By exploring mindfulness you can learn to be present through the magic (and chaos) of raising kids.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could start each day alone, overlooking the ocean with a cup of coffee or meditating quietly in your garden? Or maybe journaling while cozied up in bed with a cup of tea sounds like perfection to you. Whatever your ideal scenario — if it were possible, it might help you have a deeper sense of calm to carry with you throughout the day.
If you’re a mother, your mornings probably don’t start out quite like that. Instead of calm there’s chaos, instead of peace there’s exhaustion, instead of timeliness there’s rushing. And while it might not be feasible to take a few moments alone, you can bring mindfulness into your day and practice the art of being present:
Set a goal to be mindful today and throughout this week. Notice (without judgment) how your body feels upon waking. Are you tired or achy? Are you feeling great? Allow yourself a few deep breaths — in and out — before your feet hit the floor, and remind yourself that today is a new day.
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No matter how overwhelmed you feel or how long your to-do list is, you can set aside this time to observe your life and your children and to simply notice.
Notice your child’s first facial expression of the morning. Notice the warmth of your first sip of coffee or tea and how the steam feels on your face. Notice the feeling of your child’s body and weight in your arms. Feel the warm water and soap on your skin as you wash your hands for the first time today. While the big firsts in your child’s life play a significant role in making memories and reaching milestones, you’ll discover many other firsts if you allow yourself to be in the moment.
As you shift into mom mode for the day, observe your child through the lens of curiosity. Does she want to be close to you or to play independently? Is he trying something new and waiting for your encouragement?
While you explore this concept of being present, what are you recognizing about your child? Do her facial expressions change when she is really focusing on something? Do his eyes narrow as he scans the pages when you read books together? Does his voice change when he gets really excited?
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As mothers, we need these mindfulness skills to refocus our attention where it is needed most.
We all need those gentle reminders to live in the now. In difficult times, stop and ask yourself, “Am I here?” “Am I experiencing this moment?” Sure, some of these moments will include piles of dishes and unfinished tasks at work, but when you are fully experiencing your life, you see with a new level of depth and awareness.
We invite you this week to take the time to find stillness each morning and create a rhythm of coming back to the present and noticing what’s before you . . . in all its guts and the glory.
Your attention may wander, and you may forget to call upon this practice, but that’s exactly why it’s called practice. At any point in the day, mindfulness can help bring you back to the present and provide a new opportunity to spend beautiful, undistracted moments with your children and your life. It’s these everyday moments that make up our entire lives — may we revel in them together.
Give yourself fifteen minutes to pause and revel in this experience of noticing the wonder that is your life.
- Find somewhere to sit or lie down where you can feel relaxed. Take a second to get settled and then begin by taking three or four deep breaths.
- Close your eyes if that feels natural to you. Allow yourself to appreciate the silence. Appreciate how good it feels to be by yourself. Appreciate the space you need away from the day-to-day to be able to honor the beauty of your life.
- Now, sort through some memories. Bring yourself back to the very minute you came face-to-face with your child. Allow yourself to feel that wonder again. Remember saying to yourself, “Is this real?”
- Recall when you heard your child say “Mama” for the first time. Where were you? What season was it? Let yourself revel in how special that made you feel. These moments will forever be yours.
- As you take this time and settle into your meditation, reflect on the wonder and magic of your life and simply breathe. With each inhale, breathe in the beauty of all these sweet memories and hold the inhale for an extra moment while you savor them. With each exhale, smile softly and allow these precious moments to soothe you. Repeat, slowly inhaling and exhaling.
Come back to this meditation any time you feel like you’ve lost the magic of motherhood. Bring back the joy-filled, real memories of your journey and open your eyes up to the small, everyday moments of wonder around you. The magic is always here.
See also 4 Breathing Exercises to Help Kids (and Adults) Manage Their Emotions
ABOUT OUR AUTHOR
Rachel Gorton is the business development director at Motherly, and a contributor to the new book, THIS IS MOTHERHOOD: A Motherly Collection of Reflections + Practices (Sounds True, on sale March 12, 2019) by Jill Koziol and Liz Tenety, edited by Colleen Temple. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and three children.
