If you’ve followed my blog for the last few years, you know that mothers are one of the populations I’m most passionate about serving.
Motherhood is messy. We go from leading a mostly uninterrupted, spacious life to ferociously multitasking in order to keep up with the demands, attitudes, and schedules of our children.
So the playground for mindfulness is rich because raising children is, well, just a touch chaotic at times.
In my experience, mothers already know that mindfulness is important. They understand that presence, calm, and connectedness are the source of happiness and resilience for children.
But they also know that it’s hard to exhibit these qualities in the thick of daily life. It’s tiring raising children, and it’s easy to resort to cranky, reactive responses when we’re zapped. Not to mention, who wants to “live in the moment” when stuff hits the fan?
Let’s unpack the question, why NOT mindfulness, a little further by using a common practice, such as mindfulness of breath. (The idea is that we practice in order to find moments of ease and perspective in the full catastrophe of mothering.)
Now, picture yourself sitting down and feeling the movement of your breath – no phone, no t.v., no switching over the laundry, just you and your breath. What does that bring up for you?
I’ll take a stab based on questions I’ve heard and wondered about myself.
- It’s weird. Sitting quietly by myself feeling my breath is kinda awkward unless, of course, I’m some new-age mystical mama.
- It’s religious. I grew up attending a Catholic church and going to catechism. Getting quiet reminds me of a prayer ritual we used to do. Is mindfulness the same thing?
- It’s not productive. To-do’s don’t get to-done if this mama train stops moving.
- It’s icky to notice unpleasant things. If I get still and close my eyes, I may notice sleepiness or a restless, worried mind. Two things that make me feel off-kilter and unprepared for the day ahead.
- It’s not glamorous. Taking time for myself to go to the gym or nail salon is easier to justify because the result is predictable. I come home with red nails, sweaty clothes, or a sore body. The outcome is much more elusive when I stop to feel my breath.
- Ahem, time. Not a spare dollop of that lying around.
No doubt, there’s some truth to all of these. Which ring true to you? What else would you add to the list?
Here are my brief thoughts on each:
In our culture, contemplative practice is less commonplace, and it can feel weird to sit and feel your breath. Which brings up a question: why does weird have to be bad? Aren’t we all weird to some degree? What if we owned and loved our weirdness and idiosyncrasies? Second, there’s a tendency to over-think the point of this practice. It’s not to make magic happen. It’s to bring your attention to the present moment. The breath is simply used as a tool to do that.
It can be used as a religious practice, but it doesn’t have to. I practice to cultivate mind states and feelings that promote peace, happiness, love, and creative self-expression, and I’ve talked in the past about how that helps me in motherhood, but ultimately, everyone has to find their why. There are explicit ways to include prayer or a connection to God if that’s what you want.
Unpleasant things are part of life. While busy-ness distracts you from noticing the tough stuff, what ails your heart ultimately needs tending to. A practice like this trains you to acknowledge that struggle is part of being a mother (and human), and it gives you a way to accept, include and courageously deal with ordinary annoyances and extraordinary challenges so they don’t get the best of you.
How you feel impacts how you look. Caring for your body and engaging in self-care practices that make you feel good are important. But, your emotional life also needs your loving attention. In many ways, your confidence, health, and relationships depend on how you feel inside.
The issue with time is real. I recommend starting small and being creative. Maybe you do a 5-minute breath awareness practice while you’re waiting in line at school pick-up. Or, a mindful walking practice when you take the dog for a neighborhood cruise. Or, maybe you borrow 5 minutes from an activity you normally spend more time on than you’d like, such as email, Instagram, or cleaning the house.
The bottom line is that roadblocks and fears are a normal part of the process – AND they can all be worked with.
I personally found that support was instrumental. It was helpful to ask my teacher questions, such as “Am I doing this “right”? Is what I’m noticing normal? This is great and all, but how can I apply it to parenting, running a business, and living in this frenetic world?”