I am a single mom, I go to school part time, I work full time, and most importantly I am a 24/7 nurse/counselor/life coach/chef/bodyguard/tutor/cheerleader/etc. for my teenage son. I also have a very dedicated and thriving meditation practice, and I want to share with you how you can weave meditation into even the most hectic of schedules. The key word is mindfulness. It’s quick to learn, easy to practice, and deeply rewarding. This simple technique has the power to transform your life inside and out.
I like to think of mindfulness as the ability to stand back and be the witness without judgement, becoming gently curious of whatever is currently arising. The greatest thing about training yourself in this practice is that it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Slipping into mindfulness can be done in the shower, while cooking dinner, while spending time with your family, and even while taking a walk or working out. This state is about being more present to your current environment, internally and externally. And it only takes a few seconds to shift your focus from your mental ‘to-do’ list to what you are feeling here and now.
This is what I like to call an integrated meditation practice, because you are incorporating it into your day through the simple moments. Sitting in deep meditation on your yoga mat is a great practice as well, but if those moments of insight don’t merge with your day-to-day life then you won’t see your relationships, your career, and your personality transform to match those peaceful moments on the mat. I’m going to show you how to integrate meditation into any moment by taking 5 min now to learn how to enter mindfulness. Then I will encourage you to continue practicing for the rest of this day, as often as you can.
The trick is to enter the present moment. Often the idea of being busy is linked to tracking events through time: “Today I have to do this, then this, and then this.” Mindfulness is the act of stepping OUT of time and into the now. The irony is that stopping occasionally through the day gives you MORE time in the long run to consciously choose what matters, and where you can best focus your time from a space of mindful awareness. Stepping into the present moment allows you to take on an expanded point of view, which is the practice of being the non-judgemental observer of what is currently arising, otherwise known as “witness consciousness.” From this perspective of the now you can see the big picture, and thus gain insight into yourself and all the events that are happening in your life. This results in less stress, clear focus, and a greater ability to make conscious choices during the day.
The exciting thing about this practice is that you can be both busy and mindful at the same time. This way busyness isn’t something you have to fight with; it becomes something to alchemise into all its positive qualities like efficiency, happiness, and a sense of fulfilling purpose.
Follow me in this simple 5 minute mindfulness meditation practice. Come back to this meditation throughout your day, each time you notice yourself feeling busy.
1. Stop right now and enter the present moment. You can do this any time by focusing on your breath. Take 3 deep breaths and feel the energy from your breath enter your body. Notice how it feels good to breathe.
2. Staying in the now, take a moment to keep your body still while allowing the busyness to be active. See if you can become curious about it, pretend it’s the first time you have ever felt busy and you are now going to take a closer look at it. “Busy” is a concept we can think about mentally, or it can be a feeling that we lean into experientially. For this practice we will be exploring the latter.
3. Take a moment now to notice what busyness feels like as a sensation in your body. Label the feelings that go with busyness. Are you racing inside? Scared? Excited? Motivated? Stressed? Get as many descriptive words as you can to describe the feeling in your body. In order for this practice to be successful, don’t answer from a mental idea; answer intuitively, from a feeling or sensation level. (Your answers don’t need to make sense.)
4. If you are racing inside, notice if you are running toward or away from something. If you are running away from something, proceed to Step 5. If you are moving towards something, stop now and imagine that you have it in your hands. Really allow yourself to have it. Hold it in your hands, take it into your body, let it infuse every cell. Notice what it’s like in your body when you think, “I already have it.” Once you feel connected with this goal or item, notice what the quality of the feeling is like. Does it have a color? Does it have a shape? Close your eyes for a moment and breathe with this feeling.
5. If you are running away from something, turn around and look at what it is. What feelings go with running away? Are you scared? Nervous? Unsafe? Take a moment now to acknowledge that in this moment you are safe. Bring all your focus to this one moment in time. Wrap up in the comforting safety of this present moment. Notice what the safety feeling is like in your body and let yourself take that in. What would you do if you were certain that you were totally safe right now? Rest? Relax? Breathe? Feel that, let yourself have that fully, just for this moment. Let that feeling infuse every cell of your body. As you are taking that into your cells, notice if the feeling has a color to it. Does it have a shape? Hold that feeling and color in your awareness now, close your eyes and stay with it for a few breaths.
6. When you open your eyes, see if you can stay with that positive feeling in your body and imagine that you are surrounding your children and loved ones with that energy.
7. As you get ready to go back to your day, commit to taking little moments of mindfulness with you. Next time you are standing in the shower or stopped at a red light, take time to shift into the non-judgmental observation of whatever is coming up for you. Take 3 full breaths and become aware of what you are feeling in your body. Remember the feeling of already having the positive energy behind your goal, or the feeling of being perfectly safe. Take that with you into your day.
As a parent, performing a plethora of duties during the day is inevitable, but struggling with them is optional. The next time you find yourself tracking events through time and mentally checking your to-do list, see if you can enter mindfulness and go to the feeling of busy, rather than the idea of busy. Find out what color or texture or shape the feeling has; take a moment to label it in one or two words and then hold that defined feeling in your awareness. This simple technique enables you to really embody the feeling and bring it front and center into your conscious awareness.
Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis will start to make your daily tasks more enjoyable and fulfilling, because you will be present with each individual task in its own turn, giving it your full focus and attention. This applies not only to the never-ending line of chores and errands, but also to all those precious moments spent with your children. From diapers to dishes, from hide-and-seek to hugs, from CEO to PTA, mindfulness will help you get more out of your life, on every level.