YJ Tried It: I Survived a 10-Day Silent Vipassana Meditation Retreat
What happens when a seasoned yoga teacher and meditation practitioner goes on a 10-day silent vipassana meditation retreat? Lauren Eckstrom reports.
I’ve been meditating for a long time, but as I arrived in North Fork, California, just outside of Yosemite National Park, for my first 10-day vipassana retreat, I was terrified.
What have I gotten myself into? I wondered as I drove down the dirt path to the California Vipassana Meditation Center. What if we get dragged into another world war and no one can reach me?
My nerves were running high. I was about to spend a whopping 10 hours and 45 minutes a day in seated meditation in complete silence—no phone, computer, journal, books, exercise, yoga, or speaking.
Not talking seemed like it was going to be easy. As a yoga and meditation teacher, I spend all day every day using my voice. Silence felt like a welcome reprieve. But no journaling, reading, or yoga? That felt downright cruel.
See also Learn to Meditate
As I unpacked my bags and the many meditation cushions and props I had indulgently dragged with me, I was aware that despite my years of yoga practice, the most challenging part of this retreat was likely going to be the physical discomfort that would arise from all those hours of sitting. I walked to the small pond on the women’s side of the center—men and women are separated during the retreat—and took a seat near a small stream. I could hear frogs ribbit as a beautiful dragonfly buzzed near me. Nature was telling me it would be OK. I began to settle in.
That evening, as 50 women entered the meditation hall, I gazed around at the people I would be sitting with in silence for the next 10 days. Eye contact is not allowed once you start the retreat, so this was my only chance to get a good look at my fellow meditators before we began.
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The next morning, the wake up bell rang at 4 a.m. I slipped into my coziest sweatpants and stumbled in the dark toward the meditation hall. As the morning practice began, I started to feel anxious. My body temperature rose, and small beads of sweat began to pour down my face. I slipped my sweater off. When the heat continued, I tied my hair back. As my anxiety lifted to a peak, I opened my eyes and fainted headfirst into the meditation cushion of the woman perched in front of me. I have no idea how long I was out. I opened my eyes, sat back up, took a breath, and felt like I had left my body. This vipassana retreat was starting out with a bang.
Though it’s called a “silent retreat,” it felt noisier than playing the radio at full volume—not because there was talking, but because the voice inside my head incessantly narrated everything. I listened to my breath move in and out. I listened to coughing, sniffling, throat-clearing, and a bevy of other bodily noises come and go. I was mindful of my judgments, fears, and physical pains rising and falling away again and again. It was tedious. It felt like work.
See also Daily Meditation Made Easy
Then, on day three, something magical happened: My body—and mind—became still. While my physical discomfort from all of the sitting was still there, it stopped defining my moment-to-moment experience, and my mental hall monitor faded away.
This retreat woke me up in ways my yoga practice and training never have. I awakened to a voice inside my head that was self-critical and painful to listen to, and I loved that part of myself into healing. I heard the loving voices of my teachers whispering, “May this serve to open your heart; This too is practice; You can do hard things; This too will change; Nothing goes away until it teaches you what you need to learn.” And I kept sitting, ultimately having the incredible experience of the pain not being “mine” anymore. Sure, I felt it in my body, but I learned to un-identify with the pain. I fell into a space of trust that I was OK; that the pain could be there, and I could be separate from it.
In navigating the restlessness, fear, self-criticism, and pain I experienced on this retreat, I awakened to the true meaning of yoga and a profound new depth of presence, love, and acceptance that will stay with me forever.
See also The Big Brain Benefits of Meditation
Silent Vipassana Meditation At A Glance
WHERE YOU CAN TRY IT
Vipassana meditation is commonly taught during 10-day, silent retreats with instruction on mindfulness and alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation.
