In this episode, Erin and Chelsea break down what it means to find stillness and become aware of the Sacred Presence even when the day gets off to a horrid start. We believe that stillness and parenthood is not oxymoron but sometimes it takes a bit of seeking to craft what stillness looks like for a mother. Join us as we talk about stillness in our own lives, whether its a beautiful and simple gray chair or sitting down to eat a meal.
Chelsea Whipple 0:06
You are listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast. My name is Chelsea. I'm a teacher, practitioner, spiritual director and pilgrim.
And I'm Erin, a creative homeschool educator, counselor and spiritual seeker. Listen in as we dive deeper into the contemplative lifestyle through hearing about each of our lives,
you'll hear our triumphs, failures, practices and mistakes as we journey together. You might even hear a kid or two in the background.
So grab some coffee, tea, curl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here. Now let's get started.
We are so glad to be together today. And unpack this a little bit more with you all. For the last couple of episodes we have discussed a little bit if you have not listened to those, I would highly recommend it. We share a little bit about how we started in this journey of contemplative motherhood. And over the next few episodes, we are going to discuss some of our practices. Today we have chosen to highlight the practice moments of stillness, stillness in general as a practice, and all the mothers laugh in the background, right?
We're still when we sleep, right? That works?
Yes. Or we're thinking how in the world can we be still if our children are never still? And so this is something I think is going to be pretty a pivotal conversation for us and how we can do this practically. So Chelsea, you are sort of our expert in this area right now. I guess. We're gonna go with that. But Chelsea has done an amazing job of sort of breaking this down for us. And I think we can sort of start with the basics of what the stillness practice is. So in reality is motherhood and stillness an oxymoron?
Right? Yes, that's a great leadoff question. Great way to frame the conversation that we're about to have. Yes.
And if not, if it's not an oxymoron, how can we uncover those moments of awareness of God's presence and the feelings of calmness?
Yeah, I think, um, before I really dive in, you know, I'm going to talk a little bit about my life and how I can start to see glimpses of stillness and start to uncover those moments of stillness, and then expound upon using this as a contemplative practice. Because as we know, and if you're not, if you're still unsure, what is contemplative practices, you know, there's traditional ones that you can read about in practice the Erin and I do, and there's ones like these, that just a practice is whatever external act that you do, that raises your awareness of the divine presence within you.
Erin Thomas 3:28
Chelsea Whipple 3:29
And so in the context of motherhood, we don't have the luxury of a cloistered area or time. That's just what we believe is probably not actually true. But what we think as a way to uncover these moments, because we have endless amounts of time. And, you know, in motherhood, we don't have endless amounts of times to ourselves. So how do we do that in the context of the buisiness of our lives, so that's kind of just a frame as a little bit. So if you are like me, I can feel that the moment that I am aware of my awakeness I step into my beautiful chaos, and you will hear me say this a lot because I define motherhood as beautiful chaos. And when I wake up, there is no quiet time. All the boys are awake with me. Everyone needs something before I can even open up my eyes. Someone wants cereal, I always have someone crying someone else is woke up in a grumpy mood. And there's not really even that chance for a calming breath, or a sense of peace before the sun rises or even that deep, awake breath with a stretch. So I'm really thrust into the beginning of the day, whether I'm ready for it or not. And often those days feel like a Rhythm where everyone constantly needs something, including myself at every minute of the day. And so just take a minute and think, how often does this happen in your household? How often do your days start like this? Where you're just thinking that this beautiful chaos has now turned into the terrible, cranky? Go back to bed and start all over?
Right? Isn't it that children's book? Chels, have you heard that when Alexander and the terrible horrible, no good, very bad day? Oh, yeah. Yeah,
we were just like, just restart, can we just speed the day up?
Erin Thomas 5:43
Let's write Exactly.
