MEET THE MOTHER AND DAUGHTER MINDFULNESS and meditation DUO
Mum and daugther Kate and Meg James are currently running businesses in the field of meditation and mindfulness.
Kate has written several books on the subject and both she and Meg have been leaders in workshops and retreats leading and encouraging people to gain a greater understanding of themselves and living their personal best life.
I first Kate when she attended one of my yoga classes. She has a calmness and an innate ability to make an immediate connection with whoever she is with.
The most powerful impression was Kate’s honesty and authenticity. She doesn’t claim to be perfect and works on herself as she would advise any of her clients to do. Her platform totalbalance.com.au is filled with tips on dealing with the ups and downs of life and Kate is very open to let us know she, like us, doesn’t have all the answers but works on it daily.
I met Meg at a seminar Kate was holding and was struck by her calm nature, just like her mum, but also her humbleness. Meg has created a series of meditations, a seven day meditation challenge, corporate meditation courses and also works as a meditation teacher at Happy Melon Studio in South Yarra, Melbourne.
Meg has recently become a mum to her first child and I was interested to find out how her mediation and mindfulness practice helped her in this new role.
I was also interested to find out how her mum Kate was now adapting to being a grandmother, hurdles they may have needed to navigate and some words of wisdom on how meditation and mindfulness can help guide a mother through the early months of parenting.
Read our interview with Meg and Kate.
How does it feel to be a grandmother?
It is the most wonderful thing. Before Meg had Oscar, I often heard other grandmothers saying how much they loved being grandparents but, much like becoming a mother for the first time, it’s really only something that you can understand when you experience for yourself. Maybe the most profound thing for me was experiencing instantly falling in love with Oscar the day he was born, in the same way I did when I had my girls. I didn’t expect that love to be as intense as it is – it’s the most beautiful thing.
What do you see as your role as a grandmother?
I think my role is to be a support to Meg and Ed and another source of unconditional love for Oscar. It’s definitely not to be the one making the parenting decisions or offering too much advice so I’m doing my best to be really mindful of this (which I sometimes find a bit difficult because I’m a problem solver by nature!).
How have things changed since you were a new mum?
In some ways nothing has changed in that new mothers still feel as overwhelmed as we did. Even though Meg has Google to help her, no amount of searching the internet can alter the fact that it’s exhausting and often bewildering in those early days. I think though that there are greater financial pressures on our girls’ generation that make it harder to have time at home when your children are young. Meg and Ed have chosen to make some big sacrifices in order for her to be with Oscar for the first year or two and I think that’s pretty amazing for all of them.
What do you hope for your grandson?
Really just that he’s happy and healthy and loved. He certainly is all of those things right now.
How has your relationship with Meg changed since the arrival of Oscar?
Meg and I are still as close as we always were and she’s been incredibly generous in making sure I feel very much part of Oscar’s life. I’ve always known Meg is as strong as she is gentle so it didn’t surprise me at all to see her handle the first few weeks with Oscar (which were really tough) with such grace. I sensed she would be the most loving and nurturing mother – seeing that in action has been incredibly special. She said to me recently, “now I really understand just how much you love me.” I loved that.
How are you balancing your business, your personal life and being a grandmother?
To be honest, very imperfectly but I am becoming much better at prioritising. When Oscar was born, I blocked off every Wednesdays to spend with them and I’m trying really hard to ensure nothing creeps into those days.
What do you love about being a mum?
No amount of words could quite sum up how precious being a mum is. For me, it really feels like the most sacred spiritual journey I’ve ever experienced. The magnitude of the love that I feel for Oscar is beyond anything that I could have ever imagined was possible and I’m constantly in awe of all of his little changes and developments. I’m also incredibly grateful for the amount in which I’ve grown as an individual throughout this time too. I never realised how strong I was until I became a mother.
What challengers have you faced and what do you find is the most difficult part of being a new mum?
Having a baby without any prior experience was a huge shock to the system. I had a difficult birth, followed by breastfeeding challenges and a very unsettled bub who refused to sleep. I really had no idea what I was doing. But, I have to admit, that the most confronting change I faced was the isolation of new motherhood. Once the initial excitement of Oscar’s arrival wore off and my pre-baby friends had all come for a visit, I would often go days without seeing anyone other than my husband and the baby. Those early days were a very lonely time.
How has your understanding of meditation and your personal practice helped you in adapting to this new role?
When I was pregnant, everyone used to say to me that I was going to have such a calm, peaceful baby. This totally didn’t happen. But my practice taught me to be okay with what Tara Brach would call the ‘is-ness’ of each moment. Knowing that mindfulness is all about experiencing the present moment with a sense of openness, acceptance and curiosity not only helped me to get through the difficult times, but it’s also reminded me to savour the joyous ones too. Having a meditation and mindfulness practice also helps me to mother from my centre and continue to be adaptable to Oscar’s ever-changing needs.
What type of balance do you try to create in your daily life?
To be honest, I think that balance is quite hard to achieve, so I prefer to work towards cultivating a sense of harmony in each day. For me this means moving my body in a way that I enjoy, eating wholesome meals (while also enjoying a good dose of tasty treats) and allowing my physical and emotional energy levels to dictate our daily schedule. While it’s much harder to maintain my pre-baby meditation routine these days, I try to weave in small aspects of my practice into the predictable times of the day. For example, during the morning feed I often like to take a few mindful breaths to centre myself and during the last feed of the day I like to reflect on all the things that went well that day, however big or small.
What are three simple things you can recommend for mums to do to help bring mindfulness into their daily lives?
Be kind to yourself: ignore the inner critic in your mind that’s telling you you’re not good enough and do your best to cultivate self-compassion instead. Speak to yourself the same way you would speak to a friend who was facing the same challenges.
Adopt a beginner’s mind: remind yourself that it’s okay to not have all of the answers. Keep your mind open to all the possibilities that each new day brings and allow yourself to roll with the uncertainty that comes with being a new mother.
Allow yourself to savour small moments throughout the day: drink your coffee slowly. Soak in those smiles and giggles without always having to capture them on your phone. Notice your surroundings when you go for a walk. Feel grateful for the amazing job your body has done in growing and birthing a baby.
How has your relationship with your own mum, Kate, changed since the arrival of Oscar?
I’d never really been able to appreciate how much she’d sacrificed in order to care for my sister and I until I became a mother myself. I hadn’t really expected how much mothering I would need myself during the first few months of Oscar’s life and I’m incredibly grateful for all the support she’s given me. We’re definitely still in the process of figuring out our new roles of the seasoned mum and new mum, but I think we’re doing an amazing job of navigating this season of change together.