Q: HELP! MY MIND IS ALL OVER THE PLACE!
I really need mindfulness! My mind is always being pulled all over the place- that’s the nature of my work. Staff require my direction; at home I’ve got the toddler and a five year old. I’m so busy!
When a busy mum asked me this question recently, I faltered.
Oh my goodness. I remember back to my son’s toddler days and the demanding nature of the 24/7 circus. Mothering this age group is like being trapeze artist, clown, ring master, bare back rider, lion tamer and bearded lady all at once.
WHERE TO START?
Normally I would suggest a regular dose of the ten minute Mindful Breathing Meditation as the answer to training a monkey mind. You will find some good apps and audios listed at the end of this post, in case you are able to blend a ten minute meditation spot into your crowded day.
In the meantime, start with ‘INFORMAL PRACTICE’. That is, mindfulness OFF the meditation cushion. Use the activities of daily life to train your mindfulness muscle.
Set a timer for five minutes when playing with the little ones. It doesn’t take much to be lured away by your facebook feed, by a magazine, anything but Bob the Builder for the thousandth time.
But that ain’t doin anything to grow a focussed mind.
In that five minutes, devote all your attention to the activity at hand. See the shapes of the blocks/dolls/toys/puzzle: devote your presence 100% . Soften and enjoy it. Breathe. Feel a sense of wonder.
Tip: hide your phone under a cushion for this short session.
MINDFUL ANCHOR PROMPTS
Many people have a lot of success in choosing specific prompts to remind them of their mindful intention. You can too!
Chose a routine activity you do daily, such as:
Tag that activity as your mindfulness reminder. Each time you do that activity, remind yourself to get out of your head and come back to the present.
Investigate: What can you see right in front of you? What thoughts are churning around? Sensations in the body? How fast or slow, tight or loose is your breath? Checkout my posts: Three Reliable Mindfulness Anchors and Overwhelm Overload: Are You Over It?,
Just notice. With curiosity and kindness. Be non-judgemental.
Connect to your hands, are they doing and feeling? Really see them, and feel the texture, shape or temperature of what you are holding. Taste what you are tasting (toothpaste, yum). Smell the aromas.
You can do this at home, or at work.
Open to all of the senses. Beee there. Just noootice.
And if you feel your breath is tight, lengthen and release it.
It can help to ritualise embarking on your practice.
Read more about changing habits at zen habits, one of my favourite blogs.
A tip I have found useful (this practice is not just for busy mums, all of us can benefit), is to sloooow down the activity … just a tad. Just a little slower than you would normally do it.
Hanging washing on the line, for instance. I constantly find myself speeding through this task, as if hanging the washing is a matter of life and death. As if speed is going to get me all this extra time.
It’s not. It will just give me a revved-up nervous system. Revved up, I become inefficient, hasty, careless, half-baked.
I find it especially helpful to use an irritation as a prompt. Because the irritation itself reminds me to slow down and be present, it’s a win-win. The pointy end of irritation diminishes; at the same time I’m eroding my deeply ingrained habit of speed.
You know, when you’re trying to get to the washing machine but the bag of firewood is in the way? And on manoeuvring around it you trip on a stray shoe? That sort of thing.
Or chose something you hate or find boring, like filling up with petrol, changing nappies or washing your hair.
Studies show that our happiness, or satisfaction, increases simply by being present with a task. Read about it in my post Why Being Present beats Mind-Wandering.
Hey, a caution. Please don’t make Mindfulness just another chore, another burden on the to-do list, another something to feel guilty about not doing. It truly is worth it.
Mindfulness is a superpower!
It is always painful to break habits. What we’re doing here is breaking the habit of automaticity.
Start small, start slow and be kind to yourself.
* * *
Here’s those apps and audios I promised earlier. Great when breastfeeding in the middle of the night!
SMILING MIND. An Australian app developed by psychologists, and based on mindfulness meditation techniques.
HEADSPACE I love this one! Learn to meditate in just 10 minutes a day with the Headspace app Free Ten Day Trial. Comes with the cutest animated clips. (Andy Puddicombe, UK)
INSIGHT TIMER A huge app with 5,020 free guided meditations, music tracks, talks and courses. Some good stuff here.
Spare three minutes in your day? Here are some three-minute mindfulness practices by leaders in the field:
The Breathing Space by Jon Kabat-Zinn: A 3 Minute Exercise
Professor Mark Williams, Oxford Uni, Three Minute Breathing Space
copyright Shakti Burke
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