Contemplative Motherhood Podcast

Is Motherhood A Spiritual Practice: Part 2

August 01, 2021 Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple Season 1 Episode 11
Is Motherhood A Spiritual Practice: Part 2
Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
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Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
Is Motherhood A Spiritual Practice: Part 2
Aug 01, 2021 Season 1 Episode 11
Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple

In part 2 of our conversation, we unpack specifically motherhood being a spiritual practice both the negative aspects and the positive aspects. Motherhood is not all that we are but it is a big part of how we relate to the world. Instead of thinking spiritual practices add more to our to-do list, we reframe the question of how can we look at being a mother through the lens of the Divine? Join us as we dive deeper into the conversation and find ways to be who we are, chaotic and beautiful.

Show Notes Transcript

In part 2 of our conversation, we unpack specifically motherhood being a spiritual practice both the negative aspects and the positive aspects. Motherhood is not all that we are but it is a big part of how we relate to the world. Instead of thinking spiritual practices add more to our to-do list, we reframe the question of how can we look at being a mother through the lens of the Divine? Join us as we dive deeper into the conversation and find ways to be who we are, chaotic and beautiful.

Chelsea Whipple  0:03  

You are listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast, my name is Chelsea, I'm a teacher, practitioner, spiritual director and Pilgram

Erin Thomas  0:12  

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.

Chelsea Whipple  0:25  

You'll hear our triumphs, failures, practices, and mistakes as we journey together. You might even hear a kid or two in the background.

Erin Thomas  0:33  

So grab some coffee, tea, curl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here. Now let's get started.

Chelsea Whipple  0:44  

Hello, welcome back everyone to part two of our lingering question is motherhood a spiritual practice? So I am one of your co-host Chelsea, and I'm here with my amazing friend Erin again. As usual, I mean,

Erin Thomas  1:02  

ah your sweet, hi friend.

Chelsea Whipple  1:05  

Um, so let's just dive right in, you know, we've set it all up with part one and now we're time, we're ready to tie the bow, which I'm laughing because we're not going to tie this bow but we're gonna at least maybe tie a knot, we'll see, 

Erin Thomas  1:20  

open-ended bow. 

Chelsea Whipple  1:21  

There we go. So we ended last time with this question that we really wanted all the listeners to kind of sit with and give it some space because I think both Erin and I needed this week to give ourselves space to answer this question. So this is the question we're posing today. Putting these concepts together which is what we discussed last last episode. Understanding our societal focuses and the basic tenets of contemplative life. Is there some notion that the contemplative motherhood lifestyle is also a form of spiritual practice? So what I want to open this up with real quick before I pivot to Erin, this whole thing, part of it came about while I was reading a book that's called Wild mercy: living the fierce and tender wisdom of the women mystics by Mirabai Starr, and she had a one sentence line in here that I literally read, close the book, and called Erin. And as I go, it should be talking, you're gonna find out why I had to close the book. So I'm going to read the sentence to everyone as we start off "as the mother of four girls, Asha Grier recognized early on that unless she focused on parenting as a spiritual practice, she would have no spiritual life." And so, Erin. I'm going to now give it the reins to you start is off discussing why the practice of motherhood, as a spiritual practice, could be perceived as negative.

Erin Thomas  3:13  

Yeah, so that's a pretty loaded question, my friend. Um,

Erin Thomas  3:19  

this is, this is so interesting and I love that quote for multiple reasons. But obviously, what we can speak from and speak from our experience. And my experience has been that a lot of my personal spirituality, and that lifestyle has always been a form of had an element of academic study to it. And so I grew up in a very rich spiritual home with a lot of philosophers and theologians, where there were common questions this was something that I grew up with from a young age, I recognize that that's not always true for everyone in their everyday life, right, that sort of depends on what our lifestyle has been and how spirituality, or if it was introduced to us. So knowing that about ourselves, helps me to understand about myself, how I have sort of carried this throughout my life. I think one of the things to integrate about the negative portion of a spiritual practice of motherhood. Is that so often, depending on where we are and what season of motherhood is well, we are looking at the component of can I quite possibly add something else to my list, right. 

Erin Thomas  4:59  


Erin Thomas  5:00  

I can't possibly be 12 other people I feel like a chaufeur, a short order cook. You know, I'm a counselor, a life coach, you know just there's so many roles that we feel like we fulfill on a daily basis, in any season of motherhood, you know, And that shifts, as our children get older. But as a result I think we often tend to compartmentalize our spirituality, from our daily life as a mom, because it feels like pressure, It feels like there's something else we have to do. And if we don't produce this quote unquote product of, you know, being a fully rounded mother, whatever. Right. 