Chelsea Whipple 5:44
Let's sleep this and do this again, kind of thing, you know, from the first moments that you're awake. And you know, that's not reality. So if I can't find this peace and calm within, then I can't express it outward to the world. So what is it that I can do in those situations? Where do I find this stillness. And for me, it brings back a harkens back to this awareness word. And at those moments, of just chaos, recognizing and acknowledging the day, as it is currently unfolding. So just taking a moment, thinking, wow, this is a lot to take in right now. And I'm not even fully awake right now. And if it starts off this hectic, then stop and acknowledge, that's kind of where you can do your restart. Be aware of what is surrounding you. It's taking the time to just notice my surroundings has the sun risen, you know, has it what's the weather today, counting my breath, just taking five seconds. If you're a big Daniel Tiger fan, you can count a lot when he's upset or mad or needs a restart. And let me tell you as parents, parents, that is a great lesson to learn. It's just counting, taking the time to count your breath and be aware of the breath that's coming in and out. And feeling that inward motion, and that outward motion and how it makes your body feel, you know, maybe saying a mantra, or setting an intention for the day. Taking a drink of water, or coffee, and kind of feeling the sensation as it enters into your body. And the sensation that you have when you swallow.
For me, it can be just kind of staring and kind of stare at my boys eyes, as I listen attentively to them. So throughout the day, even if it's not hectic or chaotic, but we find stillness by what is happening around us, and to be present to what is happening around us. So another practice to find stillness for me, is one of my boys keep interrupting, you know, I'm trying to balance working from home right now. And they love to interrupt when I'm doing a big task, it automatically leads to annoyance right there. But when I stop and just stare at their eyes, and just listen as they talk, there's something that's happening that just slows not necessarily time down. But just makes my body still and makes me present to the moment of what is happening with them and with myself right now. And then, you know, that's kind of when everything starts to change that viewpoint when everything starts to change when you just take out those glimpses and sit in them for a while. And it's like you can now breathe in this peace that was just created by you stopping and being aware of what was happening around you.
And sometimes, this happens more often than not, but when I take a moment to look at my surroundings and realize that I was just not really present at the moment and kind of out in the world doing or, you know, whatever I was trying to get accomplished. Is that usually when I become aware of what's happening, it's like I I let out a small laugh like, Oh, yeah, Hello, I'm here. This is what's happening right now in my little world. You know, and it's just that anchoring.
So one of the big practices of how I find this stillness is stopping and eating a meal. So for example, when my kids eat normally I'm the one making their meal and stopping to make myself food, which doesn't always happen in with them to eat, which sounds so simple but I wonder how often do we do that? out of this? Possibly the two or three meals that you have at home with your kids, with your family? How often do we sit all together and eat a meal?
And so when I do those, and I slow down enough, you know, I can even have a conversation with God. stopping to think, you know, what is it you want me to see today? of what's already happened? Oh, and what is currently happening? No, how can I be more aware of your presence? and stopping to listen?
You know, those small questions whether answered or not start to open my spirit up to how I can be the loving and accepting presence that I desire to be.
Erin Thomas 11:02
I love that. I really do. I you know, you use one of my favorite words and sharing about that practice. I love the word anchor.
We think of what our what an anchor does as a function, you know, on a boat, it roots it grounds, it places us allows our recenter. So it's a it's a favorite of mine. You know how I love the language?
Do you find? So within that context of anchors, do you find that there are certain anchors in your day that allow you to recenter if it tends to be a day of quote unquote, unfortunate events right are Alexander's Terrible Horrible No good, very bad day. How do we redeem these situations? Right? And if so, can you share some of those anchors with us?
Chelsea Whipple 11:57
Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Erin, for the question. That's a really good way to dive deeper into this practice is centering it around. What are those anchor points that we can find stillness. And so my spiritual director is actually the one who asked me this question about what are my anchors throughout the day as I had rambled on how chaotic my days could be to her. And normally we're? And she asked a very important question that stopped me in my tracks.
She just simply asked what is one thing you do every day, where you are not distracted by something else. And I want everyone to think of this because I literally sat in silence for 10 minutes, she did not talk or anything.
Erin Thomas 12:45
Chelsea Whipple 12:46
She wanted me to really think and listen almost to what the divine was almost saying, you know, what is one thing you do every day where you are not distracted by something else. And I couldn't think of anything I never, I was never able to come up with anything. And so she actually gave me this suggestion of using eating times. Because one, we do them every day. We do them three to four times a day, for me or more, depending on the day. And just she said just stop and sit, eat and observe. Try to not have any internal chatter. Don't read something. Don't look at your phone. Don't watch TV.
