In this episode, Erin and Chelsea discuss the importance of alone time away from kids, activities, chores, and finding space with the Holy. It is not always easy but solitude creates openings where we get to know ourselves, reset our priorities, and discover the Sacredness of our daily life. Chelsea describes different ways solitude can be accomplished in the midst of the daily and how, for her, solitude gave way to a deeper appreciation and compassion for her kids. Erin and Chelsea also dive deeper on what to do during solitude time and how to throw away the to do lists and what's next, in order to be present to the Divine.
Chelsea Whipple 0:27
You're listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast, my name is Chelsea, I'm a teacher, practitioner, spiritual director, and pilgrim.
Erin Thomas 0:36
And I'm Erin, a creative homeschool educator, counselor, and spiritual seeker, listen in as we dive deeper into the contemplative lifestyle, through hearing about each of our lives.
Chelsea Whipple 0:48
You'll hear our triumphs, failures, practices, and mistakes as we journey together. You might even hear a kid or two in the background.
Erin Thomas 0:57
So grab some coffee to curl up and take off your shoes, who are welcome here. And let's get started.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the contemplative motherhood podcast. I am Erin Thomas and I am here with my good buddy Chelsea Whipple, and we are actually if you're seeing us here on YouTube for the first time. Here we are. Chelsea is in the closet. Because that, you know, sometimes a mother needs to go in the closet to have some alone time so we're gonna talk about that today, in some form or another, and I am enjoying a smoothie for health is also very important and important. So, here we are. And so Chels. Today we are going to talk about glimpses of solitude. Solitude sounds like such a lovely word right as mothers, and I want to ask you for as a leadoff question and answer however you feel like. But I'm curious, how can we find substantial solitude in our daily lives during the intense parts of motherhood. Okay. And also, in a sense, how is solitude, traditionally found as contemplative and why, in your opinion, truly, really important.
Chelsea Whipple 2:47
Yeah, these are great, you know, kind of questions to get us rolling, because you're going to find out that I'm going to assume I'm going to talk a lot on this one. Solitude is by far probably the number one thing I personally need, and as a mother. It feels like this impossible task to pull off, you know, and, or at least the times that I crave solitude, I know my personality. I know my trigger points. And I know when I'm really craving solitude, and it just doesn't fit my schedule. I just know that there's no way I'm going to be able to get away and take a few moments or whatever it was. And really, that happens when it feels like times in my life are at its craziest. My house is a disaster, which is about 90% of the time. I can't get a break from any angle of my life. And, you know, and I know we've mentioned this, we've probably mentioned this in almost every single episode that joke about mothers only get breaks in showers or bathrooms or for dads too. And we always, but here's the thing about that joke, okay. I always get interrupted during those times, like my kids just follow along with me, like when I actually get to take a bath, like,
Erin Thomas 4:19
without someone in the tub with you
Chelsea Whipple 4:23
I know, because they sit and they hover over the bath, like, I want to go in after you, you know, for me, yeah. So, okay, well, let me get back to where I was,
Erin Thomas 4:33
but we digress slightly
Chelsea Whipple 4:35
Yeah, yeah. And so, you know, when those times of craving that solitude, being desperate, getting in the closet, going to the bathroom, whatever is being interrupted by kids, You know, who you want to join us. And I know Erin, you so relate to this, and I'm sure everyone listening you so relate to this. And so I wonder, and I have this question, and I've asked myself this question, lots of times, is if solitude can't be found during motherhood is that essential to being contemplative if it's almost impossible, because a lot of what you've read about the contemplative lifestyle, the mystic lifestyle, whatever word you want to put on it, it deals in a lot of solitude. But really you know if I say is it essential. I have to answer with a yes. You know, and that's a difficult answer to give, because for me, it is vital to find solitude.
But I want us to explore a different part of solitude, because it doesn't look the same, but it is possible. I think it's possible. So, first off, it is great if you are able to spend some time with just you and the time to find for a weekend or even a full day once a month, you know, if you're able to do that, please do take the time to nurture this relationship in complete solitude and even silence, you know, put away those To Do List of worries about what is happening at home, and solely focused on this time with the Creator, and I'll come back to this again later and talk about maybe if you get this chance, you know, what can we do.
