I GENERALLY MIND my own business. And I mind my manners until someone cuts me off on the freeway. But am I living a mindful life? No! I could do better. With the High Holy Days over, I find myself wanting some practical tools to get out of overdrive, slow down and connect with the one person I neglect most. Me! Imagine my delight then when the universe heard me and delivered author Ali Katz’s helpful book, “Hot Mess to Mindful Mom: 40 Ways to Find Balance and Joy in Your Every Day.” After eagerly reading it––the chapters are short but oh so satisfying and straightforward––I felt considerably calmer. Grateful for the good timing and insights, I contacted Katz, a certified meditation teacher, mindfulness coach and mom of two boys, for ideas on cultivating a more mindful life.
What convinced you that you were a hot mess and needed to become a mindful mom? How was the journey? It’s funny, I get asked that all the time, and the truth is, I didn’t realize how much of a hot mess I was until I wasn’t one anymore! After I began bringing mindfulness, meditation and other forms of self-care into my life I began to look back and realize how stressed and overwhelmed and reactive I was before.
My journey was wonderful, and it’s not over! Even as a teacher and coach, I am still always growing and learning and expanding myself. My body, mind, and spirit were craving these techniques and so I quickly fell into new routines that nourished me in amazing ways.
Of your 40 chapters, if a stressed out mom had to pick the top five to help her catch her breath, which ones would you recommend? It’s hard to say because everyone’s journey is different, and I love offering so many options because there is truly something for everyone. Obviously someone can’t incorporate 40 new tools into their life at one time. I encourage people to pick one or two that really resonate with them and be consistent. Small changes lead to big results. When those feel good maybe add one more.
If you are going to force me to pick five, here are my top choices:
2 One-Minute Meditations
3 Different Doesn’t Mean Bad
4 Get Grounded
5 Cut Yourself Some Slack
Every chapter resonated with me, but I was especially moved by your honest account of your painful adolescence and the impact it had on your personal growth. What advice can you offer readers who’ve experienced difficulties in their own lives about how to move forward? As I mention in the book, I used to think that I endured these terribly painful experiences to teach me how strong and resilient I am, but as I really took the time to investigate my feelings around these situations I truly began to understand that learning how to truly forgive was the Universal lesson.
I would encourage people to focus more on the lessons and the growth that comes from experiences whether they are wonderful or terrible over anything else. Nothing happens to us, only for us. It can take a lot of soul searching to see that though.
Meditation is a grounding force for you and its positive influence has been profound. What can daily meditation provide to a hot mess mom, dad or child?
So much! First of all, this is a time to focus on YOU. We are often pulled in so many directions so giving yourself the gift of a few minutes of peace and calm at the start or end of a busy day is the perfect way to ground and re-center. Beyond that there are so many benefits of meditation such as focus, clarity, less stress and anxiety, better sleep and digestive patterns, more joy, more compassion, and less reactivity. And that’s my short list!
When I initially got your book I wondered how you could write 40 meaningful chapters on this topic. I’m glad I was proven wrong. In fact my copy will remain by my bedside. Which chapter is your personal fave? I love them all! It is impossible to pick because each lesson has so much value, and they are all different, but I am especially proud of how vulnerable and honest I was in the chapters about forgiveness and money. I actually had a moment of panic right before the book was released when I thought, “OMG! People are going to actually read this!” It was cathartic for me, but I’ve gotten so much feedback from others that have gone through similar experiences that reading my book was so helpful for them. It feels good to know they don’t have to feel so alone. I felt very brave putting these chapters out there. The farther I get on my path the more authentic I become, and I realize I have nothing to hide. This is me!
As a mindful parenting coach and now author, what tip have you found brings the most rewarding results? I love the concept of an “attention bank” that my teacher and mentor, Sarah McLean, teaches. We all have a bank of attention, and we make deposits in different place … work, kids, self-care, friendships, worry, stress. If it’s on one thing in any given moment it’s not on another. We only have so much in the bank, and when we’ve spent it it’s gone. It makes so much sense, and I love this concept so much that I share it with everyone. Occasionally I catch myself scrolling on social media, and I’ll ask myself, “is this where I want to be depositing my attention right now?” Then I usually go hang with my kids, husband or dogs!
In chapter 36 called Learn to Forgive Yourself and Others you begin by saying, “If you take just one thing to better your life from this book, I pray it is from this section.” Why? Because we are all so hard on ourselves and others! My mom once told me after my parents’ bitter divorce that anger and resentment are like shackles around you. She is the best example of forgiveness I know, but it took me many years to come to true forgiveness myself.
It took me a long time to understand that by holding on to anger and resentment I am stealing joy from my present moment, and since I cannot change anything that happened, my only real choice is to learn the lessons and accept the growth from every situation.
I’ve also learned to be more loving and compassionate toward myself in this process. I am human, and I will continue to make mistakes. That doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me real. I used to be my own worst critic. Now I am my biggest cheerleader. Seeing and feeling that change makes it all worth it!
Join Katz in an evening of conversation at the Jewish Book Festival on Wednesday, 11/29 at 7:30 p.m. $12 Wine and cheese event co-hosted by PJ Library at The Saltner Wine & Cicchetti, Monrovia. RSVP by 11/27. To learn more about Katz visit hotmesstomindfulmom.com.
Ronna Mandel is a contributing writer to JLife. You can find her blog at goodreadswithronna.com.