Wednesday, 19 March 2014

5 ways to bring a bit of mindfulness in to family life

"Mindfulness - awareness of the present moment with acceptance." (C.K.Germer)

Meet my gurus, Caitlin, Erin and Isla.  I didn't think about anything like mindfulness before they came in to my life.  It's thanks to them that I began (as cliched as it is) a journey, with them in my life I started to question "How do I want to live?"  For me, mindfulness was the answer.  To try to practice mindfulness has been one of the most important things I have done for myself and for my children.  So, how do I practice?

1.  I try to make sure we have lots of time to do what we need to do.  We are awake early in the morning to make sure we have  lots of time to get ready for school.  I don't like to feel rushed and it is in moments when I feel rushed that it's harder to feel calm and mindful of the present moment.  I try to arrive early for appointments or meetings with friends.  I can then take a few moments to think about what I am about to do.  

2.  I like routine, because of certain routines in my life I can practice more presence of mind as I'm not caught up in the practicalities of every day life.  An example would be meal planning, because I've already planned for the week what we're going to have for dinner it means I don't have a last minute dash to the shops.  In the afternoons when my two bigger gurus are back from school I can spend time with them as I've already started dinner earlier that day.  I can be around for them if they want to do something together.  

3.  Order in the home is a big one for me, when the house gets messy it drives me crazy and mindfulness goes out of the window.  When I try to maintain order, putting laundry away, dealing with the post, etc it makes me feel calmer.  Less visual clutter means less mental clutter, which in turn means that I can be more aware of the present moment.

4.  Sometimes on my 'to-do list' I will add things that aren't necessarily urgent but are important to me.  Making time in the day to so something fun with my children such as taking some funny photos or even just making sure I sit and share a book with my toddler.  I find if it goes on the list I am more likely to do it.  I can be more mindful of how I really want to spend my time.

5.  One of the easiest ways I have found to be more mindful and present with my children is to get out and about.  When we visit a park or a forest I am away from home and away from so many distractions, household tasks, the computer, etc.  All I have to do is enjoy the time with my gurus, playing with them, listening to them, just enjoying their presence.  

There you have it, just a few of the things I have learned that have helped me bring more mindfulness in to my day.  I wonder if you have any you could share?



Friday, 7 March 2014

Mindfulness is delicious

If you are lucky enough to have someone in your life, a partner, children, or a pet perhaps, to be mindful of time spent with them is indeed 'delicious'.  I am lucky enough to have a partner and three young children and I cherish them all so much.  Practicing mindfulness for me means to imagine that I didn't have these people in my life, what would my life be like?  Perhaps it might be a 'good' life in a different way but I am very glad that I have this life, that I met this partner and had these three children.  When I hug my partner, when I cuddle and kiss my children and I stop to just savour the moment it is ... delicious.   

When I stop for a moment, rushing from one task to another, and I close my eyes and just breathe for a few seconds it is like a quick soothing tonic.  A delicious tonic.  Having paused for a few seconds I now know what I need to do next, to start making dinner, to do some homework with one of my daughters or to take care of myself for a few moments and simply make a cup of tea.  

Mindfulness is delicious and calming and peaceful and life changing. There is no drink or sweet to compare to the deliciousness of drinking in the present moment, especially if I'm holding one of my loved ones in my arms. 

Friday, 28 February 2014

Just play

"No place to go, nothing to do, nothing to attain."
(Heart Sutra, Mahayana Buddhism)

These words have been so soothing and peaceful to me over the last few days.  Not that I'm particularly busy or stressed at the moment.  Just the usual day to day busyness of raising three children.  On a beautiful, sunny but chilly day we headed out to one of our favourite parks.  We stayed all day, just playing and eating ice cream and just being with each other.  'No place to go, nothing to do, nothing to attain' ran like a mantra in my head.  All I had to do right now was play.  I was far from home, far from the distractions of all that needed to be done there.  We had our picnic lunch with us and I was ignoring my phone.  All I had to 'do' was breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the sun on my face and imitate the ease with which my daughters can just be in the moment and just play.

We played in the sand, we played on the swings, the pirate ship, the slide and the climbing frame.  We stayed for hours.  There was no where else I would rather have been, nothing else I would rather have been doing.  This is the essence of mindfulness.  Freeing my mind from distractions and deliberately rooting my presence in the here and now.  The here and now on this day was just wonderful and I basked in it.  Sometimes, on a beautiful day such as this 'Just play' should be at the top of the to-do list.  It should be the priority of the day.  "What are we going to do today Mummy?"  they asked me.  "Just play," I replied with a smile, "that's all we need to do today."

