Contemplative Motherhood Podcast

Learning to Say No: Finding Our Heart Center

July 18, 2021 Erin Thomas & Chelsea Whipple Season 1 Episode 9
Contemplative Motherhood Podcast
Learning to Say No: Finding Our Heart Center
Show Notes Transcript

Saying No can be the hardest word to say as a mother. Maybe not to our kids but to the outside world. In this episode, Erin and Chelsea tackle how Saying No can become a contemplative practice, when we learn what to say no to and why it is important. Often, it is our ego saying yes instead of our heart center. The discussion will center around how operating out of our heart center and protecting our boundaries can lead to a more intimate life for ourselves and our children, allow us to get to know ourselves better, and give us space for intentional work.

Chelsea Whipple  0:05  

You are listening to the contemplative motherhood podcast. My name is Chelsea. I'm a teacher, practitioner, spiritual director and pilgrim. 


Erin Thomas  0:14  

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  0:26  

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  0:35  

So grab some coffee, tea, curl up and take off your shoes. You are welcome here. Now let's get started.


Erin Thomas  0:47  

Hello, everyone, I am Erin Thomas, and you are listening to another episode of The contemplative motherhood podcast.


Erin Thomas  0:59  

And as always, I'm with my dear friend, and co host Chelsea.


Erin Thomas  1:04  

And today we are going to talk about a subject that I am extremely passionate about mostly because this I feel like it's a learning opportunity for me, and just to continually evolving practice.


Erin Thomas  1:21  

In my contemplative lifestyle. If you are a new listener today, welcome. We hope that you enjoy. And today we're going to talk about saying no. Okay, this is a huge topic and probably to go on about this for days.


Erin Thomas  1:40  

But I want to start off the conversation. And Chelsea has done a really great job of sort of giving us a template to unpack this. But I'm curious to start off this conversation.


Erin Thomas  1:54  

Does saying no relate to being a contemplative mother? And exactly, who are we saying no to? Take it away my friend.


Chelsea Whipple  2:08  

Thank you so much for that lovely introduction. And you know, our great leadoff question. So with this episode, first, I have to point out, I find it ironic, when our kids first learn to speak they learn the word No, very quickly.And then it seems to be their main word in their vocabulary well into the teenage years.


Chelsea Whipple  2:33  

But for most of us, not all of us are really good at. But for most of us, we struggle with saying no, maybe not to our kids. I mean, I'm really good at saying no, most of the time, you know, but for those outside our family unit that can be a hard word to say. And as I begin this topic, I first need to say that I fall under the category of not being able to say no very well, I get myself into quite a few, too much task list because I am a people pleaser. And I acknowledge that about myself.


Chelsea Whipple  3:12  

But I'm much better now, simply because I recognize that I have a problem with saying no, but I feel guilty, or I feel like people are going to look at me differently, or you know, whatever the reason is, but I recognize that now being on the contemplative path, you know, trying to be more intentional and be more aware.


Chelsea Whipple  3:37  

And the problem with having the trouble saying no for us, is that we transform ourselves into busy bodies, all of a sudden, it can happen without you even noticing. And I can say that because that's how I would describe myself that I very much have a busy body that I just use you do. I mean, from the time that I opened my eyes I can think of my to do list is already starting. And I tried to be very intentional, but no, I don't need to do all this. today. You know what is the most important to do today.


Chelsea Whipple  4:11  

I'm jumping ahead of myself. So being a busybody, I admit, sometimes I still am, but I find or I found that I was doing stuff for the sake of doing rather than in meaning of whatever I'm doing. So for example, well, accomplishments and feeling important used to be my drivers and that is how I felt good about myself.  For me, they fed my ego. So I would do anything that led to feeling accomplished and important. And if you've listened to my bio episode, which is the very first episode of season one, you'll know that it really led me to feeling empty in my life. and did not bring me joy.


Chelsea Whipple  5:04  

And so I realized that doing for the sake of doing did not bring me joy. It led to stressed out who I like to call Kranky Chelsea. And I ended up with a lot of health problems, I was very tired, overworked and at some point ended up in the hospital. So stress is a trigger point for me, I can feel stressed very easily. And I'm sure we can all relate to that, you know, I have a lot of stress and anxiety.


