detail, full colour, followed where my mind wanted to go.

This kind of dreaming can be applied to any area of work or home or relationships.

It is natural to move on from the dream and take some practical steps towards the fulfillment of the dream, say, speaking to someone to be a mentor or getting a relevant book out. For my one, I decided I would wake up every morning and give my children a loved up smile. So basic, but it is a big deal for me because my body’s natural wake up time is about 9am (harhahahahaha) and digging deep to find an Actual Face Smile each morning has been pretty transformative.

***

So I’ve been really tucking into my strawberries and have given myself permission for full, visceral joy, and I’ve been inner smiling and unboundaried dreaming left, right and centre for several weeks now and I can’t tell you which one of those things is paying off, but I have certainly had some of the most peaceful and contended weeks of my life.

(We also got wifi at home during this time so it *could* be that. I jest, I jest!!)

Now, it would be easy to say all this inner smile and unboundaried stuff is free (well, apart form library fines) so therefore accessible to anyone… but I think that would be a naively privileged perspective. For, if you are crushed under bills and only a hairbreadth away from trouble, where do you find the headspace for this stuff? I would love to examine this more, and would love to hear your perspectives.

***

I’ve got a final installment of big picture endorphin/ parenting thoughts coming so keep your eyes peeled next week!

I have heard from some of you that you have gone out and bought The Endorphin Effect -I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on it.

Also – here is my latest Youtube, vaguely related through the concept of Mum Guilt! This is about Stay At Home Vs Go To Work Mamas….

Breastfeeding

6 Weird and Wonderful Breastfeeding Facts

4 August, 2016

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!! (Does anybody else get a little image in their head of the globe latching on? Who would it latch on to? Venus? What, you don’t tend to personify the planets ????? Personify EVERYTHING I say. That’s what life is about! Calling the brussel sprout on your plate Little Guy.)

So I made a video of my favourite breastfeeding facts…. some of them are so totally mad, you couldn’t make them up! (Turns out you can… see below.)Six Weird and Wonderful, Evidence-Based Facts about Breastfeeding

These are facts that I have come to know over half a decade of breastfeeding. I am still breastfeeding Juno, who is three, and Ramona, tokenistically, almost as if she is just checking it’s still there, every so often, who is five.

These facts are actually really weird and wonderful, and largely (yeah, kinda more below) true…. not like the “Your body produces EXACTLY the right amount of breastmilk” fact that is SO NOT A FACT. I almost drowned beneath the amount of breastmilk I produced for Juno, and the first 8 weeks of breastfeeding her were sooooo stressful, a wrangling and wrestling of positions under a shower of milk… and I know too that there are mamas who just can’t produce the milk their baby needs. So I think that “fact” could do with a little bit of a nuancing… “In most cases exactly the right about of breastmilk is produced!!” otherwise mamas just feel as if their bodies don’t work.

Woah, serious….

My video isn’t serious… it is sort of ridiculous AND factual:

So I thought I would link up these facts in the video with the science behind them. Turns out that in most cases I can do this…. and in a couple I have to sort of, y’know, *political speak* CLARIFY some stuff.

So here are the actual True Weird and Wonderful Facts about Breastfeeding.

1-  Breastmilk most resembles ice cream! “While ice cream is looked at as one of the king of junk foods, there is no question that it is more similar to human breast milk than any other food.”

2- One boob is bigger than the other! 73% of women had a more dominant breast. However it was evenly split between left and right. Hefty lefty! Mighty Righty!

3- A breastfed baby can recognise her mother’s milk through her sense of smell.  “By 2 weeks, a baby can tell the difference between the scent of his mother’s breast milk and another mom’s milk.”

4- Breastfeeding mums burn between 300 & 500 calories a day. So it’s technically anything between the equivalent of 3-5 miles of walking, not the 7 all those loooosers say it is. *Ahem*  And it should be pointed out that it doesn’t ALWAYS equal weight loss as some of us just want to EAT ALL THE FOOD while breastfeeding. 

5- Breastmilk is different at times of the day, evening milk makes babies sleepy.  (Unless you had plans to watch The Wire back to back all evening and then they will be awake, giggling and shouting and not sleeping until about 11pm. I jest!)

