Learning to Sit Still

Many thanks to those of you who have been checking in over the past two weeks. I hadn’t intended to have a break and certainly hadn’t intended it to last that long, but it did. I think I’m back, but my body might have other ideas!

Synchronicity has always fascinated me and the quiet synchronised events of the past month or so have certainly made me sit up and take notice: something is happening…

I think it all started when I read ‘The Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield (the Chicken Soup for the Soul guy), around the same time I wrote my post for worldmomsblog on the general disorder of living in a house full of project people (World Moms Blog – Post Two ). Simultaneously, the Butterfly began the final stages of weaning and the other two boys arrived where they needed to be as far as development and self-assurance goes. I wanted to get a little more breathing-out space into my daily routine (Breathing In and Out: One Idea for Avoiding Burn Out ) and I needed to get some greater perspective on some of the events Craig and I have experienced during our time together (15+ years).

Some of those events include: me giving a good 5 and a bit years to teaching and working 70+ hour weeks during that time (and another 7 years of doing the same prior to meeting Craig). Two major melt-downs in the building industry: one of which Craig was caught up in directly. The setting up of a couple of businesses, which didn’t work – mostly due to us not managing other people properly and our inexperience. And some extended family dynamics, which are immensely frustrating, upsetting and down right unfair to us and others.

It is also around 10 years since I got pregnant with the Hare and during my time as a Mum I have been pushed/shoved/kicked on to the path of turning into the woman I want to become. It has been an intense and life-changing time. (That sounds such an understated description!) It was immensely challenging for various reasons: re-parenting the Hare from around the age of three, having the highly sensitive Owl who wouldn’t spontaneously leave my body for most of the first two years of his life and who would either vomit on others, including his father, or me on his return if there was a mother-led separation of any kind. And who continued to struggle with all mother-led separations until he was about four and a half. Plus another pregnancy and early baby stage.

Around two weeks ago I went back to the start of the Success Principles and began the serious work. Two things initially resonated with me: successful people are 100% people and we need to take complete responsibility for every aspect of our lives. The last bit I consider a bit harsh for people who have been through major trauma or abuse, but I haven’t experienced either of those. I also think it’s damned hard and completely unrealistic for a mother with a child or children younger than 18 months to do this, and having had a highly sensitive child – one of them younger than three would also make taking 100% responsibility difficult. (100% responsibility for looking after the children, but perhaps other parts of life being allowed to go a bit astray during this time!) But I’m past that stage too.

I had already began to build two sitting still times into my day – 100%. First thing in the morning for five to 10 minutes – outside -turning off the sleep chemical melatonin and turning on the happy chemical serotonin and a sit down and doing n-o-t-h-i-n-g time around mid-morning when the Butterfly is sleep. More about these later.

I also took Meg’s advice and checked out the flylady (http://www.flylady.net ). If, two months ago, anyone had told me that I would grin inanely at my shiny kitchen sink  I would have thought them insane. But I do. I, yes me, have found pleasure and delight in cleaning. The house is now under control. There is no more clutter and I have a great sense that I can manage the chores. People can arrive unannounced and actually walk from the front door to the kitchen without having to clear a path! The loo is clean, the bathroom basin is clean, the floors are swept and the sink shines.

Interestingly there were definitely emotional barriers to organising some of the stuff. Some things mounted up and just stared at me. Sorted them yesterday. Still feel a bit emotional-blockage about them. Hopefully this will dissipate with time. Having a few small house-work tasks to do daily has really helped. 100% of the time they are done. 🙂

I took a mental check-list of things in my life and realised that all wasn’t as chaotic as I thought. Craig and I can take 100% responsibility for three very self-assured, generally calm and incredibly pleasant children. We can take 100% responsibility for having financially supported ourselves through hell and high-water. We have a great marriage, we did that too. And we each lost around 10 kg (22 lbs) each last year.

On the other side of the equation we learned that some people want to be constantly patted on the back and will put their pride before integrity.  We take 100% responsibility for not spotting the signs earlier and doing something about that situation. I learned that if someone is easily overwhelmed, immature and un-prepared before you go into business with them – I can hardly blame them for turning out to be easily overwhelmed, immature and having their systems collapse when things don’t go well. I knew. I take 100% responsibility for knowing it wouldn’t work before it started. I went ahead anyway. I also need to lose another 10 kg and get fit again. And, aheemmm, the recession has done interesting things to our ability to manage financially.

So, back to the breathing-out times. The morning session has become a ‘thank-you’ time. I figure it’s a healthy way to start the day: acknowledging the good that is in my life. There’s a lot of that.

The mid-morning session has blown me away as far as the positive affects. The first day I tried three minutes of just sitting. Not drinking a coffee. Not reading. Just. Sitting. It was incredibly hard. The second day I sat facing the timer on the micro-wave and learned that wasn’t a good idea. After a week or so I had built up to seven minutes. It was easier. And it was then that my body took over.

