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, 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 (plus some other great 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).
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