6- Baby’s saliva communicates health needs to mama’s nipple and mama produces the antibodies in her breastmilk. And that is the weirdest and most wonderful true fact about breastfeeding. (That link is pretty much the best article on breastfeeding on the planet, I think.)

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

More reading:
Weaning the biggest fan of breastfeeding ever

Breastfeeding Older Children Together

Nursing in public and the breastfeeding pyramid scheme

Our experience of tandem breastfeeding

Breastfeeding in public as an act of public service

100 Names for Breastfeeding from around the world

Breastfeeding in art

 

Attachment parenting

Attachment parenting is the antidote to societal sadism

1 August, 2016

By Jove attachment parents get a hard rap don’t they? Between the “you only breastfeed for your own pleasure” and “you are a judgmental masochist” there is barely room to move!

I am impelled to respond to Hadley Freeman’s Weekend article – Attachment Parenting; the best way to parent or maternal masochism. Attachment parenting was so utterly misrepresented and the piece was so obviously written in a blur of scathing hatred that by writing this I feel like I am standing up to the class bully.

I have spent five years practicing attachment parenting and being amongst groups of attachment parenting mothers and have firmed up some stuff that I want to share.

Attachment parenting is intellectual
Attachment parenting arose from attachment theory, these days an established tenet in the field of psychology. But since the middle of last century there has sprung a wealth of  research in the fields of biology, neurology, psychiatry, and genetics that back up these findings in psychology. It cannot be plucked out and studied in a vacuum; “look at these strange mothers letting their toddler sup from their breasts – this is so visceral it must be anti-intellectual!” It is the only parenting philosophy I am aware of that works so hard to incorporate the latest cross-discipline scientific findings. Every year there seems to be more evidence suggesting that secure attachments made in childhood make for healthier well being later.

The people who have deliberately chosen attachment parenting are so often the people who have set out to find the most solid information on best parenting practice. I have sat in a room at an attachment parenting meet up with pHd students, doctors, lawyers. They did not eschew their brains and wobble into it – they chose it because of the wealth of research around it.

Attachment parenting is egalitarian
At the same time attachment parenting has a physical simplicity to it that makes it an economically accessible choice for anyone. It requires almost no financial outlay. No buggies, or cribs, or bottles. Having a baby for most people is one of the most expensive events of your life. Not so with AP. There’s no buggy shame going on the bus. When we lived in a poor corner of South London babywearing was common, a parenting practice that arrived in the waves of immigration and had stayed.

There is certainly some space within attachment parenting discourse to discuss privilege and the increasingly narrow parenting choices available to women. For some people straying from the mainstream/ NHS advice would feel like or even be a perilous route.

A good example would be here in NZ where there is a great fear of cosleeping, a traditionally Maori parenting practice, because infant mortality statistics are so impacted by poverty, a place where Maori are overrepresented. Here in NZ cosleeping is popular but largely done by stealth and never admitted to – particularly by those who need to keep their heads down. In response to these figures a cosleeping device has been developed and funding sourced to provide poor families with a way of cosleeping immensely safely (it eradicates problems arising from alcohol/drug use or overtiredness.) And just last week the government cut the funding for it. There are important conversations we need to be having about parenting practice and privilege. And the way certain parenting practice becomes associated, or not, with wealth, or the lack of. However the finger needs to be pointed somewhere other than at the middle class mothers resilient enough to turn up for tea and cakes at a hotel with a journo.Attachment parenting is the antidote to societal violence

Attachment parenting is pro-women
Attachment parenting says that parenthood is an incredibly valuable form of employment, and considering the vast numbers of women that continue to stay home with their babies, I’d say that makes AP pretty pro-women.

Personally, I returned to work part time both times when my children were 15 months old, and I loved it, and I felt really good about it. And everyday that I work I. LOVE. IT. And I am about as hardcore AP as it gets. I am to AP what Donald Trump is to evil.

Attachment parenting says children need secure attachments, and prescribes nothing after that. Many of the things associated with AP – babywearing and cosleeping- are tools that can actually assist fathers or other mothers/caregivers in providing that secure attachment to children when mothers return to work.

