3 quick mindfulness moments for busy mums
On our way to school this morning, my wonderfully communicative 7-year old informed me that he had to give a news presentation today about snails. I took a deep breath and in the long queue for drop-off, found an A4 sized envelope in the boot and a half eaten biro in the glovebox. As we inched our way to the front gate of the school, with the help of google, I scrawled 6 interesting facts about snails complete with descriptive pictures. I managed to get him to rehearse it twice while helping him into his jacket and out of the car. At the same time, I was feeding my daughter limp strips of vegemite toast while getting her dressed for pre-school in her car seat, and brushing over my dark roots and split ends while hastily smearing concealer on a suspicious looking pimple on my forehead (What is that?! I’m nearly 40!) in preparation for a meeting.
On reflection, the whole ridiculous (and very common) scenario reminds me that being a mum requires more skills that any job description you could possibly imagine and a constant level of multitasking of which even the most accomplished of airline pilots would be envious. Moments of calm and peace offered by mindfulness are like a lottery ticket to the promised land. Unfortunately for us mums, the whole mindfulness movement is predicated on focusing our attention only on one thing at a time. In mindfulness-speak, multitasking is a dirty word. Many mums simply throw up their hands in exasperation and cry; This can’t possibly work for me!
Being a mum requires more skills that any job description you could possibly imagine and a constant level of multitasking of which even the most accomplished of airline pilots would be envious.
To quickly recap, mindfulness is about becoming fully present in the moment as you experience it. Most mindfulness practices teach you to become present by focusing your attention on your breath and the sensations in your body. Mindfulness training often starts with a body scan, where you lie down and focus on each body part in turn, starting with your feet all the way up to the top of your head, finishing with an awareness of your whole body. These meditations typically run anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.
As mums well know however, finding even 10 minutes completely to yourself is close to impossible without physically locking your children in another room and stuffing your ears with cotton wool. Not that we’d ever do that (the guilt would be louder than the kids!). So how can busy mums find a way to bring mindfulness into their day? Here are three quick and easy ways:
1. Mindfully washing your face
Luckily, mindfulness isn’t just about meditating in the traditional sense. You can practice mindfulness anywhere for any length of time, even hanging out the washing for 2 minutes, for 1 minute brushing your teeth or for 30 seconds while you wash your face in the shower. You can even practice mindfulness while eating almonds in the car (aka John Kabat-Zinn’s famous raisin-eating exercise).
Breathe deeply, elongating the out-breath. Then focus your entire attention on how it feels physically in your body doing the task you have chosen. If its washing your face, notice how the water feels when it touches your skin – is it warm or cool? How does the soap feel against your skin? What does it smell like? How does your skin feel against your fingers? Does the water form droplets on your eyelashes? How does that feel? What does the running water sound like? For those 30 seconds, focus completely on the sensations of washing your face.
How did that feel? Try to do one thing every day like this. By choosing a thing you do every day anyway, you remove the necessity of having to set aside specific time. Its a win-win.
2. Taking 10 mindful breaths
As mums well know, finding even 10 minutes completely to yourself is close to impossible without physically locking your children in another room and stuffing your ears with cotton wool.
When things get too much, people often recommend taking 10 breaths. This certainly helps, however taking these 10 breaths mindfully is an infinitely better use of your time. To begin with, if possible, STOP what you are doing. Imagine your attention like a spotlight. Turn the spotlight away from your surroundings and your mind and into your body to your feet. Feel yourself connected to the earth through the floor, grounding you. As you take your 10 breaths, inhale for the count of 5 and exhale to the count of 8. Focus your attention on the flow of air into your nostrils and down into your belly, and then out again. Is it warmer on the out-breath than the in-breath? Where do you feel the air most? In your nose? In your throat or belly? 10 breaths will feel completely different when you take them mindfully. When you do, they serve as a mini-meditation experience.
3. Sign up to Mindful in May
For the month of May, you can sign up to Mindful in May to receive daily emails with short audio-guided mindfulness meditations. You can choose from a 10 minute body scan for beginners, a 20 minute relaxing meditation for more experienced meditators and…drum roll please…a 4 minute meditation perfect for busy mums! It costs $30 to participate and you receive lots of added value in the way of healthy recipes, interviews with mindfulness experts and tips on developing a mindfulness practice of your own. If you like, you can then ask people to sponsor you to do your daily mindfulness practice and the money raised goes to Charity Water to build fresh water wells in developing countries. If you don’t have time for all the rest, just do the 4 minute practice. Its enough to make a real difference to your day.
I am participating in Mindful in May myself and I’m loving the daily mindfulness meditations, which are short and easy to follow. If you’d like to try it, or know someone else who’d benefit, click here to visit the Mindful in May website. Wellbeing Magazine has also set up a team for Mindful in May so if you’d like to join me in this team, click here to sign up.
Happy Mindful Mothers’ Day!
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