We all know how it is as moms, we’re folding the laundry while keeping one eye on the kids and another on the television. Some of us plan our day while listening to the news and commuting to work and then plan our weekend. But in the rush to accomplish necessary tasks, we may find ourselves losing our connection with the present moment—missing out on what we are doing and how we are feeling, thereby falling out of touch with our needs, not to mention those of our children and families!
We’re busy and therefore solutions must be practical, applicable, simple and straightforward. For just those reasons, the practice of mindfulness meditation appealed to me. The modern application of this practice was created by Jon Kabat Zinn. If you haven’t heard of him, he is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Zinn defines it as follows, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”
I think of mindfulness as simply the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience and it has made a difference. Sure, as a yoga teacher I’ve practiced meditation for years but it wasn’t until I took Zinn’s mindful meditation fundamentals course that I found a way to share it with my kids. Boy, did it help my 4th grader deal with his anxiety of moving to Fairfield County last year! I was desperate to help him. We’d practice when he was in bed at night (when he is most receptive since he’ll do anything to stay up later, of course). It took time but he was calmer and I was happy to have a means of helping him, which in turn empowered me.
Apparently, it goes both ways. In her book, Raising Happiness, Dr. Christine Carter described a research study looking at the effects of mindful parenting. The parents who practiced mindfulness enjoyed parenting more. More interestingly, though, was the finding that their children were better behaved and less aggressive even when they hadn’t been taught mindfulness skills themselves. My own experience was an “ah-ha” moment.
Of course, research shows that practicing mindfulness like other meditation improves well being, mental and physical health. Psychology Today says Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it is not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are. Instead, it helps us become aware of what is already true moment by moment. We could say that it teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is. In yoga, we say this awareness enables us to move through and process experiences, good, bad or indifferent. It is also how we create space in which we might consciously choose our state of being-ness.
It’s an experiential practice so don’t just take my word for it. Try and share the following counting breaths technique yourself and/or with your kids and see what effect it has! It takes practice to become comfortable with mindfulness techniques. If one method doesn’t work for you, try another.
Counting Breaths Mindful Meditation Technique:
For some people, counting breaths can be very helpful to help settle the mind and develop concentration. It serves as feedback to let you know that your mind has drifted.
- This method can be used for the entire meditation session or just for the first part of the sitting, until the mind calms a bit.
- Silently count each breath, beginning with one and count up to ten. Each count includes an entire cycle of inhalation and exhalation.
- Some people prefer to count during the inhale, and some during the exhale, either is fine. One can also count during both the inhale and the exhale: ‘One’ for the inhale, and ‘One’ for the exhale… then continue with two and so on…
- When you reach ten, you start over.
- Keep most of your attention on the physical sensations of breathing.
- If you get distracted, start over again at ‘one’. It doesn’t matter how far you get, just start again. You are training the mind, not trying to accomplish getting to 10. The starting over is an essential part of the training. Any time you are starting over at one, you are being mindful.
- Even if you only notice 2 breaths in a row, just by coming back and starting again, you are accomplishing the practice.
- Sometimes our attention can drift and we might not notice until we have counted up to 20 or 30! It doesn’t matter, back to ‘one’.
Finally, we’ve all heard the adage that, “Kids grow up so fast.” There is primal knowing of the importance of cherishing the moments we have with them. Zinn says it succinctly, “The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” After all, we can only share peace of mind if we already possess it.
Happy Counting, mindful mama!
For more information on mindfulness meditation visit online.
For yoga/meditation classes with Jackie please visit online at www.jacquelinejackson.info