As part of my CPD I have been doing a six week reflective practice journal. The idea is you do one practice for a full six week’s and record any reflections or responses to it. It was useful and it is something I will certainly do again. There is no doubt doing just one practice for this duration of time deepens your understanding of that practice. It was also quite pleasant to not have to think about which practice to do everyday, the decision was already made at the beginning of the six weeks.
Saying all of that though the six weeks has now come to an end and I am free again once more to pick and choose my daily practice. That has been something I have really been enjoying this week. Lots of breath work, lots of movement and a fair few befriending meditations. It won’t be long before I do another round of reflective practice journal keeping but in the interim period it feels nice to do a bit of off-road rambling!
Today’s total practice time: 40 minutes
When trying to meditate daily it’s hard fitting it all in and not feeling like anything else is being squeezed out of your life. Integration is definitely where it’s at if you live in the real world. My aim is to meditate for around 30-40 minutes every day. Often, during term time, I easily manage that, sometimes I fall short but whatever happens I don’t do guilt. I try my best.
When teaching a course I am more likely to be doing 30-40 minutes practice everyday and then when the holidays come I allow myself to just do whatever I can. This works well because ten minutes, it is often argued, is all it takes.
And of course there are those inevitable days or weeks where very little gets done. My son was sick this week, he missed three days from school and wanted to be held all of his waking hours. It’s hard to meditate while holding a crying four year old!
Yesterday, determined to make up my lost sessions I had planned a long session of movement and sitting practice but time ran away with me and soon I found myself heading with the family to the woods and there, as my son played in a stick house, I found the time and space and calm to meditate. The outdoor setting inspired me to do a mountain meditation. Just being in the moment, with my son playing nearby, sunlight making it’s way through the trees. It certainly beat perching on the edge of my bed. Today’s total practice time: 20 minutes
Parenthood can stretch a person to the limits at times. As a woman that test is compounded by societal expectations and internal guilt inducing voices that can chide for giving too many sweet treats or for shouting after they have ignored you through ten calm requests to stop doing something.
As parents both me and my partner have been rather ineffectual at dishing out punishments. There is the thinking step, which gets occasional use but my son will just kick the door and scream until we give up and let him back into the living room. There is a red traffic light which gets dished out but already both kids have realised nothing much actually happens when they do get a red traffic light.
Withholding treats is perhaps the most effective thing but this week I have banished biscuits, TV and my sons much loved scooter in the hope it would make him skip happily off to school. I still ended up carrying him into school yesterday as he shouted ‘I don’t want to go in!’
This morning when he had ignored me for forty minutes of gentle reminders to get dressed and washed and was still lying on the bed scowling and screaming every time I went into the room to remind him to get ready I realised I would need to move on from ineffectual pleas of ‘please darling, get dressed’.
So I mindfully shouted at him! I warned my daughter I was going to shout to save her from getting worried and told her it was nothing to do with her, then I went in and bawled. He burst into tears, howled and said I had hurt his feelings. I explained it hurt my feelings when he ignores me for forty minutes on a school day. He dried his eyes, said sorry and started getting dressed.
I was reminded of the story about the Zen teacher who said use your umbrella but use it mindfully, to a woman who had to fend off a man in the market. Compassion takes many forms and sometimes it might take the form of doing something you’d really rather not do in order to be kind to yourself. Total practice time today: 25 minutes
Half term has, in the past, meant a huge increase in my work load. Having the kids at home all day is not conducive to catching up with chores or catching up with the paperwork my job entails. I have to arrange childcare for one day just to get anything done and then on that day I have sometimes felt a bit like a bunny in the headlights, not sure what to do with this precious bit of free time. I always thought I would be a procrastinator, thinking there are some things that can never be changed. Because that is what we learn and that is what some people teach their children, that some people cannot change. Some people cannot be helped.
Happily that rather fixed way of viewing the mind and the character is changing and in no small way thanks to mindfulness. It is possible to change what we might have previously thought of as our default setting. We can exercise choice over better managing procrastination or whatever character trait we would happily shed ourselves of.
This half term I felt that perhaps more than I ever have. My procrastination is at an all time low. I was able to enjoy the days I had with the kids and get on with work when they weren’t around, without the slight panic I used to feel of wasting my one precious day to get some work done. Now it just gets done.
