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Attempts at Mindfulness (With a Toddler and Chocolate)

20/01/2016 17:52 GMT | Updated 20/01/2017 10:12 GMT

I was recently engaged in protracted negotiations that pushed the limits of both my patience and rational thinking. Reasonable requests were met with derision and opposition.

The situation began with a simple attempt to change my toddler's nappy. Despite having adopted the stagger of a drunken cowboy to accommodate the growing bulge, this process featured as highly on the small person's agenda as reading Donald Trump's auto-biography features on mine. This was understandable: she was busy trying to change the nappy of Bunny; a square piece of fabric with a rabbit's head attached and no sign of a urinary tract.

Bunny and I cooperated for, I think, about five hours before beginning to lose our patience and any hope of leaving the house that day.

'But we have to change your nappy', I said, 'it's scraping the floor and may cause you lower back problems in later life if we're not careful.'

'But I don't even have a bladder', said Bunny, 'and if I did, I flatter myself that I would be able to control my bowel movements by now.'

Some time later, I completely lost the plot.

I've known for a while that my batteries were running low, and I wanted to make some small changes. Apparently neither a solo trip to the Bahamas nor a live-in masseur were viable options. Then I read about this thing called mindfulness.

I began to investigate: googling absent-mindedly whilst eating dinner, chatting to my husband and watching episodes of Homeland. The problem was, how to find the time?

I give myself a high five if we're both dressed by 10am; making time to meditate was as likely as making time to iron my husband's underwear (this will never happen). If I was going to become mindful and serene, it would need to be seriously simple.

And, so, 52 pauses was born. I committed to trying out one simple mindfulness, meditation or relaxation technique each week; with the aim of slowing down, calming down and savouring the sweet times.

Last week I tried something called the 'raisin meditation'; a mindfulness practice that involves eating a raisin very slowly and, erm, mindfully. I wasn't feeling hugely enthusiastic as it seemed like a bit of an effort. Describing eating a raisin as a 'bit of an effort' is somewhat ridiculous, but it's been that kind of a week.

I decided to try it first with some chocolate, just to get into the swing of things, and because I wanted some chocolate.

I began, contemplating the smooth surface of the chocolate and taking in the aroma. I was interrupted by my husband entering the room. He was unusually interested in what I was doing and, more specifically, keen to know why I was eating his chocolates.

'It's a mindfulness practice,' I explained, stuffing the chocolate into my mouth. 'I'm doing it for the emotional health of our family.'

My husband didn't hear me very well because my mouth was full of chocolate. Unimpressed by my efforts he left the room, taking the chocolates with him.

No matter. A raisin it was then. I went to fetch a few raisins. They live on the snack shelf so I grabbed a dried apricot as I was passing, and ate it without thinking. I could have eaten that mindfully I thought.

I decided to involve the toddler, taking out the raisins and handing one to her.

'Rays,' she said, looking pleased and popping it in her mouth.

'Not mindful,' I commented, giving her another and encouraging her to look at it sitting in the palm of her hand.

'Catch,' she said, throwing it at a plastic dinosaur.

I took my own raisin and placed it in my hand. Studying it I was distracted by glitter on my hands. I'm sure that pre-childbirth I didn't permanently have glitter on my hands. The sparkle of motherhood, no doubt.

I felt the raisin. I've never really felt a raisin before. It felt a bit like elephant skin I thought, before wondering a) when I think I might have touched an elephant and b) how long the raisins had been in the cupboard.

My mouth began watering as soon as I smelt the raisin, even though I don't particularly like them, and my stomach started to get a bit excited. It was in for a big disappointment. Tasting it, I noticed how sweet it was and it did feel oddly satisfying. I glanced down to see that the toddler, clearly not in a mindful mood, had polished off all the other raisins.

Throughout the rest of the week I tried the raisin meditation a few times. I found it interesting how paying attention to something so small could intensify the experience so much. I thought briefly about the ramifications of this: how being truly present throughout moments of our lives amplifies them.

With my daughter, I paused more frequently to take it all in; to imprint the memories. Appreciating those small moments seemed to lessen the grip of the trying times; a little, at least. There could be something to this mindfulness thing after all.

This post has been adapted from material originally posted on 52 pauses. You can also follow 52 pauses on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.