Erin Thomas 13:39
No multitasking. Yeah,
Chelsea Whipple 13:40
don't do another task. Oh my goodness. Oh, let me tell you. And just, if other people are present, have a conversation with them. If not, just notice, you know, notice the taste of everybody. Notice the smell of the meal. Notice the hunger pains going away. Notice the sip of your drink. Notice the sounds of chewing. Notice the sight of the food. You know just the simple noticing practices. And this simple exercise is where I have found my stillness and allowed me to orient myself back into the presence of the Eternal One.
You know when I stop and notice what is presently in front of me. Then I noticed this presence. I don't usually have a conversation with the divine sometimes something peeks up sometimes I asked those questions that I asked earlier, but just kind of soaking in the quiet, noticing the day. Now I have tried to kind of expand this Exercise. So when my day feels rushed, and I am out of sync, then I look to what what it is can ground me, what's around me, what do I need to do that can start to ground me, whether it's eating again, or going outside, noticing my senses to what surrounds me stopping and just watching the boys play, interact with each other, even doing a chore, and soaking in the senses that way, you know. And it's a profoundly simple impact that keeps my awareness on the present moment. And not on what still needs to get done that day, I try very hard to get that to do list out of my head.
You know, I do work full time, primarily out of the home, typically. So these situations are ones that I find myself most often when I'm with my kids. But, you know, work can present different types of chaos throughout the day. Different deadlines to meet, different situations that come up that need immediacy. And so in those situations, I do use some of those same techniques, especially during intentional break times. So breaks for me are taken when I can, and they are not scheduled. So I find kind of myself picking those intentional breaks, where I do these types of check ins.
So I would like, Okay, can you hear this little precious little child of mine? So this is my middle?
Erin Thomas 16:44
I can we are inviting? Yes.
Chelsea Whipple 16:47
So to make the podcast more real.
Erin Thomas 16:54
We have a friend today
Chelsea Whipple 16:56
to and so to make the podcast more real, we should always at least have one time that we're interrupted by our children,
Erin Thomas 17:02
I think it's just natural. Yeah, yes. You know, and, Chelsea, it's funny, you're talking about having stillness and trying to find moments of stillness throughout your day, as we are just living the reality of what it's like to record a podcast and find a moment of stillness for working or whatever, when we're in the midst of parenting. And that's just the reality of it. You know, I think you've done a really good job for me of sort of sharing how you do this practically. And that's one of the things that I wanted to emphasize, kind of giving you feedback on this. You know, I have to admit that I struggle with this practice a lot.
I have a lot of internal chatter. And sometimes we have external chatter, right with children. And sometimes we have internal chatter. But these are really important practical steps to having these intentional breaks and check ins. And as a result, for me, I've had to be more intentional about specifically what stillness looks like, giving myself more of a working definition. If possible, we need to redefine it. As seasons go by, for example, if you've worked from home, and you're able to take an intentional break, or you're not able to take an intentional break, you're working from home with children, a lot of us have sort of been thrusted into different types of situations that require us to redefine, and create a working definition of what stillness looks like, and allowing it to take root in our everyday practice. And you've given a wonderful definition of practical and logistical characteristics of what stillness is, I really appreciate that your spiritual director took the time to point out that there are natural anchors in your day. That's really important, I think, to sort of notice we don't always notice the ebb and flow of our day. Because it tends to change when we're mothers.
And so eating perhaps is part of that rhythm. And you know, that's one of my favorite words, rhythm and noticing where the natural ebbs and flows are in your day. Eating just happens to be one of those times in which you can intentionally Sit down. And even if it's as simple as noticing, drinking, and eating and providing your body nourishment. I think to add to that concept, it's important for us to take a self inventory and sort of flesh out what a typical day looks like for you. And, and for myself, that sort of to see if There is margin, where is my margin? If there isn't margin, is there a time period in which I can intentionally place an anchor? You know that that that's just realistic motherhood right there is, is there a place that I can intentionally place an anchor for stillness.