Chelsea Whipple  5:38  

Now, a primary topic, though, for this episode doesn't have to do with our ego, as much. But I do want to explore this and see if this resonates with you. Because often we when we say yes, it is because of our ego that saying yes, and not our heart center. Stay with me here, I'm going to explore some terms here. And some of you might understand this using other terms, this might be the first time you've heard this, define this way. 


Chelsea Whipple  6:14  

So ego, for me, is best described as motivation. As our identities, and all of this can be good and or bad. And ego, I have to say this ego is not bad, okay, it's who we are. It's what makes us unique individuals, that it's created by sacredness. But ego can become bad when it's our main driving force when it's our center, when we make it the center of our lives. And when we give it too much power, and allow our identities and motivation to be the most important above others, God and even ourselves.


Chelsea Whipple  7:00  

Now, the heart center is not the opposite of ego. Since we as contemplatives operate kind of as a whole self and not separate selves, we you know, you don't want to think of it as a here or there or, you know, this is the opposite of this. But the heart center can be described as the core of our being okay, keep with me here. And sometimes, you can hear the same definition pretty much with ego as the false self, and the heart center as the true self. So those are some other terms, you'll hear to explore this topic. And so this heart center, that center of our being the core is where we want to operate from. So the saying yes to coming from our heart center, and I'm going to go more with that.


Chelsea Whipple  7:49  

And so the heart center, and we want to orient the ego, to operate out of the heart sister, so we want the ego to rest in the heart center. And we want that heart center to kind of be the main directive that directs the ego, and allows the ego to rest anchored in us.


Chelsea Whipple  8:11  

In this heart center is where I try the keyword try is to look at when decisions of yes or no come into play in daily life. And I want to pause for a second because I want to turn it to you, Erin. You know, what are some of your thoughts here? In relation to ego and the importance of recognizing when ego is saying yes, and not our heart center?


Erin Thomas  8:42  

Yeah, gracious. You have done such an amazing job of breaking this down. And I have so many thoughts about this, to be honest. But I love so much of this. And I appreciate you teasing out these contemplative terms. I know when I first started to read and research a little bit more about the contemplative lifestyle, it was a bit intimidating to grasp these concepts, because for me, it almost felt like a conjoining of theology and psychology and a little bit, and I was pretty intimidated.


Erin Thomas  9:22  

But as I have flushed out this lifestyle, and, you know, taking notes from friends like you who have broken down these terms into practical ways to apply them, I feel like in a broad sense, we, as in general, as people, a lot of us may be familiar with driving being driven by the heart center per se.


Erin Thomas  9:48  

And so I thought it might be helpful to use myself sort of as an example or a guinea pig. You know, Chelsea, you gave your example of coming to that point where you had that That sort of check point. And where you realize that there was a lot of significant things in your life that were unfulfilling, and how you sort of came into this contemplative lifestyle, I have a very similar sort of story in the sense that I came from a really driven family of origin.


Erin Thomas  10:21  

And as with most American families, I feel like I felt the need to measure myself by what I could place on my resume. And I'm also an extremely driven personality. We've talked a little bit about that. So you know, if it wasn't a marketable skill, or characteristic that I found helpful in the long run, I just didn't really honestly think it was of great importance.


Erin Thomas  10:50  

You know, but in reality, I think how many of us have gotten to that crisis, point where we have a wake up moment, or the lightbulb goes off, where we realize that there are certain times in life, maybe it was the pandemic, or whatever, that you can't control or talk your way out of the situation, you know, and I can't put this on paper, this is not going to feed my paper, self or my ego. And at that point, to be honest, it's just really uncomfortable to hit this point where you realize that what feels like a lot of work, you know, towards my ego, wasn't fulfilling my life. And, you know, like you said, there's nothing to be, I think, you know, we tend to think that the ego is all bad. And I will want to say the same thing, and this is that it does serve a logistical purpose and other purposes, but there is a level of it being uncomfortable, you know, in the sense that if I realized that that's what's been my motivating driving force,


Erin Thomas  12:02  

and my desire to have something on paper, then, you know, I, we all come to this checkpoint at some point or another. And for me, just like for many other moms, often it's when you have children, you're, you realize that your heart needs a connection with these children. And these moments, these present moments are the ones that are more important.


