iS MINDFULNESS JUST ANOTHER TASK?
There is so much discussion about mindfulness and how we can introduce it into family life. How amazing the benefits are. We all talk about how we should be present, focus, not be so distracted. It is often presented as simple and straight forward and it many ways it is.
But how mindful are we really? Is it all just a bit much to manage? On the face of it, it sounds so simple. Yet so often when I hear people talking about mindfulness it comes with a bit of a nervous giggle, or with a slightly anxious or dismissive laugh that suggests we just don’t have time or even that we are no good at it.
Is it just too good to be true? Is the reality that stress and busy-ness are just an inevitable part of parenthood and that we don’t have time to add another ‘must do job’ to our lives? If the benefits are as great as people say, surely it will involve a whole heap of work?
So what is mindfulness? Why has it been so popular for several thousand years? And how do we get round the adding-something-more-to-our-list issue? Is it really that simple? And maybe most importantly, why you absolutely cannot fail!
what really is mindfulness?
Mindfulness, put simply, is JUST noticing. It is the art of learning to notice what is happening both inside and outside of ourselves, and then welcoming what we find with a kind and loving heart.
Simple! Except it’s not. We are thinking, cognitive beings and our minds DO wander. They do come up with thoughts and we WANT that to happen. That’s what makes us unique. And this is where it gets hard and why it can be so challenging to integrate it into our lives.
We are not trying to clear our minds. Or push out thoughts. Or only think happy, positive thoughts. We are just noticing. Noticing how you feel – physically, emotionally, environmentally. From there, we can choose how to respond, because most of the time we don’t even realise we are holding tension, or thinking about the next billion things to do…
So it takes practice. Lots of it. I hate to say it but you WILL trip up and fail to notice, or let your worries get the better of you. You are human. It’s all in the response though, the re-noticing, all in the presence of that kind and loving (and self-forgiving) heart I mentioned earlier. This is often the reason people think they “can’t do” mindfulness.
Sounds hard. So why should we notice? The lovely Nikki @tenofzen puts it beautifully by saying that mindfulness ‘takes the edge off’. It drops things down a gear.
It is not a magic formula to an easy life and a dreamy parenting experience. It is not about everything suddenly being super easy. The trouble is that as mindfulness has gained in popularity, so have the claims for it to be a bit like a magic wand, fuelling the sentiment that it MUST be too good to be true. Mindfulness is not a magic wand, but it really does take the edge off.
There is a vast amount of research into mindfulness and the benefits which I will cover in other blogs, but the research points to improved characteristics including being calmness, patience, creativity, focus, less bias and more. Scans have shown significant positive changes to the brain in people who use mindfulness and meditation.
but i just don't have time...
Let’s turn to time. It’s all very well but we are busy enough as mums. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be more time. This is the absolute beauty of mindfulness. It can literally be as much as making the porridge in the morning and checking in with yourself.
Where is your mind? Are you distracted or focused on breakfast?
I know when I snap at kids in the mornings, it’s usually when I’m trying to do something that really can wait. If your mind is distracted, you haven’t failed at being mindful – in fact you have won at noticing what’s going on. Of course it can be more than just checking in – some gentle movement, a short meditation, a walk in the park, a warm cup of tea, whatever slowing down looks like for you – but you have not failed if you didn’t manage a 20 minute meditation. Amazing if you did, but honestly who cares if you didn’t.
you just cannot fail at this
It’s simple yet it is also hard, challenging and it takes time. The thing about mindfulness is that you can’t fail at it – by noticing something, anything – tension, feelings, the trees around you, a feather on the pavement…. – you are helping becoming more mindful. It is a slow burner, a gradual process, a way of life. That’s exactly why mindfulness is so powerful – because it isn’t an overnight fix. It is a process of honouring what is inside you, recognising anything you find, and gradually shaping what happens outside you.
If you’d like to explore some really simple, accessible ways to incorporating mindfulness into your family life, please do come and join our lovely Facebook community http://www.facebook.com/groups/effieandrosmindfulfamilies