“Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Since I have been introducing yoga and meditation to this amazing community, I couldn’t leave out a mindfulness post. Mindfulness is a practice that has changed my every day life for the better and has made me realize that true happiness can be found right here, in this present moment. And who wouldn’t trade a happy, calm state of mind for that anxious or depressed state that we’ve become so accustomed to?
Below, I will walk you through some steps to get you going on the path of mindfulness in hopes that you can start applying it to your every day life – and especially in the presence of your children!
Think about your typical day. From the moment your eyes open in the morning to the moment your eyes close, you are running around – literally and figuratively. Even when you’re sitting still and “relaxing”, typically your mind is still pacing (at rapid speeds, I might add). As parents (and definitely as women), we have insanely hurried and busy minds; able to think about a thousand things at one time and difficult to turn the hell off. The human brain has this crazy capacity to hold all of our thoughts, lists and stories all at the same time – at only one cost: the cost of not being completely present. We may be there physically (how many times have your played with your child but stared right through them?!) but us mamas are the super multitaskers who are keeping everything above water while thinking ten, if not twenty steps ahead, so sometimes we’re not fully with them mentally. Am I right?
This is where “mindful parenting” comes into play.
What exactly is mindfulness?
I would like to keep this short and make it simple (you can write entire books answering these questions and ain’t nobody got time for that). I assure you, no special headstands or moon crystals are needed to do this practice. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, moment-to-moment, in daily life and it’s a skill that can be acquired after much practice, because it certainly isn’t one of those things you decide to do overnight. It’s a frame-of-mind change. More often than not, our minds get stuck in a cycle or pattern where we relive the past and stress about the unforeseen future (sounds fun, right?). This causes us to be stressed out, scatterbrained and out of sync with ourselves and our families. When we are out of sync, we tend to lash out, react without thought and live with too many of those “Oh god, can I please take that back?” moments.
How does it relate to me?
We all know that parenting is hard. But if we were able to hit the pause button (especially during those especially trying times), take a breath and stand in each moment, most likely, we would feel at great ease – and who doesn’t want that? When the little one is in the middle of an irrational tantrum, rejects the food you lovingly prepared, or simply wants to play with you when you’re genuinely not in the mood – instead of reacting with haste, boredom or stress, mindfulness allows us to pause and react with love and patience.
All of us are busy, over-scheduled and over-stimulated making our physical bodies present, but our minds elsewhere. As mindful parents, we can shift from auto-response mode to a more mindful and caring response in really, any situation.
Pick an activity to do with your full, undivided attention and all your presence. It can be absolutely anything from preparing a meal to reading to your child. Do this activity with your entire presence. I mean, notice, observe and BE present, every step of the way. If you’re cooking, cook with love. Take the time to enjoy the process, immerse yourself in all the steps, scents, textures. Reading that same Sesame Street book to your child that you’ve read a dozen times over? Read it with care. Tell the story, take time to look at the pictures and let your imagination through. I know it seems so tedious and potentially very annoying but I will tell you, just doing one activity with your full attention may allow you to uncover another part of your mind, one that lets you really connect and truly enjoy the present moment. And guess what else? The stress you anticipate later in your day, will suddenly be a distant memory. And you may actually, for a moment, feel pure happiness and calm.
Pause, observe and breathe.
In that moment where you’re in the eye of the chaotic storm, pause… take a breath and observe how you feel. For example, “I am feeling so frustrated and my body feels so hot”. Sometimes just acknowledging how you feel validates your feelings and truly calms you down. My daughter is going through a fun phase right now where she despises getting dressed. Putting a shirt on her causes her to meltdown, scream, cry and lose her sh*t. I have chosen to use that experience to practice mindfulness and let me tell you, it works WONDERS. I breathe through it and say “I know, love”on repeat (so what if I look like an oddball) and breathe some more and before I know it, we’re done, calm, happy and ready to move on with our day.
Let’s be honest.
The practice of mindfulness is one that can truly shift your mindset if you apply it daily, but that being said, be patient with yourself. Trying this for the first time, you just may feel like you’re moving in slow motion, or not achieving much, but with time you’ll start to feel like those mindful moments of pause allow you to feel grounded and centered. Some days, you just might lash out at an asshole who cut you off on the street, and that is a-ok (it most definitely may feel good too) but as a whole, if you can redirect most of your energy into positive mindfulness, it can change your life. We are all doing our best to have balance and happiness in our lives, so start slow and keep practicing because you may just achieve it! Do not attempt to conquer this the same way you would any given thing on your to-do list. BE PATIENT.
As a personal reminder to all you beautiful ladies, you’re doing incredible work and by being part of this kick ass lady tribe, you’re being a mindful parent without even knowing it. PROPS.
If you want more info on anything relating to yoga, meditation or mindfulness, I would be more that happy to hear from you. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, to hear more in depth about this topic, check out the amazing (and adorable!) Jon Kabat-Zinn – He relates this practice to people of all ages and especially to parents and children.