A couple of years ago I had a conversation with my husband that has changed my life and increased my happiness immeasurably. No he didn’t tell me we’d won the lottery though that would have been nice! He simply asked me a question,
“What is the one thing you could do that would make the single biggest difference in your life right now?”
I didn’t even need to think about it, “Meditate!” I replied.
Then he challenged me with, “Then why aren’t you doing it?” I could have given him 50 reasons why I wasn’t meditating (or exercising, or eating properly or getting enough sleep or ticking off even a fraction of the items on my to-do list) and most of them would have lead back to being too busy and needing more hours in the day.
I had read about the benefits of meditation (more calmness, better sleep, greater focus and productivity and the flow on effects of more harmonious relationships and greater personal satisfaction) and I wanted some of those benefits for myself. So I set myself the challenge of meditating daily for a year. When I reached the 12 months mark I remember thinking what a milestone this was for me. I may not have been able to go without chocolate for twelve months. I probably couldn’t survive 12 weeks or possibly even 12 days without it, yet here I was having meditated daily for a year! Over that time period, meditating for somewhere between 10 and 30 minutes per day, I amassed a total of 7196 minutes of meditation (which is approximately 120 hours or 5 full days) and completed over 500 sessions using the Headspace App by Andy Puddicombe.
I had tried a few different programs previously and chose Headspace because there are a selection of guided meditations covering a variety of topics, the length of sessions can be selected based on how much time I have on a particular day and I can take the meditations with me wherever I go using their app. (Whilst I highly recommend Headspace, I receive no kickbacks’s from them). It is simply the way I chose to begin a practice of meditating. There are plenty of great options out there. It is about finding what works for you.
Within weeks of beginning my meditation practice, my husband commented on how much happier and calmer I seemed. And he wasn’t imagining it, I felt it too.
Our whole household became happier and calmer. Initially this was my purpose for starting meditation. I wanted to stop snapping at my children and overacting when my husband was late home or didn’t notice the washing that needed to be folded and put away. I wanted to stop rushing my children and getting into a panic when we were running late for school. I had got into the habit of rushing them even when we weren’t running late for school! I simply wanted to feel calm amidst the hustle and bustle of family life and cope with those unexpected mishaps with a little more composure and grace. Meditating, along with some intentional choosing to slow down, has certainly given me that feeling of ease.
I call on mindfulness when my daughter asks me to make slime when I’ve just cleaned the kitchen, or when she is throwing a hissy fit over wanting something NOW! Or when my children don’t want to brush their teeth even though they know they need to do it every. single. day.
Surprisingly though, meditation has also given me so much more. It is a skill that has pervaded many areas of my life where I hadn’t necessarily expected or sought it.
I frequently call on the deliberate use of meditation if I feel nervous or stressed about something. Before a presentation I use it to calm and ground myself.
I use it when I’m held up in traffic, when I get the long queue at the grocery store, waiting in the school pick-up line.
I’ve also used meditation to get through needles and dental appointments, something I not only used to dread but which would quite often see me faint, quite literally. I used it recently when I needed a CT scan. The thought of lying still, enclosed in a dark tunnel would previously have had me feeling anxious and yet I found myself looking forward to the opportunity to be still and the extra time to empty my mind.
I’ve used the skills of meditation for pain management and dealing with overwhelming emotions. As well as using it to tolerate negative and uncomfortable emotions, I also draw on it to foster positive emotions and to enhance my focus and creativity.
Most importantly though, I’ve used mindfulness to pay more attention to the people around me, take more time to listen and be fully present. Which brings me back to why I’m sharing about mindfulness in relation to parenting.
My experience of parenting (particularly parenting in accordance with the way I really want to parent) has only been enhanced by meditation. I’m not and will never be a perfect parent, however I now have many more positive, connected experiences with my children. I am patient more than I am impatient. I am caring more often than I am cranky. I feel happy and content more often than dissatisfied. I am able to stop long enough to share special moments with my children rather than rushing them (and myself) through them, or missing them altogether. I am more calm and kind. I like myself more and I suspect my children do too. So, what’s not to like about mindfulness?!
What’s more, science backs up the positive effects of meditation and mindfulness. As well as many great books and a simple search of the web, if you would like to learn more about meditation, here are some great places to start…
Center for Healthy Minds
Greater Good Science Centre
This blog was first published in Melissa’s Enjoy Parenting website.