As some of the regular readers may know one of the main aims of this blog is to inspire other busy parents to give mindfulness a go AND to help us help the next generation embrace mindful living.
A very happy and unexpected by-product of the blog (and something I am extremely grateful for) is that I have become acquainted with some lovely like-minded bloggers. So I invited some of these bloggers to explain a little bit about their relationship with mindfulness and add their voice to my blog through the ‘Mindfulness and Me’ guest series. If this sounds like something that you would like to participate in then please do contact me by completing the form on the on my own ‘Mindfulness and Me’ page. It is a chance for us to have a great insight into how flexibly mindfulness can be applied to our lives and to see how other parents have embraced mindful living. The idea for this series was first conceived from the somewhat tongue-in-cheek interview which I did with my hubby recently. You may want to read this here.
Amy from More Time Than Money is our eighth participant. I am very grateful to her for taking the time to answer the questions. Below are Amy’s responses.
- When and how did you first come across mindfulness? I first heard of mindfulness seven or eight years ago, when mindfulness meditation was recommended to me by GP. Previously, I’d done a couple of short courses on different types of meditation to manage stress – when it comes to meditation, I’ve been a beginner for 10 years!
- What were your initial thoughts about it? As I read the books my GP recommended, I thought, “Wow, this is amazing. Why isn’t this a skill that we are all taught?”. When I first gave the exercises in the books a go, I thought, “Hmmmm, that’s right, I’m no good at meditation”. I loved the idea and I was convinced of the benefits of mindfulness, but I found establishing a practice difficult.
- How has Mindfulness helped you personally? Mindfulness has helped me to get more out of my experience of everyday life. It’s been particularly helpful in three ways:
- It gets me out of my head – I’ve always been a ruminator, thinking about the future and the past. Mindfulness helps to bring me into the present, where my life is actually happening.
- It helps me slow down – rather than rushing through my life in a blur, mindfulness helps me to slow down and notice what I am feeling and experiencing (good and bad). It’s great for helping me appreciate all those little things that add up to a good life.
- It calms me down – mindfulness helps me to be aware when I’m getting flustered and I have techniques that can quickly turn my mindset around.How has mindfulness helped you personally?
To give you an example of what the benefits look like in real terms – just before Christmas last year, I attended a women’s business networking breakfast meeting. Everyone was rushing around as we were about to get started. The woman sitting next to me said “Look at everyone all flustered, and there you are, sitting there all calm”. And I was calm.
What the woman didn’t know was I was having what I’d usually term a nightmare of a day – I’d just dropped my son at preschool, I had to leave the breakfast meeting early to go and teach a class (picking my husband up on the way), I then had back to back meetings for the rest of day. Using mindfulness techniques, I was able to keep my head in the present and put my energy into each event, rather than into stressing about the next thing on my list.
- How do you fit mindfulness into your busy life? Personally, I hate the “b-word”, but I’m what you’d typically characterise as a busy mum. I look after my four-year-old, keep the household running, work in adult education two days a week, co-ordinate a national charity group and run the blog More Time Than Money.Rather than schedule formal meditation sessions, what works for me at the moment is tagging mindfulness techniques with certain activities in daily life – showering, having a cup of tea, getting in the car, queuing in a shop etc. I have little mindfulness practices I do around these activities.
- What are your ‘go to’ – informal or formal – practices (if you have them)? I do a formal mindfulness meditation once or twice a week, usually a 3 – 5-minute guided meditation. I often combine this with a walk. I walk to the park or beach, sit down and do the meditation with my headphones on (and sunglasses so no one can see I have my eyes shut) and then walk home. Mostly, my mindfulness practice is informal. As I said, I have lots of little practices around daily activities: if I’m waiting in line at the post office, I’ll do a quick body scan; before I start my car engine, I always take a moment and do a very short breath awareness exercise; I savour my cup of tea, noticing rather than guzzling. My husband gave me a great book for Christmas called A Little Pocket Book of Mindfulness by Anna Black, which introduced me to a great exercise – “Who is in the shower with you?”. It’s all about noticing what you are thinking about in the shower (boss, room full of people you have to present to etc.) and then trying to turn your attention to the sensations of the shower. My son is a great inspiration for informal practice – as a curious four-year-old who likes to inspect every stick and puddle, I often take his lead to notice those simple but wondrous things in everyday life that, as adults, we often stop noticing.
- How important do you think formal meditation is to someone who is trying to approach life mindfully? I think formal meditation is really important, but it’s not everything. Prioritising meditation, by intentionally making time for it in your day, is a great start to more mindful living in itself.
- How would you like to extend your mindfulness practice further? I’d love to spend 15 – 30 minutes on formal meditation each morning – there is so much potential in mindfulness meditation which I have yet to realise.
- Do you have friends or family who use mindfulness techniques too?
I’m not sure! It’s not something that we talk about. That’s quite interesting, isn’t it?
- What ‘top tips’ do you have for someone thinking of trying Mindfulness for the first time? Go easy on yourself – you can’t just flick a switch and suddenly be all mindful no matter how much you want to be. Start small and regular. I’d recommend a guided, body scan type meditation. A course or a group can be a good way to get started as you have to commit to it. Also, don’t forget, mindfulness is not just about meditating. There are so many mindfulness exercises out there, do some investigating and find something that fits with you.
- Who would you recommend mindfulness to and why? I’d recommend mindfulness to anyone. From my own experience, I can say if you are a striver who is prone to stress, like me, then the benefits are enormous. Also, if you are a mum juggling a lot of roles in life, mindfulness is a great way to keep yourself grounded.
Amy makes some excellent points – I especially love the ‘who is in the shower with you?’ exercise that is recommended and her point about us not knowing who out of our friends may be practicing mindfulness. I’d like to thank her for taking part in the ‘Mindfulness and Me’ guest series. If you’d like to read more from Amy who blogs about leaving the pressures of ‘having it all’ behind her and trying to live a slower, simpler life please visit her blog here.
If you would like to write a comment to Amy or myself about the series than please do so in the comment box below. If you’d like to take part in the series then please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Next time with have our first male participant!
Thanks and bye for now.