We spend too much of our life in another place. I can’t begin to count the number of times I have arrived at a familiar destination not really remembering the drive there. How many times have I said, “I don’t remember what I did this weekend”? Can you relate? This happens when we are actually living in another time. Our thoughts, either focused on the past or the future, keep us from really paying attention to what is going on around us. If we aren’t careful, we eventually realize time is passing much too swiftly with days, months and years starting to run into each other.
This is where mindfulness steps in. Mindfulness is a practice of truly being in the moment, being mindful of what we are doing right now. While there are many benefits to practicing this simple concept such as stress relief and increased patience, one of the most beautiful side affects is actually experiencing our lives. For those of us that have children, this is even more critical as we can miss so much of their lives if we aren’t careful. In addition to the benefits you will personally feel, your children will feel you more present, more engaged in their life. Integrating this practice into your life can be done simply; with no change of routine or additional things to add to your plate and you will immediately feel more joy and fulfillment.
So how is it done? Easy…pay attention to the now. Don’t get caught up in the rushing here and there, just pay attention to this moment as you go through your day. Start building an awareness of when your thoughts drift. As a parent you can start with key times with your children as a reminder to fully absorb the moment, keeping the “to do lists” and tomorrows agenda to another time. Take a look at your day and focus on one or two times where you will practice being present with your children. Continue to grow this practice into other areas of your life and eventually it will become a more natural state for you.
Here are some examples of how mindfulness can be practiced with your children:
- Meal times – If there is a time throughout the day that your family eats together, use that as a mindfulness practice. Turn off your phone, the television and your thoughts that are in anytime but now. Focus on the taste of your food, the conversation and truly look at the most important people in your life – those that are sitting around the table. Instead of talking about what happened that day or what there is to do tomorrow, bring the conversation to the present moment. Take each bite slowly and don’t rush up to start clearing the dishes. If you have a baby to feed, truly pay attention to them eating, memorize the hilarious face expressions and keep other distractions far away.
- Bedtime – When you have young children this is an especially great time to practice. Keep your cell phone in another room and truly absorb every moment of the bath, the book or the bedtime cuddles (especially the cuddles!). You may have dishes to do, desperately wanting to speed things up so you can sleep or have time to yourself, but keep your thoughts in each moment with your children. You will find this a very fulfilling way to wind down the evening before you head off to bed yourself.
- Playtime – What better time to be in the moment than when you are having fun? Whether you are rolling around on the floor with little ones or playing a ballgame with older ones, use these moments to pay attention to the now. If you are outside feel the air, look at the sky and watch the joy in your child’s face. Revel in your kid’s laughter and don’t miss it by being distracted with other thoughts.
Ultimately the key is to be in the now. Be mindful of what you are doing and what is going on around you. Indulge in the present moment and don’t let yourself be robbed of such joy!