Erin Thomas  5:56  

Then, then we're not doing it right, Or we're not going to hit the mark. And that I think is what stumbles us in this lifestyle, and why we often don't think to add a spiritual component or a spiritual practice to motherhood, because it feels really intimidating, and quite honestly like something else we can't do. Another reason for us to feel guilt. Another reason for us to feel as though we are not hitting that mark. We already fight that sort of battle on a daily basis. And so the idea of adding a spiritual component where maybe possibly we don't feel like we're meeting the mark there either. That can just lead us into a snowball effect of gracious, well I might as well just set that to the side because I can't quite possibly, you know, produce what what I'm supposed to produce and and be reverent, or holy or whatever term you perceive and be a mom where I feel like my daily task list is never ending, and I am coming up short. And so that really leads us as a society. And within a spiritual context, of, of it being a negative thing that we need to put our quiet times and our meditation to the side, and we do this on these certain days at these certain times, and, you know, if we don't do it, then it just doesn't get done. And then, you know, that's, that's not integrating that's not interwoven. So instead of us viewing this as threads that are being integrated in this sort of tapestry that that flows together, we are more compartmentalizing it as a task rather than a relationship priority. And I think that's why so often, it can be perceived as negative. So I don't know if that answers your question but

Erin Thomas  8:12  

that that just is sort of my thoughts and my personal experience.

Chelsea Whipple  8:17  

Yeah, I mean, wow, I, I'm going to try to add on to this but I don't even know if I can because I think you explained what initially was in my head when I read that and when I later when I called you because it was just one, I was thinking like why do I read all these books then, what I read all these books about how, you know, being a contemplative and, and, you know, embracing my complete whole self and everything I do with when I can just be a mom and that's my spiritual practice. Like that's initially where my head went. It was just very upsetting because like, As a mom, I'm tired. I often have to discipline my kids, you know, and teach them fully in loving ways and not yell too much depends on the day when that with that goes well. And like you said Erin, I have, I am different identities. At every point in my day went, you know, with the kids. And so, thinking about this. Motherhood being the spiritual practice. And I had wrestled with the idea of being, even though I didn't have words about contemplatives at the time, but when I was. When my kids were really really young, and I was really really tired, I don't know if I have more energy than then I'm getting older so my energy's waning. But, and I had sought out something that would make me feel complete. And then, you know, realize what it is now about just inviting and noticing the Presence in my everyday life. So, it almost felt like when I read that, about being a mother, as a spiritual practice, it took me back to before, when I was just a mother. And I didn't want it to be my spiritual practice, I didn't want it to define how I related to the Divine. And you know what you said was just very much for my brain went, that it was taking away if I thought of motherhood as a spiritual practice it almost felt like taking away me, because being a mom is not everything I am. It is a label that I carry, and I adore that label. I love being a mom. Even when I am just tired and overwhelmed. 

Chelsea Whipple  11:01  

But at the same time, I am not just a mom. I am many things. And so the idea of allowing motherhood to just be a spiritual or you know to for my spiritual practice to just be motherhood, that's how I read it. That my spiritual practice was just motherhood, and that's kind of where I was like, No, I do not like this line I'm going to, but I'm going to close the book, give myself some space and let's figure out what's really going on. Let's stop and notice and sit with this for a while. And then like you said Erin it was realizing that it's not so much my spiritual practices, just being a mom, but it's part of me, which is a mom is part of me. So my spiritual practice is incorporating the whole self, which includes those tired moments of motherhood, which includes, you know, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the umpteenth time for lunches and going school shopping, which is what I did today with the kids and I literally had my kids running in three different directions. And I'm yelling their name, 

Erin Thomas  12:14  

that's so fun.

Chelsea Whipple  12:16  

But that in itself, like if I reflect back on it, and think about that that was actually, it was a joyous time, maybe because not a lot of people were there. But, so, um, I think there is some truth in this, and I want us to get a little bit deeper. So Erin, going back to the original question that we've been posing. Putting these concepts together, understanding our societal focuses and the basic tenets of contemplative life. Is there some notion that the contemplative motherhood lifestyle is also a form of spiritual practice?

