Attempts at mindfulness (with a toddler, and chocolate)

Can dried fruit really improve your mental clarity? And can I really be bothered to find out? This week I tried several variations of the raisin meditation, ‘aided’ by my toddling sidekick.

I wasn’t feeling hugely enthusiastic about this one 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 this practice first with some chocolate, just to get into the swing of things, and because I wanted some chocolate.

I begin, contemplating the smooth surface of the chocolate and taking in the aroma. I am interrupted by my husband entering the room.

He is unusually interested in what I’m doing and, more specifically, keen to know why I am eating his chocolates.

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

My husband can’t hear me very well because my mouth is full of chocolate. Unimpressed by my efforts he leaves the room, taking the chocolates with him.

No matter. A raisin it is then. I go to fetch a few raisins. They are on the snack shelf and I grab a dried apricot whilst I’m there and eat it without thinking. I could have eaten that mindfully I think.

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

‘Rays,’ she says, looking pleased and popping it in her mouth.

‘Not mindful,’ I comment, giving her another and encouraging her to look at it sitting in the palm of her hand and then smell it.

‘Catch,’ she says, throwing it at a plastic dinosaur.

I take my own raisin and place it in my hand. Studying it I am 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 feel the raisin. I’ve never really felt a raisin before. It feels a bit like elephant skin I think, before wondering a) when I think I might have touched an elephant and b) how long the raisins have been in the cupboard.

My mouth starts watering as soon as I smell the raisin, even though I don’t particularly like them, and my stomach starts to get a bit excited. It’s in for a big disappointment.

Tasting it I notice how sweet it is and it does feel oddly satisfying. I glance down and see that the toddler, clearly not in a mindful mood, has polished off all the other raisins.

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

Next week, I’ll be trying out a breathing practice called ‘alternate nostril breathing’. Here’s how to do it. Oh, and why you might want to, in case you were wondering.

Alternate nostril breathing

This breathing technique is believed to:

calm our minds

boost our energy

improve concentration

And you can do it whilst the kettle boils. Here’s how:

  1. Place the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril to seal it.
  2. Inhale slowly through your left nostril. You can count if you like.
  3. Use your ring finger to seal your left nostril and remove your thumb from your right nostril.
  4. Exhale through your right nostril. The inhalations and exhalations should be the same length.
  5. Inhale through your right nostril.
  6. Place your thumb back on your right nostril and exhale through your left nostril. That was one round. Try a couple of rounds to begin with, and work up to 5-10. Let me know how you get on.

Read more about Parenting Calm here.

Read more about mindfulness here.

Disclaimer: If you feel discomfort when performing any of the practices then stop immediately. If you have heart problems or high blood pressure, then please check with your doctor before doing any of the breathing practices.

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