I've recently stopped saying something I've been saying for years: "I'm so busy". I would usually say it after I failed to respond to a voicemail or email or was late or forgot to do something I said I would do. I would say it as if it was an excuse, as if the person I was talking to wasn't also "busy" with their own stuff. As if it was a badge of honor "Oh man I am SO BUSY" meant "I am so important". But the thing is, what I was busying myself with wasn't important, not in the slightest. I got myself caught up in taking on new projects and new commitments and saying yes to everything that anyone asked me to and I worked myself into a corner of spending way too much time on meaningless stuff. And I wasn't happy.
I majorly lost sight of what was important. I would leave for "work" before I got to tuck kids into bed, I would miss family dinners. I would find myself so tired from busting my butt keeping "busy" that I would drink coffee all day just to keep going and would move from one task to the next, just getting through the day. I wasn't in my days. I was moving through them, putting them past me just so I could move onto something else. The thing is, they weren't just my days to blow through with the background noise of my life, they were our days. My days include these little humans I chose to bring into the world, and I was rushing us all through dinners and playtimes and walks just to get to some meaningless task that in the end wasn't even doing the service of paying my bills. I was miserable.
And when the wake up call came, I answered it fully and never looked back. Given the gift of being able to take a huge chunk of "BUSY" out of my life made me realize how much I was missing. How putting more and more on my plate wasn't making me happier, it was making me actually depressed. Having a long list of busy work didn't mean I was achieving anything other than taking on new "stuff". Having so much to do I didn't have any free time didn't make me important, it made me suck at all of those things I was doing because I didn't choose what to focus on.
Am I full of "free" time? No, not really. I work from home, I have a family and five kids, three of which go to school and have little friends and after school activities and they also like to do things like go on hikes and bike rides and paint with me and sing songs and just hang out and there is that pesky need to bathe and feed them and make sure they are healthy and well cared for. I have family and friends that are important to me and that I love spending time with. But instead of busying myself with other things that took away that time from me and from them, I started saying no, I started to prioritize, and I have to tell you, I am so, so much happier.
Now, let's get back to mindfulness. What is mindfulness, exactly? In our world today there are unlimited distractions. Cellphones and ipads and tv shows. Not to mention jobs and laundry and soccer practice and homework. There's no lack of distractions. But there is a lack of focus in our lives. While some of these "distractions" help make our world go 'round (ie our job that pays the bills and keeps a roof over our heads, doctors appointments to keep us healthy, commitments we make to family and friends), we can find ourselves running on auto-pilot when it comes to our day to day lives without giving the attention our chosen roles as parents (and our children) deserve.
In their paper: A Model of Mindful Parenting: Implications for Parent–Child Relationships and Prevention Research, Duncan, Coatsworth, and Greenberg outlined five aspects of mindful parenting: listening with full attention, nonjudgmental acceptance of self and child, emotional awareness of self and child, self-regulation in the parenting relationship, and compassion for self and child.
Sounds like a lot, right? With this Mamaste Challenge we are going to break down these ideas into some easier steps and tips that you can implement into your everyday life as a mom to become more mindful. But first?
You have to make space for it.
Yes, you. Before becoming mindful in our parenting, we need to begin practicing mindfulness ourselves in order to model this capacity for our children. How can you teach your kids how to ride a bike if you don't know how to do it yourself?
This week's practice is as follows: say no to something you a) don't want to do and/or b) don't need to do. You'll be surprised how often we say yes to things we don't actually have time for and don't actually even want to do. Free up some actual time without filling it with something else right away. Make that time sacred. Guard it. When you have that time set aside, just simply sit and breathe for 5-30 minutes every day, bringing awareness to the breath in the body as a natural, physical experience. When your mind wanders to what you have to do that day, what bills you have to pay or what chores need to be done or what is worrying you at that very moment, don’t make it a big deal. Just notice when this happens, let go of that “train” of thought, and gently bring your awareness back to the anchor of your breath in your body, again and again.
So if it's five minutes a day, it's five minutes a day, and it is totally worth it. Everyone has five minutes they can free up, you just have to want to make it happen. That's your challenge for today mamas, I know you can do it. xoxo