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mindfulness and meditation in parenting
Here are five meditation techniques for a beginner or in regular experienced practice:
- Sit or lie in a relaxed position
- Breathe regularly. You breathe in deep enough to get enough oxygen, this will relax you. When you breathe out, you relax your muscles so that your lungs are well emptied, but do not strain to release the air.
- Stop thinking about everyday problems or matters. Clear your mind.
- Concentrate your thoughts on something like a sound, a repetitive word or mantra, or a feeling or concept that you are experiencing or longing for. All of your attention needs to be placed on the object that you have chosen.
- While in that state of concentration, if foreign thoughts try to creep in, you need to stop the thought, and go back to focusing on the object of your meditation.
Those five meditation techniques are the basics of meditation. There are varying techniques based on the degree of concentration and how you handle those foreign thoughts. Some suggest the practice should be to meditate so intensely that no foreign thoughts are allowed to enter at all. Another practice is to allow the concentration is more relaxed so that foreign thoughts enter your session more easily. When you discover or realize the foreign thought has entered, you simply stop, and go back to the intended or pure meditation in a relaxed manner. It helps you refocus and be aware in your meditation.
So I realized yesterday as I was scrambling around the house cleaning, that I could really do double duty while doing those mundane chores. What do I mean by that? Well I found that my mind tried to focus on my surroundings, even though I knew I had to get a chore done. I had to slow down to process what my mind and body were trying to communicate. I found myself gazing out the kitchen window watching the birds fly around. Then I saw the trees blowing in the wind, the leaves tumbling across the grass. The feel of the bubbles, the warmth of the water, was soothing and relaxing. I found myself washing dishes, yet admiring the beauty and events outside my window and in my hands. Before I knew it, the dishes were done and instead of dreading another chore on my list, I embraced moving to the next. I saw the housework as an opportunity to be mindful of my day, to be present in the moment, and not dread what else was ahead. In essence, I can meditate while working; mindfulness practiced in chores!
Does it sound strange to find peace washing the dishes or folding laundry? It does if you look at it in a shallow light. Rushing through like it is a dreaded chore, only leaves a storm like aftermath in your body. The chore is felt and absorbed as stress. But really, that time is generally alone time, a perfect opportunity to clear your mind, breathe deep, and perhaps focus on a mantra for healing or peace within. It allows you to appreciate the time you have, no matter how you are spending it.
Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He once wrote that he washes dishes with as much care as he would if he were bathing the newborn Buddha: “If I am incapable of washing dishes joyfully, if I want to finish them quickly so I can go and have a cup of tea, then I will be incapable of drinking the tea joyfully.” How you treat the present moment will affect the future moments. Wise thought; Be present and mindful of how you throw yourself into chores.
He gives you a new perspective on chores, right? I cannot recall how many dishes I have broke trying to rush, or bulldoze through getting the dishes done. I am pretty sure that there was no urge to sit and enjoy a cup of tea after doing so either. Thoughts drift to the ‘other’ chores on my list. Plus, the darn tea cup was probably my poor victim during the cleaning tornado, too!
Slow down. I have mentioned that chore time can be alone time, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can share that time with a child, or children, it gives you an opportunity to teach valuable lessons. The first lesson is that of responsibility. Chores are a parents way to encourage independence, team work, and self care. Sharing that time to teach techniques to complete the job, gives you a bonding moment too. However, I see that teaching moment as a gifted time to share meditation or mindfulness. You should be completely aware of the chore you are doing and teaching. Again be present and conscious of your thoughts and actions. Mindful. Teach the chores to kids to engrain a ritual of responsibility and inadvertently teach meditation and mindfulness.
I think that sometimes we get caught up looking into the future, and do not live in the present moment. If we cannot clear our mind and stop thinking of other things, we are incapable of living in that minute of life, enjoying that cup of hot tea in our hands. You have to be alive in that moment. This practice of mindfulness or meditation during chores, strips us of the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse too!
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going in deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh
I spend a lot of time researching, and looking for ways to make changes in life or ways to make life more enjoyable naturally. There are so many aspects of your life that you can look at to determine where things can be improved. The one thing that has become very apparent to me, is that nothing can change until you take action. Change has to start with yourself. I see that there are habits or reactions that are learned through out life. We all learn to adapt to the situations of life. Depending on the environment or the people you have in your life, that reaction or habit will either be good for you, or bad for you. I think this is very true for those who struggle with self esteem issues. Knowing yourself, and loving yourself is key to the decisions you make in life.
“Don’t wait for your feelings to change to take the action. Take the action and your feelings will change.”
To get to know yourself, and take action in making changes in life, you have to start by practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness has allowed me to become more aware of my thoughts and reach a sense of inner peace. It’s not always perfect, and somedays are easier than others. As my awareness has increased, so has the peace and joy in my life. The more familiar I have become with the inner workings of my mind, the better I have started to feel. Being mindful of the inner workings of my mind, allow the avenues to my heart and soul to be free. Again, it is a work in process. However, one of the most influential things I am learning to do, is to self regulate.