But I want to pivot and talk about that word that you said at the beginning here in which is substantial solitude during motherhood. And I am not an expert at all of this. And I always look for more ways to practice solitude, but these are some things I have found fruitful really for you listeners that I hope you find fruitful as well, I find first, that if I explain to my kids, that, you know, mommy with like some alone time to spend with the Spirit, then sometimes it works. Of course, not always, but if they understand that that's a priority, and it's important to nurture they will listen sometimes. And it also shows my kids that priority to spend time, just with them, to spend time with God, and for them to nurture that relationship as well but it is important for them. You know, and it is mean it. I mean it's, it's a great teaching moment. I even, you know, we'll try to model but it could be like, talking and listening, you know, so we have conversations we have conversations with God sitting together, or just sitting quietly letting them know to sit quietly. We can do breathing exercises such as reading a story or poem. And again, it's not always successful, but it's an option, it's there.
You know, I've also found consistent practice of prayer time is kind of like less of solitude. Now I know I am a morning person. I do love my mornings. And so I have tried kind of consistent prayer time in the morning in the afternoon, you know just whenever I have free time or evening. And for me, it's always that kind of first time in meditation in the morning. So, but I do not wake up extra early, I do not think okay my kids get up this time so I'm gonna wake up 15-30 minutes before they do. Because I have found if I wake up early, guess who also wakes up early, my kids, and they just keep waking up earlier and earlier and earlier. And then we just kind of become tired grumps all day, so I don't, I don't do that I, I typically because I'm a morning person. I don't usually mean alarm clock. I usually wake up at the same time every day, and we just do that because sometimes I need sleep, you know, a little bit asleep Erin is laughing if you can't see her right now. She's the opposite of the this.
Erin Thomas 9:21
but I'm loving it.
Chelsea Whipple 9:24
Yeah, yeah. So again, this consistent practice of her time. For some of you it might work at different times of the day, it might be that spontaneous time where you get that glimpse of what you crave and desire. But for me if I do it consistently, it's kind of, I start to crave it and desire it each day. So, and then sometimes there's free solitude time. These are just the great moments where they're not predictable. It just happens and you look around, and all of a sudden, no kid is around you. And I don't have an important task to complete with this. And if this happens. Here's the thing, fight, the temptation to start another task, what do I need to do next. If you have that free solitude time purchase if you take that time for however long you're able to and just enjoy it, do whatever helps you to see or feel the presence of the Divine. It could be sitting in your beautiful simple gray chair. It could be sitting down to eat a meal slowly, and just being in the moment, you know check in. How do you feel today. You know what's going on. Take some breaths, you know, look around, notice those surroundings. Be present. Just be present during this time.
Now my favorite retreats.
Erin Thomas 11:08
Oh yeah, that makes me take a deep breath.
Chelsea Whipple 11:14
This is probably the least that we get. But if they do exist, there are retreats and sometimes they are structed and sometimes they are unstructured. There's retreat centers you can go to either in the city you live in or near you. In the beginning I spoke about of getting away for alone time if you could. So I'm going to circle back to this one right here, of what to do during alone time.
I recommend, or at least at one point, do a retreat alone. Don't use it as a time to distract yourself within an activity. Vacations are great, I love vacations in fact Erin and I are both getting ready to go on vacation, different vacations, and we're both looking forward to it.
Erin Thomas 12:25
Chelsea Whipple 12:26
But yes, we are taking our families with us, and sometimes that means a lot of chaos of activity, but there could be slip in of some solitude times during those retreats because you're not at home doing chores rather tasks, but a retreat isn't like a vacation in that sense, it's not built around activities really built around those types of resting and being with yourself.
So the point is this. You know the time you spend in solitude is invaluable. We hear noises, all the time. We answer questions all the time. We meet everyone's needs, all the time. In solitude offers us a way to not have to do those things.
The goal is to be intentional during this time. To Invite the Divine into this space. Really, to get to know ourselves. To spend time with ourselves. We get to know our kids, we get to know others but how many times do we get to know ourselves.
