I just did this interview on mindfulness and thought I’d post it.
Please tell me about yourself: who are you, what do you do for a living, where is your home base?
If you only had a few words to describe mindfulness, what would you say?
My name is Leta Hamilton. I am a wife and mother to 3 boys ages 6, 3 and 1. I am also an author, writer, speaker and radio show host. I live in Sammamish, WA. What I do for a living and what I do for a life is about creating a new paradigm for motherhood, which honors mothering as a spiritual path for a journey to inner peace.
Mindfulness is consistent conscious awareness that everything that occurs – every poopy diaper, pile of laundry and tantrum – is an opportunity to learn, grow and transcend perceived limitations towards ever greater levels of enlightenment.
I’m fascinated at hearing about how people became involved in meditation and other mindfulness practices. How did this become part of your life?
As a child of the seventies, I was raised to believe that I could do anything as a woman. My ideas about success were very much wedded to career and level of take home income. I achieved success by these standards. However, after the birth of my first child, I was miserable spending so much time away from my child in a job that I did not even like all that much, let alone love. Finding a part-time job wasn’t the answer to personal fulfillment, nor was becoming a full-time stay at home mom after the birth of my second child. I was desperate for a sense of inner peace even in the midst of the poopy diapers and piles of laundry. I began to read every self-help, spiritual and personal growth book I could lay my hands on (listening to many of them on tape or CD so I could multi-task better). They told me wonderful insights, but none of them were very practical for my life as the primary care taker to one and three year old boys. In a fit of desperation, I put the laptop up on the kitchen counter top and began to earnestly document the craziness of modern motherhood and the many ways our children show us the keys to inner peace that these books described so eloquently, but so impractically. What resulted was a mindfulness practice that incorporates the every day responsibilities and happenings of my life as a mother into the spiritual context of my journey to inner peace. Motherhood is an arena where so much of what we read and know about the keys to inner peace are put to the extreme test. By making mindfulness central to my motherhood, I do not have to put off inner peace until my children are older. I work at it every day, but I see motherhood as my spiritual path for a journey to enlightenment.
Why has meditation/mindfulness become important to you? How has your experience of life changed?
If I do not begin my day with meditation (basically I get out of bed with a thank you to the Divine and I go sit on the couch for ideally an hour in quiet contemplation), I notice it almost immediately as my “real” day begins. During the course of my day, if I notice I have lost balance or centeredness, I will do something as simple as sit on the kitchen floor in quiet contemplation and prayer as my baby crawls around me. My spiritual journaling, prayer, reading of spiritual texts and contemplation have become cornerstones of my day to day movements as a wife, mother, writer, speaker and radio show host. Mindfulness is the overriding umbrella that sees my very life and every minute detail within it as a spiritual path for my journey to enlightenment. I do not have to seek another path. I am already on it! This shift in perspective has changed everything. I am in love with my life.
Please tell me a little bit about your practice. What makes it unique or different? What makes it helpful?
Quite simply, my practice allows me to experience inner peace NOW. As a mother to three boys ages 6, 3 and 1, it would be all too easy for me to excuse inner peace and fulfillment until later, when my children are older. This type of thinking, so prevelent in our society, is damaging not only to ourselves, but also to our children. What greater gift can I give to my children at so young an age than the gift of my own inner peace? I cannot think of one. My practice is unique and different because I use the very fodder of mothering as the means by which enlightenment is reached. I also harness the natural spirituality and innate wisdom of my children to teach me all that I need to know about enlightenment. I need look no further than my immediate surroundings. This is revolutionary and incredibly helpful to the mother who quite literally does not have time to go to the bathroom by herself let alone meditate. And what I practice can be done whether you are a full time working mom or a full time stay at home mom or anything in between. It is the practice of using everything in our experience as the very thing we need in that moment to bring us to an even greater knowing of inner peace.
As a psychologist I work with many people who face down experiences of evil, death, pain, and other “dark nights of the soul.” Do you have thoughts about how your meditation/mindfulness practice might speak to those experiences?
“Dark nights of the soul” can have many meanings for the mother. From death of a child to post pardum depression to “simple” sleepless nights and exhaustion, we each face varying degrees of internal darkness on a daily basis. We all experience suffering in ways that are unique to our particular path. However one’s suffering is manifested does not diminish its relevence within the context of our own lives. By expanding one’s understanding of perspective and context, one can alleviate a certain amount of suffering simply by knowing where it “falls” in relation to the suffering of others. I view meditation and mindfulness as pathways to expansion. As one expands, one is better able to cope with all the vicissitudes of life. This is especially helpful in the area of motherhood where one is confronted on a minute by minute basis with a barrage of patience-testing scenarios that would bring even the calm demeanor of the Dalai Lama to the brink of collapse.
Does your meditation practice lead you to think about anything in particular about psychotherapy, mental illness, or the change process?
My mindfulness practice allows me to know, whether I am experiencing it in the moment or not, that inner peace is possible. As a mother of 1, 3 and 6 year old boys, our household is often full of noise, chaos, sibling ninja fighting and all manner of disturbances to peace. Because of this path, I no longer have any excuses NOT to find balance, centeredness, grounding and alignment. I am able to quickly know when I am “out of whack,” so to speak. My thoughts about psychotherapy are that it is just the tip of the iceberg. Inner peace requires that one go within to an unprecedented level of self-honesty where we take total responsibility for our path, such as it is. My spiritual practice goes beyond the realm of this physical reality into all dimensions of existence and experience.
Has your practice increased your capacity to experience compassion? How has that happened? What have you noticed?
Yes. I no longer compare myself so much to others. When I do, I catch myself sooner and release judgements. It has brought greater patience into my role as mother and wife. When my son was screaming down the grocery store last year because I would not buy him a doughnut, I was able to finish my shopping with such peace and calm that I knew then a shift had taken place. I am filled with more gratitude than I ever thought possible. Every experience is presented for my soul’s growth and enrichment. I am blessed with the perfect life for what I came here to do and my path to enlightenment is assured. It is simply of uncovering what was already and always there. I notice my capacity to experience greater depths of compassion in a thousand tiny details of my every day existence.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to meditate/be more mindful?
Honor your path, whatever it is. Know that everything is spiritual and, as such, an opportunity to learn and to grow. You do not have to be anything “special” or have any particular set of circumstances in place in order to meditate or be more mindful. Washing the dishes is an act of meditation. So is folding a load of laundry. You do not have to “do” it in any particular way, you can develop your own way. All that is required is a commitment to your own peace. When you are fully committed to peace as a state of being, you will find a way.
Are there other thoughts you’d like to share?
Only that it is my sincere hope that more mothers make inner peace paramount to their overall tapestry of motherhood. What is happening within affects everything that happens without. Mindfulness is my most treasured component of my mothering. Because of it, I feel a love that is incredibly expansive and often overwhelming. One can truly never go back. This peace is far too precious.
Author & Presenter
“The first time I heard the name of this book I knew it would be a success. The topic of modern motherhood is not only an important one, it is something of interest to many people. Leta Hamilton has written about her experiences as the mother of two young boys and she has done it with great humor, honesty and insightfulness. Both mothers and fathers will want to read this book. Rather than stopping at only sharing stories, this book takes the next step. Because the author is on her spiritual journey, she has taken her experiences and translated them into spiritual lessons. She shares what she has learned from her little Zen Masters about loving, judging, being in the now, relationships, and so much more. Even if you have never had human children, like myself, you will find this a thoroughly engaging, entertaining, and inspiring book. I have always admired mothers who try to “do it right” with their children. Now I admire them even more.” Book review by Krysta Gibson of the New Spirit Journal (March 2010)