In episode three of The Grace Tales Podcast, Georgie spoke with the author of Heavily Meditated, Caitlin Cady. Before you tune out – no, this was not an unattainable zen-guide to living a perfect life...
Caitlin is refreshingly bright and passionate about meditation, and about getting it done even with a two year old who likes to “pry mommy’s eyes open and talk about pancakes in her ear while she’s meditating”. Here are nine of our favourite takeaways from this eye-opening chat.
Listen to the episode here.
1. You don’t have to be calm to meditate
This one falls into the same category as saying you’re not flexible enough to do yoga, or cleaning the house before the cleaner arrives (guilty as charged). As Caitlin puts it, “learning to meditate from someone who’s naturally calm is like learning to cook from a skinny chef”. So if you’re in the throes of lockdown chaos, feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, getting shouty with the kids – congratulations, you’re a perfect candidate for meditation.
2. Stress is not your superpower
Before she started meditating, Caitlin told us, “I had really derived my sense of happiness and self-worth through what I could control and what I could achieve. And I’d convinced myself that this stressed out state of overdrive was really essential to who I was and how I was measured, and making meaning of my life… I was afraid if I slowed down, I was going to become a good-for-nothing.” Spoiler alert: Caitlin now meditates daily, and she has not lost her hustle. She’s a business owner, published author, yoga teacher, mama, and juggling plenty. The difference? It’s not burning her out.
3. Multi-tasking is not a badge of honour
Mothers often joke about how motherhood forces you into being an expert multitasker. It’s true – motherhood is a juggle in both the figurative and the literal sense. But Caitlin tells us that “being a chronically distracted multi-tasking mom means that I’m denying my kids what they actually want from me, which is just my attention and my presence. Being a working mom, as you know, it’s tricky not to multi-task. If we’re at work, the house is falling apart, and if we’re at home, the inbox is overflowing. So meditation has helped me really stay on track and helps me practice being present over and over again, and to really keep clear about the fact that multi-tasking is not an effective way of living, working, or mothering.”
4. Meditation is like an emotional bank account
Iso-life making your fuse a little shorter? You’re not alone. “Now more than ever”, she explains, “we’re all on lockdown at home with each other, we really need to call upon these inner resources of patience, and compassion, and resilience. I think that there’s no better way to build that bank account than meditation.”
5. You don’t need to erase negative emotions
While it may sound like a meditation practice might scrub you clean of any anger, frustration, overwhelm, or stress, that’s not the case at all – and nor should it be. You won’t suddenly find yourself singing mantras while your toddler has a meltdown. But, you might find yourself leading by example. “It’s not about spiritual bypassing or not having negative emotions at all”, Caitlin explains. “It’s about being able to talk about it…I’ll say to my kids sometimes, ‘I need a little time-in,’ and I’ll go step away from them and take four deep breaths and wiggle my toes, and they know to do that too now. And it’s about demonstrating and modeling that behaviour for them of saying, ‘I’m feeling really angry,’ and not necessarily acting on the anger, but being able to have the emotional intelligence to express to them, ‘I’m feeling frustrated by this choice that you’re making right now, or by this situation,’ and then you notice that they start to actually model that back to you, which is such a win.”
6. Done is better than perfect
This one applies to so many things in life – including meditation. Caitlin’s advice? “Don’t look for this perfect time, this perfect opportunity where the house is going to be quiet, and no one’s home, and you’re going to have a whole hour to just luxuriate and meditate by yourself. That, especially now, is probably not going to happen.” Instead, she recommends “being realistic about where you are, and then also just accepting that done is better than perfect”. Yes, that might mean meditating to a soundtrack of Frozen. It still counts.
7. You are not your thoughts
A common roadblock lots of us experience, when we first try to meditate, is the distraction of thoughts interrupting our practice. This is only a problem, says Caitlin, if “you believe you’re inextricably linked to your thoughts and that they’re factual, and that the quality of your life is at the whim of your thoughts. So if they’re sad, you’re a sad person. If they’re anxious, you’re an anxious person. And this is something that I’ve brought into parenting with my kids, is that making sure that I’m identifying their behaviour, not them. My parents are of that generation where they would say things like ‘good girl’ or ‘bad girl’. And I really discouraged them from saying that to my kids because I think it’s so empowering, whether it’s self-talk or talking to our kids, to differentiate the behaviour from the person or the thought from the person.”
8. Don’t let a drink stop you
Overindulged last night? Don’t let it put you off your meditation practice. “Even if you do feel foggy and fuzzy”, says Caitlin, “it’s still worth doing. And I think that we just have to be really aware of not letting anything become an excuse not to meditate, because just the act of sitting down and doing it and accepting that every meditation and every day are going to be different, that’s a really critical piece of having a practice that lasts. It’s accepting that, again, done is better than perfect and every day is going to be different.”
9. You’re already nailing the number one meditation practice
Just breathe! The breath is “always moving and changing, just like the present moment, and our attention must stay alert to it as we follow it. It really is the ultimate lesson in presence and it’s a built-in tool for meditation, because when we’re tethering our attention to the breath, everything else falls away and you can experience presence as it unfolds, moment by moment.”