It's tempting. Don't wonder your thoughts into existence, far off the world or worry about what is next. I've sat here for five minutes, Quite literally, just be in that moment, be present to this moment. Now, we can lose ourselves in motherhood by doing, getting things done, making sure everyone is safe, accomplishing tasks and this is an opportunity to find yourself. Find out who we are, how we grow. Erin loves to talk about checking in, taking inventory. It allows you to check-in with yourself and have a real inventory. Be gracious and compassionate to yourself. If you're not good at being quiet. If you're not good at putting those tasks down. Give yourself compassion. That's okay. Acknowledge that feeling like I'm just not good at this. You know, sit with it and wonder, is there something else that that would make me be present and intentional better. I like to watch how slow the world moves. When I'm not sprinting from one task to the other. I mean, in reality like this day has flown by because I've gone here and there and, you know, check things off, but as I sit here with you all. It just feels slower, time feels slower. journal if you want to, journal your feelings, journal a conversation, read a poem, if you've never done it before. Again, it's about being intentional, aware and present.
Erin Thomas 16:04
Chels, I'm going to interject here. This is so good. And it's interesting to hear your perspective, knowing your personality as well as my personality differences. And I know quite a bit of our listeners who are going to have a different way of approaching solitude, finding solitude, one of the things that I found challenging about solitude. This, I don't know if you're familiar with Enneagram and all I'm gonna interject that here, but I am an Enneagram seven. And so we are the life of the party, right? But, so being quiet, being still, being in a place of solitude, in touch with our emotional being can be a challenge. So you may find that different aspects of your personality are contrary to this, that's just the reality and for me. This also involves a level of vulnerability. You know, when it's just you and you're sitting there, it's just our thoughts. I find often times that if we're honest with ourselves, there is an element here. There's a fear that surfaces about being quiet and alone. In a culture that is so rapidly paced, especially in motherhood, it's so rapidly paced, depending on what season you're in. I wonder Chels, can you unpack that a bit and give us some thoughts about how to face this challenge of vulnerability. And if we face the fear head on in the template of motherhood lifestyle. What benefits, what fruits have you seen as a result of this practice?
Chelsea Whipple 18:13
Yeah. And I'm really glad you brought that up Aaron because, you know, Erin and I are different, and you know we, we think, definitely different our Enneagram number is different, I'm a six she is a seven. And, and I am an introvert. So solitude to me complements my personality. That doesn't mean to say if you're an extrovert, you're not going to learn solitude. But there is a difference. I mean, everyone's different and there is a fear of being alone, of what will. Who am I going to face if I'm alone? And I think that's very brave, if you're willing to to still get past that and do that. Find out who you are. When no one's telling you who you are, or you're not. You know if you're used to accomplishing things to tell you who you are. When those are kind of gone, or at least put on hold. There is a fear to figure out, of facing yourself. And that is that is so true. And it does exist and it is out there, and I, and I can only speak for myself, you know, I did do a 10 day intensive class that I had to do during the pandemic, and so we weren't allowed to gather we did it all online but I got away for those 10 days. I just couldn't do it with my kids. So, and I was all alone during those break times. And even though I like solitude that was a lot of solitude, a lot of aloneness. And it was interesting. It really was. And I learned a lot by myself, but I was bored a lot, but it, it was probably where I learned about myself the most that I could check in with myself, you know, because these quiet and alone times is where we learn. We're not rushed to one task and then another. So, you know, I am going to be vulnerable for a moment. In this solitude and kind of try to bare, bare myself a little bit so hopefully people are feel comfortable with Solitude work, if there is a fear behind it. So I have a story. As usual, the stories always helped me, and it helps me to explain how solitude really impact how I approach motherhood. So I have this deep desire, one of my deep desires that I can feel, is to spread compassion to the world. And since I recognize this passion, I noticed that more when someone does it, they do an act of compassion, or I see that someone needs it. And I know that the spirit is calling me to express this compassion in ways I'm unfamiliar with, or uncomfortable with, you know, a few times in my solitude if I had those little glimpses, I kept replaying this argument I was having with my oldest son.