I am honestly totally sick to my eyeballs of people blaming attachment parenting for holding women back.

How about we get some goddamn laws in place that make it possible for men and women to work half time so they can figure out shared childcare? How about we up the salaries in the industries where women work so that when families have to make a choice about who goes back to work and who stays at home there is an actual choice that isn’t completely economically ridiculous?

You can’t blame attachment parenting for being unfeminist simply because we don’t yet have the progressive enough infrastructure to allow either gendered parent to do stay at home.

Attachment parenting is pro-women, it would be more so if it didn’t exist within this f*&king patriarchy we all live in.

(Actually struggle to say The Patriarchy without getting a f*&king in there. Sorry Aunty Heather.)

(Also, how about referencing some recent, female authors on attachment parenting, Hadley Freeman, rather than an old white male? Try Massaro and Katz, of The Other Baby Book, or Sarah Ockwell Smith, Babycalm. Pfft. Just a little bit of the internalised misogyny evidenced in your article.)
Attachment Parenting is the antidote to a violent society

Attachment parenting is the antidote to societal sadism

Lastly, and possibly most importantly as it is central to the reason why so many people choose attachment parenting, and it was treated so poorly by Freeman in her article; attachment parenting is part of the solution to the problem of injustice, cruelty, and oppression we have in society.

It sounds naïve- “the way we parent can change the world” – but some of history’s more tenacious world changers understood it. Mother Teresa famously implored one person who was asking about the best way to help change things “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.'”

And what is the love that matters? The one the child feels. The love that is tangible, that leads to floods of endorphins, that limits cortisol. The love that says a caregiver is present and not absent. The love that nurtures the empathy epicentre we all have within our brains, breaking societal violence in the process.

In the Science of Parenting Margot Sunderland says “Society reaps what it sows in the way it nurtures its children, because stress sculpts the brain to exhibit several antisocial behaviors. Stress can set off a ripple of hormonal changes that permanently wire a child’s brain to cope with a malevolent world. Through this chain of events, violence and abuse pass from generation to generation as well as from one society to the next.”

Historical studies find correlation between gentle parenting practice and less societal violence. (If there is one thing you do as a result of reading this it should be to go and buy Robin Grille’s book, Parenting for a Peaceful World.)

We need attachment parenting more than ever. 2016 has sucked. There have been hate crimes perpetrated by civilian and State, and a seemingly global rise of politicians peddling racism like it’s 1940. There seems to be a ruthless sadism marching across communities all over the world. We need solutions to this, they are long term, they are ordinary, quiet, some of solutions are in our homes, on our laps.

The Guardian was remiss to print something so clearly subjective, born of triggers, when it could have had a well-researched piece on the huge body of work linking attachment parenting to personal well being – and therefore, potentially, if practiced on a wide scale, societal well being.

“World peace is not only an entirely attainable goal, it is a modest one. The conditions that would bring it about require but a small fraction of the effort and expense we devote to fighting wars and fighting crime. A continued social evolution is quite possible, but it depends entirely on our collected efforts to keep improving the emotional lives of children. Our commitment to children’s emotional health will ensure our rapid evolution toward a peaceful, just, sustainable and enjoyable existence for all of humanity.” Robin Grille

More reading:
Read Sophie Christophy’s brilliant analysis of how attachment parenting is a social justice movement.
Read Milk Meg’s Debunking the Shit out of Attachment Parenting Myths – brilliant historical context for AP.
Read more on the science of attachment theory-  the biological roots of love.

~

There must be space for an honest analysis of attachment parenting, particularly if it is failing mothers. There are definitely times that advocates of attachment parenting can come across as judgmental, but that is a flaw of human nature, not the parenting philosophy. And there is often guilt within it – this is the burden of all parenting, I believe, and something we need to deal with internally, no matter what parenting model we subscribe to. As advocates of attachment parenting we need to call out any judginess – our work is empathy and kindness, not smuggery- and we need to call out any martyrdom; that’s not what we are about.

But the bones of attachment parenting are good – more so, they are world changing. If we could build more of an understanding about what nurturing attachment between child and adult IS I think we’d find more people were doing it, and more people would want to do it, than we think.

