When you have young children, you’re often too bogged down by the details of daily life to actually stop and notice what’s going on around you. I find that to be the case, anyway. I’m always thinking. My mind is filled with to-do lists, dentist appointments, danger avoidance and snippets of half-forgotten advice from parenting books. It sometimes feels as if the moment I start to feel on top of things, it all comes crashing down around me as one of my kids gets hurt or makes a spectacular mess or deletes the open document I was working on.
At the beginning of the year, I chose the word Presence for 2013. As in, I want to be more present in my life this year. It would be almost the same thing to say that I want to be more mindful this year. I wouldn’t say that I’ve becoming perfectly present or mindful since setting that intention, but I feel as if having that word in my mind has made a difference to the way I approach my life.
There are a number of ways that I’ve brought a greater sense of presence into my life, some obvious and some less so. I actually started by taking greater care of my basic needs, like sleep. I used to try to squeak by on seven hours or less each night. For some people, that’s plenty. For me, it wasn’t enough. By going to bed half an hour earlier each night, I changed the way I feel. I don’t wake up perfectly rested (and really, with little kids who still crawl into my bed or otherwise decide they need me at night perfectly rested is unrealistic) but I definitely feel more rested. When I’m more rested I’m calmer and more present.
One of the other things I’ve done to increase my sense of mindfulness is to drop some things off my plate. For example, I’ve dropped the strict blogging schedule I used to adhere to. I’ve also reduced the amount of time I spend volunteering. The truth is that many of the obligations in my life are actually self-imposed. By recognizing that, and relaxing the commitments I make, I feel less harried and I spend less time running around trying to do too much.
While taking better care of my basic needs and letting go of commitments that aren’t working for me is great, there’s more to achieving mindfulness and being present. The more obvious exercise that I do is to perform periodic body check-ins throughout the day. For example, while writing this post I noticed that my shoulders were creeping up and my jaw was clenching. When I feel those physical symptoms of stress creep in, I take a moment to relax and breathe. I literally mean a moment, too – no more than two breaths. It takes almost no time, and it helps keep me grounded and present in my body.
I’m not a great meditator, and I don’t spend as much time doing yoga or napping or observing the wonder that is the world around me as I could. For the most part, I’ve made my peace with that. For me, right now, I view my life as a living meditation. Actions like sweeping the floor, washing the dishes, baking with my daughter, or taking a walk with my son can all be mindfulness exercises. All I have to do is get back in touch with my body and notice where I am and what I’m doing. It’s amazing how even a couple of minutes of doing that can turn your whole day around.
What about you? How do you bring a greater sense of presence and mindfulness into your life?
I was inspired to write this post for the 10 Week Peaceful Parenting Challenge Blog Carnival hosted by Prenatal to Parenting. This week we all wrote about about Practicing Mindfulness. If you enjoy this week’s posts – and would like a little more peace in your own life – consider joining us next week when we share about a week of Slowing Down.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
Being Mindful – Peaceful Parenting Challenge – Week 3 – Katrina from Kalem Photography finds her way back to a good old habit.
Week #3- Practicing Mindfulness – Jennifer from The Children’s Directory discovers how sometimes we get so caught up in all the garbage that life dumps on us that we forget
the little things that makes it all worth it.
Being in the Now – Week #3 of the Peaceful Parenting Challenge, Mindfulness – Michelle from My Peaceful Parenting finds true happiness in the moment.