Annapurna Woman: Kathy Stowell
How do you start your day?
I’m a natural early bird, so I’ve never had much problem waking up at least 30 minutes before my kids—luckily, early bird-syndrome doesn’t seem to be genetic!
These days, it’s still dark when I wake around six, so (without turning on too many lights) I quietly brew myself a breve (a latte with cream instead of milk) using our stove espresso maker.
I take about five minutes—while the house gets bathed in the earthy aroma of freshly brewed bliss and my mug cools off to a perfect sipping temperature—to do alternate nostril breathing and set the tone for my nerves that day .
Then, I wake up those nerves with the triple shot of magic I just whipped up and check my email, read my favorite newsletters from magic-making mamas out there, and organize my list of tasks for the day.
I do all of this before finally waking the kids at seven to help them get ready for school.
What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?
Feeling overwhelmed is a clear sign to me that something needs to be taken off my plate, I need to get more sleep, and/or I’m due for an acupuncture or naturopath appointment.
I always begin by looking at what I can let go of—for now. I also take a closer look at what I call my “Four Pillars to Mama Bliss” (self-care, creativity, value-focused living, and choosing simplicity) and see which of these might be wobbly and could use some reinforcing.
And, above all else, when I begin to feel stressed or overwhelmed, I aim to get an extra hour of sleep by either going to bed earlier or sleeping in until 7:00. This means, of course, that I miss my morning ritual, so I almost always aim for the getting-to-bed-earlier option.
What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?
Turning up my bliss knob! When I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed or anxious, I come back to my alternate nostril breathing exercise and close my eyes for a moment to dial into feelings of bliss, peace, trust, love—all which I know reside deep within me, regardless of the layers of distractions, drama, and noise that life invites every day.
This practice reminds me that the bliss is always within—it just needs to be consciously invited out to play sometimes.
And I’m always brought back to this blissful state of being when I hear my kids belly laughing.
What are you currently reading?
Right now I’m reading The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. Again! It’s like a portable life coach. It offers such great reminders: namely that anything’s possible and the only barriers to our dreams are the self-imposed, limiting beliefs we carry.
I’ve been drawn to this book over and over again over the last year as I’ve experienced incredible shifts in my lifestyle, my surroundings, and my body’s response to these shifts—while mourning some of the resulting loss.
Putting these pieces together has been a powerful exercise and this book demonstrated to me that some of life’s greatest challenges can be eased by the beautiful dance of gratitude and letting go.
What are you listening to right now?
Lots of Leonard Cohen. I have a favorite record of his that’s old and scratched up, so I recently treated myself to the digital version on iTunes that I just can’t get enough of.
I often say that, in my next life, I’m coming back as either a midwife, a Waldorf schoolteacher, or a Leonard Cohen back-up singer!
What is your go-to simple recipe?
You know that book Eat, Pray, Love? Well, I couldn’t get past the “Eat” part.
If I had to be stuck with one “ethnic” food it would be Italian. So, my favourite simple recipe is spaghetti with oil and garlic and topped with a giant pile of shaved parmesan.
In the movie “Chef”, Jon Favreau makes Scarlett Johansson a plate of this. She looked pretty excited about that.
What are some simple things you do for self-care?
I’m a bit of self-care junkie. Bordering on hedonist, really.
Other than regular acupuncture, recently-discovered pilates, lots of sleep and dance classes, I also take baths almost every night, once the kids are in bed. My bath time recipe includes an essential oil blend called Relax, a scoop of Epsom salts, and my favorite podcasts playing on my iPod Nano.
I might be in danger of electrocuting myself, but I love how I can completely immerse myself—hands included—in the tub, close my eyes, and still ‘read’ in a sense.
What does nourishment look like to you?
Tapping into what I’m craving and going with it!
I learned this when I was pregnant for the first time. I was craving corn on the cob like a crazy woman and found myself eating at least six ears a day in my last trimester. At the time, I was thoroughly embarrassed by this “dirty little secret”, but I later learned that corn is loaded with folic acid.
