Of late, my meditation practice (such as it was) has, like the rest of me, gone a bit slack.
Every day I plan to factor in a little relaxation, a few stretches - something to soothe and refresh my tired, frayed mind. And then, the day whirls by in haze of toddler negotiations, baby feeding frenzies and a whole heap of nappies, and all of a sudden I'm clocking in for the night shift again.
Recently my attempts at self care and nurture have been more 'bowl full' than soulful: focused entirely on consuming enough energy to get through the day. But I could use some mental refuelling too. It's usually the times when you're 'too busy' for relaxation activities that you most need them.
There's a well known quote that goes something along the lines of:
'You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes a day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour'.
Twenty minutes? An hour? This person clearly didn't spend the majority of their day with a small person attached to them, whilst fending off attacks from another small person (the toddler is an advocate of tough love).
Or maybe they did...
It suddenly occurs to me that I have no excuse at all not to meditate. Why, the baby* is possibly the best meditation tool ever invented.
- Don't have the time or space to meditate? A baby will wake you up at opportune moments so you can meditate in the quiet of the night, without fear of being disturbed. Except by the baby.
- A focal point can help with meditation. Babies are very useful here. If there's one in the room then most people find their eyes are drawn to it; a bit like the TV, or a really bad wig.
- Babies like you to sit and hold them for long periods of time. Sitting for long periods of time provides an excellent opportunity for meditation (or a box set...it's all about balance).
- You are being productive. Meditating and baby cuddling: you're multitasking!
- But not too productive. Screw the laundry and get comfy. You have more important things to take care of - like re-shaping your brain, reducing anxiety and improving concentration (just a few of the benefits of meditation).
- Soothe yourself, soothe the baby. The baby will enjoy feeling your calming breath. And so will you.
- Time's up! It can be useful to set a timer when meditating, and most models of baby offer this as an inbuilt feature. They will generally find a way to alert you to the end of your meditation time. Often, this will involve bodily fluids.
*If you don't have a baby to hand then a lethargic, incontinent, insomniac dog would probably work well too.
For older kids, that snuggle time before lights out is another great opportunity for a few calming breaths or a sneaky meditation. Whatever works, and whatever you can squeeze in.
Here's a quick and easy meditation method I like to use:
- Tune in to your surrounding environment. Take in any sounds, beginning with those in the distance and moving towards those that are close to you.
- Scan your body, noticing any areas of tension.
- Pay attention to your breathing, making your breaths slow and long.
- Either close your eyes, or focus on one spot and soften your gaze.
- Acknowledge any thoughts that arise, and let them pass like clouds in the sky or leaves floating along a river.
- If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breath. Counting during your inhalations and exhalations can help.
- You might like to try a mantra, such as, 'I am the perfect mother for my baby/child', or 'breathe in calm, breathe out tension'. Think about what you need to hear that day (or night).
This post originally appeared on Parenting Calm, a blog about mindful living and positive parenting - with a sense of humour.