Moms are used to sacrificing their time to take care of their families. And although we know that it is essential to put our own well-being first, sometimes it seems impossible to take care of ourselves. Step into mindfulness and meditation – even a few minutes a day can reap huge rewards. According to the American Psychological Association, the impact of getting your Zen goes far beyond an increased sense of calm. From reducing stress and anxiety to gaining self-acceptance and improving mental clarity and focus, meditation has powerful health benefits.
You may have heard of the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, but can’t find the time to sit down and relax. Or maybe you’ve tried to calm your mind, but distracting thoughts (or toddlers) keep popping up, disrupting your practice. Whatever your situation, read on for tips on incorporating these powerful tools into your routine, even on days when you’re too busy to sit down.
WHAT MEDITATION MEAN
Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind using a variety of physical and mental techniques. The good news is there’s more to meditation than just sitting on a cushion facing a wall, says Mark Van Buren, Bergen County-based meditation instructor and author of Your life is meditation. “It’s not about feeling a certain way, or trying to achieve a particular type of experience. It’s not even about stopping your mind, and it’s certainly not a way to escape the inevitable struggles of our lives,” he says. To help others understand the meaning of meditation, Van Buren created Awareness, Relaxation and Kindness (ARK). By using ARK, meditation can be practiced in every moment of our lives. Simply tap into the present moment by simply living it as it is, relaxing, and holding it with a sense of compassion and warmth, he explains.
SENSITIZATION: We pay attention to our normal thoughts, expectations, or intrigues without judgment. Putting this into practice is as simple as pausing throughout the day and tapping into the experience of the present moment by relaxing and holding our feelings with a sense of compassion and warmth, Van Buren says.
RELAXATION: As we soften and relax, we expand our tolerance for feelings we can sit with, such as restlessness, worries, hopes, desires, grief, joy, and sadness.
KINDNESS: We hold our experiences, whatever they are, with unconditional openness and warmth. “I like to bring my hand to my heart, relax my body and take a few deep breaths. I let go of all struggles and resistance and let myself and my life be exactly as they are. You will be amazed at how taking lots of breaks throughout the day can have a positive effect on your routine,” says Van Buren.
BECOME MORE CONSCIOUS EVERY DAY
It’s easy to sprinkle mindfulness into your day — all you have to do is consciously show up. “Think of mindfulness as moving from a thought-based life to a reality-based life,” Van Buren suggests. Try setting an intention behind a task you do regularly, like washing the dishes, then consciously execute it, he says. Instead of mindlessly wandering in our thoughts, make the effort to be fully present for every experience, no matter how trivial.
To put mindfulness into practice, consciously bring your attention to your senses while doing the dishes, recommends Van Buren. “Listen to the sound of water coming out of the tap. Feel the temperature of the water on your skin. Notice the smell of soap. Be fully embodied and present for the experience without judging it,” he says.
If you practice staying present, mindfulness will become almost second nature, says Van Buren. He may never be perfect, but consciously showing yourself for your life, moment by moment, will slowly change your relationship with him. “Although your mind will certainly take you far away from time to time, you are beginning to learn to live fully in the direct experience of everything you do,” he says.
EASY WAYS TO PUT MEDITATION INTO PRACTICE
If you don’t like to sit still, no worries. Meditation can also be practiced through activity, says Lindsey Mansueto, chiropractor and founder of the FCC’s Lifestyle Center in Flemington. “If you’re an avid guitarist, playing an amazing song can be a form of meditation,” she says.
Van Buren recommends walking meditation. To do this, take a walk or a hike (alone or with the family) and focus on the silence, the experience of the landscapes and the sensations of walking. Taking a few deep breaths is another accessible way to become present, says Carla Contreras, Reiki master, meditation teacher, and mother of two in Morris County. Busy moms can do it just about anywhere – in the school queue, while cooking dinner, or even at the grocery store. “If you have the bandwidth for more, sitting and breathing with guided meditation for two to three minutes can really make a difference,” she says.
Moms carry many burdens throughout their day in the form of to-do lists and responsibilities, Van Buren says. Meditation is a way to get some relief. “It’s like carrying a heavy rock all day, only to find you can put it down whenever you want. Sure, it’s still a heavy rock, but when you’re not wearing it constantly, there’s more room to look around and smell the roses.
Fun ways to meditate with your kids
Meditation can be any mindful activity your children do. Being in the moment can help your children relax and focus. This can be done by sitting comfortably, doing a breathing exercise, scanning the body for tension, and acknowledging thoughts as they pass through your mind. Here are a few other things to try:
HAVE AN OPEN HEART CIRCLE: Sit in a circle, creating a safe space for kids and teens to talk about their fears, hopes and dreams, suggests Mansueto.
FIND A MANTRA: Contreras says her children love to quote the Buddhist meditation on benevolence as a family: “May you be comfortable, may you be content, may you be joyful, may you feel secure.”
GIVE THANKS: Before going to bed each night, Mansueto and his children take time to share all the things they are grateful for. “We reflect on the abundance of our lives as we fall asleep with our hearts full.”