"An eye-opening book to help you find ease in the midst of family mayhem..."
About Mindful Parenting in a Messy World
As the subtitle suggests, Mindful Parenting in a Messy World shows you how to live with presence and parent with purpose. It is a guidebook for busy, often stressed out, parents for learning how to become more present with yourself and with your children. Through Michelle's engaging and often funny personal stories you'll discover practical ways to:
- Meet conflict with compassion and curiosity
- Use your family as a catalyst for personal growth
- Spend time reacting less and connecting more
- Grow your capacity for self-awareness, humor, and love
- Find ease in the midst of family mayhem
Free Mindful Parenting Webinar & Live Q&A
To celebrate the book's release, Michelle is offering TWO practical trainings. When you order your copy of the book simply enter your receipt number above for instant access to a prerecorded webinar, "Big Emotions and What to do with Them". Then you'll be automatically enrolled to join Michelle on December 6th at 10am PST for a free LIVE Q&A so you can go deeper into her practical tips and ask questions about your own parenting challenges.
Michelle was previously the head of learning and leadership development at Twitter and spent most of her career working in high growth technology start-ups. In addition to her board work with the Holistic Life Foundation she is currently an advisor to the Mindful Schools, Wisdom 2.0, and Tilt365. Michelle is also a Strategic Partner with The Trium Group and WisdomLabs.
Michelle received her M.A in Psychology from Meridian University and her undergraduate from Florida State University where she studied Child Development. She has completed and continues her meditation training with Mark Coleman, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, and the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute.
A Message from Michelle
"I’m grateful to be the mother of two incredible young boys, who also happen to be two of my greatest teachers. I love the messiness of parenting and see every moment as an opportunity to wake up to myself just a little bit more. On my best days I'm magically aligned with my purpose and experience my life and family all centered and joyous. Many other days I completely blow it. On the tough days, I trust in the need to simply start again and hope I gleamed just a little more insight into the inner workings of my mind and fragile ego. I’m learning to forgive myself.
A central question I work to address is how we can live in a way that is meaningfully connected to oneself and others, even as the demands and complexities of contemporary life and work are accelerated. Life is messy, and I believe it's exactly within this messiness where we find our greatest potential for growth."
Praise for Mindful Parenting in a Messy World
Gentle Wisdom, Relatable Anecdotes, and Practical Strategies
"I think it's safe to assume many of us struggle with how to balance being a lovingly engaged parent while also trying to maintain a household, honor our work and social commitments, and maintain our sanity. That may explain why I breathed easier every time I opened Mindful Parenting in a Messy World. Nourished by Michelle Gale’s gentle wisdom, relatable anecdotes, and practical strategies, I felt empowered to enrich my family’s experience of everyday life. Mindful Parenting in a Messy World reveals how mindfulness can ground parents moment-to-moment, even amidst chaos, and find peace together and within."
—Rachel Macy Stafford, New York Times bestselling author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, and Only Love Today
Invaluable Insight and Wisdom
"This is likely the most honest description of what genuine mindfulness means for our everyday lives that you will ever read. This is the story of a mother who lays out her struggles as an individual, a wife, and a parent in a manner that causes us to laugh and cry with her—and simultaneously admire her—as she tells of her messy journey and shows us what it really means to be mindful. There’s no perfectionism here, no “getting there,” and certainly no “arriving,” just invaluable insight and wisdom concerning how an ordinary person can begin living in an extraordinary manner."
—Dr. Shefali Tsabary, author of the Oprah-acclaimed The Conscious Parent, Out of Control, and The Awakened Family
Deeply Helpful Book for Parents
"If you are raising children, even if you haven't meditated before, Mindful Parenting in a Messy World is for you. Michelle knows her subject from the inside out and delivers the wisdom of her experience with humor and honesty. This deeply helpful book for parents is wonderful to read."
—Sharon Salzberg, New York Times bestselling author of Real Happiness and Real Love.
Practical Advice Through Funny and Brutally Honest Stories
"Michelle Gale’s engaging journey has a profoundly liberating message for us all: life is messy, relax and embrace it, you don’t have to be perfect. She delivers practical advice through funny and brutally honest stories, showing the way to each of us who longs to be more present with our children and with ourselves."
—James Gimian, , Founder of Mindful Magazine
Table of Contents
Introduction: Mindfulness & Messiness
1. Breathing Space
2. The Path of Growth Lies in Awareness
3. The Family as Catalyst for Personal Development
4. Awareness Enters the Picture
5. Finding Meditation
6. Searching for our True Self
7. How Having a Family of My Own Grew Me Up
8. The Challenge of the Teen Years
9. Pain as a Portal to Consciousness
10. Life Plays Its Hand
11. Don’t Avoid the Pain
12. Returning to Work After Baby
13. Practicing Mindfulness as a Family
14. The Punishment Trap
15. When I “Lose It”
16. Growing Mindfulness
17. Gifting Children with our Presence
18. Who Am I And What do I Need?
19. Just Say No
20. My Messy Spirituality
“Parenting is one of the most challenging, demanding, and stressful jobs on the planet. It is also one of the most important, for how it is done influences in great measure the heart and soul of consciousness of the next generation, their experience of meaning and connection, their repertoire of life skills, and their deepest feelings about themselves and their possible place in a rapidly changing world.”
-Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn
Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting
Read an Excerpt
Before I launch into my stories, learnings, and suggestions, I want to clear up the definition of mindfulness and meditation from my perspective so we are all on the same page. Mindfulness in its most simple definition is a map for understanding the human experience. The core of the practice has us practicing and resting in presence allowing us to know what is being known. It is a compassionate non-judgmental awareness of our inner and outer moment to moment experience. No part of our human understanding is left out of the practice. And ultimately, there is no one definition of mindfulness that will ever encompass everything. I suggest you hold any definition you read lightly, but learn what you can from each one. For the use of this book, I’ll use the word meditation to refer to formal practice (like when we practice sitting or walking meditation) and the word mindfulness to refer to any way we direct our attention within ourselves or to the outside world.
I also want to mention that we can learn to be mindful in a zillion different ways. Practices like qigong, tai chi, yoga, journaling, painting, chanting, or so many other activities can support us on this path. Whatever works for you is the way to go. I will say that studying my mind with intention during formal meditation while also practicing presence in day to day life has been my lifeline to managing my anxiety, cultivating joy, and living with purpose.
I think it’s just as important to talk about what mindfulness IS NOT because the word is starting to be overused in popular culture. Being mindful does not mean that you are calm all the time. You can just as easily be aware of your anxiety, anger, or fear, as you can be all Zen and relaxed. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when practicing meditation or mindfulness brings me to a state of calm, but I don’t at all expect that to be the case, nor should we expect constant calm and bliss while weaving in and out of family life.
Are you with me?
The goal of meditation is not to stop thoughts. Thinking is part of being human and we should not beat ourselves up or call ourselves bad meditators because we can’t stop thinking. In fact, when we sit in meditation and notice our mind has wandered... this is exactly why we practice. This means we are doing it right! In this moment of noticing our mind wander we learn that we have a choice. We can continue letting our mind do its thing or we can come back to focusing on the breath or another point of concentration. We practice so that in our day-to-day lives we have more choice as to where we put our attention, and how we show up in the world at any given moment. For me, one of my favorite outcomes of practice is to not take my stressful thoughts so seriously. I certainly still have them; they just don’t run the show. So, when I’m thinking to myself, good lord I’m a terrible parent, why did I say that? I shouldn’t have raised my voice or made that assumption or been so impatient. I have learned to take a breath, notice those thoughts and decide not to buy into them so heavily. In making this shift I’m kinder to myself and to others through the radical act of self- discovery.
Like anything else worth learning, mindfulness is a practice. Something we choose to spend concentrated effort on until it becomes our new normal. And make no mistake about it...living a mindful life is a blessing like no other. As we awaken to who we are we can live more fully and show up more authentically in every aspect of our lives. I have found in my own life that making this commitment to myself has not only supported me, but also my family, in ways I could never have imagined.
So what is all this talk about embracing messiness anyway? Holy cow, you guys, this is the best part of all! If there is one thing we can count on it is that things will change and our lives will go sideways when we least expect it. Sometimes it’s just something mundane like the grocery store is out of the peanut butter our kids like (how rude) and other times “you know what” really hits the fan and someone in our family gets injured. As we practice mindfulness we learn to meet each moment with a sort of equanimity, not taking it all so personally. The mess of life will present itself over and over again. We can count on it. What if, instead of pushing away the icky parts and only welcoming the pleasant experiences we learned to embrace all of them? Jon Kabat-Zinn, who happens to be one of my favorite teachers, wrote a book over twenty-five years ago called “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness”. When I saw the title I nearly dropped to my knees. The first time I read this book I was single and not even thinking about a family. Reading it again so many years later after having two children, the message once again soothed my soul but for such different reasons.
It was clear to me that so much of my suffering as a parent came from the stress and anxiety of worrying that I might be screwing up my kids, and that I’m not a good parent. I was also a professional at wanting things to be different when they didn’t go my way. What I’ve learned over the years is that it is precisely when things don’t go my way that I have the most lessons to learn. This is the gift the mess gives me. Now, I would be lying if I didn’t say that I certainly prefer when it’s humming along smoothly in the all the right directions. I mean...duh. But over time, instead of cringing when life started to go sideways, I began to get curious and interested, in what life lesson may be awaiting me This is not a path for the faint of heart. The mess of our lives can seriously suck. However, as it turns out, embracing reality is a much more peaceful way to live. May these stories and learnings serve you on your path to mindful living within the messiness of your life.
At the end of each chapter you will find a reflection, resource, or practice to support your path. You might find it helpful to journal as your read through each chapter, or utilize the practices and resources as you go along.
"I love Michelle. Her book is a helpful guide, with a lot of experience packed into it, for anyone who wants to learn how to be a better parent."
—Byron Katie, New York Times founder of The Work and bestselling author of Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life.
"Mindful Parenting in a Messy World is a parents' guidebook to living with greater presence and awareness in our modern times. It's totally relatable, non-judgmental, and incredibly insightful.
—Lin-Hua Wu VP of Communications at Dropbox
"Michelle Gale shares through her own path of learning, how the difficulties of life and parenting can also be the greatest opportunity for inner growth."
—Ruchika Sikri , Manager of Sustainable Performance and Well-being at Google .
"I can think of no one better to guide us through the art of mindful parenting than Michelle Gale. As she says in her exquisite book, this is not about being a “good parent.” It is about waking up through the act of parenting."
—Soren Gordhamer, Founder of Wisdom 2.0