Erin Thomas  12:27  

But that doesn't mean that we table our ego per se all the time, right? This is going to be sort of an ongoing battle. I think there is a consistent wrestling that occurs. And so to not acknowledge, that would just be silly. But I think it's awesome for you to notice that. As you become aware of your ego and more aware of your heart center and what's driving you, you will notice that there are times when we feel more at peace.


Erin Thomas  12:57  

And that is the time I feel like for me, when I know that I'm being driven by my heart center, and I'm using that to guide my path rather than in my spiritual journey rather than my ego. You know, and I think it's important to say, you know what, there are plenty of times, even on a daily basis that we have to realign.


Erin Thomas  13:21  

That's another reason why we say I like to say take inventory. But in a sense, we come become more comfortable with recognizing the heart center, as opposed to what fuels my ego, you'll find that you are more likely to see your desire and your drive behind that and become more comfortable with it. And so that's sort of what happened to me, and continues to happen. But it was definitely sort of a moment where my heart center recognized that I was now a mother, and my priorities change. And that's where it all began.


Erin Thomas  14:06  

And so Chels, I'm interested in visiting sort of back to this saying no concept. How can letting go of our main drivers, aka our ego or paper ego, as I call it? How can letting go of those drivers and saying no to help bring a sense of relief instead of disappointment?


Erin Thomas  14:30  

How can say no help bring a sense of relief, instead of a sense of disappointment? I'm interested to know like, what are your thoughts on that?


Chelsea Whipple  14:41  

Yeah, I like that. You know, how can we have saying no, help to bring a sense of relief, instead of a sense of disappointment, which I'm still working on. But you know, in seeking to walk with a daily awareness I'm learning to let go with the desire of accomplishment, you know, with that desire of, I am much more attuned to the Spirit. And here's the key learning to love myself for who I am. And not what I can produce.


Chelsea Whipple  15:20  

I'm not perfect. Sometimes just don't get things done, I sometimes have too much anxiety, I sometimes worry about things I shouldn't worry about. That's just who I am.


Chelsea Whipple  15:32  

And this is teaching me the importance of saying no, you know, as mothers, we are already maxed out on things we can do moment to moment, there's only one of us. And as much as I tell my kids, I am physically unable to do more than one thing at a time. So in order for me to add something, to my plate, it has to be heart driven. It has to give me joy. And it has to be energy inducing, as opposed to energy draining.


Chelsea Whipple  16:04  

And I don't know who listening has felt that there is so much on your plate at the moment that you feel like you're giving 50% to everything, sometimes even 5%, to everything, and you're just not doing anything, right. You're just pulled in too many directions, that you can't give your full attention to anybody, or any project until you feel like you're just getting by and failing at everything. You know, if you can relate, raise your hand, give a shout. I can't tell you how many times I've had this conversation with others and with myself.


Chelsea Whipple  16:39  

And, you know, I still can sometimes feel that way. But I, I feel like that right there. That feeling offers an invitation, an invitation to stop and evaluate. To ask yourself, what is important? Who's driving? Is it my ego? That's out of my core of my being? Or is it my heart? Is it coming from that heart center? Is it giving me joy?You know, and not fleeting happiness, put that deep inside internal joy? Is it draining my energy? Or is it giving me energy? Even if it's exhausting?


Chelsea Whipple  17:26  

asking those hard questions. It is so important to stop and check in with ourselves. I'm not going to give you the organizational life lessons that at some point, so many of you know by the list, check it off one thing at a time. You know, those are all good prompts to do. But I would like to take it more inwards. Not look at how to externally get multiple tasks done at a time. But how to inwardly look at ourselves for a change.


Chelsea Whipple  18:00  

We are really good at being multitaskers and organized by society. But what we aren't taught is to stop and ask ourselves if it's worth it. If we're feeling guilty, by all that's on our plate and not feeling like we can do it all. Then ask yourself, why?


