Neuroplasticity, Amygdala and Motherhood


What do you get when you fill the Unity of Phoenix Center with 300 moms for an afternoon of mindfulness with a clinical psychologist who has one of the top TED Talks?

 A profound journey of exploration into the core of our being to identify what brings us joy, how suffering can be optional, and an understanding of why suspending judgment can bring kindness to ourselves and others.  

On September 29, AZ Mindful Moms brought us Messy Motherhood:  The Power of Self-Compassion & Mindfulness, led by Dr. Shauna Shapiro.  In addition to the inspiring presentation, attendees were greeted by tabling sponsors, a fun photo op backdrop, and yummy food and beverage samples.  The coordinator of the event, Lindsay Morris of Creative Mindset began the presentation with the usual appreciation of sponsors, but it was her account of a personal messy motherhood moment that I identified with.  And, it was clear from the way her vulnerability captivated the room, that I wasn’t alone in my attention and on a larger scale, this journey.

I could go on and on about the facts of the day with detailed accounts of the dynamic impact the sound healing had on the overall vibe of the event and how the sky seemed to open up and pour a warm blanket of sunshine over all of us.  

But, the beginning of Dr. Shapiro’s presentation included a startling fact about attention: the mind wanders 47% of the time. So, if you’re going to only focus on about half of this post, I want you to really focus on the following “ah ha!” moments that I had.  

My attendance at the event was a gift from a dear friend, and I want to continue the kumbaya love-fest with these notes:

  • Mindfulness helps you see clearly so you can respond effectively.  Meditation provides resources for life’s stressful moments. Does the thought of finding time to meditate stress you out?  Be authentic with yourself and hold feelings with compassion and kindness. There are many ways to adapt mindfulness to your life – meditate with your children and/or model it with them.

  • When you feel shame, it shuts down your learning centers.

  • What you practice grows stronger (I wrote this one down twice because it seemed so important in this context!).  Anything can be trained because the structure of our brain can be modified.

  • Positive experiences take 20 seconds to form a memory, negative experience form immediately.

  • Essential Themes:

    • Slowing Down – How are you being with what is?

    • Acceptance – This is not passive resignation!

    • Response Flexibility – After a stimulus, take a mindful pause before your response.  With practice, this will grow a new neural pathway.

    • Suspending Judgment –Doesn’t assume anything.

    • Self Kindness – We all have the capacity to change for our spotless future.

  • And as one of the lucky recipients of the Tree of Live Movement Intention Stick, I was reminded of the importance of setting a daily intention.  We set goals for our life from dress sizes to finances and vacations, so there is no reason why our daily grind shouldn’t be guided, met or reminded of the day’s intention.  Since I’ve been actively setting my intentions, I am reminded of the fleeting importance in each decision, interaction and motivation carried through a 24 hour cycle.

There are a lot of things that make motherhood messy at every stage of our children’s lives as well as ours.  I truly believe every mom left the event feeling empowered; where words like doubt, loneliness and guilt seem to unfortunately take a forefront when discussing the mess of motherhood, this event brought value and love to each woman who had the opportunity to attend.     

Photo Credit: Agnes and Art Photography