Meditating and a mindfulness practice have been the biggest gifts to myself in my life, the most valuable tools I have in both my self-care and parenting toolkits. But when I became a parent they also became so much more challenging to maintain. Everyone says becoming a parent changes your life forever and I soon realised that meant my approach to mindfulness would need to change too.
Here are my top five tips for any parents trying to establish or maintain a mindfulness practice;
1 Just sit – Making time to sit in meditation helps us establish an awareness, a mindfulness that we can bring into our everyday. It may come in the form of guided meditations, walking practice, Dharma talks from teachers or silent personal enquiry. It cultivates a space for us between difficulty and reacting to that difficulty. When we have that space, we can take a moment to check in with how we’re feeling before we respond. Having a local group or sangha (spiritual community) can be a huge support. “We don’t sit in meditation to be good meditators, we sit in meditation so that we’ll become more awake in our lives,” reminds Pema Chodron
2 Be gentle with yourself - Let’s just keep it real! We are parents and life can be full on. Routine is key when it comes to meditation - you can’t run a marathon if you don’t put in the practice- but when it comes to how long and how often you can give time to your mindfulness practice, that’s a personal choice. Be honest with yourself in what you can commit to and if some days it doesn’t happen, use that as your practice to offer yourself some compassion. You didn’t get time for yourself to sit today and that deserves a little love! Life can also be stressful as parents and it’s easy to be very self-critical of how we responded or handled a certain situation. Be gentle there too, this is a practice and we’re human.
3 Let go of “should” - It’s hard to sit still and cultivate awareness when there’s a huge pile of laundry, food in your hair or you can hear the kids giving your partner any number of “challenges”. There will always be something else to do, something you think “I really should be….” You can incorporate that into your practice – take your attention to your emotional response around it and how that manifests physically for you, in the body. Or take the attention back to the breath, ground yourself and allow this time for you.
4 Give yourself this gift - We all know that our wellbeing impacts the lives of those around us and I’ve often found myself using that as justification to go off into a space by myself, away from the chores and the “shoulds” and allow space for my practice. But this is for us too. We deserve this, you deserve this. Allow yourself to feel into the kindness that you give yourself by sitting, it really is a gift.
5 And… be gentle with yourself - Seriously. Slather on that self-compassion because as parents the judgement comes from all angles!
Lucy set up Sangha Mums to provide space for women to support each other in their mindful parenting, without the judgement that we so often bring. There’s support in the form of live online dharma talks from experienced teachers as well as monthly meet ups in Portsmouth. She also runs Southsea Placenta Remedies. facebook.com/groups/sanghamums