I began to sigh. Deep sighs. Then throughout the day my body would do the same, unconsciously. There is very little research into why we sigh, but two ideas really made sense to me. We sigh when we are relieved about something. (We have survived the last 10 years despite everything and now I can relax and make plans for the future.) We also sigh to bring our blood-pressure down. With the constant physical, emotional and financial stress of these past years  I wouldn’t be surprised if my blood-pressure needed to come down a bit!

The other thing I began to notice was where I hold tension in my body. It turns out to be mostly in my upper-back and shoulders, particularly my left-hand side. Once I built up to 10 minutes of sitting still I became aware that my left shoulder was about five centimetres or so higher than the right. Now that I am well into the routine of sitting for that 10 minutes they are almost even. Go figure. No exercise, no manipulation – just sitting still.

All in all my body changed down a gear. Instead of feeling like I’m constantly in fourth or fifth – there are regular changes, each day. It was/is a curious sensation. Not unpleasant. It’s just different to how I usually feel. Steiner would probably say I was more ‘in’ my body than I have ever been. (I quite like it. It feels healthier on every level.)

Blogging took a back seat while I down-geared, de-cluttered the house, assessed and found space in my head for me. I also had problems getting into my subscriptions for a few days. All in all, I think I’m back. But I have never had the experience of my body taking over and saying, “no” before. It is probably something I need to listen to. At this period of endings anyway. Thanks for sticking with me. There’s a worldmomsblog post coming up on Thursday and I have ideas for several others knocking about.

Now to catch up on my subscriptions!

(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )


About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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32 Responses to Learning to Sit Still

  1. hakea says:

    Good to see you’re back.

  2. You sound very optimistic. Inspiring!!!

    • I think I am (optimistic that is!). I certainly feel like I have some say over my life at the moment…something I just never seem to have when pregnant and with a small baby. I feel like me again, and I like it!

  3. Li-ling says:

    I was expecting a post about getting children to sit still when I read your title LOL 🙂
    It’s great to see you’re back again and even better that you sound so refreshed and optimistic!

    • It was the weirdest experience…my body taking over like that. But yes, I do feel refreshed and hopeful. At least know I feel that I have some balance between being busy and being still – and that was what I was aiming for all along. 🙂

  4. Laura says:

    As always, you inspire me.

    As for sighing, this is significant. Sighing activates the vagus nerve. This is no paltry nerve. It is the major nerve coming from the brain and connecting to vital organs. The vagus nerve activates stem cells to to regenerate (improving everything from immunity to staying youthful) and promotes relaxation. Sigh away!

    • How cool that I inspire *you* – I always enjoy reading your blog too. 🙂 I like the sound of increased immunity and youthfulness – I certainly feel better for the experience. Now to keep it all going!

  5. Mama B says:

    Welcome back! That is now officially on list of things to do when the chaos that is my life now (Not the plan for my life always) subsides! Gives me something to look forward to.

    • Thanks Mama B,
      It is good to have something to look forward to. The kids think it’s hilarious me sitting still for 10 minutes…they’re too used to seeing me rushing around like a mad thing or – blush – on the computer. And as for the increased organisation – I’m loving that!

  6. Jane says:

    I’ve come to sit for 40 minutes most days–my kids are grown so it is very different, of course. When I first started, I would suddenly think “maybe I left my tea kettle on” and I would be up like a shot, not stopping to think that I didn’t hear the whistle and that I couldn’t smell anything burning. Now I can usually stop and realize it’s only a passing thought–it’s not real at all–and resist the temptation to act on it. Same thing with worries–they are only thoughts run umuck!

    • Absolutely agree with you there, Jane – worries are just over-thinking an issue. (Actually, you just stopped me over thinking something I don’t need to worry about at all!)
      And while I was happy to give our children all of me when they were very small, it is nice to be able to claim that 10 minutes each day. 40 minutes of just sitting sounds like heaven!

  7. I was starting to wonder where you’d wandered to! Happy to see you’ve taken time for you in any way that you needed. Very important! I’ve been doing the opposite…”gearing-up”! I’ve been working on projects, and am looking forward to blogging more in the next couple of weeks.
    Happy Sighing!

    • Yes, am happily sighing away! I was only too happy to give the children 110% of me when they were small, but it is lovely to have those small snippets of time to myself. I hope you had a great holiday – I shall have to ‘pop in’ and check out your posts. 🙂

  8. BinoandFino says:

    I haven’t read your blog in a while and decided to stop by to see what’s new and I read this. Great one. I’m glad you were able to stop, assess and take action to take care of your well being. I have to do the same sometimes. Everyone has their own ways of doing it but the important thing is doing what’s right for you and making sure, within all the madness that you find time to recharge. Take care.