Of course it isn’t quite that simple, I didn’t wake up one day to find this had happened. I chose it and enabled it to happen by living more mindfully. Does that mean I will never feel procrastination again? Of course not, I am not a robot and we don’t really delete anything. But if it does rear it’s head I am in a better place to handle it more skilfully and just get on with whatever needs to get done. Total practice time today: 40 minutes
It’s been a lovely weekend, mainly because I listened to my body and took note. I have had a sniffling cold for ten days and it still hasn’t gone. Yesterday I was due to go to a conference in London on education ‘From cradle to grave’ but when I woke up still sniffling I decided I needed a day off from commuting and tearing around. It’s good to take a foot off the pedal but sometimes, on the hamster wheel of life, it’s easier to just plough on. I always used to plough on but recently I notice I am making more skilful choices. A day off was much needed. Obviously being stuck in a house with two children is not really a day off but it was a slightly more restful day at least. Today a friend was having afternoon tea at a stately home with cake a plenty for her birthday. We talked about the merits of being civilised V going dancing. When did you stop dancing? Is a question often asked on mindfulness courses, I loved being civilised on someone else’s behalf and yet decided for my own birthday I want to dance! Today’s total practice time: 15 minutes
I can vouch that this mindfulness stuff really works! I know I would say this – I am a passionate practitioner and teacher but today I had a moment or several, when I could feel such a fundamental change in my perspective. Today my perspective on several events were so different to how they would’ve been a year or so ago. First walking the kids home from school with two of their friends we see a fire engine outside our house. A while ago I would have assumed the worst and thought my house was on fire but today I felt only curiosity. The kids got to sit in a fire engine as well which was a nice start to any play date! Then the play date itself: two five year olds and two four year olds under one roof, this was the type of situation that would see me feeling stressed but today I surprised myself by enjoying it. Today’s total practice time: 20 minutes
It was possibly the best festive season I have had for a while. I didn’t drink too much, I did eat far too many chocolates but I managed to meditate everyday even though surrounded by family and merriment. I felt like it’s now so embedded in me – to meditate everyday – that remembering it was no longer an issue and amidst all the mayhem of Christmas I loved my 15 minutes of peace that I carved out for myself each day. It has inspired me to attempt to get a course running in Muswell Hill – I have a venue in mind, have ordered flyers so watch this space for more news! Today’s total practice time: 15 minutes
Half term! It’s always hard finding the time to meditate during half term. I did manage to do something everyday but on some days it was literally just a 3 minute breathing space on waking up. I might top up through the day and I also did a lot of walking meditations as we walked from A to B but even this is punctuated with interruptions when accompanying two small kids anywhere. One morning even my breathing space was interrupted as the kids decided they wanted to get dressed next to me. The eldest kept asking mummy are you meditating. Yes I would have to say, breaking my peace. Today the have had a sleep over at nana’s so I can squeeze a solid 30 minutes in between DIY projects and getting ready to go back to work tomorrow. Today’s total practice time: 30 minutes
I have been trying to knuckle down to writing my schemes of work (SoW) for my job in London but it seems I keep coming up with all manner of avoidance tactics. So far I have done very little. I suddenly felt compelled to have a clean out, rearrange the kids’ rooms, buy a new toilet seat. So the upside is I now have a much tidier, ordered house but still the SoWs hang over me. Tomorrow, I keep promising! I have been squeezing in practice as always. Wednesday 9th October I practised on the train and did a walking meditation. Total practice time: 20 minutes Thursday 10th I only managed two 3 minute breathing spaces! Total practice time: 6 minutes Friday 11th I made up for my slackness and made sure, alongside my regular morning 3 minute breathing space that I did a waling meditation and a pre school pick up meditation – very therapeutic when one of your kids often bolts without even saying hello Total practice time: 20 minutes Today, Saturday 12th I did yoga, Chi Qong and mindful movement before doing a sitting down meditation for 20 minutes Total practice time: 1 hour
Equilibrium has almost been restored! I did spend a lot of time today faffing around, avoiding doing my schemes of work for my new classes but I managed to start the day as ever with a 3 minute breathing space. I did a walking meditation (10mins) and then did a 15 minute sitting meditation at a quiet moment during the day. Feeling very balanced! Total practice time today: 30 minutes. Yesterday I did ten minutes on the train, standing and then 15 minutes sitting during a quiet moment before picking up the kids. I also did a walking meditation for 5 mins. Total practice time yesterday: 30 minutes