On the Spiritual Practice of Step Parenthood

Looking around my life this morning: kitchen cleaned up by husband whose towering veggie sandwich made par moi awaits him, two gorgeous dogs mildly whining for the backyard and who will get 42 acres of forest in two weeks, soccer on the Google, salmon and lox as my breakfast… the sun is out, the day feels fresh, I feel different.

I think it is important to understand the concept of letting new things, like mornings and years, be new.

In my yoga classes, I often cue to let the pose or the breath or the twist or the practice “be as meaningful as you need it to be”.

A major part of “drawing energy up” is believing you are drawing energy up.

A major part of “letting go” is allowing yourself to let go of the need to identify what to let go of and instead, let go.

Breathe in, let no words in, hover in the moment, exhale. Look around. Do it again.

I have been going back and forth for awhile on writing more candidly on Frozen Spaghetti, my personal blog, on some of the growth I have undergone related to step-parenting. In the past, a major part of my growth related to my divorce in 2011 and my unfolding as a young mother of two little girls was writing. I would feel something, open a blog post, find it – let it ramble, (attempt to) button it up and get on with it.

But, you know, a major part of writing as part of the growth process is sharing what you are learning about yourself.

In the wake of divorce and in the vitality of young motherhood – I was sharing what I learned about my own sturdiness, abilities and resourcefulness.

And though the theme of resourcefulness remains huge, sharing on the growth process relative to step parenthood requires sharing what I have learned about my inner cry baby and what I know from childhood on how to manipulate to get the attention of somebody whose attention other people also want… those other people being actual children. Hence, very quickly one can digress.

Being a step parent in the way I have chosen to take on the role (honestly, humbly and messily) has meant stepping into a vat of emotional pain from my early days of cry babyhood and competing for parental love and attention as the middle child of five kids.

Said another way, I have been in a state of active healing healing healing over the past two years since my life changed as a pandemic bride.

But now, it’s a new year. And like I mentioned early on – the day feels fresh and I feel different. Things have become steady. I have found ease.

See, I have been missing Frozen Spaghetti for the writing process but I know the growth process I am in does not need writing like what benefited the evolution of my 2011 mental game or learning to be a mother.

Growth in step parenthood, rather, has required mid-morning showers when everybody has gone off to school, early bedtimes and lots of sleep, good lotion, walks, breathing, and feeling like myself: a super creative yoga chick who sings and writes songs and has good bangs that landed the dad to begin with…

And because I have allowed the healing (it’s been messy), I feel like maybe I can more easily write on what I have learned from becoming a stepmom bc – most importantly – it has helped me as a friend, a sister, a wife, a yoga teacher, a writer, a “mom mom” and as an individual.

It is my belief, any tendencies of co-dependency you have will be evident in your challenges as a step parent.

It is my supporting belief overcoming co-dependency requires a self trust provided only by a foundation of knowledge and understanding, the gift of wisdom / intuitive voice.

And it is my unwavering belief uncovering such knowledge, understanding and openness to wisdom (as required to overcome codependent impulses to explain, defend, advise or justify incessantly) is a spiritual practice.

As such, unless your spirituality is truly pure and non prescriptive, unless your version of God embraces the full idea of being made in God’s image making you both the wrath & redemption or unless your version of Christianity recognizes Jesus’ Buddhist yogi tendencies; your spiritual life needs to shift. Your spirituality must usher you into an understanding of how your beliefs are the root of your suffering, how relationships work as mirrors and how the power of your own breath, the sanctity of your own mind body connection, the priority of your own physical self care (and acceptance, ladies) are what actually helps you step into alignment with your life.

And, with that, you can see how my process of using these spiritual and emotional resources in becoming a happy step mom (NOT that it is easy!!!!!) leaks out and creates happiness and purpose in all of these other roles in life. You can see how it creeps into my yoga teaching. And, if you read my books, you’ll even see a constant commitment to creating a safe “either way” situation. My creative work seeks truth and allows interpretation where all truth is God’s truth. If it doesn’t feel safe and life-giving, I don’t publish it.