A parenting philosophy that can create a kind, nonviolent world? I am so in. With bells on. And no masochism.

More reading:
Attachment Parenting Isn’t Martyrdom Parenting (on the death of Peaches Geldoff)
Attachment Parenting – beyond breastfeeding and babywearing
It takes a village – to be the parent you want to be

Breastfeeding

The Weaning of a Breastfeeding Devotee

14 July, 2016

Last night I had a dream that my friend showed me her post breastfeeding boobs. She flipped one out of her bra and began unfolding it and unfolding it, like a magician pulling colourful scarves out of a top hat, until it stretched out as long as her arm. A flat, long, roll of breast. Knowingly, I stuck out my chin and nodded. She began folding it back into her bra, concertina like, matter of fact.

Five long years these boobs of mine have been in feeding action, and just now are they being retired from active, on-demand service. These days they make an appearance for an occasion, three times a day, for my three year old, Juno. And a tokenistic once a month for Ramona who is five. And I guess we will stick to this until Juno is ready for me to hold them a retirement party.

(I say “I guess” because you can only do what you can do, eh? I didn’t think I’d have to lead Juno into a three times a day habit, but it turns out, I just did. My body was beginning to revolt against the constant draw of resources.)

When I first suggested to Juno, about a month ago, that I would like to take breastfeeding down from a million times a day to three times a day she told me to “write it down.” I had to get my book and write it down, and then she made me tear it out and fold it into a tiny square and put it in my wallet. For her own reasons she was wanting this decision minuted and put in an important place.

It has mostly been a fraughtless weaning.  Just a couple of upset moments from Juno. One where she gave me an ultimatum;

“Either you give me booboo or you go to Pak N Save (that’s New Zealand’s budget supermarket) – you choose.

I don’t know where she picked up the idea of ultimatums, I was definitely cowed. I haaaaaate grocery shopping, and the kid knows it.

Breastfeeding and weaning a three year old

Ah, breastfeeding. What a sweet joy and complex act of motherhood! Source of new mama angst and bloodied nipples, source of immense feelgood body chemicals. Cause of public anger and humiliation, and personal pride and wholeness. Creator of massive, overflowing, up-to-your-chin boisterous breasts and also, eventually, of long, flat, fold-into-your-bra dried up glands.

It’s the start of goodbye, from two breastfeeding devotees.

***

I’ve written SO MUCH about breastfeeding over the years. For a while there it was all I went on about. Here is some stuff you might like.

Breastfeeding Older Children Together

Nursing in public and the breastfeeding pyramid scheme

Our experience of tandem breastfeeding

Nursing a micromachine

Me! Eat! Your boobies!

Breastfeeding in public as an act of public service

A Breastfeeding Poem

100 Names for Breastfeeding from around the world

Breastmilk is yummier than ice cream and funny things my kids say about breastfeeding

Breastfeeding in art

Parenting, yurt life

The Endorphin Experiment (Week 2) – My Body is A Wonderland

30 June, 2016

Harrhahahaha. John Mayer, aye? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t singing that song to someone in order to celebrate their radical self love, but hey!

It’s the theme of this week’s Endorphin Experiment.

My body is AWESOME. Every single cell is capable of producing endorphins. My body is not in battle with my heart/soul/mind. I think I’ve spent so much of my life carrying around this subtle belief in the sinfulness of flesh and pleasure. Over the last few years I guess I have been exploring this idea that if my body is so capable of dishing up delights like babies and endorphins and laughter and orgasms and sneezes, perhaps it is not a bad, rascal of a thing? Perhaps my body is absolutely awesome.

Visceral

The older I get the more at home in my body I become. The more I am able to see the beauty in all its visceral twinges and desires and rustlings. My body produces feelgood chemicals. That is a window on God, right there.

There is a bit in The Endorphin Effect (William Bloom) where he speaks about being in a room full of meditative gurus. They are all up to their necks in Eastern spirituality and meditation and mindfulness, and he had just finished leading them in an intense session full of almost ecstatic body-mind connection. He asks them where they most feel that same sense of flow or bliss in their everyday lives. He was fully expecting them to say “in my daily yoga practice” and other intense spiritual practices, but instead they listed things like “stroking my cat” “riding my bike” “gardening”… It shocked him. And ended up being the thing that led him on a journey towards the biochemical experience of endorphins.

