Life can be so frantic and busy. There’s the endless to-do list, the costume for school that’s remembered at the last moment, fussy eaters to cope with, and tears and tantrums to boot. Mother’s Day is just around the corner so what better time to discover ways to be kinder to yourself. Vidyamala Burch and Claire Irvin share some mindfulness for mums to help transform your day and give you that much-needed energy boost.
Making time for yourself
Small but beautiful things can transform your day. So stop every hour and do one thing that is kind towards yourself and just for you. You could try the Three-minute Breathing Space meditation below to restore a sense of calm. Or you could simply have a cup of tea with a good friend. Can you think of one active thing you can do that will move your experience today towards the positive?
Be kinder to yourself
Instead of berating yourself for what you haven’t ticked off on your list of tasks or dwelling on an argument, notice the positive things that have happened in your day. They don’t have to be grand or dramatic. They might include things like the smell of some flowers you passed on the school run, the sound of a baby laughing, the feel of fresh linen, or the sight of sunlight streaming in through a window.
At the end of each day, consciously write down at least ten experiences that have made you happy or given you pleasure. (Yes, ten – don’t stop after just four or five.) Consciously bringing to mind the small experiences that would normally slip by and not be remembered is the aim of the exercise. It is OK to write down some of the same things each day. And you can also write down different dimensions of an experience: the sounds, the smells . . .
Remember: ‘what you dwell on you can become’. By dwelling on the enjoyable aspects of life; learning to appreciate them and giving them your full attention, day by day, you can begin habitually to help overcome that feeling of merely existing on a treadmill.
Halt the frenzy of life with a Three-minute Breathing Space Meditation
Step 1: Become still wherever you are. Either lying down, sitting or standing, choose a posture where you’ll be as comfortable as possible, then lightly close your eyes if that seems appropriate. Bring your awareness to whatever is going on for you right now. Give the weight of your body up to gravity. Allow your weight to sink into the points of contact between your body and the floor, chair or bed, whether that’s your feet, your buttocks or your back.
What sensations are there, right now? If you notice any tension or resistance towards painful or unpleasant sensations, gently turn towards them. Accept this as best you can. If you begin to tense around the breath, then let go a little bit with each out-breath. Soften into gravity. Notice any thoughts as they arise and pass away in the mind. See if you can let them come and go without becoming too identified with their content. Look at your thoughts, not from them. Observe them as if they were clouds in the sky. Relate to them as a flow of mental events. Remember: thoughts are not facts.
Notice any feelings and emotions as they arise. Can you let these come and go without pushing away those that you don’t like, or jumping on to those that you do like? Include everything within your awareness with a kindly perspective.
Step 2: Allow your awareness to gather around the experience of the breath low in the body. Drop your awareness inside the breath and feel the different sensations in the front, back and sides of the torso, inside the torso and on the surface of the torso. Feel all of the different sensations of the breath as it flows into and out of the body. Can you rest within the flow of the breath? Let everything change, moment by moment. Use the breath to anchor your awareness in the present moment and the body. Each time you notice your mind has wandered, remember that you are having a ‘magic moment’ of awareness. You have ‘woken up’. Then gently bring the mind back to the breath deep in the body.
Step 3: Gently broaden and expand your awareness to include the whole body. Feel the weight and shape of the body as it sits, stands or lies. Feel the breath in the whole body. Imagine you are breathing in and out in all directions: 360-degree breathing. If you have any pain or discomfort, make sure your awareness stays open. Cultivate acceptance for all of your experience. Befriend it. Now, broaden your awareness even further to become aware of sounds both inside and outside of the room. Be aware of other people around you. Then imagine expanding all of your awareness outwards to include all of life. Imagine the whole world breathing.
Now gently open your eyes and move your body. As you reengage with the activities of your day, see if you can carry the awareness that you have cultivated with you.
For more on mindfulness visit the website www.mindfulness4women.com where you can also find an audio version of the Three Minute Breathing Space Meditation, along with other guided meditations to listen to.