My point: becoming a step parent has by far challenged me more than any other role assigned to me in this life and, for that reason, I believe it is responsible for evolving me as a woman across the board. So, I might as well write more about it because, if you have a step child – you have a doorway, a portal and outlet to become the next amazing version of you. And, if you don’t, the principles will still apply.

That is the Frozen Spaghetti way… it’s what makes it Apple Tree Magic.

Ok. Bye for now,

Little Red Zen.

“Be Like Water”

A friend of mine was over once while I was doing my beloved once in a couple years ritual of shuffling notebooks, ripping out concepts and organizing ideas, fiction, etc into piles with clips and re-used folders.

She opened a blood orange Moleskine journal and read the first line out loud, “Be Like Water”.

“Erin.” She said.

I remember her looking at me and telling me how true that felt.

Mobility, Flexibility, Adaptability.

Relaxed, Able, Life-Giving, Refreshing.

To be these things allows peace.

Even the most turbulent water ushers in a quiet after math; the settling in of the new day, the next morning, the next step.

For me, as a parent / stepparent of 5 kids in a young marriage, being like water means changing ideas I have settled into over the course of my life in order for the days now to feel more at ease. It means changing my opinions on timelines and holidays and plans and schedules.

There is a stoic thought I use when I teach on self control. It’s from Marcus Aurelius Meditations 3.9, “Treat with respect the power you have to form an opinion.”

“Treat with respect the power you have to form an opinion.”

Marcus Aurelius Meditations 3.9
(PS: Buy the book using this link and support the blog!)

I find awareness of when you are exercising an opinion or experiencing an emotion bc of an opinion is so helpful in strengthening the muscle you ultimately need to use to curb major habits, make big decisions, trust the overall process enough to try something new.

Self control in exercising an opinion or controlling the extent to which an opinion (yours or somebody else’s real or assumed opinion) is affecting your reality is a pre-req (imho) to experiencing peace.

Why?

Peace is – by definition – stillness, tranquility, freedom from anxiety / distraction.

One of the most common causes of mental unrest? Competing opinions.

One of the most common disruptions of a good night’s sleep? Back and forth judgments, self criticism.

One of the most common reasons we feel trapped? Because “WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?!?”

By seeing that all of these things boil down to “an opinion” at play, you can then also see why treating with respect the POWER of forming an opinion even matters.

Because… it is powerful. Opinions drive things.

Opinions change things or do not change things.

Opinions decide. Judge. Invite. Exclude.

To Be Like Water means you move and adapt to the conditions: around bends, simmering when heated, becoming still when cooled. It means you are connected with others who are also like water, similar in essentials and different in qualities. Imagine if we were all aware of this!

The idea of connection and adaptation to conditions brings freedom as life is no longer about being right.

It’s becomes about being aware of who and where you are…

Aware of the ever-changing conditions…

Aware of the over-arching connection…

In hopes of the ever-lasting…

Namaste.

Erin

Little Red Zen

This morning, over coffee, David inquired to my morning practice of sorting envelopes with handwritten notes to myself in them; each envelope adorned with notes and reminders and ideas in various colored ink over the past couple of years.

I gave my best explanation of something that changes daily and realized the simplest answer is: it helps me orient myself at the start of my day and before my dreams. Fact: I felt I had so much to consider and work on with these 6 humans I love, that I intentionally started using sleep as productive time, trusting my subconscious and unconscious self could take care of mental repairs while I rested.

Yes… mental repairs.

Little context: My mental health game needed a reboot over the past couple of months. Fielding situations, talking talking talking and digging into relationships was unsustainable. I needed a bigger solution / longer term strategy so I resurrected a practice I dabbled in a couple of years back which is all based on understanding the archetypal patterns in your psyche.

