Before I had my first child, I was a very sound sleeper. The phone could ring without waking me up. However, from the moment I came home from the hospital with my first baby, all that changed. I now heard every little whimper from the bassinet that was next to our bed. My mothering instincts had seemingly automatically clicked on, and I became totally tuned into my baby's feelings and needs.
On the inner level, it was a completely different story. Since my feelings and needs were unimportant to my parents, I had learned to make my own feelings and needs unimportant to me as well. I had learned to tune them out and instead be very tuned into others' feelings and needs.
When I finally realized this many years ago, I discovered it was enormously challenging for me to remember to notice my feelings. It was not that I couldn't tell what I was feeling -- it was that I couldn't remember to stay present in my body and mindful of my feelings. I was so used to noticing what everyone else felt and caretaking them that I kept forgetting to notice and care about my own feelings. In fact, I realized that my feelings of fear or anxiety were a trigger for me to care-take someone else rather than care about myself.
It took me a number of years of practice before my "inner baby monitor" was turned on. Somewhere along the way I realized that, if I wanted to be loving to myself and take responsibility for my own feelings and needs, I needed to have my inner baby monitor on all the time.
When a woman has a baby and she wants to be a good mother, she knows that she needs to stay tuned into her baby all the time. If the baby is in the crib, she has a baby monitor on so she can hear when the baby wakes up. She would never think that she has to tune into her baby only a few times a day. Yet very often my clients ask me, "How often should I be practicing being present with my feelings?" the answer is, "You need to be practicing all the time."
This means that we need to be present and mindful of our inner experience. It is only when you are aware of your inner experience that you can then lovingly attend to your feelings. When you are mindful of feeling anxious, you can immediately open to learning about what you are doing or telling yourself that may be causing your anxiety.
When you are mindful of feeling tense when interacting with another person, you can immediately tune into what might be occurring between you and the other person and take loving action on your own behalf. Are you tense because you have abandoned yourself to the other person and you are trying to get his or her approval? Are you tense because the other person is pulling on you for your approval? Are you tense because you want control over the other person or because the other person is being controlling with you? Are you feeling lonely because you and/or the other person has disconnected? All this information comes by staying present and mindful of your feelings.
When a mother (or a father) has a baby and stays tuned into the baby, it is because she wants to be a loving mother. Her intent is to be loving with her baby. The same intent needs to be operating for you to stay tuned into yourself. When your intent is to learn about being loving to yourself and others, you will stay tuned in to yourself and take loving action on your own behalf. You will be a loving inner mother only when you are tuned into your own feelings and needs all the time, and you will be a loving inner father when you are willing to take loving action in the world in your own behalf.
Your inner baby monitor will stay turned on when your deepest intent is to be a loving mother and father with yourself. Retraining yourself to remember to be mindful and in the intent to learn is the challenge. What do you need to do to remember? When I first started to being present and mindful, I wore a little gadget called a Motivator that I could set to buzz as often as I wanted to remind me to tune into myself. Today there are apps that you can download to remind you. Think about what would work for you and start practicing having your inner baby monitor on all the time!
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