The last thing mothers, especially those with babies and young children, need is another task to add to their To Do list. We often don’t have time to eat a proper meal or take a shower in peace, let alone to sit down for a formal meditation practice. Fortunately motherhood provides many wonderful opportunities to practise mindfulness in everyday life.
If you’re wondering what I mean by mindfulness, I am referring to tools and practices which help us to stay in the present moment. Of course it is not possible to be present all the time, but practising mindfulness regularly can have some really significant benefits in our parenting and for our health and wellbeing.
Without any conscious effort, your breath is always there, rising and falling, in every moment of every day. In my classes, I often refer to the breath as being your anchor. It is the perfect tool to keep your awareness in the present moment.
One of the most simple breath practices is simply to notice the inhalation and exhalation. I like to use this little mantra to keep my mind from wandering: “I am breathing in, I am breathing out, I am breathing in, I am breathing out”.
You could also use a count, such as counting one on the inhalation, two on the exhalation, three on the inhalation, four on the exhalation, and so on. Setting yourself a target of counting to perhaps 10 or 20, and then starting again from one.
There is a reason I still sing a lullaby to my daughter every night as she falls asleep, and it’s NOT to calm or soothe her (although perhaps it does do that too).
It can sometimes take a (very) long time for children to fall asleep. And they definitely don’t fall asleep any faster if we’re sitting beside them stressing about all the things we need to get done after their bedtime . I find the best thing I can do is to keep calm and present, and I do this by singing.
Singing is fundamentally a breath practice. The rhythm and melody of the song or mantra we choose creates particular patterns for our breath. We breath in deeply, then let it out slowly, note by note. We ensure that we take in enough air to complete a phrase. We use our lungs and diaphragm to squeeze out the extra breath needed to hold a long note.
Singing isn’t only for bedtime either. You may find that your baby or young child responds to you differently if you sing them through their nappy change or give instructions with a melody. It doesn’t matter what your voice sounds like or how silly you feel making up songs on the fly, singing can lighten the mood, ease tricky transitions and bring everyone back into the moment.
Your Cup of Tea or Snack
We eat and drink throughout the day, often with little thought or attention. Every mouthful is an opportunity to use your senses to be fully present in the experience of eating or drinking.
I definitely don’t suggest you actually try to mindfully eat every meal, but perhaps choosing a particular time of day when you consciously consume your cup of tea, coffee or a snack.
Start by engaging your sense of sight. Notice the appearance, presentation, colours, shape and size of your meal or drink. Perhaps notice whether you interpret the colours as being indicators about potential flavour, for example the strength of your tea or the sweetness of a berry.
Then engage your sense of smell. Take some deep breaths to inhale the aroma, noticing any distinct smells from certain ingredients and how your sense of smell allows you to anticipate the taste.
Now slowly take your first mouthful. Try to notice all of the sensations involved with having the food or drink in your mouth: its temperature, texture and flavour. Notice the movement of the mouth, jaw, teeth, tongue and throat as you slowly bite, sip, chew and swallow.
You may also become aware of thoughts or memories related to smells or tastes. Sometimes particular foods have a way of transporting us to another time or place, perhaps a childhood memory or an exotic holiday. If you find this happening, notice where you have drifted to and acknowledge it, then try to bring yourself back to the present moment.
Continue to eat or drink with awareness of the sensations within your body. Later you might also notice the sensations of digestion or perhaps have a sense of how that particular food or drink affected you energetically.
Our ability to walk is something most of us completely take for granted. It happens automatically, with little thought or effort. Watching our precious little ones learn to walk is an opportunity to remind ourselves and to appreciate how complex and amazing our bodies really are.
Bringing awareness and intention to something as seemingly simple as walking is a wonderful opportunity to practice mindfulness in daily life. Notice your posture, your breath, areas of tension through the body, the length of your steps, the transfer of your weight, the subtle sway of your hips, the sun of your skin, the earth beneath your feet.
If you don’t have the opportunity to go for a walk, you can walk slowly up and down your hallway or around your lounge room. This can also be a great way to stay calm and present if you have a baby who is soothed by movement.
I hope this gave you some ideas for how you might find little snippets of mindfulness in your busy days. I’d love to hear from you if you have any particular strategies that your find helpful. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram.
With love & gratitude
Would you like to work with me? Click here for details of Nurture & Restore, my holistic self-care program for mothers, which includes yoga and mindfulness classes, retreats and a supportive community for all stages of your motherhood journey.