Erin Thomas  12:55  

Yes. Oh my goodness. Okay, so these are such deep questions and we do realize that you may have to listen to this episode twice, and we encourage that. But I'm going to say, I really enjoy unpacking this and I adore this particular question, for a variety of reasons. First of all, I think, you know, using that principle of societal focus etc. We're presented all the time and culture with lifestyles right, a healthy lifestyle, a parenting lifestyle, a spiritual lifestyle, the lifestyle of your career, the lifestyle of gracious, where you live your you know your socioeconomic status, everything is considered a lifestyle, and so often we're taught that these are separate entities right that we just like identities as a mother, these are just different things that are components of us and that's absolutely true. But my favorite part about the contemplative lifestyle is that, despite the fact that we are presented with so many of these lifestyles in our culture. They are all completely in one package and contemplative spirituality, and here's why. And in essence, we talked about this in the prior episode practices are simply an expression of a concept we've embraced, right, being present and awakened spiritually to the divine. And within the present day life with our children. But that can also apply and. And everywhere we go. So mother for motherhood, for those of us who are experiencing it or have experienced, know that there are defining moments that for me, sort of put that period on the end of the sentence that motherhood is a spiritual practice. 

Erin Thomas  15:02  

For example, I know that so many of us remember that moment when a child is born into our lives that we either carried or via adoption or surrogacy. However, that child entered your life. You know that from that moment on, your life will never be the same, and that you will never see things the same way as you did before. And so often in contemplative spirituality, we talk about honing that heart vision, honing our spiritual vision to be able to see the world as the divine and an active present way. And when we use this lens of motherhood and knowing that there are defining moments that heart, awakening experiences, then we know an essence that motherhood is a spiritual practice, as well as a lifetime. But definitely, I, I think it's a practice within this life, and though, those particular tenants are the reason that it is that heart center that spiritual vision, those moments that awaken you to seeing things in a different way that you have never seen before. And that provides, if we are willing, a spiritual depths, that we may never have stepped into. And so I want to ask you tells you you discuss at the beginning. At first the idea of motherhood being a spiritual practice, and it felt this satisfying. I know I felt the same way in various seasons of my life. I'm curious as to if your thoughts and your feelings have changed about that.

Chelsea Whipple  17:13  

Yeah, you know, when I giving myself space to really break it down, and incorporating you know what we've talked about pretty much in every single episode and what you just said Erin, you know, makes a very unifying message that everything we do in this life has an opportunity to be a spiritual practice. It's do we notice when we do it. Or, when we even if you don't notice while you're doing something. When you reflect on it, sometimes that almost gives you insights to a different level of inviting the presence, the Divine Presence God again whatever word draws you near to the holy anyways. And so motherhood is just like that. I mean, if I think about what do I do the most during the day, if I if I'm going to do what we shouldn't do, and I'm going to compartmentalize. If I reflect on my day and think how many hours I spent in certain things, most of the time, doing something for my kids is going to be at the top of the list. So I'm mothering, the most, even to my dog, a mother and sometimes to my spouse. Try not to start coughing here. Anyways, so being a mom is what I spend the majority of my day doing and how wonderful is it to make that a spiritual practice. 

Chelsea Whipple  18:47  

I mean if we really think about it. And we've talked about the basicness they easy the simplicityness, if that's a word, it should be contemplative is just being present and aware. For me, it's being present and aware of something Holy happening. So, talking about contemplative motherhood is watching what the Holy that happens and when I'm as a mom, and I can take that and label it something else contemplative work, you know, whatever else it is. But again, as a mom, since I spend so much time doing it. There's so many opportunities to really invite that divine in, or even see it. 

Chelsea Whipple  19:38  

You know what, the one episode we talked about connecting to nature, that holds a lot of similarities here, because you can say connecting to your kids, Almost because you know you. If you've ever noticed a sunset or a sunrise or a rainbow, or like a butterfly flying, just something that captures your eye that just seemed like it pop out of nowhere, and it just feels in that moment a sacred moment. It's the same thing, you know, with our kids sometimes giving them a drink of water, or hearing their cute little voices that just keep talking and you don't even know what they're saying, but it's just cute, something that pops out of you that's a little bit different, like that to me is kind of that divine presence and noticing it. And, you know, there's just something so holy about motherhood and understanding it and knowing it as a spiritual practice, because you get to do it with every fiber of your being. Even when you're tired. And even when you're disciplining your kids, there's been many moments where one of my kids can be very challenging. And I don't know how to I don't know the best way to get to them to teach them the right way, where I just sit and I'm like, I need help, God please just show me an image. Let me sit with this for a little bit, give me patience. Am I doing the right thing, you know even that too is that spiritual practice just appealing, and then turning for help. So, as we further. Delve this out a little bit more and talk about it, you know, I think we could go on and on about how it incorporating our whole selves means incorporating all our identities, you know, incorporating our mother instinct, our mother label, even those labels that we carry as moms like the chauffeur, the coach. The tutor. 

