The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.
Editor's note: Dignified, calm, wise -- words that come to mind to describe my friend Isabel. We'd like her to run for president, but she's busy at the moment sharing life-altering meditation techniques and consciously raising the next generation. Read on for her thoughts on redefining what it means to be a mother and a leader. ~ Mary Margaret
What are you up to these days?
I am creating an online course experience for mothers, fathers, and caretakers to learn the indispensable tools that we learn in Kundalini yoga and meditation to energize the self, de-stress and heal. As a result of creating this course, I am also systematizing my household so everything runs in a super organized manner. I have found that when my energy is contained, I am able to create a lot more at a faster pace. Something as simple as making the kids' lunches for the next day while I make them dinner the night before saves me 30 minutes, which could be spent towards my sadhana [daily meditation practice] or creating content for my course.
Your Instagram account, @meditationformamas, is a source of inspiration for mothers and non-mothers alike. You share your devotion to your meditation practice and translate ancient yogic teachings into practical wisdom for daily life. Was it unnerving at first to post videos and photos of yourself -- to really step up and be seen? Why do you believe this is important?
It’s funny. I started recording myself in timelapse doing my practice because on some days it felt so long and other days it felt like my practice passed by in no time and I was interested to see if the timelapse would cut an hour long practice into 30 seconds and what did that look like? When I first saw it, I looked at it with my kids and we all started laughing and fell in love with how it looked. They especially liked seeing themselves popping in and out of frame.
I also, in my life at the time, felt like I had very little time to dedicate to much outside of being a mama. I was at home full time with my kids for over six months when we moved into a new house, and recording my practice became a bit like an artistic outlet for me and something I began to teach my kids boundaries around. It was important for me to practice around them because for so long I felt like I couldn't. I felt like I had to be somewhere other than where they were, or do it before they got up or after they went to bed. I started observing these thought patterns and decided to challenge myself and do it at the most chaotic time of the day and to guide myself and them through it.
My creativity is expressed through wisdom, so to share my practice and the wisdom that either came through me or to me on that day became very healing. Now, unlike the seamlessness of the videos, to post photos of myself has required a bit more nerve. I still get uncomfortable, but what my practice has given me is the ability to catch my discomfort, grab it and challenge it with an action that dissolves it.
There is so much more to teaching Kundalini yoga than taking a group of strangers through a physical practice. You inevitably become a community manager, counselor, research scholar (if you’re diving deep into the ancient teachings like you are), graphic designer, marketer, and accountant. What have you learned about yourself through the process?
Uff! So much. I have learned that patience really does pay. I have learned to work within my means, whether that is energetic means, financial means, or emotional means. Work within my means but challenge them utilizing my creativity. So much of our "can’ts" and limitations are self-imposed and if we train ourselves to look at the situation from a YES perspective and to come at it with an absolute certainty that it will get done, our "can’ts" and limitations don't stand a chance.
Lately I have been working on really observing my energy and how I spend it, how I direct it and what I am energized by and how all of that works together and last but not least, the biggest learning as of late is that I am being guided in this work and not alone as I have felt many times in the past.
You have two young children. What are you most conscious of modeling to them when it comes to women and work?
Women are creators. We give birth to and educate/raise society, but we first must acknowledge this power, responsibility and opportunity. We create the pace and energy of the home and that begins within us.
Our children are going to grow up in a world where working outside the home can look many different ways. So for me, as a mother, it becomes about giving them values to live life by as well as to create their reality as I have created mine. It all begins with communication. Teaching them that what they have to say is of value. The only way we do that is to listen. And the only way values are taught to children is through providing them experience.
I could go on and on about this topic, but to be truthful with my children about who I am, what my dreams are, and to see them see me doing what I love is a gift my parents gave me and what I’ll give to my children.
I also hope to model how imperfect it is to be human, and that that is OK and nothing should stop us from creating that thing we want to create, especially failure. To move through life in a creative way, we have to own when to step on the gas and when to step off according to what we want to experience and what we came here for (which varies for every single one of us). I observe and give my children the opportunity to fail and face their fears (which seems to be unpopular in parenthood). It’s extremely important if we want leaders in this world. I believe that muscle needs to be strengthened rather than protected.
If we consider that stay-at-home mothers are raising the future generation of leaders who will be addressing the daunting global challenges ahead of us, it’s not a stretch to call it the most important job anyone could do. But our society doesn’t have much respect for this path. I see a lot of women become mothers and feel completely unproductive, like they aren’t doing anything meaningful in the broader culture. How can we flip this?
The problem lies in our conditioning. We have to recondition and re-pattern ourselves to be sovereign beings who love ourselves and have enough energy to make things happen. This takes practice. It takes awareness and it takes listening, observing, patience and action. No one tells women that when they become a mother, that this is the biggest opportunity to heal themselves and their ancestral lineage, to deconstruct their inner patriarchal conditioning and to create and recreate completely anew. Whether it’s a new way of living, to a new way of making art or working and making money or all the above. Motherhood is an absolute opportunity to regenerate ourselves and our future.
Motherhood connects women to their intuition in a way that they have never experienced before, but they have to be paying attention. We can regenerate only when we believe we can. If we get stuck in the old patterns of wanting to be like everyone else, we resist slowing down enough to experience the transformation.
We live in a society that doesn’t value stay-at-home mothers, because we don’t value ourselves, we don’t value education, because we don’t value our future. We value money, we value material things, we value quantity because we think it will give us quality, but I believe we are quickly realizing this is not the way. The only way this will shift is by the mothers and women that are living right now that have enough energy to command to decide that there needs to be a re-prioritization that needs to take place and then take action to do so. In our homes, in our work place and in our society.
Yogi Bhajan specifically shared the Kundalini Yoga teachings for this time. He said humanity would be under great pressure, which we’ve seen, and these tools would help. Are you hopeful about the future your children are stepping into? Why or why not?
I am hopeful about the future my children are stepping into because they’re stepping into it. There is no other option. It’s my hope and mission that if we as mothers and fathers can commit to raising children that are conscious leaders by becoming conscious leaders ourselves, we can make this place a healthier and happier place and society.
When we know how to regenerate ourselves, our homes, and our lives, we will then be able to teach our children to do the same for planet earth.
The biggest gift we can give our children is to take an interest in what surrounds them, to question how and why things are the way they are, and when they see something that isn’t working, infuse in them the power and confidence to do something about it.
Hi, I am Isabel Barreto. I am a Kundalini Yoga and Meditation teacher, I am a mother of two awesome children, I have been married to my husband for over 9 years and we live in Los Angeles.
I have been a practitioner of Kundalini yoga and Meditation as taught by Yogi Bhajan since I was 19.
I took my first Kundalini Yoga and Meditation Level 1 teacher training when I was 25 (and several Level 2 trainings since). I have been using my life (relationships, fast paced/high stress career environments, love, birth, death, life shifts, etc.) as a lab to test the efficacy and note the benefits of these incredible teachings and technology.
When my daughter was 9 months old I began to teach Meditation For Mamas out of my home studio to bring mothers of small children together in community and learn practical tools to manage their energy, stress and vitality, to connect to themselves and feel good during a high pressured time in life.
I currently see private clients for Empowerment Coaching Sessions, as well as Kundalini Yoga and Meditation sessions.
Find Isabel on Facebook at Meditation for Mamas and on Instagram @meditationformamas.