As we head into the holiday season... I was going to start there, because well it's December so that's what you do, but let's be honest, we need these exact same tips whether it's winter, spring, summer or fall. Being a parent is the most full time, hands on, intense, constant experience on the planet. As a parent of two children I have had to use, and reuse, and use again these tips to maintain a strong & steady meditation practice. And the second that I don't stick to my practice, I can tell, in fact my whole family can tell, but most importantly I can tell.
Meditation is the single most useful tool I have found for increasing awareness, expanding consciousness, and creating the possibility for responding from spaciousness to the events, people, and circumstances of life, rather than reacting to them. On a practical and physical level it heals and restores our nervous system. On a spiritual level, it connects us on a daily basis to something "larger than ourselves" and to the ground of presence from which all is born.
So for the holiday season, or for whatever season you find yourself in now, here are 5 tips for starting or restarting a mediation practice, with a specific focus on people with little children or other dependants.
1. Start with a small length of time. If you are a beginner start with 10 minutes a day, if 10 sounds too difficult start with 5 minutes! You (probably) brush your teeth for at least 2, so think of it like 3 more minutes than how long you brush your teeth. If you are a previous meditator, who needs a reboot, start 20-30 minutes per day.
Whether you are a first time/never meditator or an experienced meditator who needs a reboot you will build to a longer practice, but right now, just get it in. Oh your mind chatter will have plenty to say about how you don't possibly have the time to sit still for 5 minutes. Ignore that thought, and that one and that one, and... just sit down. Use a timer, I like the Insight Timer app, but a digital watch will do just fine. (Read more about my own journey of beginning to begin meditate here.)
2. Find the first moment of pause and meditate in the morning if you can. Meditating early in the day supports the front-loading of awareness. It helps us ground into the right mindset to approach the rest of what is to come. Plus, I find if I "put it off for later" I will often skip it, having gotten caught up in the doer state and believing that there are more important things to do (See tip number 5).
So find the first moment of "pause" in the day, and the second you do, sit down. I know in my routine I usually have a moment of pause after everyone is out the door. If I am not driving anyone anywhere, or doing something out of the house first thing in the morning, I take that first moment of pause, before I clean, before I shower, before I pick up my email/phone/broom etc., and I go and sit.
If I am the driver, have a meeting, am going to my office or am leaving the house for any reason I hold myself to the commitment that at the first moment of pause I will sit.
If you get through the day and your first moment of pause is in the evening that's okay! (If you were my client we would definitely dig into this and start to work to create more spaciousness :) ) You may fall asleep if you mediate in the evening/after the kids are in bed, but it's better than not doing it, and the next day you can try again at a new time that's more conducive to wakefulness.
A note on falling asleep in meditation: When my children were babies I fell asleep every time I meditated, whether it was after a strong cup of coffee or after a decent night's sleep! When I reported this to my meditation teacher, she simply said, "It's temporary, it just means that your nervous system needs sleep more right now than meditation." I was relieved by this and when I gave myself permission to "let whatever happens happen," during meditation time, I started being able to stay awake again slowly with time.
3. Build a habit. Commit to 30 days. Stick with it. Trust that it's going to give you results that you need and want. If you stop, get right back up on that horse (errrr...chair/cushion), start over again.
Speaking of chairs and cushions, meditate where ever you like! Some days it might even be in your car, waiting for your kids to get out of school, or taking a moment of pause between errands. For your regular meditation spot choose somewhere quiet, with a door that closes, and that is comfortable. I sit in an armchair in my bedroom. You don't need to make this any more difficult than it is. Triumphing over the "busyness" of life to sit still everyday is a hurdle enough in itself. Find a comfortable spot, cross your legs, or plant your feet on the floor, keep your spine straight and sit. (On that note, I do recommend sitting rather than lying down, though I've heard of some people who can do it).
Before you move to tip four, remember tip 3: Build that habit. If you miss a day, start again, and again, and again...don't make a big deal out of it, don't put it off for another month. Start now. Give yourself room for grace, spaciousness and love in starting this practice.
4. Make it a part of your routine. Find a time everyday (or most days) that you can sit at the same time.
Remember you're building a habit. As much as you are "meditating" during this first 30 days, you are also getting yourself to remember to do this thing every single day. And having it be a part of your routine will make it easier. I know that my weekend days (and vacation days) are very different than my weekdays, so my meditation routine is different on those days too. My first moment of pause on a Saturday or Sunday often doesn't come until later in the afternoon. So on those days I make a commitment to myself that I will find my moment of pause before 5pm, and take it whenever it comes.
Something that has helped me enormously, as a parent, to keep to a routine is to let my partner in on the practice. No, we don't meditate together (though I'm not objecting if he ever decides to join me!) but I do ask him to please support my practice by keeping the kids at bay while I meditate. If you are single or without support of a partner for any reason, screen time is an option while you meditate, nap time can work for littles, after kids go to sleep, or for older kids invite them into the practice. This is essential self care. Just like going to the bathroom, eating food, working hours at a job, this practice will support everyone in your family ecosystem. Don't believe anyone (most prominently it will probably be your own mind) who tells you differently.
5. Remember it's the most important thing. It's more important than just about anything else you're going to do today because it will support all the other things that you do to be better, more peaceful and calm. It will support you to be a more grounded spacious parent, it will support you to have a calm nervous system, and help you to respond to anything that arises in your day.
Meditating regularly heals our nervous systems, builds awareness, and creates space between our patterned thoughts and reactions thereby creating the opportunity to make conscious choices. This is why meditation is the most important thing, it will support everything else that you do today from parenting to cooking, to your email response and work meetings.
Paige Doughty, is available for personal counselling sessions, one on one support, and creative business coaching.