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This post was written for inclusion in the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival hosted by hosted by Kelly of Becoming Crunchy and Zoie of TouchstoneZ. Participants are writing posts about what mindfulness mean to them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Ocean Beach in San Francisco

Image by Dave Schumaker via Flickr

If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
   Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
   And say, “This is not dead,”
   And fill thee with Himself instead.

But thou art all replete with very thou
   And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, “This is enow
   Unto itself  – ’twere better let it be,
   It is so small and full, there is no room for me.

~ Sir Thomas Browne, as quoted in A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

Mindfulness…meditation…they mean different things to me (and I daresay all of us) at different times and different places in life.

I quoted the above passage because Madeleine L’Engle is one of the people who has made me think most about what being mindful means, and the book it’s from talks a lot about meditation and the release of ‘self’ to simply ‘be’.

I’ll have more to say on that shortly, but first I wanted to explain my title – what do I mean by derailed?

Well, it’s pretty much how I’ve felt about just about everything over the past month or so!

Before I returned to work, I had something of a routine; I was able to focus on changes/improvements I wanted to make in our family and home, I had all the time in the world to spend with Bean, and I regularly contributed to this blog – my creative outlet – while being encouraged and challenged by the community here.

As a new parent, it was an invaluable time for me to have that year to pretty much do only those things…but I also left myself ill-prepared to jump feet first back into the world of crazy busy-ness that used to be second nature to me!

In many ways, it’s been good. I very much enjoy my job and the people who work there; the scheduling and location are perfect for us and I’ve been getting many more hours than originally anticipated, which we need. Bean loves spending time with her grandparents during the day and while I miss her like crazy, co-sleeping and spending our mornings and evenings together help me maintain my relationship with her.

Blogging (as you may have noticed) has kind of gone kaput, and that’s been very difficult for me – I miss it and I miss you all!

But while I’ve been running around like a chicken with its head cut off over the past months, things do seem to be – slowly, gradually – calming down… and as I’m easing into getting back on track from feeling completely derailed for awhile there, I’ve been thinking a lot about what mindfulness truly means to me and what I want it to look like in my life – especially during this time that I’ve really needed it.

I wanted to share another passage from A Ring of Endless Light here – a conversation between the main character (Vicki) and her Grandfather (p. 209-210):

“What is meditation, Grandfather? How do you do it?”

“It isn’t exactly something you do.”

“What then?”

…”You like to go down to the cove by yourself, don’t you, Vicky? And sit on the rock and look out to sea?”

“Yes, and usually at the wrong moment, when Mother or Daddy needs me to do something else.”

“But you need to go down to the rock and look out to sea, don’t you?”

“Yes, and sometimes I think you’re the only one who understands why.”

“What do you do when you go to the rock?”

“I don’t do anything. I sit.”

“Do you think?”

“Sometimes. But those aren’t the best times.”

“What are the best times?”

“When I sit on the rock – and I feel – somehow – part of the rock and part of the sky and part of the sea.”

“And you’re very aware of the rock and the sky and the sea?”


“And sometimes?”

“Sometimes it seems to go beyond that.”

“And then what is it like?”

I thought for a moment. “It’s hard to explain because it’s beyond words. It’s as though I’m out on the other side of myself…And it’s being part of everything, part of the rock and the sky and the sea and the wind and the rain and the sun and the stars…

“And you, Vicky? Are you still there?”

No. Yes. How do you explain no and yes at the same time?

“I’m there – but it’s as though I’m out on the other side of myself – I’m not in the way.”

“There’s your answer. That’s meditation.”

Madeleine is no stranger to mindfulness – it’s something she explores often in her works (I’ve rarely come across a book written by her that doesn’t in some way explore the concept), but this passage and the poem quoted at the beginning have always stuck out to me, especially lately.

The moments where I have noticed and observed myself being the most ‘mindful’ over the past weeks have been when I’ve been able to empty myself of self, giving over completely to something else…whether it be caring for Bean, hearing – and moving totally into – a song I love, reading or listening to someone else…I’ve found myself ‘being’ in those moments more than at any other time.

I’ve experienced some powerful living in those moments. I’ve felt palpable joy and indescribable sadness. I’ve entered into the stories of others and felt and loved and cried and laughed with them…at times in their presence, at times simply sitting here at my computer or listening to the radio in traffic.

I’ve had such experiences before but never really focused on them or defined them in terms of ‘mindfulness’…though in searching for a way to find mindfulness in action in my life, I’ve had almost a heightened sense in all of these moments…it’s been pretty mind blowing to be honest.

It’s also been hard!

At times I find myself emotionally exhausted, entering so fully into these experiences through the letting go of self. And I’m selfish, most often still ‘replete with very me’…and it can feel like a wrench to go between the two states. Easier, in truth, to keep myself from opening to being filled.