I became interested in this after studying and practicing yoga nidra, yogic sleep.

For reference, yoga nidra is a relaxation method where one sleeps without falling asleep.

(Here’s my favorite, it will probably change your life. It is on spotify and apple music, btw.

PS: don’t listen to it while driving…)

Yoga Nidra uses revolving consciousness to numb the mind chatter and allow you to go inward… to hover on your motherboard among your belief systems and deeply embedded wiring. In several practices, I have had astounding experiences. Experiences that make me confident in recommending yoga nidra not only to relax the body and mind, but as a tool for rewiring patterns that don’t serve your life any longer.

I describe it to my yoga students as how sometimes you can stop a baby from crying simply by being in the nursery; likewise you can heal simply by being present with these patterns.

These patterns and belief systems, for me, lined up to a separate study a friend from teacher training introduced to me to via, Caroline Myss.

My dear friend gifted to me Sacred Contracts and Anatomy of the Spirit, Myss’ books that started to make things make a lot of sense to me.

Intuition as a trustworthy tool.

Archetypes as blueprints.

Caroline Myss uses the 12 house system as a way to examine one’s life, purpose and shadow work… this lined up with what I have always found fascinating in the zodiac, the divine’s great salt and pepper shakers in the sky – seasoning us all individually with planetary placements and characteristics.

Why not.

I found Chani Nicholas at some point in the last 7ish years and have been following her workshops and podcasts and teachings ever since. Practical. Abstract.

Miraculous. Realistic.

Mix these women with Jesus, the Buddha, Marcus Aurelius and the Dalai Lama and I have my mental mai tai.

Back to my necessary mental repairs: a few months ago, I started to feel really weak in my mind.

I felt overpowered, overrun and overburdened.

For somebody who published her first book, who was empowered enough to leave a corporate lifestyle that was only spending her at both ends, for somebody who got to pick “pie crusts or drawing hippos” when prioritizing their day – it really was not making sense that I felt so drained.

Life was so good and yet so hard. The future so bright but I was feeling really sad.

Collectively, I am sure we all have felt this due to the pandemic. Yet, I have always been enthusiastic, willing and happy. Funny and playful and bright. The sulk and uncertainty was serving nothing – was a total buzzkill – and taking away from really otherwise peaceful moments.

You may be in this place.

This place where where you are and what your life is, your age and your family, your children and their problems, your children and their children, your finances and your dreams, your life purpose and your day job, your puzzles and your pride – these things are conflicting, trapping you and somehow then also making it hard to know what to eat for dinner. Making it difficult to sleep. Making it impossible to do what you love.

So… here’s what I know. And I really do think I know this as somebody who has reclaimed her power in the 8th house :) of mental health.

If you are awake today? Like if you opened your eyes and have consciousness today?

There is purpose on your life.

There is reason to your name.

It may be smile at the grocery store clerk small (through your mask, a special new challenge to rise kindness) but it also may be big.

Big for me these past two weeks was turning that pouty perfect Little Red Hen into a reasonable, hardworking Little Red Zen.

I am going to keep on saying this: We are guaranteed nothing. We are not guaranteed tomorrow or our loved one’s tomorrow.

Time is actually factually too short to give power to hopelessness.

I believe, time begs us to turn hope into a noun.

I believe hope gets irritated being a verb or a feeling.

See, Hope is an anchor. (Hebrew 6:19) Hope is the thing we trust when we are rocked by the waves.

Hope is the thing that lets us wake up and take on our purpose – whatever size – and allow time its relativity. Its stillness *and* its grand schemes.

Today is a good day to assess hope in your 8th house of mental health.

Have hope that whatever you choose as a ritual in the morning to orient your day or as your reflection in preparation for sleep will work.

Will orient you. Will help you claim your purpose.

Again, I say, “why not”.

BTW. Here’s my hippo. Isn’t she cute? She is in Words that Rhyme and Lullabies. :) But you can also buy her sticker here.