Until I became a mother at the age of 36, my life revolved almost entirely around my work and some deeply ingrained, out-of-whack notion of success. I had moved to Barcelona when I was 25 and scraped together the money to found a magazine. This turned into a 20-year endeavour that brought me both immeasurable joy and satisfaction and–as could only be the case for a workaholic perfectionist—immeasurable stress and anxiety.
I left the magazine some 20 years later, when my eldest child was 12. I was burned out, sad and relieved. I recently read that burnout is not the result of giving too much, but the result of trying to give what you no longer have. Wise words. By then I had also acquired three powerful birth stories, become a Hypnobirthing practitioner, attended trainings with Michel Odent and Ina May Gaskin, become a regular at the local Zen dojo, embraced neurodiversity and family life and undertaken several mindfulness trainings. These teachings and experiences—so different from the mainstream treadmill I had been pounding for so many years—had sown seeds that, although still germinating, held some mysterious promise of a different way to live and be.
My departure from my business was difficult in many ways, but perhaps contained the fertile conditions those seeds needed to finally break their way into the world. We had long since eschewed mainstream parenting logic in favour of living a more harmonious life, though we still got things regularly wrong of course. We had recently taken our children out of the alternative school they were attending, and now we moved up to an old house in the hills near Barcelona. No school, no daily trek to an office, just a big quiet space, hugged by the forest around us and looking out to expansive views to the Mediterranean beyond. Here we lived for almost two years and, without the outside world dictating our days, I allowed the slow process of unravelling to gather speed. Meditation, long morning walks into the hills above, and journaling were my tools for healing from 20 years of striving. And as I healed and let go, I was able to see my children more clearly. Not for who they were supposed to be or who I needed them to be. But, for who they were. I felt myself return over and over to the lessons learned in childbirth, perhaps best expressed by Zen Buddhist and mindfulness pioneer, Jon Kabat-Zinn. "You can't stop the waves but you can learn to surf". And, over the years, as I have allowed myself to rediscover and live more fully into my own wholeness, my capacities as a parent to hold space, to accompany, and to trust have increased a thousand-fold.
Three years ago, my family and I moved to East Sussex in the UK. I continued in my studies of mindfulness and became a mindfulness teacher. Sea swimming, long walks in the Downs and many new, wonderful friendships hold me as I continue my work in the explorations of childbirth, parenting, mindfulness and what it means to be whole. Although my own background means that neurodiversity and self-directed education have often been the focus of my work, I love to work with any parents who recognise that there is a happier, healthier way to live in relationship with their children. Using mindfulness, reflection and exploration, I help them move beyond reactive responses and old paradigms that keep everyone in joyless, limiting patterns. As they build new capacities for accompanying and holding space for their children in a way that also honours themselves, they open their lives to less stress and conflict, and far more connection and joy.
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