But in the end, taking everything into consideration…I want this to be my norm. I want to lose myself my thoughts my worries my vanity my head that fills up with talk talk talk all the time…

…I want to just BE.

I want to breathe, and be in the moment, and be part of it all.

As I come away from a time of being stressed and pulled in many directions, moving back into a pattern and a rhythm and a way of being, I want to give myself over to something greater than myself.

I want to be a mindful mama.

My sincere thanks to Madeleine L’Engle for being one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had…


Mindful Mama Blog CarnivalVisit the Mindful Mama Blog Carnival Homepage to find out how you can participate in the next Mindful Mama Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

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13 Responses to “Derailed”

  • "The moments where I have noticed and observed myself being the most ‘mindful’ over the past weeks have been when I’ve been able to empty myself of self, giving over completely to something else" I love this. It feels so true, especially once you're a parent. Letting go of the mind (interesting that it's mind-ful for mind-empty) and just being feels like truth and love. It pleases me immensely to hear that you are adjusting to the change so swimmingly. I miss the frequency of our interactions online, but am feeling grateful to know you.

    And I look forward to the day when I can pass along this amazing woman's words to my children, don't you?
    My recent post Mindful Mama: The Places that Scare Me

  • ithoughtiknewmama says:

    I love this, Kelly. I also love L'Engle, and I am reading The Small Rain right now. I love A Ring of Endless Light, and I remember that scene that you shared so well. It really spoke to me too. You're right – L'Engle really is an incredible teacher!
    My recent post This is what mindfulness looks like in my life (Green & Natural Mamas Thursday Linkup)

  • This is such a lovely and honest post, Kelly. I love that line, "…I'm not in the way." I think that may be my greatest obstacle in life: getting out of my own way. Thank you so much for reminding me. <3
    My recent post My Job Made Me a Mindful Mother

  • Amanda says:

    I totally understood the first quote you have in this post because that's how I talk every day. I have to change my words so that you all can understand me better. Totally.

    I really, really love the passage you shared. It made me desperately want to be on a beach, sitting on a rock and just watching the ocean for hours. I'd love to do that right now, just be alone. But I can be there in my mind, that is close enough for now :). Thank you for sharing all of that. I think you're settling into your 'new' life as "normally" as anyone could. And now I'm inspired to read this author you speak of :)

  • I didn't know that Madeleine L'Engle wrote anything other than children's books. I'll have to check it out.

    Your post reminds me of a moment the other day when I was expressing appreciation to my oldest daughter (7 yrs) for her authenticity and for how she is so honest and compassionate. I told her that I admire her because for me , it is hard to let go of all the talk-talk-talk in my head. She said "Don't listen to other people, Mum. Just listen to yourself." Pretty sage advice, IMO!

    How wonderful, Kelly, that you've found yourself in both your work and your relationships. Such excellent role-modelling for your daughter.

  • This is such a brilliant post! I needed it too as life has been more hectic for me than I feel like I can handle. Our rhythm is out of whack, I am out of whack, and I needed this exact post to realize that everything will be ok and that I need to just "be."

    Love this passage…The moments where I have noticed and observed myself being the most ‘mindful’ over the past weeks have been when I’ve been able to empty myself of self, giving over completely to something else…whether it be caring for Bean, hearing – and moving totally into – a song I love, reading or listening to someone else…I’ve found myself ‘being’ in those moments more than at any other time.

    Your words resonate deeply with me as I am experiencing the same. I am most mindful when I just turn myself over to ONE thing and be fully present in that moment.

    Thank you for your insight and honesty!

  • Alicia C. says:

    Kelly, this is just a wonderful post! Your quotes are perfect for me – especially the second. The thought of meditation is so daunting to me, but it's really very easy. I'm really going to have to center myself and I think that meditation is the way. And, I understand how you tend to forget the very things you need most when things get hectic. I'm so glad that you've managed to recognize your needs and are working toward making your life peaceful through mindfulness!
    My recent post Too Big for a Stroller, BUT… {Review & #GIVEAWAY – Ends 10/30}

  • Rachael says:

    I remember that passage from A Ring of Endless Light very well, but now that I actually practice meditation, I see how accurate the description is.

    And I totally get your sense of being "derailed"! You can see how long it's gotten me to reading all of these carnival posts. In fact, I wanted to suggest a theme for another Mindful Mama Carnival: mindfulness in the midst of busyness. Something I think so many of us are struggling with, based on the posts I've read.

  • The Purposeful Practices Project says:

    I find myself getting derailed multiple times per day. Some days I'm good at giving myself a break; other days I beat myself up for it. In any case, it's good to know I'm not the only one. Thank you for sharing this honest and powerful post.

    Sorry I'm so late in stopping by!

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