Self regulation for me has been my stepping stone to mindfulness and meditation. I was introduced to it, not realizing what I was being taught…essentially, mindfulness. I become aware of how my body is reacting to a situation. Those reactions can sometimes be stressful or negative, if the situation is not positive. In essence, the body can get triggered to go into a fight or flight response when it gets stressed. Before I practiced mindfulness, I would stay in that fight or flight state and panic a bit. I now can take a deep breath. Focus on my breathing. Notice how my body is reacting; Is my heart pounding? Am I clinching my jaw? Muscles tense? Once I assess my reaction, I begin releasing those tense reactions. Breathing to slow the heart rate, release clinched muscles, and relax. In that time, you have cleared your mind to give a proper reaction to the situation, a rational reaction. That is self regulation. For many, this is a normal, easy practice. For me, it had to be learned, and I am continually practicing, and I wish I had learned earlier in life! It has brought more peace and kindness into the home. I know how important the modeling you provide your household is. Teaching peace, is so rewarding, in so many ways!
Here are 5 Easy Steps for Mindfulness – to decrease stress in your life
Find a comfortable – quiet location when possible – however you can, and use these steps even at work or in other locations. Sit relaxed.
Set an alarm if you want for 2 to 3 minutes 0- you can make it longer each time if you want; however there are benefits from meditating for 2 minutes.
Find an object to look at or close your eyes. Either technique can be relaxing. Try both so that you can decide which one works best for you.
Breathing is the key to being present with your body and self. Inhale for 3 seconds (say in your mind calming – calming – calming) Hear your breath going into your lungs – hold it for a second, exhale for 5 seconds (say in your mind releasing – releasing – releasing) Hear your breath going out of your lungs.
When done, stretch and hug yourself.
Stress is a part of life – How much you choose to manage it is about CHOICES. Make the CHOICE to meditate for two minutes very day, You can do 2 to 3 minutes several times a day if you would like.
A recent article on MindBodyGreen, caught my eye, as it gives tips on how to raise calm, happy social kids. Who doesn’t want that right? The purpose of the article is to get parents to be mindful and teach their children how to be mindful. 8 Ways To Raise Calm, Happy Kids & Boost Their Social Skills, was written by Sean Grover, LCSW, author of When Kids Call the Shots. Mr Grover has worked in child development and adult psychotherapy for 20 years, and maintains one of the largest private group therapy practices in the U.S. He has been quoted in Newsweek, New York Magazine, NPR, and elsewhere about parent-child relationships.
Teaching children to be mindful can have a direct impact on many areas of their lives. Mindfulness improves social skills, boosts school performance, fosters creativity, reduces impulsivity in children and can encourage them to be independent thinkers. What parent doesn’t want to see the best in their child shine through? It is our job to guide children and give them the tools they need to succeed in life, at all stages. I think that Mr. Grover shares great advice on how to give children the best guidance…number 8 is critical: mindful parent, mindful child. Enjoy this excerpt from his MBG article:
8 Ways to Raise More Mindful Children
Raising a mindful child does not require moving your family to a monastery. I’ve seen parents foster it in everyday activities by creating more reflective spaces at home, making room for greater contemplation, and strengthening family communication.
To encourage greater mindfulness with your own kids, consider these eight steps:
1. Take technology blackouts.
Set aside times during the day when no one in your family touches technology. You too, mom and dad! That’s right: turn off all cell phones, televisions, computers, etc.
Children who are always engaged in technology are more impulsive and rarely have time for self-reflection, which is the bedrock of mindfulness. If your family is technology dependent, create more quiet space for relating and exchanging thoughts and feelings without a glowing screen between you.
2. Offer creative outlets.
Painting, drawing, playing a musical instrument, sewing, and similar hobbies require thought and patience to follow through to completion. Children who learn to sit quietly and assert themselves to creative tasks are more grounded and self-motivated to succeed. They learn to work through frustration by keeping their eye on the prize.
3. Encourage journal writing.
Journaling is a great tool for developing greater mindfulness. If your child is resistant to starting a diary, start one together. A sense of calm and empowerment emerges when kids take time to create a narrative for their lives and reflect on their daily experiences. A diary also offers them a chance to consider their choices more fully.
4. Hold family meetings.
Family meetings are a great way to introduce structure to household communication. Set aside a time each week, and make sure everyone has the chance to voice his or her concerns. When family members learn to honor each other’s feelings and work through frustrations together, a healthy sense of trust and cohesion emerges.
5. Cultivate a meditative practice.
Studies have shown that kids who engage in a mindfulness practice, such as martial arts, yoga, or meditation, experience a greater sense of well-being. They instinctively start to embrace a spirit of self-improvement, which leads to greater inner strength.
6. Nurture altruistic activities.
True mindfulness lives and breathes in the compassionate bonds of friendship and community. Help your child develop a greater sense of interconnectedness through volunteer work, charity or supporting neighborhood projects. Altruism deepens your child’s sense of humanity, gratitude and empathy.
7. Organize your child’s day.
Kids crave sameness. Even though they may resist boundaries, they fall apart without structure. Strive to create a household of shared responsibilities and dependable schedules. Flexibility is welcome, but you need a baseline of consistency first. Too much chaos or inconsistency in a child’s life never allow for mindfulness to take root.
8. Lead by example.
Mindful parent, mindful child. In other words, mindfulness rarely appears organically in children — parents must foster it. What’s the best way to introduce mindfulness into your kid’s life? Practice what you preach. Develop a mindfulness practice for yourself and demonstrate its power in your own behavior.