So if I'm doing a bit of self inventory I, I know that I'm not great with being passive or slowing down, I tend to be a What do they say a Martha personality per se by but, again, you know, whatever that looks like for you, that also depends on our personality types. So, since I know by self image
Self inventory that I'm not great with being passive or slowing down, this is more of an intentional practice for me. So knowing this about myself doesn't necessarily mean that it has to change who you are. But I allow God to show me areas and which is absolutely possible for me. Or, you know, maybe perhaps you bounce this idea off of your, your partner, and you discuss ways where there are ebbs and flows in your schedule. But making an intentional practice, and working through those logistical characteristics are really important. I think for me, a lot of working through the contemplative motherhood, lifestyle happens when those subtle moments of intentional practice, build up over time. And then, as a result, they flow easily into other areas of my life. I think if we keep this mentality, then the practices as well as the lifestyle of contemplative motherhood, feels more doable. And it feels less overwhelming. You know, we can often build up these grandiose things in our head of what stillness looks like, I need to be able to leave my home, I need to be able to go to a yoga class, I need to be able to, you know, do A, B, or C, whatever that looks like for you.
Or complete silence
right? Yeah, absolutely. And so looking for those subtle moments of intentional practice, they begin to build up over time. And, and that's really important to notice. I've learned that I'm an environment person. Some of us have our different things that we're drawn to. I'm drawn to aesthetics. And I'm greatly distracted by both mental and physical clutter. And so that's a whole different can of worms to unpack about our personalities and our practices later at another time. But simply knowing this about myself helps me to be self aware of any blocks or hindrances, to be able to implement this practice, like stillness,
for example, I don't know if anyone else has this problem, but my house does not always tend to be the cleanest. Right?
Yeah, I mean, an aesthetic person, you know, and having young children, those can feel counterintuitive, like counterproductive, whatever,
Both of them actually.
And so for example, I have a really a hard time practicing stillness in certain rooms of my home, I know that about myself.
So in specifically in rooms of my home, that tend to be a hub for activity, right? So I couldn't necessarily practice stillness, I know this about myself in my kitchen, that's just not a place, I can really always do this. And that's my personal application, that may not be true for you, perhaps you love to cook. And that's a great moment of stillness for you, if you're stirring your pot, and you're taking a moment of intentional stillness. But knowing this about myself, I simply seek to find a way to practice this within the cohesion of my personality. So understanding this about me, I learned to embrace it, rather than to fight against it. And so that's something to just kind of think about when you're doing a self inventory. At the beginning, this is kind of a funny story, but at the beginning of the practice of stillness, obviously, knowing that environment was key for me. I also tend to enjoy interior design, things of that nature. And I had decided within myself and just felt the inner spirit just confirmed to me that I needed a chair, okay, like this was this was just the object I fixated on. I needed a chair, and I realized how ridiculous that sounds okay. But it was the image of a simple, gray, comfortable chair that felt like a piece to a puzzle, and the practice of mindfulness. So I found this chair. It's an inexpensive recliner with clean lines for those who like the aesthetics. And there was to me a cozy element to this chair that awakened is stillness and peaceful spirit for me. After moving this chair and various parts of my house, this sort of encompasses my journey towards the practice of stillness.
I found the perfect spot in the corner of my bedroom, overlooking my backyard, which happens to sit on the backdrop of the saltmarsh. And by placing the share this particular spot knowing and setting its purpose for stillness, I began to share this concept with my children, right. So this is sort of a natural ebb and flow that happens for us. When we're doing these practices, they're going to see us doing this. And we began to share this. And they now know that this chair is sort of thing for mom, right?
Do they Talk softer to you?
I found that if they slowly talked to me, like if I'm just soft and still with my words, then it's okay.
Right. And that is true. I really think you know, our demeanor, and our body awareness, our body, body language, how we are talking, all of this creates the environment and the atmosphere, that they know that this is intentional. And this is a time that I'm using to care for my spirit. But also in a way I am showing them that you can also care for your spirit and your body, just like mommy does.