Chelsea Whipple  18:26  

Why do we feel like we have to max ourselves out? that we have to do everything? Only to feel like we aren't good enough? What does that really accomplish?


Chelsea Whipple  18:41  

Now I'm sure some of us at this point are thinking well, what about those things we can't say no to; like kids activities, chores, work, menial tasks that don't get the ability to think about and ask why, they just have to get done.


Chelsea Whipple  18:58  

And to put it plainly, those are part of our routine part of our cycle that isn't something we ever get to say yes to. But we can turn those into rituals and purposeful rituals. And I'm not going to talk about that here. But if you're interested in learning how to turn those routines into rituals. Just a quick plug, you can listen to episode six where we tackle that particular subject.


Chelsea Whipple  19:25  

Now, Erin, I've been a little animated and a little impassioned and revved up a little bit. But how have you learned to say no as part of your contemplative practice?


Erin Thomas  19:42  

Oh, goodness, this is really good stuff. My friend I am you have hit the heart center, for sure on this one. And I'll be honest, I think you're talking to me sometimes, but You know, some seasons more than others is where I have been better at this practice. And then to say right now for say, where we're hitting that sort of busy season before school starts, and you shared that guarding your heart and sacred spaces in this way, as you know, really made it apparent and easier to say no. And I think that's really important. I agree 100%.


Erin Thomas  20:26  

You know, as a person who has a counseling background, I think I tend to utilize the word boundaries a lot. But either way, the idea of telling people that I can't fulfill that request, as a helper, personality is, you know, same for you. It's just really challenging.


Erin Thomas  20:46  

And it's so funny, because I realized that it's just, you know, the word no is, it's two letters, you know, but they're just a really hard concept for me, and I asked myself often, why this is the case.


Erin Thomas  21:02  

You know, part of it is, is tapping in a little bit to that personality characteristics of, I tend to be an empathetic person, I enjoy hospitality have a mother heart. So I think a lot of mothers will sort of resonate with this. And the sense that I, I tend to feel guilty by letting someone down whether it's, you know, my children,


Erin Thomas  21:28  

I don't see that as much in the sense of telling them No, but just not being able to fulfill the requests of others. You know, that's, that's a hard concept. But one of the things, I think that it's changed my viewpoint about this is that there, we talk a little bit about developing this spiritual vision or this heart vision that comes with a certain type of practice. We talked with this, with gratitude. So if you're interested in looking at that, I do recommend it.


Erin Thomas  22:03  

There is a spiritual vision or honing in on the heart vision that comes with the continual practice of placing a boundary of saying no, and allowing that to take root in our lives. I think it allowed me This allowed, and I don't say that in the past tense, it's continually allowing me to see that the practice of saying no, is 100% of a perspective shift of saying no to the things that and tasks that didn't and don't matter.


Erin Thomas  22:38  

But more to the people that do in the sense that I've now learned to focus on relationships, and joy, and the quality that comes with that. inevitably leads, I have a similar experience for you, we often find that, you know, I realized that I text myself a lot of time for a task list of doing right, busy body, I love that term.


Erin Thomas  23:06  

But it was not just crossing my boundaries of time. It was also allowing access to my family, sacred time together, is taking away from our family culture. And even it was affecting the quality of mother that they get at home. You know, I think a lot of us sort of set that like you said, cranky, Chelsea, I get cranky, Erin. And that's just simply, you know, that's not that's not a fruit of a practice I want or that I wanted, you know.


Erin Thomas  23:37  

And so, in the past, I have been fueled on my task list. So my achievements and their productivity, I recognize that I enjoy being productive. But, you know, asking myself what my desire is in this, and my desire is not to feed my paper ego or my resume, but rather my heart center and fruits of intentionality that I desire in my life. And as a result, it bleeds over into my family's life. So practically, I think you really nailed this, like, does this give you life or drain you of life? does it provide fulfillment or meaning to your purpose in a spirit filled life? And asking yourself if you're being present with the divine and present with your children?


Erin Thomas  24:34  

Are you able to be present in whatever relationship it is that you're sowing into? You know, there, there are relationships that are going to be more fulfilling and some that are going to be more taxing. It's one of those things too, I think, where you ask how much more value does my time have that I give it credit for?


Erin Thomas  24:54  

You know, we say that the years are long and are The days are long and the years are short. And that's true. In your mother, the days are long. And the years are short. babies don't keep and children grow up mothers. And motherhood has it seasons right very quickly and you can't press the stop button. And I don't want to constantly be pressing the stop button on my family or my children because I have a task list right? Or I have jam packed my life accomplishments.


Erin Thomas  25:29  

And so I think it's really important to ask myself those sorts of questions. Because your ego is always going to be hanging out in the background, it's not really going to go anywhere in the sense that, you know, this is always going to be part of our being, but recognizing where our desires, why and what we're focusing on.


Erin Thomas  25:51  

So you know, if you're listening, I just, we talk about this a lot. But I want to encourage you to guard your time, and your heart guards your relationships, and innocence, like truly ask yourself, practically, what does this look like? I think it's really important to have a practical application. So for me, some questions I asked myself, or you may ask yourself is does it mean I observe a Sabbath? Or rest day? Do I block off certain times for relationship with relationships that you're prioritizing? Do I take one day off of doing, you know, that's hard as a mom, but maybe that's something you feel like you really need to do.


Erin Thomas  26:38  

I can't tell you what that looks like for you. For example, for me is is, you know, this is just what it looks like in my life, this may be a morning, quiet time, with meditation, a evening reading for my to fill my own spirit. no cell phones for me at the table. I know technology has to have its boundaries to family time on the weekends has to be a priority.


Erin Thomas  27:09  

And we try to do one weekend free a month, I realize that this is not all going to work for your family or for yourself. But you determine really what this looks like for you. And inevitably, I think you'll find that when we're putting these sort of practical intentions into our daily lives, our vision will absolutely change. So that's sort of I hope that explains it a little bit.


Chelsea Whipple  27:44  

Oh Erin, this is just wonderful. So, you know, kind of what you talked about with all this discussion in mind? Who are we saying no to?


Erin Thomas  27:59  

Yes my friend this is the ultimate question who are we saying no to right?


Erin Thomas  28:05  

First of all, I want to thank you so much for sort of starting us out on just a really deep conversation. I just feel like we're going to be able to glean major, major life changes. And this is we're willing to take the time, you know, we talk a lot about doing inventory. And I think this is just one of those time periods where a lot of us are finding an opportunity to do that. So every episode, we talk about, you know, what, what is our driving force? I think we mentioned this more than just now. But to unpack that a little bit and saying no, we talked about boundaries, I think it's important to realize that we're not just saying no to our driving force of ego, which is clearly the most obvious choice, right.


Erin Thomas  29:01  

But we're also saying no to the temptations of a world's definition of what my accomplishments are, and your accomplishments are, we are saying no to allowing the world to define what it means to be a mother, a woman, a wife, a friend, a fill in the blank, you know, it also means that we're saying no to things that remove our quality of life, and the quality of life of others around us the quality of our relationships.


Erin Thomas  29:33  

And there may be some uncomfortable times where it means that sometimes we're saying no to certain value systems, characteristics, or beliefs that we've held on to in our past that don't really fit into our life now. And you know what, that's okay. I think it's important for us to say there are time periods where we are going to evaluate and


Erin Thomas  29:59  

beliefs that we've held on to and have been taught. And they may not be applicable at certain points in our life, and we have to let it go. And that's okay.


Erin Thomas  30:12  

I think ultimately what we're saying yes to is the focus, and the most important part. And that is that we're saying yes, to the heart of contemplative, we're saying yes to being a contemplative mother. And what we're saying yes to is to being present, being intentional. Being mindful in our invitations of the sacred into this motherhood journey, we are saying yes to being a contemplative more than what that looks like, I think, and I guess that's really up to you.


Erin Thomas  30:51  

We do practice. And chels so graciously allowed me to share this one in particular, I'm super passionate about this particular practice, mostly, because the fruits that it is showed in my life are huge. You may be familiar with brain dumping, if you're not.


Erin Thomas  31:12  

This is a term where you literally just dump your brain onto a sheet of paper. But I want to add a little bit more meaning and value to this practice. So often before you go to sleep is when we're taught to sort of brain dump, or if it's hindering us in other ways, for in their daily life when they implement this practice and other times, but bring up beingsort of a term that's become popular.


Erin Thomas  31:46  

And one of the things I think it's important to know is that the brain dumping in particular in this area for this practice is actually putting on your task list on a piece of paper. So that literally every thought you have, which can be part of brain dumping, but in this particular practice, I challenge you to sort of take a sheet of paper and just write down all the tasks that we quote, unquote, think we need to accomplish this week, right. And as you're writing this out, I want you to sort of picture that there's a spiritual process happening, as well as a physical process of putting this on paper we are putting in and on paper, all of the tasks and roles and things that we think we have to do this week.


Erin Thomas  32:40  

Then, when you're done dumping all of this onto a piece of paper, take a deep breath, and put it aside where you can't see it. And that's gonna be hard, right? But take a moment, to just calm yourself, the presence, be present, where you are at that time period. And move forward by asking for this vision, asking for the divine to lead you in areas of your life, that are specifically a vision for your heart. And this can be sort of a broad concept. So I want to give a couple of practical aspects, questions that might help with this are what do I wish I spent more time doing?


Erin Thomas  33:30  

Where is my heart focus? What are my priorities? And why? What relationships are important and my wife right now?


Erin Thomas  33:43  

and Chelsea said the same set a few things. It's bringing you joy, if it's not bringing you joy, is that life giving? Or is it draining us of life?


Erin Thomas  33:54  

Those are all really practical concepts. And as you write these out, intentionally, and with that sort of mindset of having this vision and you see the surface. Check over your list and look at these intentions. Look at these priorities and allow them to surface.


Erin Thomas  34:15  

Be present with them for a moment. And when you're ready. Put these pages side by side with your task list and your brain dump beside the sheet of priorities and intentions and heart focus. And when you're ready, I want you to see this picture of your priorities beside this brain dump page and do a bit of a checkpoint do an inventory, aside from the things that are rituals and anchors in our day things that have to be done, right.


Erin Thomas  34:52  

Again, have to is a strong definition but you know, look at these anchors and rituals. Your day and your routine and go through this list and ask yourself, Is this something that is driven by my heart center? Or is this something that's ego related? And that doesn't mean that we are checking off a good and a bad. It just means that we are refocusing our vision on what our heart center?


Erin Thomas  35:23  

What is heart centered driven? And what is ego related? So it doesn't necessarily mean that you know, you're going to cross everything off of your task list, right? Like, wouldn't we all love to have a moment where we're just not doing anything?


Erin Thomas  35:38  

But really, what you're asking yourself is, what are my intentions and priorities? A few questions that might help I like to give practical examples is is it necessary? Is this x in some way or another? And is it aligned with my intentions, as a contemplative mother, to be present with my children, and my family, and to be present with the divine?


Erin Thomas  36:08  

And then I want you to give yourself permission to cross off, what doesn't fall in that category, cross it off with that brain dump list? That's your quote, unquote. And just say, No. And that's okay. Give yourself permission to say no.


Chelsea Whipple  36:33  

What a wonderful practice. That would be interesting. I've never tried that before. But I will have to now. I would like to see what my brain would dump out.


Chelsea Whipple  36:43  

But I'm going to end us with our quote today. And it's from one of my favorite ones, my my Sufi mystic poet Rumi. And he leaves us with this wonderful thought. "When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in, a joy."


Chelsea Whipple  37:07  

So thank you all so much for listening today. And I really can't wait to learn what you said no to. And hopefully this help and even what you said yes to because you felt like it was going through that heart center, and dropping the guilts. I just want to say goodbye to guilt. So thank you so much for listening. I can't wait to hear from you guys. And we will see you next time.


Erin Thomas  37:33  

Thank you again for joining us today on the contemplative motherhood podcast with your host, Erin Thomas and Chelsea Whipple.


Chelsea Whipple  37:42  

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  37:56  

As always, we appreciate your support of this podcast and then helping us share our journey with others. 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