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Finding Mindfulness in Motherhood

As I sit at the top of Multnomah Falls I follow the stretch of the soft green moss across the rocks, taking in the texture and the trueness of the green that I will never find in the home décor section of Target. I watch as the water runs swiftly over the rocks in the stream and reach my hand down to test its iciness. The chill feels like relief on the tips of my fingers. I lower both hands to the surface before bringing them back up to splash my face and enjoy the beauty and peace of making it to the top. It has been months since I’ve gone for a hike. It feels like coming home. 

I never thought of myself as an outdoors person. I spent a good deal of my life curled in the corner with a book or enjoying hours of afternoon TV in a dim living room with a bowl of Doritos. Sure, I spent time outside – we would walk through the cow pastures on my Grandpa’s land in the country a few times a year. I tromped through the woods getting from one place to another at summer camp. I even tried my hand at rock climbing with the church youth group. But it always felt like something to do, not a part of who I was.

Slowly and surely over time, the outdoors grew on me.

Whether it was age, overcoming my fear of bugs (mostly), or the prodding of the people around me, I started to realize how much more at peace I felt outside. Not (just) the “ohm” kind of peace, but the general sense of relaxing into myself and my surroundings kind of peace. Riding my bike along the Austin greenbelt, I felt adventurous and exhilarated. Canoeing in the lake with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, I learned how to stop and talk instead of letting fear and control take over. Hiking to the top of Enchanted Rock I learned that focus and patience – not just bravery – were essential for success.

When I first became a mother eight years ago, the outdoors once again took a back seat. We went on occasional walks and explored the local arboretum now and then, but my days were spent inside a windowless office at work and my nights were a strict routine of breastfeeding on the couch, making dinner, bath time, bedtime routine, put the baby to sleep, then zone out to Netflix until 9 p.m. when I couldn’t keep my eyes open a second longer. I’m struggling to even remember what those weekends looked like now but in my memory there is a marked absence of time outside, time alone, and times when I felt like I could relax into myself and my surroundings.

It doesn’t help that I was hit hard by perinatal anxiety during and following each of my pregnancies. The outdoors was not longer a place of respite, but a scary place full of potential dangers. What if he overheats? What if he gets bitten by a snake? What if he toddles right off the side of the play structure? Screw the play structure – if we go anywhere adventurous he is sure to toddle right off the side of a cliff! Baby-proofed spaces seemed like the only way to stay safe and quell my anxiety. (You will realize a few paragraphs down that I am a therapist and have been for the better part of 10 years. Even we are not immune to irrational thinking!)

I finally began to awaken from survival mode when youngest son was born just over four years ago. At the time I had a two-year-old and a four-year-old at home and being cooped up in the house all day every day during my maternity leave was just not an option. I forced myself to finally figure out the whole baby carrier thing, splurged on an off-road double stroller, and we hit the road. I had another child in tow, but suddenly it just felt easier.

I realized that adventuring with my kids didn’t have to be what it was for the people around me or what I saw as the ideal. I didn’t have to be this carefree mom who innately followed her child’s lead in the outdoors. The visions of my four-year-old running too far down the trail without me and coming face to face with an alligator were still too real in my thoughts. Feeling carefree and allowing my children to safely explore outside of my reach would take time. For now, I could look at what I did and did not have control of in the outdoors, take the measures I needed to take to feel reasonably safe, and just go. With a newborn strapped to my chest and the toddlers strapped into their stroller, we began to fall back in love with the outdoors together.

These days we hit the trail behind our house most evenings before bedtime. We take family camping trips in 100 degree Texas heat and freezing (for us) 25 degree winter cold fronts. As a family we have played in rivers, hiked up mountains, and explored canyons and caves and crustations alike. I went from barely being able to let my kids go on a slide at the playground to getting them a bouldering membership at a local rock gym.

I have done my own work around my anxiety, but I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the outdoors. In those first days of hitting the trail with all three boys, I finally felt like I could relax into my surroundings again. I was breathing evenly and taking in the scent of the trees around me. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. I noticed the soft pink of the flowers on the trees and how beautiful they looked falling gently in front of me. My mind moved from ruminating on the dangers of the world to noticing the beauty of the world. The more I hiked, the more that mindfulness followed me into other aspects of my life, the better I felt. I wasn’t just present in the outdoors again – I was present with my kids again, present with my husband again, and present in my work again. 

As a therapist, I often teach mindfulness techniques to my clients to cope with day-to-day stress as well as the impact of behavioral health disorders. It took me time and practice to figure out what worked for me and what I found most helpful to pass along to others. Mindfulness practices like visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, and diaphragmatic breathing are invaluable skills that you can use almost anywhere. I practiced these regularly but few things help me to be present and at peace like the outdoors.

As I have continued to grow as an adventure mama and as a therapist, I have been more intentional about incorporating mindfulness into my outdoor life and the outdoors into my therapist life. Whether you are climbing a mountain, taking a walk with your kids around the neighborhood park, or sitting in the school pick-up line, you can use the outdoors to meditate, find peace, and keep yourself present in your own life.


About Kimberly

Kimberly is a mama and a psychotherapist in Houston, Texas. This fall she is hosting a Women in Nature Retreat in the Texas Hill Country from October 11-13. This retreat is not just a camping trip, but a chance to engage in mindfulness, learn more about yourself, and practice how to implement tools to de-stress into life back at home. 

Learn more about the retreat here!

Nominate Yourself Or Another Mama To Attend The Women in Nature Retreat!

Adventure Mamas and Kimberly are teaming up to cover the registration fee for this event for one rad mama (a $400 value). To nominate someone (or yourself!) use the form below. All nominations must be received by Sept. 1st. The winner will be announced Sept. 5th via Facebook and Instagram. 



Bonus Mindfulness Tool – Fireside Senses:

Watch the flames of a fire build and diminish. Notice how the color of the flame changes with its heat. See the embers flicker – sparkling and glowing until they dim to black.

Listen to the fire catch and then roar. Hear it crackle and pop.

Smell the wood burning. Notice the distinctness of the scent the tree used to make the logs.

Feel the warmth of the flames. Notice how the closer you are the more concentrated the heat from the flame feels on your legs or hands or cheeks.

Taste the drink in your hand. Notice the crispness of the water and the chill down your throat, or the sweetness of the hot cocoa, the burn down your throat, and the warmth in your chest.


One thought on “Finding Mindfulness in Motherhood

  1. Read your 2 stories. Enjoy your writing. Yes, the descriptive nature of your writing is similar to mine. I enjoyed seeing your family and learning about the last 10 hectic years. The boys are a hand full but it sounds as though you have tamed them but more importantly have tamed your own anxiety. I like someone who is courageous enough to expose their “demons.” Makes you so human. Thanks.


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