So you know, circling back sort of to this working definition. I now know this about myself that by designating a spot and this chair, deciding on my time frame, and appealing to my personal makeup of being drawn to aesthetics, I'm able to implement the practice of stillness with God as part of my day. And this bleed over part happens, right? Even if I haven't sat in the chair, we're starting grounding happens for me and listening stance sort of happens, for lack of a better word than I feel like I'm missing something. Do I make modifications? Absolutely. For example, let's just be honest, I do not travel with my gray chair. Okay, I don't, put my grey chair in my trunk, um, when we're going to a baseball game. But I do find a cozy nook specifically for sitting and stillness with the Spirit. And as a result, it's a special time of quieting my mind, my will, my emotions, and aligning them to intentionally listen for the divine.
Oh, Erin, I appreciate how you have pointed out the environment around stillness, you know, I talked about kind of an anchor and interior stillness, and, you know, the physical environment that can kind of be conducive to that stillness. And so asking, you know, where are those places in our physical environment that helps us that bring us naturally into the state of stillness. You know, I, I've never thought about that.
But, you know, resting on that thought, because when you're talking about this great chair, I kept thinking, like, Where do I find that in my house? And, you know, it brings me to the idea that there are natural places that I bring myself to when I need a moment of stillness. I've never been aware that I do that. And I don't have this perfect chair. But your chair sounds absolutely lovely. You know, so I kind of drift towards the couch or on my bed. I happen to be right next to the windows where I can feel that physical warmth of the sun that beams through. And to me, that is another anchor point. You know, maybe not one that happens at certain moments of the day, you know, but it's all about finding those anchor places that brings you into the stillness of the Divine Presence. You know, whether that's finding a grounding when you're doing chores, or you're just stopping to listen to a bird, or you're sitting in that stillness place of your house. Or you're taking a moment to drink water or setting an intentional time aside for yourself. So just lovely, just lovely. You know, I'm reminded of all the religious traditions out there that have those morning, midday and evening prayers, or meditations.
yeah, these ancient ones, they knew what they were doing when they set aside specifically points in your day, to stop what you're doing, and become still. And be in that presence, that awareness of the presence of the Divine.
So I am always I'm feeling pretty still right now. What about you?
I mean, I'm feeling pretty still. Yeah, internally, for sure.
been such a great conversation. I just want to say that because I think that as for those of you who are new listeners, it this can be an intimidating thing, right stillness. And so I hope as you've listened, throughout this episode, you have thought about your anchors, you've thought about the ebb and flow of your days, you have thought about your environment, you have thought about your maybe you already have practices that you are doing. But I hope this encourages you to sort of embrace the idea and the practice of stillness and how that will work for you. I personally have been really encouraged by my friend who's given me some great practical ideas. So thanks, Chels.
Yeah, yeah, no, um, and I think, yeah, just inviting everyone listening to think about those anchoring points. And, you know, right now, just being aware of your surroundings, and what are you doing as you listen, you know, where are you? Are you at home? Are you at work? Are you in the car? You know, what surrounds you? Do you have kids, constantly interrupting you asking you, you know, feel free to put us on pause. Listen to them, you know what they're asking. Looking into their eyes. I love the eyes. I'm a big eyes person. Yes, the windows to the soul. Yeah.
So as we end today, to try to kind of end with a practice of stillness. I have although you can't see it is this lovely singing bowl,
Yeah. And to honor what the singing bowl in the tradition it comes out of his the singing bowl is typically from the Himalayan region. And it's really an ancient practice, you'll find it most often in Buddhism, that opens and closes a meditation. And there's a lot more to the singing bowls than just the sounds that you hear they have a very important sound as well. So feel free to read more about that. But I am going to chime our singing bowl three times. So when you hear the sounds and the chimes, just start breathing, start noticing, start being aware of what you see, what you hear, what you smell, what your touch, taste all those senses. So here we go.
And the quote I'm going to end today is from Rumi. And Rumi is a 13th century Sufi mystic poet from Persia. And one of his poems, he says, "Let the water settle, and you will see the moon in the stars mirrored in your own being That's beautiful. It is finding your inner stillness." Alright friends. Until next time.
Thanks for joining us. Thank you again for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast with us your host, Aaron Thomas and Chelsea Whipple.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai