It’s tempting to think there is some trick or technique we need to learn, some course we need to attend, some skill we need to master (and somehow never do) that will fix us and/or our parenting.
Last weekend I went on teacher training at The Tavistock and Portman Centre for a course (coming soon) entitled Mindfulness-Based Welbeing for Parents. I learnt a lot about how to adapt the heavy eight week courses many of us teach to better suit busy parents.
I’ve adapted before and admittedly most of the practices on this course are much the same as on other courses. Once you’ve stripped away the differences and the parent centered content, the key message of the course was all about nurturing ourselves with kindness and friendliness and how we can do that as parents if we want to survive and thrive in the face of rearing small unpredictable little charges.
As with all mindfulness courses it all comes back to practice, daily practice. There is no easy way round it. They haven’t yet invented a mindfulness pill that will turn you into an all present enlightened being.
So this course, among many others, is a good place to start a regular mindfulness compassion practice. Turning towards yourself and your parenting ‘flaws’ whatever they may be with a kind and gentle eye (not being there, being in their face, being disconnected, giving them too much pizza, the list is endless of course) and treating these ‘flaws’ just the same as when you have moved away from the breath in a practice – you kindly escort yourself back to the breath each time.
In my practice now I drop in two reflections – can I be present with my kids during their moments of difficulty and can I be kind to them during their moments of difficulty? This in itself is a life time’s work but turning towards the possibility, setting the intention and being able to see this is the intention even when things don’t quite go the way you’d hoped, is a useful starting point. And being able to show yourself some kindness too.
Today’s total practice time: 20 minutes seated, 10 minutes movement.
It’s been a long time since I have had the time or the space to write a blog post. My whole summer was one long digital detox. I noticed the urge to upload photos of sunny scenes on Facebook and then ignored that urge and just enjoyed the moment. I’m not claiming it will last into autumn when things get a little dull both literally and in terms of mood. It’s not easy being deprived of daylight and moments outdoors. I probably need a proper outdoorsy winter coat to facilitate my escape during the winter months.
At the tail end of summer my digital detox went nuclear by going on a week long silent retreat. I could probably write several blog posts about the insights I had during that week. How hard it was to be away from the kids, not even able to chat on the phone and yet also it was blissful. I didn’t plan a meal, cook any food or wash any dishes for a whole week. I didn’t have to bribe anyone to wash their face, brush their hair or walk to school a little faster.
I spent seven hours a day meditating. The insights came thick and fast but at the end of the retreat I felt so ready to come home and connect with others. The mountain of emails I came home to has now meant the digital detox is well and truly over. With new mindfulness courses starting in the coming weeks I cannot afford those lofty ideals any longer, it’s back to realizing I am frantically online till 10pm and juggling the kids, work and a life.
But as a way to deepen my practice and settle the mind a 7 day retreat cannot be underestimated, I will do it all again next year even though sorting out cover for the kids wasn’t easy and being apart is hard, it really was worth it in terms of deep learning and calm.
Today’s total practice time: 30 minutes movement, 30 minutes sitting.
One of the most wonderful things about teaching mindfulness is that every time I do some CPD not only do I deepen my knowledge about mindfulness and how to deliver it, I also learn a lot about myself. The last training I went on, facilitated by Bangor University, felt something of a mini retreat.
Being taught by very mindful facilitators was a master class in itself on simply how to be. Even though it was a room full of 20 mindfulness teachers there was still a little bit of competition and posturing from one or two participants. At one point one the facilitators made a comment about questioning our need to talk, what are we hoping to achieve each time we open our mouth? Are we showing off, point scoring or making a valid point.
The whole training was on how to speak and how to inquire. And I discovered I don’t particularly like it when people inquire too much about me. Admittedly I was on the sharp end of some rather over zealous questioning in one of the group activities but this realisation threw me a little as I have always thought I like people taking an interest in me, but I guess it really does depend what is being asked and how.
Taking on the role of the person being probed made me more empathetic than ever about the tender process that is inquiry. If it feels wrong don’t push it, let silence rule if that’s what the moment needs.
And ground yourself to the floor, feeling your feet, every moment of the way!
Today’s Total Practice Time: 30 minutes