By exploring mindfulness you can learn to be present through the magic (and chaos) of raising kids.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could start each day alone, overlooking the ocean with a cup of coffee or meditating quietly in your garden? Or maybe journaling while cozied up in bed with a cup of tea sounds like perfection to you. Whatever your ideal scenario — if it were possible, it might help you have a deeper sense of calm to carry with you throughout the day.
If you’re a mother, your mornings probably don’t start out quite like that. Instead of calm there’s chaos, instead of peace there’s exhaustion, instead of timeliness there’s rushing. And while it might not be feasible to take a few moments alone, you can bring mindfulness into your day and practice the art of being present:
Set a goal to be mindful today and throughout this week. Notice (without judgment) how your body feels upon waking. Are you tired or achy? Are you feeling great? Allow yourself a few deep breaths — in and out — before your feet hit the floor, and remind yourself that today is a new day.
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No matter how overwhelmed you feel or how long your to-do list is, you can set aside this time to observe your life and your children and to simply notice.
Notice your child’s first facial expression of the morning. Notice the warmth of your first sip of coffee or tea and how the steam feels on your face. Notice the feeling of your child’s body and weight in your arms. Feel the warm water and soap on your skin as you wash your hands for the first time today. While the big firsts in your child’s life play a significant role in making memories and reaching milestones, you’ll discover many other firsts if you allow yourself to be in the moment.
As you shift into mom mode for the day, observe your child through the lens of curiosity. Does she want to be close to you or to play independently? Is he trying something new and waiting for your encouragement?
While you explore this concept of being present, what are you recognizing about your child? Do her facial expressions change when she is really focusing on something? Do his eyes narrow as he scans the pages when you read books together? Does his voice change when he gets really excited?
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As mothers, we need these mindfulness skills to refocus our attention where it is needed most.
We all need those gentle reminders to live in the now. In difficult times, stop and ask yourself, “Am I here?” “Am I experiencing this moment?” Sure, some of these moments will include piles of dishes and unfinished tasks at work, but when you are fully experiencing your life, you see with a new level of depth and awareness.
We invite you this week to take the time to find stillness each morning and create a rhythm of coming back to the present and noticing what’s before you . . . in all its guts and the glory.
Your attention may wander, and you may forget to call upon this practice, but that’s exactly why it’s called practice. At any point in the day, mindfulness can help bring you back to the present and provide a new opportunity to spend beautiful, undistracted moments with your children and your life. It’s these everyday moments that make up our entire lives — may we revel in them together.
Give yourself fifteen minutes to pause and revel in this experience of noticing the wonder that is your life.
- Find somewhere to sit or lie down where you can feel relaxed. Take a second to get settled and then begin by taking three or four deep breaths.
- Close your eyes if that feels natural to you. Allow yourself to appreciate the silence. Appreciate how good it feels to be by yourself. Appreciate the space you need away from the day-to-day to be able to honor the beauty of your life.
- Now, sort through some memories. Bring yourself back to the very minute you came face-to-face with your child. Allow yourself to feel that wonder again. Remember saying to yourself, “Is this real?”
- Recall when you heard your child say “Mama” for the first time. Where were you? What season was it? Let yourself revel in how special that made you feel. These moments will forever be yours.
- As you take this time and settle into your meditation, reflect on the wonder and magic of your life and simply breathe. With each inhale, breathe in the beauty of all these sweet memories and hold the inhale for an extra moment while you savor them. With each exhale, smile softly and allow these precious moments to soothe you. Repeat, slowly inhaling and exhaling.
Come back to this meditation any time you feel like you’ve lost the magic of motherhood. Bring back the joy-filled, real memories of your journey and open your eyes up to the small, everyday moments of wonder around you. The magic is always here.
See also 4 Breathing Exercises to Help Kids (and Adults) Manage Their Emotions
ABOUT OUR AUTHOR
Rachel Gorton is the business development director at Motherly, and a contributor to the new book, THIS IS MOTHERHOOD: A Motherly Collection of Reflections + Practices (Sounds True, on sale March 12, 2019) by Jill Koziol and Liz Tenety, edited by Colleen Temple. She lives outside of Boston with her husband and three children.
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I photoshopped a picture of myself once. Okay, maybe more than once.
I’m not talking about adding filters or erasing stains from my shirt. I’m talking vacuuming away parts of my stomach, arms, and even a little thigh. When I gave my husband a virtual tummy tuck, he finally forced me to check myself.
“You can’t talk about self-love and authenticity and then use photoshop!” He was horrified. And then I was, too.
I whole-heartedly believe we’re each put on this earth in our own unique bodies to express our true Selves. And through platforms such as teaching yoga, writing, and using social media, part of my job is to help people realize this. I teach the self-acceptance and body positivity—but I wasn’t always practicing it.
