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Five Ways to Practice Mindfulness:
As a mother of four kids who range in ages from tween to infant, I’m the first to admit that life isn’t one big picnic on a sunny day. Mostly it resembles an angry nest of hornets–at least it does when one or more of my children are having a rough day. For this reason, I’ve started reading about the practice of mindfulness.
What is mindfulness, you might be asking. The dictionary’s definition is as follows:
A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
In a nutshell, (or in exhausted-momma-speak) it simply means be checked in to what is going on around you right then.
Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts.”Pema Chödrön
It means being single-tasking in a multi-tasking world.
Our society today applauds those who can multi-task. The truth is, however, that no one really can focus on more than one thing at a time. Something always gets dropped or lost in the constant shuffling between tasks.
To truly practice being mindful, we have to accept that we can’t do it all. We have to understand that doing multiple things at one time doesn’t do anyone any good.
We suffer and our children suffer.
The world may worship at that throne, but we, Dear Ones, aren’t supposed to.
Mindfulness Practice #1:
Put Jesus First
Now, to be honest, this likely wouldn’t be found as a recommended practice in most places that educate on mindfulness. That’s because many of the people I’ve come across while reading, don’t know Jesus.
In my own life, and deep down in my soul, I know Jesus is always the first place to begin anything.
First thing in the morning –after the kiddos have chosen their show, and I’ve prepared my full-fat tea— I sit in the easy chair that once belonged to my father, and I connect with my Heavenly Father.
Recently that has looked like me opening my Bible and diving into the daily readings provided by my church as we read through the Bible this year.
This might look different for you.
What’s important is that we focus on God. We take that time, and focus our hearts and minds on His Word.
On His love.
On His devotion.
Mindfulness Practice #2:
Children are smarter and more observant than most parents give them credit for. My children, for example, know if I’m truly paying attention to them when they’re speaking. If they notice my attention is lacking, that’s when things really get out of hand.
My eldest has been known to say on occasion, “You’re not even listening to me, Momma.”
So, I’ve taken to actively engaging with my children when they talk. Even if I’m reading, or working on something.
To be mindful means we have to put down the phone, the book, or whatever has our attention. Giving our full focused attention to the young ones who are chatting our ears off, isn’t always easy.
Listening intently as my eldest son explains his newest creation, when I was enjoying quietly reading about Mother Culture, can be frustrating.
What I’ve noticed though, is giving my children those few precious moments–making eye contact with them, and truly listening to what they’re saying–being engaged with their thoughts and ideas, makes for easier days.
Mindfulness Practice #3:
Put Away the Cellphone
Often when our children desire connections with us, we’re in the middle of conversations with a dear friend. These interruptions take a focused effort to practice mindfulness; to turn off the phone and set it aside.
This isn’t even the biggest problem though. To practice mindfulness, means being present in the moment.
Instead of reaching for our cellphones, digitally capturing the cute moment of our children singing a song to us, what our children need is for us to share the moment with them–while it is happening.
For the record, I’m not saying get rid of the phone completely. As a former professional photographer, pictures are second nature to me, and impossible to not take.
If there is something you want to treasure for a long time, snap those pictures then put it away to enjoy the activities going on around you.
Mindfulness Practice #4:
This might sound like something easy. After all, if we didn’t know how to breathe I wouldn’t be here to write this, and you wouldn’t be here to read it.
Now, before you pat yourself on the back, thinking “Hey, I’ve got this!” take a moment and really think about what it means to take a breath.
What it means to breathe.
Focus on the breath that comes into your body. Then focus on the breath as it leaves your body.
Do this three or four times.
If your mind wandered, don’t fret, because mine tends to scamper about after the second inhale. Luckily, even the people who have been practicing mindfulness for years still catch themselves mentally strolling about.
The point of breathing isn’t just to get air into our lungs. It’s more about being mindful of the breaths, and in doing so, being aware of our bodies and how they feel in that moment.
Those moments when we’re frayed and teetering on the edge of personal sanity–maybe that tween’s sass got a little too bold, or the toddler clogged the toilet with a roll of toilet paper–pausing for a moment, taking a breath (or ten), before speaking and engaging with the situation can be the difference between tears (ours and theirs), and making a deeper, calmer connection.
Mindfulness Practice #5:
Too often in today’s world, motherhood (and life for that matter) is a constant race. It resembles the cinematic cut scenes of busy New York streets filled with blurred people rushing down sidewalks while cars honk beside them.
Frankly, those scenes (as well as their similarity to life) make me nauseous.
As mothers we rush from one task to the next. From one kid’s activity to another.
Our rears spend more time in our vehicle seats than anywhere else.
With all this constant ‘going’, we miss out on so much.
The stress of getting out the door on time causes us to miss the opportunity to warmly and lovingly teach our son how to tie his shoes, and instead we might sigh dramatically and tie his shoes for him.
In our hurry to get everyone in their car seats, we might miss the sweet smooch our little one wants to share with us.
Rushing through bath time, or story time could cause us to miss out on giggles, grins, and little discussions that could open new doors of discovery for our children–or even for us.
Snuggles with littles don’t last forever, because those little ones won’t remain little for long. Taking the time to enjoy the closeness of those little warm bodies while they talk about their day, is something you won’t ever regret.
Even now my three year old is picky about when she is willing to snuggle. I don’t foresee many more years of snuggling in our future.
We need to slow down.
Know Better, Do Better
Or Better Known As Practice Makes Perfect
Mindfulness isn’t easy.
It takes practice, practice, and even more practice. There’s a reason it’s called practicing mindfulness because it isn’t something that comes naturally to us.
Human-beings are selfish by nature, and we focus on our wants and desires to the exclusion of others things. With this knowledge, we need to give ourselves love and grace.
Take those breaths discussed above, and practice really connecting to the moments around us. We must get our heads out of the past or the future and into the present where they belong.
We can’t change the past, and we have no control over the future. What we do have is right now. We must choose wisely.
One of the books I’ve been reading on mindfulness:
Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters, by Carla Naumburg. You can get it here.
Until next time,