By Rachael Koeson
My youngest is 3, and I am just beginning to have a regular sitting meditation practice. I have done lots of sitting meditation off and on through the years, but it is incredibly hard to actually meditate in a formal, regular way while living the reality of family life.
For a long time I felt bad about myself for that, thinking that it was a flaw on my part. But there is so much more to it, like the reality that it is ridiculously hard to have a formal practice when you are with your children much of the time. And, when you are away from them, you have to work or do errands or take a much-needed break. This reality is true for all mothers. This photograph of my friend nursing while on the toilet speaks strongly of the intensity of mothering, and whether you nurse(d) or not, you can understand the immensity involved in being a mother!
Let’s begin by giving yourself some self-compassion for not having the kind of meditation practice you think you should have. Because it is ok, and you are enough just the way you are. If self-compassion does not come easily, check out the GRCFM’s Mindful Self-Compassion class for some helpful practices.
Then find some “Mindful Mommy Moments.” These are the moments that you can squeeze in literally one minute of mindfulness.
Ideally start with neutral (or mediocre) moments that aren’t charged with emotion. These will depend on each person, but here are some ideas:
- Getting out of bed
- Feeding your baby
- Sitting down on the toilet
- Before you take your first bite of food
- Washing the dishes
- Watching your kids play
- Taking a shower
- Waiting in line
When I was overwhelmed with the immensity of parenting my first toddler, I put pieces of blue painting tape up all over the house. Whenever I saw one, I would take several deep breaths. If you can take 5-10 deep breaths and just feel your feet on the ground, or the boundaries of your body, you are being mindful. It counts. You are making space for yourself and your experience.
Once you have established those neutral moments of mindfulness, perhaps expand toward those marvelous moments, the moments when you are filled with joy or love or gratitude.
Some ideas here:
- Giving your child a hug
- Watching your children sleep
- Noticing your children’s kindness
- Feeling deeply connected to your child
Eventually, you can include those miserable moments. It can be more difficult to be mindful during those, but it is just as important. Notice how the strong emotions feel in your body:
- Where is your anger showing up?
- What color is your sadness?
- How does despair feel in your body?
Breathe into those places and allow yourself to feel those feelings. Bring in your observer self that you have been cultivating in your mediocre and marvelous mindful moments. See if you can stay present and mindful with challenging emotions as well. And if you can’t, return to self-compassion; because this is hard.
As Thich Nhat Hahn says in No Mud, No Lotus:
“Some say that suffering is only an illusion or that to live wisely we have to ‘transcend’ both joy and suffering. I say the opposite. The way to suffer well and be happy is to stay in touch with what is actually going on; in doing so, you will gain liberating insights into the true nature of suffering and joy.”
May you find a few moments in each day that you can be mindful in whatever way you can.
Rachael Koeson is a mother of two beautiful and intense people and a Certified Hakomi Practitioner. Through her practice, Making Space Hakomi, she sees individual clients and offers a Mindful Mothering Support Group. Hakomi is a mindfulness-based, body-centered form of assisted self-discovery. To learn more, visit her web page at www.makingspacehakomi.com