So just a bit of background for the previous school year for the 2020 2021 school year. My son during the pandemic was learning remotely from home, by computer. The class full of kids, and let me tell you, a very patient teacher. God bless this lady. And so this argument that we would have felt like we were on this ferris wheel that kept going around and around and around. So, which meant for us, it no one was winning this argument. And so for a few sets of solitude, I could not get my mind undistracted by this. And you know I I tried all the normal steps that I do to clear my mind, by breathing, letting the argument go, chiming my meditation bowl, nothing was working. So I knew it was important. I stayed with it. And maybe it was a point that I felt like the divine was trying to show me, to reveal to me. And so when I sat with it. I, my perspective shifted, and I now open my eyes to see how my son was doing all of this. So here was my son. He's just started school, and he was in first grade when this happened. Okay a first grader, and he was really struggling with this type of school online.
It was not his learning style, he did not like it. And no he didn't want to do what I kept saying was just deal with it. You can't change it, you just kind of have to figure out, figure it out. And I saw him for who he was, a seven year old boy, desperately wanting connection. Who's bouncing around, full of energy, and just honestly, tired of this way of schooling. And through that, my compassion swelled within me. And I was wanting him to see school, The way I see school where it's just important. You just have to do school, we all survive. But I wasn't the one I don't know what it's like I wasn't the one on the computer every day, literally trying to learn how to read, how to write, how to add, subtract, etc. And so, in, he was at home so Home is where he gets to play and have unstructured time. And now is the place where he sleeps, eats, and goes to school. Everything is just at home. It was this solitude time that I was having, where this all replayed in my head, where I could reorient myself and see things as they are really happening in the present, really changed my perspective.
So, I personally find many benefits to this practice. I am more patient with my kids, when I've had time for solitude time. I noticed my feelings more like I sit with my feelings like, why am I upset. And yes, sometimes it's because I'm hungry. I do crave solitude, even more, and that helps me to be more present in the moment to notice my surroundings to notice what's going through those moments. And I find being intentional opens my eyes. You know where you literally feel like you have a new vision where you can see clearly and not everything as a blur. You know if I kind of go through my day at the end of the day. I actually can see the steps of what happened, maybe not everything but not like, oh gosh I don't know what happened for the first four hours I was in lala land. You know, most of all, I become aware of the Divine that filters through every part of my being.
In, you know, we've talked about stillness, before that was in one of our first episode which is episode four. And so just to distinguish a bit between stillness and solitude. So for me, solitude is the time where I am in a quiet place alone. Maybe for a minute, maybe even an hour or a day. We're stillness is kind of those moments that are more fleeting, and they can be unintentional during this time. So I think of stillness as an anchor point throughout my day, that bring me to focus on the present moment, like a moment of stillness for me I mentioned was eating, where I had to kind of sit and just be still for a moment and take that as an intentional time to notice my surroundings were solitude is really that intentional time that you're setting aside, of being alone with the sacredness, however you define sacredness.
Erin Thomas 26:51
Yeah. So, this is really interesting for me Chelsea and one of the reasons that I'm glad you unpacked that because when I first started in this myself, I was not familiar with the difference between stillness and often, as we've said, I am by nature an extrovert, although I recognize my need for solitude And what happens if I don't have it in one of our prior episodes we talked about and I think I mentioned this actually maybe in my bio that I struggled significantly with rest and how that's different from solitude as well, I shared for example that I associated rest with sleep. And when in fact it's not always like that. And so I wonder if you can sort of unpack that a little bit. If there are differences in the practice of rest and solitude and if there are similarities?