    • Thanks Adamu,
      It’s been a funny-peculiar couple of weeks really, and I am very pleased to have found a way to get some balance in my day. It seems incredible to me how 10 small minutes can make such a difference. And you’re right, recharging in the madness of living in a modern world is incredibly important. Hope all is well with you too. 🙂

      • BinoandFino says:

        The 10 minutes or however long one chooses can make a great difference. I do it myself but not in such a structured way as you are doing. I used to have trouble switching off, thinking that if I stopped working etc then all hell would break loose. I don’t have kids so my time is usually focused on work and other issues similar to those you described. 🙂

        Things are good on my side. We finally launched the cartoon DVD for sale online. I actually meant to tell you about it a few weeks ago but you know how it is! lol

        Back to the subject. I just remembered another thing I’m really good at now is filtering out emotional clutter.

        • Congratulations! That’s a huge milestone for you. What a great idea to sell it on line, and I hope it does well for you. 🙂
          Ahhh yes, emotional clutter. It can be difficult at times to filter that out. That might just be my next mountain to climb. Any strategies or hints?

          • BinoandFino says:

            🙂 I’m trying not to say too much because I usually stop you from sleeping because you always try to reply! But for filtering, boy that’s hard. I don’t even know if I have a technique. It’s more like I’ve trained my self just to say ‘it doesn’t matter if I don’t deal with that issue or person’. I also have to be almost ruthless and assess what certain people mean to me and what they bring to my life. If my assessment of the person’s contribution is negative then I just cut them out. Not in a bad way though. It’s hard to explain in writing.

            • You’ve explained it well, Adamu. It’s what I’ve had to do a few times too. What is difficult for most of us, I think, is that we are raised to be polite…yet sometimes the only way to protect ourselves is to not deal with the person – at all – and that can be interpreted as being rude or in my case, with one person at the moment, as being a ‘b***’. I tend to be a very open person, so I find emotional filtering difficult – especially when I see something really unfair going on. I guess that’s all part of life. (And good morning…I’ve become better at waiting for answers!)

              • BinoandFino says:

                Morning Karyn. You pretty much summed up my sentiments on it. I have to go against my character to filter out people many times. It’s not nice but it has to be done. And guess what? I’m not subscribed to you either!

                • LOL at the not subscribed. I think it’ll just it easier for me to keep track of all your adventures in tv land to be subscribed. Looking forward to commenting more regularly over at ‘your place’.
                  Yes it’s not a pleasant thing to do…the emotional filter business, but so important for ones own sanity.

  9. MamaWerewolf says:

    Welcome back!
    What a wonderful reason to take a break.
    It is mind-boggling that something so simple as sitting still takes so much intentionality and is so hard to find the time for.

    I can’t agree with you more on the joy it brings to have my house be clean. I’m not a tidy person by nature, so working that into my rhythm takes consciousness – and is so rewarding!

    • Thank-you for your welcome, MamaWerewolf. I am enjoying my formal sit down time. I’ve been sighing away again today and I smile every time I do so now.
      And I think I am surprised at how rewarding I have found housework to be. It seems such a silly thing to say…but it’s true. It’s only taken me 10 years of being home to get my head around it all! It is very intentional and conscious for me too…perhaps if I can wangle another 10 years then it will be natural. 😉

  10. Blondy Magee says:

    I hope one day soon I will look at my life and think, “my life isn’t as chaotic as I think it is.” Very nice post.

    • Thanks Blondy. It was a surprise to me that life wasn’t as messy as I thought and I am trying to ride with that thought pattern. Great that you stopped by and commented, I appreciate it. 🙂

  11. My wise friend!! It is actually refreshing to see that such a good mom with so much knowledge still takes the time to evaluate life’s events and synchronicity… I tend to avoid doing that but do LOVE when I see evidence of serendipity, which I think is pretty similar.

    Enjoy your transformation…how exciting!

    • Thanks Jess. Yes, it is exciting and I am enjoying my life immensely at the moment. I have to make myself sit for those 10 minutes some days, but it has been/is such a worthwhile practise and I *know* I am so much better for factoring that time in. It was in the too hard basket when I was pregnant and with a small baby, but now it is manageable.

  12. adhdwith3 says:

    Pride over integrity. I like being patted on the back, and it doesn’t happen much as a mother. I guess that’s when you have to rely on our instincts and know that you are doing the right thing.

    • I think you’re right about relying on your instincts as a Mum. I know that when our kids are generally calm and pleasant to be with we’ve managed them well – but that can change in an instant and they keep going through ‘stages’ !

  13. faemom says:

    Great post. It’s nice to take a moment and set things to right in your life. And I totally carry all my tension in my shoulders and neck. Maybe I should learn to sit still.

    • It is lovely to be able to factor this time into my day regularly faemom, but I doubt I could have done it when I had small baby. I hold tension in my upper back and shoulders, too. Wouldn’t it be great to get a massage once a week?!!

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