The lesson learned there: the body knows best and there’s a kernel (ha, ha) of wisdom in even the most bizarre cravings.
By keeping my pillars to Mama Bliss strengthened with regular check-ins, I find I have unimpeded access to all sorts of cravings that speak their secret language to me. These whisperings might come in the form of self-care indulgences (ahem, synchronized, four-handed ayurvedic massage!), a creative pursuit, expressing or celebrating a heartfelt value, or by simplifying an aspect of my life by taking something off my plate with no guilt attached.
How do you make space for play?
I used to be so spontaneous and free in the play department. But I have come to accept that if Mama wants to play, she has to pencil it in. I’m slowly turning into a nerd!
One way that works for me is to sign up for a class. I’ve been challenging myself to sign up for at least one class per season. Some recent sign-ups include horseback riding lessons, painting, hip hop/belly dance class, and an informal storytelling group.
Otherwise, my husband and I are constantly looking for a reliable teenager to babysit every second Friday so we can go to a local dance event. The rules are simple: you have to dance and there’s no talking or ogling allowed.
Before we became parents, we were overgrown rave kids, so this one’s kind of romantic for us. And we ogle at each other when no one’s looking.
What are some favorite mantras you cling to?
“This too shall pass.”
This one’s so bittersweet. I began repeating this mantra when my daughter was an infant and keeping me up at all hours. The mantra also came back into frequent rotation when one of the kids was having toddler-style meltdowns or experiencing a fever that wouldn’t come down.
Now I realize how this mantra helps me stay in the moment, in both the challenging and beautiful moments in life.
My kids all of sudden seem so much older, having just celebrated their sixth and tenth birthdays. And they’re both at school all day now, which is a relatively new reality.
On top of that, we just moved from a rural lifestyle to suburbia, which affords them this newfound freedom to walk over to friends’ houses without supervision or needing a car ride.
In certain ways, things are easier. In other ways, there are new challenges. It’s all going to pass. Like an accidentally swallowed quarter.
Please share some words of wisdom you’ve learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living.
I don’t know if it was an endorphin-overload that did this to us, but from the moment we met, my husband and I have gone the unconventional route with many of our “official, as a couple” decision-making declarations.
It began with our unconventional wedding, which was shortly followed by our alternative approaches to birthing, parenting, lifestyle, education, food, healthcare, and more—all which has left both sides of our family scratching their heads at times.
My mom visited once and wondered out loud if we did things differently just for the sake of being different.
I can’t remember if I answered her back (out loud) or not, but I remember musing in my head that we did things differently because we question the status quo, we research our options, we have a vision of where and how we want to live, and we simply continue to say, “Why not?”
As a couple, we discuss our family values and base our major—and minor—decisions on that foundation. And we don’t judge others on their decisions.
I understand that my mom’s concern came from a place of worry and some maternal fear.
I get it. It is scary when you do something that’s not the norm (like moving from the city to a farm in a very remote town, home birthing your kids—one of them in that very remote town, or starting an online business).
But if you’re leading from your heart, and accessing your heart center through nourishing self-care, practicing compassionate communication with yourself and your loved ones, turning up your bliss knob, and shedding distractions where you can, you can follow a magical path filled with love and trust instead.
Kathy Stowell is the Mama Bliss Coach at Bliss Beyond Naptime and founder of Mama Bliss Coaching School. She’s a mama to two sweet little handknit laden beings and soulmate to a passionate mountain climber with an adorably crooked smile. Her great passion is guiding others to take their first steps toward turning their mama blogs into a bliss-centered biz while training some of them to coach other moms to deeper self-care, creativity and simplicity. She herself finds her bliss in waking up being spooned by her mini-dachshund, planning her next massive garden and figuring out a way to smuggle her chickens into the suburbs she just found herself living in. Dive into her resources for Simplifying Mamahood here.