Monday, 23 September 2013

And I am grateful.

"Gratitude is the most fruitful way of deepening your consciousness."
(Henri Nouwen)

It's been said so many times before, in many different ways, but Gratitude, when you really 'get it', when you really practice it is a powerful tool for mindfulness.

When I hear myself starting to think 'poor me', I try to stop it right there and fend it off with a small dose of gratitude. 

Yes, I was up many times in the night with a very snotty, teething baby, but I also get to spend my day with that baby and am fortunate enough to be able stay home with her and not have to put her in a nursery. And I am grateful.

Yes, there's never enough money for me to go and buy those nice outfits I see in the shop windows, but we are fortunate enough to live in a nice, warm house with a lovely garden and there is always plenty of food on the table.  And I am grateful.

Yes, it seems like there's never enough time for me to do something for myself a yoga class, a trip to a gallery, poor me, but I always wanted to have children, would have been devastated if I couldn't have had them, and here they are, all three of them, beautiful and healthy and funny and clever.  And I am grateful.  

Friday, 20 September 2013

Something to think about ...

"Ask the river: 'Do you feel useful, given all that you do is to keep flowing in the same direction?

And the river will answer: 'I'm not trying to be useful. I'm trying to be a river.'

Don't try to be useful.  Try to be yourself: that is enough."

('Manuscript found in Accra', Paulo Coelho)

Monday, 16 September 2013

Greening up

"You are not separate from the whole.
 You are one with the sun, the earth, the air.
 You don't have a life.
 You are life."  
('Guardians of Being', Eckhart Tolle)

It comes with the territory.  When you try to be mindful it becomes obvious that living mindfully means to live lightly upon the earth.  In harming our world we are only harming ourselves and our children and their children.

I have always been very interested in environmental issues, though I'm not so great at taking the relevant action.  Lately, I think I appreciate the need to 'green up' our lives due to my interest in mindfulness.  How can I be still, be quiet, be present and not hear the voice of nature asking me to be gentle with her as I try to be gentle with myself, my husband, my children, my friends?  It's just so obvious that it is the right thing to do. 

There is so much that can be done in order to protect our environment that it simply overwhelms me sometimes.  As with all things, little baby steps can help.  Making sure I take my shopping bags to the shops, trying to make fewer car journeys, making cloth hankies instead of buying disposables.  Little things I know but important nonetheless.  I am also always aware of the example I am setting for my children, they should see their Mummy doing all that she can to safeguard their future.

Some much-needed inspiration recently came from Bea Johnson's book, 'Zero Waste Home' and her excellent blog We are far from being a 'zero waste home', but this woman is such an inspiration I'm certainly much more aware of the waste we produce and the things we buy.

So, I'm reading, I'm learning, I'm reflecting.  I'm trying to go about my day in mindfulness so that my actions and my purchases do the least harm to the environment.  I have such a long way to go, but I believe in it and I want to do it in any small way I can.  

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Mindfulness in the everyday

Mindfulness in the everyday, this is what I'm interested in. Always on the hunt for inspiration I recently watched this video It's the highly inspiring Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, at the Plum village monastery in France giving a talk about mindfulness.  In it he discusses 'mindful walking and breathing' and 'mindful eating'.  He goes in to great detail about how to conduct such activities with mindfulness and thus bring more joy and contentment in to one's life.

It occurs to me, as I go about my daily tasks, can't all of my tasks be undertaken in mindfulness should I choose?  Today, for example, there was 'mindful drinking of tea'.  It tasted so good and was so warming on a cool September morning.  There was 'mindful washing of dishes'.  'Mindful driving'. 'Mindful changing of nappy"!?  Mindfulness in everything, that's the goal, or at least the journey.  

Mindfully conducting each task.  Taking deep, nourishing breaths. Trying to not think about all of the other things you need to do, but  trying to be present and enjoy the moment as it is right now.  This is not always easy to do for sure.  As a practice it is so worthwhile and I know for certain that makes for a more pleasurable day and a more calm and present Mummy.  I try to practice all the time.  Listening to my girls' stories from school, playing with my baby, taking a moment to be still and savour the beauty of a curl on my daughter's neck, a bird in the garden, that first cup of mint tea this morning.  This is mindfulness in the everyday and it tastes good.