July 19, 2013

6 Particularly Practical Practices for Parents.

Try saying that quickly…..

Life as a parent can be overwhelming; you can rack up a days worth of karma on the school run alone! All of us have days like that. Days where we feel a bit swamped and though we know we should be present and happy, we feel stuck in our loop and that perpetuates the problem.

With children time passes so quickly. They wake (currently in our house around 5.30 a.m.) and then they are ‘on’ all day till between 7 and 8 p.m. Then there is all the extra stuff to do once they are in bed. Plus, have some facetime with your partner (if you have one). Work. Oh yeah, and you have to eat. And daily practice… when does that happen? And sitting practice?

Family life is busy!

But amazing.

And on the days it gets a bit much, here are six practices to bring us back into the moment and lighten the load.

1. Love 

“For small creatures such as we the vastness is only bearable through love.” ~ Carl Sagan

To give and receive love is one of life’s greatest gifts. But so often, the day to day can become mundane and likewise at times, those that are closest to us are often the ones we take for granted. Love lives in the present moment. And children are brimming with it.

I went through a patch where my reply to the kids often seemed to be, “just a minute; I just need to finish the washing, cooking, text message… .”

Then I woke up. How many moments do we lose doing stuff that can wait? So now where possible, I try to respond and be more available to them. So don’t avoid in favor of other things. Be there. Show love. Give hugs in abundance.

2. Gratitude 

Start a simple gratitude practice. I light incense each day and say thank you for the day and for those around me—a moment of consciousness that brings me into the present moment, and if I am a little lost, this resets me. Come rain or shine, I believe life is full of gems but some of them are hiding and we have to seek them out with our gratitude.

3. Community

Sometimes we just need some space or a helping hand. Support from our community, family, teachers, friends is invaluable. If we don’t ask, others don’t feel able to ask back. Interact with the people around you; they need you as much as you need them.

4. Play

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing” ~ George Bernard Shaw

 Need I say more? Play every day. Children are full of creativity and imagination. But adults so often unintentionally squash it.

Craft is a thing I love doing with the kids, but I cant tell you how many sessions I have been to where the adults in the room are so obsessed with the perfect, tidy outcome they miss the process. Let the painting be a “messy” splodge. Get messy; enjoy the process. We don’t need to be right we just have to play.

 5. Practice

Finding five minutes within a day is tough at times, but, to me, it is imperative. Without it all, the above starts to slide. I lose perspective and get grouchy.

On Christmas Eve. last year, both my husband and youngest daughter were sick through the night. We all had virtually no sleep. But I remember getting up in the morning and doing two minutes yoga practice in the kitchen, while the kettle was boiling. And I felt so much better!

It doesn’t have to be long, but it has to be there—every day!

My friend was having trouble fitting her meditation practice in on a regular basis, but walks to work every day. So I suggested she do walking meditation and it worked. More and more, I see that practice is a microcosm of life. And once we bring our conscious awareness to one part of our life the rest starts to follow.

6. Ahimsa and Letting Go

One of the most valuable lessons my children have taught me is to let go. When we don’t get it “right” recognize our actions, learn, forgive and let go. When we didn’t do all the things we needed to do today, let go. When we must do a softer practice because we are exhausted, that’s okay. Let go. When fear kicks in, let go. After all, practice is not something that just happens on a mat. All the above is yoga practice. Karma yoga, Bhakti yoga. Being in relationship. Union. Being awake and present. Union. Being playful. Union. In community, we find union. Showing love and gratitude. Union.

When we are awake, we are practicing all the time. My teacher once said to me, that to be a householder yogi is one of the hardest things to do. To live in the world, have a family and truly practice yoga is challenging. But over time, I have discovered that having family is practice. Ultimately whether you have children or not, we all have our work to do; these practices apply to us all. Spiritual paths are not made to be smooth. Regardless of the route, it’s the bumps in the road that create the challenge required to grow.

The key is to walk your own road, there are no short cuts.

Love yourself as much as you love your kids. Ahimsa starts with love, non-harm and acceptance toward yourself.

My children are my greatest teachers and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

And finally a Kahlil Gibran piece to live by. Enjoy.

 Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you,

And though they are with you, they belong not to you.

You may give them your love, but not your thoughts.

You may house their bodies, but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them,

But not seek to make them like you.

For life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

 The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,

 And He bends you with His might

 That His arrows may go swift and far.

 Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

 For even as He loves the arrow that flies,

 So He loves also the bow that is stable.


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 Ed: B. Bemel


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