Erin Thomas  22:00  

The teacher 

Chelsea Whipple  22:03  

teach yeah there you go Erin, and the teacher. You know, that's all us. That's how we were defined as our as our wholeself. And so incorporating those spiritual practices gives us such an opportunity to not feel like we're pulled in so many directions, but feel like we're actually maybe leading ourselves, and knowing that when we feel like our whole selves, we have an opportunity also to drop the guilt. You know, I know it said this in one episode and Erin brought it up here today, too, is that we carry so much guilt sometimes as mothers, in this as a way to drop that guilt that we're not doing everything perfectly, and even thinking of motherhood as a spiritual practice is not going to look pretty, or perfect, but we are who we are. 

Erin Thomas  22:56  


Chelsea Whipple  22:56  

You know, and even that there's something sacred in accepting who you are as a mom, like I'm not perfect. I say the wrong things all the time. I should be more patient with my kids. You know, those kinds of things. Erin is there. Is there anything else you want to say, are you ready for the practice you let me know. 

Erin Thomas  23:20  

No, I think, you know, just to affirm you in that I think it's, It's just part of it is just leaving space, it's leaving that space for all of our messy. Beautiful chaos to be in this place, and still know and recognize the divine and being present in our homes as well as outside, and, you know, so often, it can be intimidating, I think, at least it is for me. When I think about adding something else right. I think the ultimate goal is to change the picture that we need to add more to a building that we're building, but rather know, and envision an open space, where there is room for all of these things, and most of all, there's room for the Divine Presence. And that is, we can do that, Right, like we can allow space. In, if we're already in it, right. And rather than thinking that we have to go somewhere or do something or check something off or there's a certain order of things that we need to do. I just encourage you if you're listening and you're a mom, right where you are is right where you need to be for this to be a spiritual practice, you know,

Chelsea Whipple  25:11  

yeah, yeah, and you're already doing it right. We all are already doing it, it's just opening yourself up or noticing or being present or aware, any, any of those fancy words. But yeah, I love that. Thank you Erin. 

Chelsea Whipple  25:31  

So we're going to jump into our practice. And so, the practice. For this episode is we are going to be present as a mother. How easy does that sound? If you would like to try this for one hour. Of course it can be more, spend time with your kids in the setting, or you can be fully present to them. I mean where you're not distracted by anything else you need to do. I always think about dishes and laundry, those are my two trigger points. I could be doing something else while I'm playing with them, not for this hour, spend time with your kids, where you can be fully present to them. Whether that is on the ground playing with them, answering unendless questions, feeding them unendless snacks or taught just talking to them about what is on their mind. But thrust yourself fully into their world, and invite the sacred into this space with you and your kids. be silent when necessary, ask probing questions that can't be answered with yes or no. Observe the interactions going on. Notice their body language. When the time is over, take time to reflect on this experience, sit quietly and see if an image comes to your mind, journal if you feel led to it, and commit to do this practice again. If you really found it fruitful. But most of all during this practice. Enjoy the sacred time, as a mother.

Erin Thomas  27:24  

Oh, what an invitation. I'm excited about that. It's, I think, let's be honest for some of us it's going to be hard right, the laundry and the dishes I don't go anywhere, and the toys on the floor.

Chelsea Whipple  27:41  

Yes. For this one hour it is okay. 

Erin Thomas  27:44  


Erin Thomas  27:46  

I want to share a quote for the day is from Rabbi Ruttenberg. And she wrote a beautiful book called Nurturing the Wow. And she says, "My suspicion is that some mothers throughout history have experienced the work of parenting in deep ways, not necessarily because people of one gender are inherently more or less, or differently spiritual than people of other genders, but because the work of caring for kids can be chock full of powerful moments. And even if those mothers didn't experience something special. That doesn't mean we can't. Raising kids forces us into a lot of different emotions, processes, skills, encounters with the world and with ourselves, to say nothing of the variety of ways in which we relate to the tiny little people in front of us, when we care for our children. We can go so far down into love that we might find infinity, on the other side. We can use the boring and the hard moments to pop us open, we can find new means of experiencing our bodies, we can open the doors of perception and immersive play, and even find within the depth and intensity of these bonds, something akin to the mystic." 

Erin Thomas  29:14  

So thank you so much for joining us. And please let us know how and specifics on how this episode has impacted you and how your practice went this week. We're very excited to hear from you and as always we are very thankful that you have been here with us today. Have a wonderful day. 

Erin Thomas  29:39  

Thank you again for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast with us your host, Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple,

Chelsea Whipple  29:48  

to get regular updates on our podcast, hear new episode drops, interact with us about past and future episodes, and find our show notes, make sure to go to our website, www contemplative

Erin Thomas  30:03  

As always, we appreciate your support of this podcast and then helping us share our journey with others. So if you enjoy today's podcast, make sure to subscribe, rate, and leave us a review. This helps us to cross paths with other pilgrim mamas across the board. So until next time.

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