I’m ashamed to admit that a lot of the time when I’m with my kids, I’m thinking about the many, many other things I need to be doing. They’re talking to me, and I’m hearing them, but I’m not listening.
But in those moments when I really am able to let go of the to-do list or the chores or the stresses and pressures or even the loneliness of being a stay-at-home-mom I feel rejuvenated and full of love for my little people. And I wish with all my heart that I could be there, body and mind, all the time.
That ability to be wholly and completely in one place — is called mindfulness. And I am all for more mindful parenting in my life. I’m sure that if I didn’t waste energy trying to be physically in one place and mentally in another (and, to be honest, emotionally in another place entirely), I could be less frazzled as a mom. I could be more fun and more loving. There would be less frustration with myself and with my children. And, at the end of the day when the kids are in bed and I’m free to work on my own projects, I would be less likely to feel like what I really need is a big bowl of ice cream and a couple of hours of TV before bed. I would be more fulfilled as a person.
In short, being mindful would solve a lot of the problems I run into as a mom and as a human. With that in mind, I’ve come up with some tips to help me and any parent who could use a clearer, calmer mind develop the skills to quiet my brain and help me be in the same place all at once.
10 Tips for Mindfulness 1 of 11
Relax, let go, focus.
Clear Your Schedule 2 of 11
Practicing mindfulness takes a bit of time. Just 20 minutes or so, but for the time to be productively used and well-spent, it's best to get out of the way anything that may be a distraction. If you can't focus when you have dirty dishes in the sink, take a few minutes to do the dishes. If there's an e-mail you've been meaning to reply to all day and it's going to drive you crazy to sit and ignore it for even 20 minutes, take the time to respond before you settle in for mindfulness training.
Get Comfortable 3 of 11
Put on some comfortable clothes something you can really relax and feel good in. Then find a comfortable place and position yourself comfortably there. More comfort means you're more likely to dig in and let go, rather than be anxious about what you aren't doing and eager to get back to those other busy things that beckon.
Discard Distractions 4 of 11
Phones, books, magazines, food and any other distractions should all be somewhere out of sight so they are more likely to be out of mind. You don't want anything tempting you to give up when maintaining focus becomes difficult.
Set A Timer 5 of 11
Twenty minutes is a good amount of time to start with. Set a timer and stick to it. Tell your kids they need to leave you alone until the timer goes off.
Breathe Deeply 6 of 11
Relax as much as you can. Breathe deeply and allow yourself to relax more and more as you exhale.
Count Slowly 7 of 11
As you breathe, count slowly and pay attention to your breath. That is what you are focusing on not "The List," not dinner tomorrow night, not the mess in your closet.
Notice Your Thoughts . . . 8 of 11
As you try to pay attention to your breathing, you're going to get bored. Your thoughts are going to wander. Instead of trying to block them, notice them. Acknowledge them and see, briefly, where your mind is going when it wanders.
Then Let Them Go 9 of 11
After you've seen where your thoughts are headed, let them go. Don't follow them. Instead, bring your mind back to your breathing.
Repeat Until The Timer Rings 10 of 11
Keep at it until those 20 minutes are up. At first you may find yourself anxiously awaiting the end of the session. But as you practice you will become better and better at mentally staying in one place and letting go of distracting thoughts.
Practice During Moments Throughout The Day 11 of 11
Even when the alarm has gone off and you are "done" for the day, you can continue to practice being mindful. Notice the distracting thoughts you are having throughout the day, but resist the urge to follow them, and come back to where you are trying to be fully invested whether that be your kids, your job, your spouse, your friend, your project, your pet. Give them your full attention and enjoy the feeling of being in one place at once.
photos via istockphoto.com