Chelsea Whipple 27:59
SYeah, yeah, and that's a really good point just to you know keep unpacking, is that, you know, solitude Is that intentional time of getting away. And then what you can do during solitude is these different things but you know rest could be one of them. And I do want to point out that I don't find it helpful to force solitude, When what I really need is rest. So for example, it is why I do not wake up earlier than I need, because to me, and, you know because rest isn't equal to sleep. But sleep can be rest. So, I don't wake up any earlier, because I do, I am one, I'm a person who needs sleep. And I know when I don't get sleep and so sleep is very important to my body and my mind, I just don't function as well. And so if I'm craving solitude but my body really is just very tired during it, it's kind of one of those things where it's time to take a nap or something, and to you know to listen to what your body needs and sometimes being in solitude can really open yourself to what your body, you know, because what Erin said when she's drinking her smoothie is that our bodies are extremely important to the contemplative lifestyle, because we're trying to kind of find a wholeness, with everything in our lives, our body mind and spirit, our emotional health, physical health, spiritual health, all those, those words are just to say that that complete wholeness includes our bodies. And so, it's okay to rest during your solitude moments in Erin, as Erin mentioned again that rest is not equal sleep. It can be sleep, but it also can be just a quieting of the mind, where sometimes our bodies need sleep, and sometimes our minds need rest, where the mind has been going, you know, I think in the rituals episode I talked about overheating the brain. And like this is just a way to reset the brain in solitude is recognizing that my mind is exhausted, and I just want to be quiet, and rest my mind in the moment. And that's also part of what you can do during solitude is that rest, whether it's body sleepy or mind quieting the mind rest. And. And that happens a lot for me during solitude, you know, when I do my intentional times in the morning, I'm, you know have woken up. Sometimes I'm still tired sometimes I'm kind of ready for the day and it's good. But then there's other times where I find myself able to do a little bit more solitude, and I just want to rest, I just want to sit in the chair and just kind of be present but not Think or Do you know and to me those are both wonderful times of solitude that I think are intentional practices, You know Erin I have talked so much. And, you know, I, you have so much to offer and I'm wondering if you would be willing to dive deeper, you know and how solitude works in your life. If you find it important?
Erin Thomas 31:28
Yeah, you know, I, I appreciate your teaching points too Chels because I think it's really important, as a mother to understand what the different types of solitude and how they work. Because quite often we talk about inventory, your needs. Can't always pinpoint exactly what if you're not intune with our bodies and solitude is a huge thing. When it comes to recognizing my body. I will share a little bit of a personal story and I've oddly enough shared this recently on social media but I have had some health issues in the past, and I was always a typical go girl. I have never ever been able to be still. And it was, wasn't until I saw a lot of warning signs, internally, and throughout my body in unhealthy ways that I recognized that there was something missing. Right. And so we talked about how intentional that is and how intentional. Solitude is. I think one of the most important reasons, it is pivotal in motherhood is because our bodies, go through a lot. We are up and running around chasing after Children and Toddlers depending on what season you're at and maybe you're in and out of the car and dropping children off and being a chauffeur, just sort of depends on what season of life you're in. But when we talk about the fruitfulness of and the benefits of solitude. How often are we going to recognize those if we aren't. And for me that was one of those things where I was not listening to the warning signs of my body needing solitude. And as a result, rest was part of that. But, you know that's really important to share is that when you do notice warning signs of, hey, notice what they are specifically for you and for your personality. If I'm an extrovert, and as a seven Enneagram. It's as easy for me, too. I'm super social, so there's always a level of social engagement and activities that I planned for myself and for my family that don't always align with the practice of solitude that I know I need as a contemplative mother.
One of the things that you spoke about Chels and I, completely agree with is also what we're doing. And we talked about this and other episodes is showing our children and what exactly these practices mean. And as a result I feel like, so often it is simplified for me. Solitude, in particular, is something that is challenging in my home. We are all extroverted. And so, there is very minimal quiet. There's always dialogue and conversation. There's no way. And that's not to say that there's anything wrong with that. I enjoy my gregarious animated family. But recognizing and cojoining that solitude, also connects me to the divine. And that is ultimately what I'm looking for.
The other day I was talking with my son, who is, I'm pretty sure he's also very much a seven. He's very extroverted, they call him the mayor of the neighborhood, because he knows everyone, likes to kiss all the babies, he just enjoys he knows everyone's dog's name, and he's just a fun kid, but he strugglesin solitude and in a sense of his mom, I have a compassion for that. I feel for him in that sense because I know it's also intentional for me as well. So one of the ways we talked about that and I realized, as we simplified this practice. It also became less intimidating.
