Updated: Oct 3, 2019
I’m sure you have heard of the word ‘Mindfulness’ and maybe you have been practising some form of it. The word is so ubiquitous and it seems that everyone is doing some kind of ‘mindfulness’ or ‘meditation’ now. The definition of mindfulness varies depending on who you ask. One of my favourites is by a well-known researcher and ‘guru’ of this subject, Jon Kabat-Zinn:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
John Kabat-Zinn’s definition is short and sweet, albeit dry. The best quote I’ve seen on this subject is from the Dalai Lama himself. He was asked what surprised him the most, and he said:
“Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”
As mothers, we have the privilege of spending time with the most present focused human beings – our babies and children. Have you noticed how they are so immersed in the moment? When was the last time you watched your babies and young children play? They do not look at the clock and think about all the things they have to do, or ruminate about how unfair life is because they did not go to Wiggle & Rhyme today. As children grow older they are conditioned by adults to start thinking about the future, and the past. Young children don’t understand the concept of ‘when I grow up’, and being asked the question of “What do you want to do when you grow up?” must be really confusing to them. All they have is right here, right now but they are being taught by adults to start thinking about the past and the future.
Now to be clear, there is nothing wrong with thinking about the past and future. There is a very important reason why everyone’s brain is wired to think about the past and the future – it enables survival of the human species. If our mama ancestors did not think about past mistakes (e.g. don’t touch that scorpion again!) or think about the future (e.g. planting crops for future harvest) we wouldn’t be here today. Our brains are wired for survival which means that it is always honing in any kind of threats to us and our children. What is problematic is the amount of time we, as modern mums spend time in the past or in the future, thinking about threats that have already passed, or non-existent ones that have yet or will not happen.
This is where mindfulness practice comes in. We are disrupting the brain’s habitual state of thinking about the future or the past. The science of mindfulness is growing and there is a lot of evidence now that everyone can benefit by engaging in daily practice. Mindfulness practice has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, memory and encourage healthy eating. Now, I don’t know any mums who do not want to be less stressed, have better memories, sleep and eat better!
I have been practising some form of mindfulness for the last few years, and have taught mindfulness practice with my clients. For some reason, though, I have not been able to sustain a daily mindful practice until recently. Three months ago I've challenged myself to do a mini habit of practising 1 minute of mindfulness everyday (I'll talk more about mini habits in another post). I'm proud to say that I have been able to practice everyday. Most days I’ve only managed to do 3 to 5 minutes. I don’t think my memory is any better or that I am eating healthier. I definitely do not sleep better especially when good quality uninterrupted sleep is dependent on two babies not crying, one cat not meowing and pouncing on me while sleeping, and one husband not snoring or pulling the blanket too much. I do notice, however, that I am not as stressed, especially in the face of two crying babies-turning-toddlers. If I practice some form of mindfulness in the morning, I feel that I can cope better with whatever the day throws at me. And even if everything goes pear shape, a daily mindfulness practice reminds me to go back to the basics- just breathe!
So the question is how do you practice mindfulness? Glad you ask! Come and join us at EmpowerMums and learn about mindfulness practice for Mums. Either through our workshops or at our Facebook EmpowerMums Village, you’re bound to find something that will help you in your mothering journey.
Come and find out about upcoming events: https://www.empowermums.co.nz/upcomingevents