I think of mindfulness like I think of eating. My emotional tank needs topping up as regularly as my body needs refuelling. There’s no way I would manage if I only ate once a day, I would quickly run out of energy and not be able to give my best. It’s the same with my emotional state, I need regular check-ins with myself to be mindfully aware of the things I am feeling and how they are making me feel inside. Yes, I do start everyday with meditation and gratitude (in bed). Which means I hit the floor with an attitude of up and go; but there’s no way those precious 20 minutes are going to keep me supported right the way through my day. I know I need to make the time to top myself up during the day.
I think it is easier to be mindful throughout the day if you do have a regular meditation practice. However, if meditation is simply not on your ‘things that make me work better’ list, you can still practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness is slowing down enough to notice how I am feeling. To be aware of my mind-body connection so I can notice what is happening and observe how it makes me feel. Mindfulness is important because it keeps me balanced and calm. I believe if you can’t get it out, you will act it out. And some of that stuff that pops up inside me … yuck! When there is something triggering me (being a mum of teenagers, trust me when I tell you I get triggered) I feel safer because I know I get to observe how it makes me feel and I get to choose my reaction. Yes, I do still make wrong calls. But at least I get to make them without losing my self - as in esteem, confidence, belief, dignity.
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of what you’re feeling inside to bring you in touch with what you need. It is making time to acknowledge our own stress. Tuning into sensations, and where they are held in the body. Simply remembering to ask myself “Where do I feel that?” That’s mindful awareness. Then using empathy and compassion I get to bring myself back to my desired state. By accepting the messy feelings, putting my hand on my heart, and speaking kindly to myself I’m treating myself mindfully.
This all adds up. I do get to have days (or parts of) when I’m not in constant stress mode and all the fight/freeze/flight that goes with this state of being. That constant lurching from one crisis to the next, pushing myself to always do better or be better, and never feeling like I will ever measure up. It’s hard to live a life of joy from that place.
Instead my busy days usually enjoy a fair amount of flow, things go my way peaceably and I’m far more joyful in my approach to life. I’m in growth mode, adding new experiences to my life as I deal with the messy stuff by checking in with myself. Asking myself simple questions like
What am I feeling?
What do I need?
How am I managing?
And knowing it’s okay to feel like that. By leaning into it I get to rest and digest my life, instead of gulping it down in a big ugly bite.
And when my teenagers bring me challenges I get to be mindfully present while they share their thoughts and feelings. When we’re talking about teenagers that’s a treasure trove right there.
Being secure in myself, I’m less inclined to take their immature (because they’re growing and learning) reactions personally. How often do we see immature reactions as problems? My kids are teenagers, they’re not adults. And it’s my job to help them make that transition. The more I can teach them to mirror their feelings with statements from me like “You seem …, is that because you’re …” the more I get to teach them how to think about what’s happening inside themselves. Especially when it’s challenging. I love being curious, patient and peaceful about my teens ups and downs. It’s a privilege to be trusted with another person’s feelings and humbling to know you do get to make a difference.
The trick to not being drawn into the drama scene is to be calm, stick with the labelling and reflecting and not choosing to draw into the heat of the moment. I have pictures in my head that I will use mindfully: images of the old fashioned label makers, lick and stick stamps and good old street signs have all been known to occupy space in my brain during a crisis. It’s nice to know these trusted friends can turn up to help at a moment’s notice.
Being mindfully present with my child as they share their thoughts & feelings allows them to be mindfully present with their own experience. Being teenagers I’m doing an awful lot of growing at the moment…and I’m grateful for the chance to learn. Life’s lessons are serving themselves up in interesting ways.
If you’d like some support with your life lessons do reach out. I’m only too happy to help.