In a few weeks, I will be hosting a “Mindful Parenting” workshop. Preparing for this has really prompted me to think more about ways to integrate practice with the daily rigors and joys of raising kids and managing a household. I find that being a parent can be an interesting mix of overstimulation (stress!) and understimulation (monotony), and that practicing mindfulness brings me back to “center,” to a place where (most of the time) I can find a sense of calm and effectiveness alongside whatever is happening.
There are days when I feel profoundly un-mindful; when I catch myself constantly plotting how to plan out the day or analyzing what happened at breakfast or daydreaming about my next Ladies Night Out or just watching the time slide by. Some days, I feel like my mind is flipping through channels rapidly and consequently, I rarely attend to what is happening in the moment.
Yesterday, for instance, I left my cell phone in the refrigerator. I don’t know how long it was there but thankfully, I got to it in time to save it from a slow, cold death. To me, forgetfulness and absent-mindedness are cues to slow down and zoom in. And when I do, I am usually rewarded by a more profound sense of being engaged in an activity, being more connected to my son, and enjoying our time together more.
After rescuing my phone, I paused. I brought my attention to my breath. And then, I pulled out some coloring books and crayons and my son and I dug in. And it was a great mindfulness practice: each time I noticed that my mind wandered away from the image or the feeling of the movements in my hand or chatting with my son, I just picked up a new crayon and began again. After ten minutes, it was interesting to see how many times the color changed. The picture was a visual representation of my practice during that period.
Kids are such good mindfulness teachers. They provide great examples of approaching life with a “beginner’s mind,” where we can come to a moment with openness and interest, as if we are experiencing something for the first time. This experience made me wonder: If coloring was so enriching, what other activities could anchor me to the present moment?
And what about you? How do you practice parenting while being mindful? Does it impact your ability to be effective? To connect more deeply? To feel gratitude? I would love to know.
In the meantime, why not do some coloring this weekend?
(Image courtesy of papaija2008 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)