Parenthood is a wild ride.
Before I had my kids, people tried to explain to me the sacrifice and the fatigue, the big emotions and the small victories, but I didn’t really get it until I lived it.
Between all the bucket loads of joy it’s messy, humbling and unpredictable. No matter how desperately we love our kids, we all spend some time in the trenches.
Through the ups and downs of parenthood a mindfulness practice becomes even more imperative to help us be centred, conscious and connected—at least as often as we can.
Mindfulness is the practice of really being here for what’s happening moment to moment. It’s seeing life through a clear lens without the distraction of comparison, judgement and doubt. If we choose it, mindfulness becomes a mindset we carry though the moments that make up our lives.
A meditation practice is simply a way to tune in to this mindset. In the same way we use exercise to train the muscles of our body, we can train our mind for greater clarity and compassion with meditation. When we meditate we practice maintaining our focus in the present, dialing into our inner voice and creating some space around our thoughts and emotions. As new parents we tend to (over) think and feel it all. It’s a relief to step back and get some distance from all the mental clutter.
Meditation is also a powerful antidote to the often frazzled and fractured way we live our lives. As parents we are constantly multi-tasking to keep all our balls up in the air and the nature of our high-paced lives means we are often chronically overstimulated. Constantly distracted by the beeping and buzzing of multiple devices there is hardly any stillness or space in our lives. Meditation is a way to remind ourselves that moments can be simple and uncluttered.
Mindfulness is a word getting thrown around a lot these days, but don’t let that put you off. It’s also important not to see your meditation practice as another thing to squeeze into your day and berate yourself for when it falls off the bottom of that very slippery to-do list. A relationship with mindfulness is an undulating learning curve and we get better only with practice (and by practice please know I mean to struggle with the same thing over and over again). Turns out much like parenthood, mindfulness is a moment to moment commitment to good decisions and a willingness to show up over and over again, even when things get sticky.
Having a meditation practice helps us reconnect to a calm, centred and open state of mind but the game changes when we let that spill over into our “real” lives. There’s no point being peaceful and loving for 20 minutes while we meditate and then heading out into the world and being a jerk for the rest of the day. What’s the point of it all really, unless it improves your wellbeing, your relationships and your capacity to enjoy life?
Consider for a moment the impact on your relationships if you could be more deliberately engaged with the conversations and experiences that make up your day and, ultimately, your life? How would things be different if you could respond to stressful situations a little bit better? What about becoming more comfortable with the way your life is right now, without wishing it was some other way? How would we listen, love and parent differently? This is mindfulness in action.
We live in an interesting time where tradition and science are moving towards each other and we now have data to confirm what many have known instinctively for eons. Meditation creates calm, and calm feels good. A simple, consistent meditation practice can help you sleep, improve your decision-making and reduce stress. Show me a parent who doesn’t need that. Mainlined into our lives, mindfulness brings us closer to our best self, the one that sometimes gets lost under the pressures and obligations that can pile up. It helps us be present for all the small golden moments that might otherwise pass by unnoticed. Mindfulness wakes us up so we can be here now. It’s as simple and profound as that.
Simple Breath Meditation
I love working with the breath for a few reasons. It’s simple, you need absolutely nothing to get started and it’s easy to check in with yourself during the course of a day with a few, simple rounds of mindful breathing. As parents we don’t often have large chunks of free time but rather moments of “time confetti” throughout our day. If we waited for the perfect circumstances, we’d never get started. This short exercise can be a great way to introduce yourself to meditation:
Take a comfortable upright seat. It can be on the floor or in a chair, whatever works for you.
Close your eyes, or keep a soft gaze, if this makes you uncomfortable.
Take 10 slow breaths in-and-out of your nose. Count the inhale and the exhale as a single round.
Notice each inhale flood deep into the belly.
Use each exhale to consciously relax areas of tension (shoulders, neck, jaw).
If you lose count, simply start back at one. Feel free to keep going beyond 10, if it feels good. To finish take a deep breath in and a big sigh out. Repeat as necessary.
Author: Melissa Hudson
Photo: Ria Baeck/Flickr
Editor: Travis May