His work in life now is to help people access that experience of endorphins whenever they need it, not when they happen to be relaxed enough to feel it.

I feel like we can be so detached from these visceral pleasures. We are ashamed of them perhaps.But if we can tune into them, obey our senses, there is something really powerful there…. it reminded me of the start of Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”

Focusing our lives on being good does sometimes lead to more goodness in the world (Exhibit A – my Mama), and then sometimes it leads to piousness and burntoutness… I wonder if Mary Oliver and William Bloom are getting at the same thing – inner well being is a better key for unlocking the health and happiness of the world. (Or maybe I am putting a very bland interpretation on it, because of my need to put everything into my “we can build a fairer, kinder world!” narrative!!)

Bloom says “Real pleasure and happiness possess a relaxed flow that is generous to life and the surrounding community.”
Endorphin Experiment
Tension

We all have the endorphin maker! We are like giant Soda Stream Machines, fully able to inject that fizz at the touch of a button.

But the reason it comes upon us so stealthily and leaves so abruptly, (you know; you walk up a mountain at dawn and it’s like WHAM ENDORPHIN CENTRAL and then that feeling slips away and we are left with just a bleary eyed selfie of a foggy morning) and why it isn’t a common part of every day life (hands up who has experience bliss in the last 48 hours?) is because we carry around so much tension in our bodies that, biochemically, the endorphins get stuck. They can’t proceed on their buzz-giving sojourn. The physical pleasure of gardening or stroking the cat relaxes the body enough that the endorphins can be sent out. But we need to get rid of the body’s constant tension in order to let them really flow.

This week I am attempting to, whenever I gather that I am holding myself tensely, to just breath, to let my body relax in to itself. I have found myself constantly, body-rigidly returning to the state of the world… I wrote myself a Mindful post-Brexit Strategy to help with that. And it has really helped.

Week Two’s Exercise
I wrote lists last week of things I love, things that naturally release endorphins within me. Over the last week I have been shoehorning them into my life.

One of them was “dancing” – especially having a rinse out to some heavy, ear popping, bassy beats.

My dancing is kinda like… if you can imagine Napolean Dynamite, with both a little bit more emphasis on “interpretive dance” and also a great, unfounded, belief in my ability to “pop”…

So in no way does the release of endorphins have to do with skill level.

In order to go out dancing I had my first night away from the children, while Tim took them up to visit family. They had a great time, and we all know I did. But the whole day I was carrying this quiet, deep down sense of “this isn’t what good mothers do”… I felt kinda selfish, even though I had comprehensively justified the importance of this in my mind. Perhaps that is wholly natural for the first night away from your kids ever.

I had a great time, but I’ve been figuring out how I can get more of my List into my life WITH children. The list of things I want to do more of, things that flood my body with endorphins – sing, skate, dance.

They are all so bodily.

I feel like I’m just realising now how much a puritanical spirituality has made me reject these urges over the years.

I keep seeing skate parks and think this is totally something me and the girls could do together. I must order new bearings for my board. DONE. Just did it! See how this experiment is just SO WORKING. The Endorphin Experiment
I have been on a skateboard once in the last ten years…. WISH ME LUCK

Although… the “letting the feelgoods flood my system” when feeling stressed isn’t getting easier with practice… if anything it is losing its novel effect and I am carrying on without trying to get any better at the whole kinsthetic experience of endorphins. (This was Week 1’s endorphin exercise)

My mind is just a busy, busy, busy bee. I close my eyes to think about that peaceful, uninhibited memory on the mountain and WHOOOOSH I get “Must change the milk in the kefir/when is Brook’s birthday/must google how hard it is to own a horse/it’s so cute how Juno still says Yipstick instead of Lipstick I should write that down/why are my toes numb/is it bad that the girls never really eat breakfast?”

Really need to get better at that. Really hoping this experiment will help me with it.

So yep, there is week two. Some of you mentioned you might be getting on this endorphin boosting life too – tell me, how are you finding it?