FOR MORE ON THE HISTORY OF VIPASSANA
3 U.S. RETREAT CENTERS TO CONSIDER
Insight Meditation Society
Shambhala Mountain Center
Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
About our author
Lauren Eckstrom is a yoga and meditation teacher in Los Angeles and co-author of the book Holistic Yoga Flow: The Path of Practice. She leads Holistic Yoga Flow workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings, with her husband, yoga teacher Travis Eliot, with whom she co-created Yoga 30 for 30—a 30-day online yoga program of half-hour daily practices. Learn more at laureneckstrom.com.
A 5-Minute Meditation to Release Anxiety
Detach from anxiety and come back to the present.
Rina Deshpande shares her quick 5-minute meditation to release anxiety and let go of attachments.
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Yoga Helped Me Face My Fears About Marriage Once and For All
I went to Mexico to rejuvenate, detox, and practice yoga with my boyfriend. Turns out, it would also be where I faced my fears about marriage.
It was a humid sunrise on a quiet, sandy beach in Tulum, Mexico. Despite our previous late-night mezcal tasting beneath the jungle leaves, my longtime boyfriend, Anush, had dragged me out of our tiny thatched-roof cabana at first light.
I adjusted my Beyoncé t-shirt and gray cotton shorts I’d worn to bed as I scanned the horizon. When I turned back to Anush, he was kneeling in the sand, holding a typed love letter and a tourmaline engagement ring.
“Will you marry me?” He asked.
I was so incredulous, I couldn’t speak. Feelings of doubt and darkness coursed through me, even though I’d always imagined a future with him: He was the one person who made me feel seen and cared for and uplifted. Still, I was reluctant to commit.
My parents went through a dramatic and corrosive divorce when I was 13, but the fallout had lasted long after. Most of the great pain in my life has come from marriage—and its ending. Marriage is the thing that has made me most likely to run, and least likely to trust
See also This Guided Meditation Will Inspire You to Live From Your Heart
As I stared at the man I love, these past traumas lit my body from head to toe with alarm bells. How could I marry anyone? But, as I looked at him, I calmed myself down. I silently told myself something I had learned in my yoga and mindfulness practice: Be here now. With that mantra, I slowly came back to the moment. With that mantra, I reminded myself where I was, who I was with—and most importantly, who I am now.
He waited patiently. I started to cry. Finally, I said, “Yes! Yes. Yes. Of course, yes.” He put the ring on my finger, and he held me while I cried. In that moment of “yes,” my world expanded.
We drank champagne and ate fruit in front of the ocean while the Tulum sun rose, pink and hot on our skin. I could hardly believe my good fortune—engaged in Tulum at sunrise. In that moment, instead of fear, I chose gratitude.
I saw a beachfront yoga class almost immediately after—Tulum, thankfully is crawling with them—and I asked my fiance(!), if he’d like to take it together. I was still shaking from the metamorphic decision I had made: unwavering commitment in the face of fear. I hoped familiar asana would steady me. Internally, I repeated my mantra as we walked into a large triangular wood pavilion, perched on a hidden natural cliff in the jungle, overlooking the beach as if it had been there forever.
See also 17 Poses to Prep for Mindful Meditation
Our yoga teacher, a young woman from Mexico City with a sing-song voice, instructed us to let go of our fears, to open our hearts, to experience the beauty of the moment we were in.
I was exactly where I needed to be. I still had my dark corners—I may always—but I could learn to live with them and still claim the life I wanted and deserve. I could live in the present and not in the past. I could be here now, soaking in the jungle, the ocean, in a magnificent place where afterward we would eat fresh coconut and bike carefree down the beach road and hike up Mayan ruins and speak a little Spanish and accept a glorious chocolate mole cake that said “Felicidades.”
As I looked over at the joyful, patient man doing yoga next to me, the waves crashed out ahead. I took his hand for just an instant, and he smiled. And then we raised our arms together, side-by-side, to salute the sun.
See also 7 Simple Ways to Call in More Joy—and Feel Less Stressed
About our author
Gina Tomaine is a yoga teacher and magazine editor in Philadelphia. Her work has been published in Prevention, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, and other publications. Learn more at gina-tomaine.com.
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