We talked about for him. If a cell phone, you're on your cell phone all day, and you're scrolling on his iPad or tablet, whatever, he doesn't have a cell phone, so I use his tablet for example, if you're on your tablet, all day every day, and you're going from one app to another and one video to another, and through the constants scrolling in your mind. Right. Eventually, the tablet dies. And we talked about, it's so funny because I talked to my kids about this all the time it's like such a simple concept right you plug in the battery pack, and it for the plug and you charge the tablet. But, you know, for some reason for my kids that seems to be really difficult challenge I don't understand. We know what it does, but yet we still, and my daughter especially will get so upset. If her tablet is dead. Oh honey, you know this is how we solve this problem, plug in the charger, and we plugged the tablet into the power source. And that was an example I used for him. When I could notice that his body was tired that he needed solitude, and he didn't exactly understand what that meant. And so we developed a term in our home. It was it didn't originate with us but lovely mentor of mine shared, feet off the floor time.
and this was a time, a time everyday in our home Monday through Friday, that my children have to keep their feet off the floor. And this looks different for each child. That, but it is the time at which they can rest, they can pray. Or, they can imagine. And that's it. And that's hard. So when we first started that practice of solitude, and this time in the middle of the day, it was rough. But now they know it's called feet off the floor and simplifying that practice for them as simplified it for me. Because now, that is my time.
It is feet off the floor time. For them that means no running and no jumping on the couch. For me, that means sitting in my simple gray chair, but I think as you flesh out this practice in your home and for yourself, when you start making small steps and simplifying it, you'll find that there obviously is a discipline that goes along with it, because our minds are naturally of those things that want to keep going. And at the same time, we'll slowly start to notice the fruits. So that's my little story. I hope that helps, in some sense, if you can apply this to your home with your children. It's great. It doesn't turn out the way we desire but I want to thank you, Chels for unpacking this with us, and in such a lovely and really succinct way. I feel really inspired by this and want to continue to find those anchors, those points and notice those warning signs.
Erin Thomas 0:00
So as always we will end in a practice and Chelsea is going to lead us through this portion.
Chelsea Whipple 0:09
Yeah, so the practice for this episode of course is to take an intentional time of solitude. So I'd like for you, we'd like for you to do this practice when you have at least 10 minutes of time by yourself. Obviously it could be more, but at least 10 minutes. Go to a place where you can rest your mind and you are not distracted by your external surroundings. You need you're not thinking about toys need to be picked up from the floor. Yes, like me, if you are in a closet right now, a closet will work. And when you're, when you're in this space. Try and center yourself in your body meaning limit your exterior movements.
Chelsea Whipple 1:00
Be in a comfortable position. Take a deep breath and breathe out all the words, breath out all the distractions. Breathing out all the to dos, and allow your mind to rest. If thoughts pop out use a simple phrase that brings you back to the present moment,
Chelsea Whipple 1:28
A favorite of mine is always let go, you can use for breath, you can use the word love. Just whatever that awareness phrase is that reminds you to just let it go, let it go the thoughts. Try not to engage your senses. Just simply keep breathing. And that's it, rest your mind and breathe. It's, it's not going to be easy the first time. But it does get easier the more you practice.
Erin Thomas 2:12
I can't wait. I feel like every podcast episode when we talk about some of these practices I just feel like I want to take a deep breath. As always hearing the quote for today. This quote, in particular is from wild mercy by Mirabai Starr.
Erin Thomas 2:36
And the quote says, “The more you intentionally turn inward, the more available the sacred becomes. When you sit in silence and turn your gaze toward the Holy Mystery you once called God, the Mystery follows you back out into the world.”
Erin Thomas 3:01
Gracious I hope that is what is going to happen to our listeners this week so thank you again for joining us. Thanks Chels for unpacking this episode with us and we will see you soon.
Erin Thomas 3:11
Thank you for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast with your host, Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple,
Chelsea Whipple 3:21
to get regular updates on our podcast, hear new episode drops, interact with us about past and future episodes, and find our show notes, make sure to go to our website, www contemplative motherhood.org
Erin Thomas 3:35
As always, we appreciate your support of this podcast and in helping us share our journey with us. So if you enjoy today's podcast, make sure to subscribe, rate, and leave us a review. This helps us to cross paths with other pilgrim mamas across the board. So until next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai