Mindfulness is all the rage now. It is a non-religious form of meditation, the process of allowing our selves to be ‘mindful’ of the present moment. When used on a regular basis it has been shown to have benefits for health, concentration, sleep, anxiety and depression.
As parents we might feel that we need a bit of calm with all the demands that having a family brings. Taking a bit of time to be in the present moment can be really helpful to counter balance the demands of having children. But it is also worth noting that children can be wonderful teachers for us, just by their very nature they can open us up to being more mindful of the moment, if we allow them to.
Babies and young children, in fact even older children too, see the world through their new eyes. The smallest details are of interest to them. Their minds are not closed by knowledge. We know how the world is, or we think we do, so we stop looking in the same way. We get busier and busier and so we don’t take the time to just be. Even in quiet moments our minds are normally jumping forwards in time to everything we have to do or back to remembering everything that has happened.
Through our children though, we can begin to re-experience the simple joys that life has to offer. We can watch what they are watching and feel, once again, the interest in the smallest things like looking at the sky, really looking or touching each flower.
When my son was young, I remember his concentration and interest in everything. Stopping to look at leaves and flowers, touching and examining was the norm. Everything was explored and interesting. His interest re-connected me with the wonder of the world and ultimately took me into the present moment in a way that I had not had before having children.
Looking back through the journal I wrote in those early years of being a mum, one phrase caught my eye.
Through him, I am experiencing the world as a wondrous place.
As our children get older this process continues but changes slightly. They begin to not just explore but to ask questions that are not limited by preconceptions. To them anything seems possible and connecting with that can help us as adults. My six year old thought he heard me say the other day that Julian was coming to our house. At his age he knew that he hadn’t actually had any cartoon characters visit us but it still seemed reasonably feasible to him. “Is King Julian coming to see us?” he asked, a little surprised but mostly curious. It is, of course, amusing to think that he could even imagine our door bell going and a small lemur with a crown on his head strutting in and ordering us around. But I have to say that it is also refreshing. They see possibilities where our experience tells us there is none. And of course many of their questions, despite their age, are so often very astute “Mummy, why does that man never smile?”. Even from quite little they spot emotions and actions that just don’t seem to fit together. They pick up on the contradictions in our social conventions. “But you told me not to lie and I just don’t like the present I got.”
One technique that I use with clients to help them achieve this presence in the moment is to stop doing the same things over and over again, like always sitting in the same chair or always walking a particular way to the shops. Being on auto pilot (because we know just what we are doing as we have done it a thousand times before) is useful in many ways, but its disadvantage is that it allows our minds to switch off to the present time . When we do things differently, we are naturally more awake to the moment and therefore more open to thinking in new ways too.As adults we spend much of our lives on autopilot, switched off to the present moment Click To Tweet
And here yet again, we can see that this is what children do naturally. Watch them play. They don’t try to go over the climbing frame the same way each time so that their mind can be elsewhere. They do it differently, testing themselves and experiencing what it is like. Or they do it over and over again, seeing if they can improve on the results they get, fully intent on the moment and the experience of practising something.
When we walk the same route each day we probably begin to feel like it is a bit of a chore and boring. But when we observe our children we realise that what is the same old thing to us, they never allow to be so. They may be with us and going the same way but sometimes they are going forwards, others they are going backwards, zigzagging might be experimented with, skipping, running, jumping and pretending they are a super hero. How refreshing.
Of course, we cant be like children all the time. We are adults with our own life to live but what we can do is acknowledge that as parents we have some little teachers right in front of us. Teachers of how to be present and truly mindful of the moment.Children teach us how to be truly present in each moment Click To Tweet
If you are interested in mindfulness I can personally recommend Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world by Prof Mark Williams and Dr Danny Penman
Let me know your experiences of being with your children in the moment. Has having them helped you feel more present in the world or has the demands of caring for little ones reduced your ability to feel connected to the moment?
So what is next?
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