I am not one for absolutes.
In motherhood, as in relationships and jobs and family, the scene before us is always changing, so we learn to adapt. Today’s toddler meltdown may need to be handled differently than yesterday. The bills need paying and the kids need braces. Learning to respond to challenges with intentional reactions instead of instinctual yelling and foot-stomping takes a lot of patience and self-control, (the very things we try to teach our kids, but gosh darn it if we aren’t still learning those lessons ourselves).
Without fail, every day, absolutely, no ifs ands or buts about it, I meditate. I meditate to be a better mother. I meditate to practice accessing that still, quiet space that exists somewhere in my mind. (It’s really hard to find some days!) I meditate because when I don’t, I feel easily overwhelmed, tossed about like flotsam in the chaotic seas of mothering young children. It’s exhausting. I yell. They cry. I feel guilty. We all lose.
When I keep up with my meditation practice, it makes the difference between being the mother I want to be, or the one that makes me feel guilty at day’s end. It gives me a chance to practice listening to my thoughts and pausing before reacting. Concretely, it gives me the awareness to stop myself before I yell right back at my twin three-year-olds for their incessant whining. Instead, my practice helps me take a deep breath, squat down to their level, and explain calmly that I will listen to them when they speak to me with respect, not whining.
For me, meditation is not religious, but it is very hard spiritual work. It has its roots in Eastern traditions, but meditation need not be limited to a particular sect or religion. Anyone can meditate. In fact, I bet a lot of you do, but don’t realize it. You know that peace you experience on a nice after-dinner stroll? The kind where you notice the wind in the trees and feel so alive? That’s meditation.
Meditation is the practice of slowing down, being fully aware of what’s in front of you, and blocking out distracting thoughts about what happened,what’s coming, or what you should remember for later. For some, like me, meditation is a more structured practice of sitting in stillness and falling into a kind of dream-like state.
I sit still, close my eyes, and start paying attention to my breath. Sometimes I count them, sometimes I just imagine where that breath is going on an inhale and coming from on an exhale. After a certain point, grocery lists and to-dos start popping in my head, so I imagine sweeping them to the side, like on a screen. Swipe, and it’s gone, back to stillness. Sometimes this is all I do for 10 minutes: Sit, breathe, distraction, swipe it away, repeat. Other times I sit and feel stillness turn into what I describe as warmth and love radiating through me. It makes me feel worthy, important, loved and capable of seeing that same love in others.
I know for some, this seems pretty hokey and hippy, and I suppose it is! But just the way we practice running further when training for a race, or learning chords before writing a song, I meditate to practice honing my patience: patience with myself and patience with others (especially those of the under-five crowd!). I still falter. I still lapse and yell and use sarcasm and do things I don’t like. Then I begin again, keep trying, and never stop learning.
Everything about motherhood changes. Our children’s needs change, our families change, our surroundings, our resources and our health. My meditation practice does not. I have to do it. I want to do it. It is time I need to focus on myself, no distractions.
I need meditation so that when I return to the fray of a busy breakfast before heading out for the morning, with demands being asked of me left, right and centre, the spills and hurts and tears and whining and a ringing phone don’t do me in. My girls instead see me take a deep breath, choose a reaction, and steer the ship with confidence, adjusting the sails as necessary.
Sarah is a mother of four girls, including two identical twin three-year-olds. She blogs at www.cureforboredomiscuriosity.com and is happy to help anyone with questions about starting a daily meditation practice.
From August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.
Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.