Much has already been written about mindful parenting. Mindfulness is a concept derived from Buddhist principles about detaching from the ego, the part of self that controls the mind and fills it with recurring thoughts, many of which are negative, designed to protect us but ultimately causing us suffering.
Here is an example: a new mom who struggles with breastfeeding — a totally common occurrence — may internalize the unnecessary guilt over this and slip into a pattern of negative thinking: “I am no good at feeding my baby. I am not a good mother. I am a failure.” Even if the mom is not actually conscious of these thoughts, the guilt she feels and the bad feelings she holds onto start to repeat in her subconscious, leading to feelings of anger upon seeing babies breastfeed, or even just seeing happy moms who appear to not be struggling (but most likely are, underneath the surface). An inability to let go of past events, and the mind’s tendency to judge such events as necessarily “good” or “bad,” prevent us from recognizing that we are not are thoughts. In contrast, mindfulness is about living in the present moment, releasing past events and the ego’s need to hold onto the past (i.e., the mind saying “don’t even try to breastfeed, because you know you are a failure at it, and I want to protect you from feeling disappointed the next time you fail”). Mindfulness allows us relief from suffering.
I had the good fortune to discover a book entitled “I Told My Mind to Shut The F*ck Up! … And Then I Saw What Was Possible.” by Greg Winick.
Stay with me here. Winick’s book is the story of his life, starting with his childhood and early exposure to the principles of mindfulness and learning to detach from suffering by silencing the useless thoughts that are designed to trap us in the past, or sometimes propel us into a mind-created future of disaster scenarios, instead of being in the present. He describes his life as an ordinary guy with his fair share of life experiences, who like many of us, go on to get married and start a family. Throughout, he explains how his mind created stories that helped him achieve great success and accomplish many goals, but also created stories that kept him trapped in his mind’s negative interpretations of past experiences, holding him back from thinking clearly and living more positively.
The climax of the story centers around his wife and son’s hereditary disease of VHL, which causes the formation of tumors in certain locations in the body, and can require multiple surgeries throughout a person’s life. When Winick realized that his teenaged son would need to undergo one of the most complicated neurological surgeries in medical history, and that the procedure could result in his son’s permanent paralysis, his mind created utter panic and chaos. But his ability to silence these negative thoughts and find his center ultimately allowed him to think clearly and take action to help his son and wife through this ordeal. Along the way, Winick touches the lives of others, and describes how other people’s lives also impacted his own evolving sense of true self in his ongoing struggle to detach from the ego and, as he puts it, see what was possible. The book is so simple in its approach, yet very gripping, with touches of humor and heart. If you love reading about this stuff but find the usual Zenned-out material too heady, you will love Winick’s no-B.S., and even fun take on the subject. Yes, the book necessarily gets heavy and serious in certain parts, but when you read about Winick telling his mind to “Shut the f*ck up!,” you can’t help but crack a smile and make a note to yourself to try it next time.
Talk about the stresses of parenting — I can hardly imagine a scenario more stressful than knowing that your child must undergo and recover from an extremely complicated surgery with so many unknowns, and with numerous medical professionals debating the right course of action. This book is important, certainly for the perspective it provides, but moreover, for showing us how to use the concepts of mindfulness and separation from the ego in order to overcome challenges in parenting and in life, big and small.
Note: The foregoing is my personal opinion of the book referenced herein, and does not necessarily reflect an endorsement of, or opinion about, this product by CT Working Moms or by any other individual member of this blogging community. I was not asked to write this review or provide an endorsement of this product, nor was I compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise, for same.