What the bleep was I doing erasing a few pounds with the swipe of my finger?
For the honest answer, we must take a little trip back in time.
I have been dieting since I was 9 years old. Even now, while I may no longer count calories or weigh my broccoli, I still watch every morsel I put in my mouth. I was a child of the early nineties—the era of the supermodel. Pictures of Claudia Schiffer and Cindy Crawford lined the walls of my room. My mum modeled, too (along with her many other careers), and I coveted her air-brushed headshots, just as I did every single page of Vogue.
I wish I looked like that.
Wow, she’s so beautiful.
Why am I so ugly?
These were the lyrics that played on repeat in my head. Not exactly the anthems we want for our children.
The pressure of perfection is a force so strong it can flatten us, if we let it. Literally. It will drain out our color, wash away our texture, and suck us down to some sort of washed-out, skeletal, carbon copy of a Barbie doll.
Under ever photoshopped picture is a human being. A real person, who’s every pore, every wrinkle, every scar, every pound, tells a unique story.
Unfortunately, these are the stories the media does not want us to hear. If we did, we might never buy another beauty product again. Instead, corporate interest spins a golden yarn of the unattainable: the “perfect” woman, the “perfect” man. And the messaging is so loud and pervasive that we absorb it without even trying. Like a top 20 hit you’ve somehow memorized without ever intentionally listening to the song.
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One day, you find yourself looking at a picture you just took, and instead of seeing the glory in your unique story, you see all your perceived flaws. So, you download an app on your phone that allows you to become a sliver of that “perfect” ideal with the click of your thumb. And like magic, all of the insecurities, the negativity, erase from the screen. That was easy!
But to truly love ourselves in a world that tells us we are not enough is not easy. It takes great courage. It is a rebellious act. It means ignoring the toxic messages and beauty ideals and accept ourselves as we are in this moment. It means looking yourself in the eye in the mirror saying—and really believing—“You are beautiful.” Not because we are thin or tan or have poreless skin. You are beautiful because there is no one in the entire universe that is like you! And nor will there ever be again.
So, the next time you take a picture that you are going to share to the world, I dare you to not add a filter. I dare you to not adjust or alter the image in any way. To share your story in all of its glorious detail. You do not have to be afraid, for I will stand with you. Or hands held, our faces clear, and our soul’s bright.
See also 5 Ways to Radically Love Yourself Today
Here are some tools to help you avoid the perfection trap:
1. When you take a picture, look at the whole picture.
How often do we take a picture and immediately zoom in to inspect ourselves? Think about group pictures: What is the first thing people do when they look at one? They focus on themselves and their flaws. But it is our imperfections that make us beautifully who we are. I’m a sucker for a big nose and a crooked smile. As Leonard Cohen says in his song “Anthem,” There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in. When you take a photo, try to see the entire image—the complete scene. Remember where you were, who you were with, and how you felt. Pictures should capture memories not project fantasies.
2. Delete image-editing apps from of your phone. Remove the temptation!
When I am not being mindful, my desire for perfection can border on obsession. Couple that with social media addiction and it’s a recipe for disaster. At one point, I had 10 different apps on my phone for altering images. 10 different apps! In the same way it is helpful to not have alcohol in the house when you are on a cleanse, removing the apps relieves the temptation. Instead, fill your phone with apps that help you grow creatively. Try learning a new language, playing brain games, and listening to interesting podcasts. Take more pictures of your dog.
3. Unfollow people who trigger you.
I stopped buying fashion magazines a long time ago because of how bad they made me feel. Even though I knew the images were altered, I could not help comparing myself to supermodels’ stick figures. Nowadays, these types of images pervade social media, and because they appear in someone’s personal feed rather than a magazine, we think they’re real. It’s much harder to deciphering what is fake. If you find yourself constantly feeling bad from looking at someone’s posts, it might be time to stop following them. Instead, find people to follow who leave you feeling empowered and inspired.
4. Get off social media and into the real world.
One of my favorite things about teaching yoga is looking around the room and seeing all of the different body types. If we all looked or practiced the same, life would be so boring! When I look up from my phone and back out into the world, I find myself in awe of how beautiful everything is, from an 85-year-old walking with their 10-year-old grandchild, to a couple smooching on a park bench. Look around to see just how varied and unique and interesting we all are. Life is beautiful!
5. The next time you take a picture, look for one thing you love.
As mentioned above, we have a tendency to home in on what we think are flaws. We zoom in, looking for something wrong. The next time you take a picture, instead of looking for what to fix, look for what you love. If you cannot find anything at first, look at the bigger picture. What did you love about that outfit? That location? Who you were with? Start to train your brain to see the beauty. This can (and should) start in the mirror. One of my favorite self-love practices is to say one thing I love about myself every day. It doesn’t have to be physical, either! The more we learn to love ourselves, the more love we have to give others.
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