Guest Blog: Parenting is my mindfulness practice

mindfulnessThis week’s guest blog is by Kendra:

My 14-month old son, Trent, has recently developed a new scream so incredibly grating that it defies description.  It’s times like these that I am glad I have a mindfulness practice.

When I was in my early 20’s I lived in a Zen monastery for several years.  Back then, mindfulness meant hours & hours of seated meditation and spending most of my time in silence & contemplation.  Mindfulness meant bowing silently to my fellow monks instead of mindlessly asking, “hey, how you doing?” & raking the courtyard with such precision that every rake mark was parallel.

Once I left the monastery & moved to San Francisco, I meditated occasionally, I did some yoga, I tried to be mindful…but LIFE was always getting in the way:  there was a business to build, parties to go to, friends to meet, and email to respond to.  Who had the time to sit down and do nothing for an hour?!?!?

My son started re-teaching me mindfulness before he was even born:  I had to take the time to make healthy meals, I had to remember to drink water, I had to take daily walks, and I had to get 8 hours of sleep every night – if I didn’t take care of myself, he let me know by way of nausea, headaches, full-body aches, and complete & utter exhaustion, this was not OK.  He was teaching me to slow down, to listen, to silently bow to my experience instead of always being off to the next thing.

One of my yoga teachers has a saying, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” And she’s not talking about money.  Trent was teaching the value of paying upfront; the beauty of living life in the moment (and not having to worry when my credit would catch up to me).

For parents, the question remains:  who has the time to sit still & do nothing for an hour?!?!?

And, so, my son is my mindfulness practice.

I can’t tell you how many times I have responded to my son’s subtle cues with an absent-minded, “Hold on – I just need to do one more thing”, only to have him completely lose it at the most inopportune time.  Pay me now, or pay me later…

Mindfulness no longer looks like hours of silence, but, rather, bringing the same level of attention to Trent’s endless babbling.  And, when I take the time to listen -REALLY listen- I have never heard anything so beautiful.

Instead of returning (over & over) to my breath, I return (over & over & over) to the game of how-many-blocks-can-Mommy-stack-before-Trent-knocks-them-all-down.  I no longer have the time (nor the inclination) to rake symmetrical patterns in gravel, but I do know how much better I feel when I am present & aware as I pick up the toys & the blocks, and put the books back on the shelf (for the fifth time today); when I am there to notice how soft this stuffed lemur is & how beautiful these stacking blocks that build a redwood tree are & how sweet it is that this book belonged to me when I was the baby.

And, then, how much more available I am to be with my son when he turns with the sweetest of gazes & says, “Mamma.”  There is nowhere else I would rather be.

One specific practice I really love is Baby (or Child) Meditation:  choose a five to ten minute spot during the day when you can turn off your phone & the computer, when you don’t need to eat or prepare food, when no one needs help with their homework, etc.  Then go to where your child is & simply give them your full attention.  And notice:  notice how their body moves, what sounds they make, how your body feels as you witness them, what emotions and/or thoughts come up for you.  Notice them, and let them go.  Breathe.

(Of course, if they engage you, feel free to respond, but don’t initiate contact.  The purpose is not the -1play with your child, but to offer them your wide witnessing gaze, that offers no judgment & demands nothing in return.)

I would love to know about your experiences of parenting as a mindfulness practice.

Have a good week,

Kendra Cunov
Co-founder of AuthenticWorld
Mom of Trent, 14 months old
http://butwhohasthetime.blogspot.com/

3 comments
Perfect VoIP Service
Perfect VoIP Service

Parenting is a very beautiful experience. When the child has not entered this world, parents start making arrangements for him. They even start searching for the names of the child. This is so wonderful.

Lisa
Lisa

I can really appreciate what you are saying. I remember a breakthrough experience of accepting that I may not be able to eat my cheese on toast hot...and that that was ok. That was a real moment for me - children are older now so it has changed but still parenthood is a big part of daily practice.

Salinya
Salinya

Hi Kendra! I admire how you have incorporated practicing mindfulness in parenthood! I have always imagined that living with a child is nothing but chaotic, and before this I could not possibly imagine being able to have 15 minutes of mindfulness when children are around. I have only recently started mindfulness meditation and because I plan to doing it on a daily basis, I was a little concerned what would happen if I had kids in the future. Now after reading your post I am less worried. Thank you for sharing this!