“Just think about nothing, clear your mind,” they say.
For a long time now, I’ve been thinking that meditating would be a good thing for me – that it might help me quiet the constant spiral of thoughts swirling in my head. However, every time I tried to sit down quietly and “stop thinking,” I would get agitated, and my mind would start to wander. That’s usually when I gave up meditating – after about 3 minutes… At least, that’s how it was going until I found out about the method I will describe in this article.
What is meditation?
More than an activity, meditation refers to a state of consciousness in which the mind is relaxed and focused inward but still alert. In that sense, meditation is far more than sitting in lotus position trying to stop thinking. Actually, any activity done mindfully – i.e., concentrating on the process and sensations instead of thinking of something else – can be considered as meditation. This means that you can be meditating watching your kids play, eating or doing the dishes as long as you are entirely focused on this specific activity.
Why Parents Should Meditate
You take a break from your thoughts
Obviously, meditation will help you put your thoughts aside and be in the present moment, which can be extremely enjoyable and relieving for a parent having a thousand things on their mind all day.
You reduce your stress level
Of course, it’s commonly known that meditation is the perfect skill to learn to manage your stress in a natural way. After a session, you usually feel calm and rested.
You are doing something for yourself
As parents, we tend to lose ourselves in parenthood, our primary focus being our children’s needs. Meditation can help you re-center and focus on your body and mind.
You learn to let go
We cannot deny that, as parents, there are many things we are trying to control: our kids’ behavior, our emotions, etc.. At the same time, who better than a parent knows that life rarely goes as planned… Meditation can help you stop trying to control everything and spare you a lot of frustration.
You become a more balanced parent
Meditating teaches you to become more balanced and centered, which will have a positive impact on your relationship with your children (and the rest of the world).
You feel more energized
Meditation is a natural way of stimulating your body and mind.
How to meditate
As described above, you can meditate almost anywhere doing anything. Nevertheless, it can be very helpful to start with one location and, if possible, at the same time, to establish the habit.
1. Location: Choose a quiet and peaceful place where you will not be disturbed. Turn off your phone.
2. Atmosphere: If you like, you can light a candle which will add to the cozy atmosphere and can serve as a point of focus if needed. You could also have some peaceful music in the background.
3. Posture: The usual posture is sitting cross-legged (e.g., in lotus position) with your hands on your knees or in your lap with a straight spine. Nevertheless, if you feel more comfortable just sitting or kneeling on a cushion or a chair, or even lying down, there’s no problem with that. The important is to be comfortable but still with complete alertness (no, you’re not preparing for sleep).
Close your eyes and start concentrating on your breath. You may want to think “in”/“out” or “rise”/“fall” or count your breaths to help you stay focused on your breathing. Consciously feel the air flowing in and out of your body.
When your mind starts to wander – and it will, it’s natural – just acknowledge the thought and go back to your breathing. Try not to be frustrated or angry about the thoughts surfacing, instead, honor them and let go.
Top tip: You might want to label your thoughts to help you let go of them. For instance, if you are thinking of what lunch to pack for the children the next day, you could repeat “tomorrow” or “planning” until you manage to focus on your breathing again.
Also, you might find yourself distracted by the outside, e.g., a car passing by or a hair tickling your nose. Again, just acknowledge the sound or sensation (label it repeatedly, if it helps) and go back to your breath.
If, like me, you have an agitated mind, it will probably require some practice until you manage to calm your thoughts. On the other hand, it also means that meditation is exactly what you need. Try to be patient with yourself.