The Spiritual Toddler Diet

“When do you meditate?” One of my coaching clients asked me last night. The look on her face was so open and curious it stopped me in my tracks. And made me wish for a really good answer like “oh I wake up at 4AM and after brewing green tea and enjoying a rigorous yoga practice I sit and watch the sun rise from my tree house.”

But instead of a beautiful answer I opted for the true one: “I’m sort of on the toddler diet when it comes to spiritual practices.”

Toddlers don’t eat a balanced daily diet. They tend to go on jags– eating only blueberries for one meal, or three hot-dogs, or oatmeal with raisin smiley faces morning, noon and night. So pediatricians tell anxious parents to take the long view on toddler food habits and to look for balance over the span of a week rather than day by day.

So I confess– I’m not up every day at dawn sitting in silence and following my breath.

(But trust me I’m mindfully savoring those nine extra minutes doled out by the snooze feature on my iphone—snuggled under the duvet and gathering myself up before the day explodes.)

Over the course of a week I sample many spiritual practices and they tend to change and evolve season by season. Sometimes I’ll go on jags (like listening to Thich Naht Hahns Planting Seeds meditation CD in the car over and over and over until my kids finally ask for the Curious George soundtrack.)

But a few things are pretty much always on the diet:

Reading: I heard someone describe their spiritual practice as “underlining” and I can relate. I don’t actually underline my books by I do read a lot from inspired and heart-opening authors. A current fave is the Book of Awakening by poet and cancer survivor Mark Nepo. The readings are offered one per day and are just long enough for me to read as I keep a vigil outside Rosetta’s door to make sure she is really going to go to sleep (She usually gets out of bed once or twice, like any good two year old:) As I read I can actually feel my brain waves stimulated to a loving pattern and aligning themselves with a more expansive sense of reality.

Sabbath: I’m pretty hard core about this one right now–  it is the most concentrated spiritual corrective given the pace of the rest of my life (three children six and under and a new biz.) Most Sundays, I don’t go anywhere in the car. I don’t do any housework. I don’t buy anything. I just read and soak in the bath and play with my kids and garden. Sometimes I tell them Jesus stories or Buddha stories and at the end of the day everything feels more shimmery—including my own heart. Its as if the margins of the page on which I’m writing the story of my life stretch way way out. And I relax into those wider borders.

At other seasons of my life I’ve regularly done other things: been part of life-giving worship communities, frequented a particular yoga class, found a favorite hike in the woods, and subletted a corner of an art studio where I could sneak away to paint and make mobiles (like the one in the photo above.)

As a coach and retreat leader, I love helping people find the spiritual practice that really speaks into the area of their life where they are experiencing constriction or fear. When you find the right one it is kind of like getting a massage—and trusting the gentle hand which is lovingly helping you untangle a knot in your body.

What practices are helping untangle your knots?

How could you incorporate these practices in a weekly rhythm?



3 thoughts on “The Spiritual Toddler Diet”

  1. I love this!!! I have a toddler diet, for sure. I have been getting up around 5:30/6ish and just having ‘me’ time. Making a cup if tea, reading a book, meditating (for 5 min) and Cali usually wakes around 6:30/7. I love starting my day with something I really want before the demands of what my daughter wants/needs AND I am not a morning person but THIS gets me out of bed 🙂

  2. Shelly, I love the vision of you walking on the beach. In particular: “I try to notice if my pace gets more steady the farther I walk, rather than just going fast, if I start walking more mindfully.” What a wonderful description of the internal process of releasing into a practice and allowing it to reset our rhythm. Yes to the beach mobile! If you make one I’d love to see it.

    warmly, Courtney
    PS I just posted a pic of a mobile and mobile-maker from yesterday’s restorative mothers retreat to the Bird in Hand Facebook page!

  3. Thanks for this post, Courtney! One practice that untangles my knots is to walk at the beach whenever I can and pay attention to the tide, whether it’s high or low, and the surf – it is calm, is it crashing, is it clear, is it muddy? And also noticing what new plants are blooming, what colors. I try to notice if my pace gets more steady the farther I walk, rather than just going fast, if I start walking more mindfully. Now I want to find some beach bits to make a mobile!!

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