It’s nearly 9 o’clock on a Sunday evening and you’re looking forward to sitting down to watch television with a glass of wine or herbal tea. The only problem is that your offspring don’t want to comply with your definition of how to spend a nice, relaxing evening. They show little inclination to settle down and go to sleep. Instead, they are getting in and out of bed like yo-yos, and your stress levels are rising. Sometimes, whether it’s at ten past seven, or seven minutes past ten, we become exasperated with our children, lose our temper and end up hissing and exploding at them, despite our best intentions to be a positive role model of patience.
We often have to negotiate our way through many potential flash points of stress in an average family day, trying to live peacefully alongside those we love. Our family ship may barely seem to float at times, in danger of sinking under the negative weight of disputes, dramas and verbal battles between us and our children and partners. Whether it’s the daily rush to get children up and ready for school, or the constant dialogue over what they believe is reasonable behaviour. Sometimes, even the cat wants to join in and wreak havoc, dropping live mice at our feet! We try to sustain a steady emotional rhythm to life, to find peace and harmony, in our intentions, and interactions with all members of our family - furry ones included! Yet in trying to juggle the pieces of our lives in a fast-paced world, it can sometimes only take one small thing to knock our lives out of balance.
So we often come up against ourselves within family life, in the reflection of our relationships with our children. We may fall short of our good intentions, falling into a negative parenting spiral of family tension and conflict. We then come face-to-face with the raw edges of our emotional reactions to them. We find ourselves barely surviving, even though all we want to experience is peace – in our hearts, around us, and between us.
We define ourselves in relation to those around us, identifying strongly with our fleeting emotions. So, we might become upset and bothered when our children behave in a certain way that we don’t like. We then feel delighted when the wind blows in the opposite direction.
“"We might become upset and bothered when our children behave in a certain way that we don’t like. We then feel delighted when the wind blows in the opposite direction"”
Be kind to yourself
The yogic principle of Ahimsa or “non violence” reminds us to be kind towards ourselves, especially when life is difficult. So whilst we try to be a “good” and “nice” parent to our children, we may still end up harshly judging and criticizing our own actions. We can put ourselves under immense pressure to try to create a perfect vision of domestic harmony in which our children will grow and flourish. Yet as we all know, family life with young children is unpredictable, and may not match up to our expectations of how we hope it will be. So as we embrace self-compassion as a living, breathing practice, we allow ourselves to become human – to find gentle words and actions, to understand what we are really feeling, to be vulnerable and not always have to be “right”, and to nurture ourselves with forgiveness and empathy.
Our state of mind often depends upon our sensory perception, and whether we define what life gives us as “good” or “bad”. We might always feel irritated and troubled when a child is intent on squabbling with a sibling, when the glass of juice gets knocked over for no reason, and homework is left until late. Yet we can choose whether to become a living persona of these fleeting emotions, and let them take over our thoughts and actions. Or we can step back to clarify our perspective, find inner space, and then decide how we want to respond to the situation in hand.
The starting point to becoming mindful is to draw your attention inwards, to find a constant source of stillness and peace existing within you. To acknowledge and understand the nature of our emotions rising, and how we then play these out in family life is the foundation of a bridge reaching towards the hearts of those we love. You can understand who you actually are, not who you might think you are, or want to be. This requires honesty and clarity - to notice how we relate to ourselves, as well as others.
To be present and receptive isn’t about big gestures, but about the simplicity of finding harmony and peace in everyday moments: the soft brush of your hand against a child’s face, a quick kiss thrown on their forehead, getting down on your knees to smile at them, making eye contact whilst communicating, and listening with you’re a receptive heart. At these moments you are present and able to consciously listen and respond to what they are sharing with you. So the seeds of the family drama might still be there, but you are affirming and strengthening your positive intention and resolve.
By the time your children are grown up, they will have acted out family dramas and conflicts so many times, that they are more adept at surviving in a planet full of other people’s egos. They can deal with adult battle of wills, asserting themselves, without loosing confidence and esteem, or crumbling into pieces. They can cope and are resilient to other people’s behaviour excesses, whilst appreciating and valuing genuine qualities of trust, loyalty and cooperation. So as your child appears at the sitting room door once more, long after bedtime is past, remind yourself there is only this moment. And know that is already passing. And as your perspective lightens, you can follow your breath like an inner compass guiding you back to your heart’s energy again.
MINDFUL PARENTING TECHNIQUES, FOR EVERYDAY AND CRISIS POINT!
- NURTURE YOUR SENSES As a parent, you are constantly engaged in the intense and challenging reality of sharing your life with children. Some days, it’s easy to do this, others not! You can find inner space, however tired and fraught your nerve endings are. Stop for a moment, and experience the natural world around you - listen, feel, smell, taste and find a sense of whatever season it is. Look at the boundless sky over your head, and soak up stillness, space and peace.
- LISTEN TO YOUR HEART As parents, we are constantly bombarded with information about how to bring up children. And we may forget to listen to our heart’s wisdom. Our intuition is present beyond words and thoughts, guiding us to an inner source of love, compassion and creativity constantly evolving within you. Shut your eyes for a moment, and breathe into your heart space, allowing your chest to open. In living life through your heart’s energy, you plants seeds of happiness into your family’s lives together.
- SLOW DOWN AND LOOK UP We live in a fast-paced, complex and changing world. It’s easy to forget to appreciate and enjoy the simple things already present in our lives. Take a few moments to look up and notice the glint of sunlight on raindrops, to let your heart light up as your child smiles at you, to soak up the soft touch of their hand clasping your own. Each moment holds a fleeting opportunity to discover joy, magic and wonder: to experience the world as if for the first time.
- CONNECT TO YOUR BREATH Our breath is a living bridge that connects our mind to our body. We spend our lives breathing, yet are rarely conscious of doing so. When we become aware of breathing – the feeling, touch and tone of each breath – our mind starts to become become peaceful and calm. We are more able to focus, concentrate and respond to challenges as they arise without loosing our emotional balance. We are present, receptive and empower ourselves to respond to life as it arises.
- ACCEPT WHO YOU ARE We are never going to be perfect, however hard we try. As a parent, we constantly give out love, time and energy to our children. Yet how often do we stop to fill ourselves up? We may never be able to erase difficult situations in life, but we can always stop to shake up our thoughts into a new perspective, to reflect clarity and light, so life can flow in a positive direction.
READ: Naomi’s book - the Mindful Mother: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Enjoying Pregnancy, Childbirth and Beyond with Mindfulness, which is available on Amazon and at Waterstones bookstore.
FIND: Naomi online at yogadevon.com
Naomi is a British Wheel of Yoga and meditation teacher with over twenty five years of practice experience. Also a complementary therapist and healer, she works at North Devon Hospice and runs a private practice. She lives with her husband, two children on a smallholding in the hills of North Devon.