I’m already breaking my own rules on mindfulness for mums.
By setting myself a mission the implication is that there are targets (and I HATE this word at the best of times – I seem to spend my life setting targets for school children or being set targets myself to get students to reach their targets…). AND if there’s one thing that mindfulness is NOT about, it’s certainly not about setting oneself targets and striving to meet a particular end goal.
So I suppose at this point it may be sensible to include a reminder about what mindfulness is. It’s about being, acknowledging how we’re feeling right now, living in and accepting the present moment for what it is. If that all sounds a bit airy-fairy then Dr Mark Williams puts it as examining ‘the weather pattern in your head’ which I think makes sense – basically you could just view it as ‘checking in’ with yourself like a compassionate friend or family member might.
However, having said all of this; setting a very loosely termed daily ‘mission’ or a set of ‘intentions’ if we try and use mindfulness-friendly language, is one way to avoid rushing through a day of planning, organising and worrying on constant repeat (or is this just me?!)without actually noticing and appreciating the REALLY IMPORTANT stuff.
Really important stuff like:
- catching a look from a baby which says ‘mummy I’m really proud of myself for walking those few steps’
- appreciating that both babies have learned what a kiss is and are now happily showering them on the rest of the family in a sloppy, snotty fashion
- finding notes with ‘I love you Mummy’ on and realising the thought and effort that went into this love letter.
So here are some ideas for ‘baby steps’ (excuse the pun!) towards a mindful day when we’re are juggling family life:
- And breathe – now this may sound incredibly obvious (and probably extremely patronising) but it is amazing how often we hold our breath or breathe fairly shallowly. Taking three deep breaths will immediately help to ease tension.
Sometimes I find myself saying ‘I’m going to take three deep breaths now’ out loud to the tots and somehow it helps us all. Connecting with the breath is a fundamental part of mindful meditation. One of the most effective tools a busy parent can use is a 3 minute breathing space. This ‘does what it says on the tin’ and is a mini meditation which can be fitted into the daily routine, maybe around the kids napping or when CBeebies is on. Here is a link to a 3 minute breathing space practice.
Our oldest has actually also taken to breathing deeply (on a feather) when he’s spiraling into meltdown mode and sometimes this helps calm him down (not always I hasten to add, but it certainly causes no harm).
2. Go for a mindful walk – last spring one of my favourite things to do with the three tots was to walk to the ‘big shop’ (our name for our local supermarket). This doesn’t sound the most exciting family adventure but we got into the habit of walking at the slowest pace that we were comfortable and to commentate on all the things in people’s front gardens (anything from the gnomes to the bluebells to the Ginger Tom stretched out on the windowsill). The more we did this, the more we noticed and the more I remembered the wonder of looking at the world with a child-like curiosity and as this article emphasises we can learn a lot about mindfulness from children. The walks gave me a time to tune out the constant thought stream in my head and to try and use my senses more, though we focused on what we could see, we also spoke about sounds and smells too. We had wonderful conversations about what we observed and it gave me the opportunity to take a fresh perspective on the paths we tread everyday.
3. Involve the children in your ‘stillness practice’ or ‘mindful movement’ – a family member with children of her own regularly complains about how stressed she feels. When I suggest giving mindfulness a go she always responds in the same way – NO TIME. Now I could (and probably will sometime in the future) write a whole post about prioritising meditation over regular visits to Facebook but another way of fitting mindfulness in to your day is actually to do something with the kids. ‘Mindful movement’ basically involves rolling around on the floor trying to do some gentle stretches or yoga moves together (like the cat stretch or downward dog for instance). It’s fun, gets everyone being playful and also reconnects you with your body. There are some suggestions and lovely illustrations of the poses here.
I have also begun to listen to guided meditations with our oldest as we lay snuggling in his bed at the end of the day. He often falls to sleep with them on and it gives me a chance to fit an extra meditation in to a busy schedule.
4. Keep a Gratitude Log – at the end of a busy day I’ve tried to get into the habit of noting down a few very specific things to feel grateful for from the day.
Today’s entry may read something along the lines of:
- the school run this morning – walking the 4 or so minutes in the sunshine to the local primary school with another couple of families, comfortable chats with the mums whilst the kids bounced around joking with each other looking forward to their day at school.
- two happy girls at playgroup – happy to play with other children and also stand their ground in the ball pool when necessary!
- hearing one of the babies laughing away as the oldest blew raspberries on her tummy…..
Writing this ‘mission statement’ reminds me that living and parenting mindfully doesn’t have to be about sitting cross legged for half an hour a day meditating….we can all build mindfulness into our days by finding the ways that work for us and our family.
Which of the four suggestions could you try this week?