Mindful parenting means that we aren’t blindly repeating patterns that were handed to us by our families, our culture, our past etc, Awareness is key, and meditation is an amazing tool to increase awareness of our patterns.
Let me start by saying that I am a great avoider of formal meditation. I sometimes really struggle with making time to meditate (Actually, I can be a big avoider of anything formal…but that’s another story). “Sitting” and focusing can seem terribly boring and unproductive to my North-American psyche.
Good Parenting for your thoughts? Really?
Long ago, I decided that I would make friends with myself and my habits. I started to look at the thoughts in my mind with curiosity, interest and compassion. It seems that this approach works better to change unhealthy thought patterns than abuse, control and manipulation – Duh! I quickly realized that meditating is really like good, mindful parenting. The connections came quickly and before long, I was starting to witness myself and my thoughts in entirely new ways.
Attention is like a toddler.
Ok, so some of you might not yet have a toddler, but you were one once. Toddlers are eternally curious, creative and sometimes take great pleasure in destruction. It takes tremendous patience to parent a toddler. A toddler who really wants something will continue to go for it with great gusto, and as a parent we need to continually redirect them, refocus them etc. Thoughts are exactly the same. The toddler is not bad she is just fully alive! Our minds are the same. We judge ourselves for our thoughts, distractibility etc, but what if you noticed the distraction, giggled at your inventiveness, and then redirected yourself ? hmmm… sounds kinda fun huh?
The set up: Formal sitting: Sit and take some slow breaths. Exhale and release tension from your shoulders, jaw face etc. Scan my body for tension and exhale out tension and settle into your body. Sit in a chair or on the ground with a pillow under your hips. Comfort is important, by lying down or slouching will affect your breathing, which in turn will affect your meditation.
The focus: You choose. I like to focus on the breath, because it is free and as long as I am living, it is accessible. I don’t need to like the breath, it doesn’t have to be pretty, and it is quiet.
If you would like to download some simple and short audio meditations, here is a link to the UCLA program of free meditations
Now practice: To follow your breath, close your eyes and follow the breath from the beginning to the end – a full cycle or inhalation and exhalation. That’s all. It is simple and it is really a challenge at the same time! Just 5 minutes will make a difference. Set a timer and make sure you will not be disturbed. As you focus your attention, you will soon be distracted. The first time you are distracted notice what you tell yourself? eg “I’m not good at this”, or “I can’t meditate”, or ” Im doing this wrong” .
Sometimes the distractions seem really urgent. Sometimes it is a pleasurable thought or feeling. They are all distractions from your focus on the present moment – this breath in , this breath out.
Jot down some notes
After your meditation, write down any thoughts you notice or insights you have. You might notice a pattern in the thoughts. You might begin to see how you treat yourself on “good” meditation days and “bad” meditation days. Do you tend to withhold appreciation towards yourself if you think you are not being “successful” at meditating, rather than acknowledging your willingness to learn?
On less formal days
On a less structured meditation day (which is pretty much most days), my meditation can take place in an elevator, or in bed as I review my day. Meditation can happen anywhere when the awareness strikes and your focus suddenly turns inward. Sometimes, it might even come in the form of daydreaming. Let yourself explore this spontaneous meditation and see what happens!
Why practice meditation for mindful parenting?
As we become aware of the stories constantly going on in our minds, we begin to be able to choose how we respond to the world.
How we speak to ourselves is how we speak to our children. Mindful meditation helps us become more compassionate and aware parents.
Increase your ability to keep your cool and focus in challenging situations.
Learn to destress yourself and connect with what is most important. This is a skill and it grows with time.
Learning to enjoy the moment…Most of us feel out of touch with our daily lives and feel we are missing something…the something is your life!!