Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Parents and Meditation

Imagine an average day of a parent of young children…  Chances are you’ll picture a mom or dad juggling the needs of the kids, spouse and the household, while trying to stick to an agenda filled with demands and deadlines. What image could be further removed from this than that of a parent sitting quietly by themselves and meditating? Yet, meditation is said to benefit all those who practice it, in particular those whose schedules are filled to the brim, like parents.

     In this post I will not try to convince you of the benefits of meditation; you only have to search ‘benefits of meditation’ on the internet to find abundant proof of its favorable effects. As for myself, if I consider my own experience, I can’t deny the beneficial influence of meditation, practiced regularly over the years, on my relationships and outlook on life.

     Here I'd like to go into two important questions that need to be asked and answered:

          1) What exactly is meditation?

          2) How do you do it?

     It’s practically impossible to give a definition of meditation. There are as many ways to meditate as there are people. Be that as it may, there are two common characteristics to meditation, whatever form it takes: Quiet and Focus.


Quiet

The quiet of meditation is both the quiet in the sense of no noise as well as in the sense of calm. In meditation you temporarily shut away the cares of the day, reducing distractions to a minimum. That way you quiet the body and quiet the mind.


Focus

The second aspect is the focus during meditation on your inner being. Imagine your inner mind as a blank canvas and focus on that. As the distractions of daily life no longer grab your attention, you direct it inside. Like most everybody, you’ll soon notice random thoughts popping up continuously. Don’t worry about that; it’s part of the process. Now that outside triggers have been reduced to a minimum, all kinds of issues that are part of your active daily life have a tendency to surface. Just watch them come up, acknowledge their presence, and let them go. This is part of the inner cleansing that meditation performs for you. After letting a thought go, you again direct your focus to your inner mind or the blank canvas inside, until the next thought or image pops up. When it does, deal with it in the same manner.
   
     You’ll find that, as you develop this practice, the time between surfacing thoughts gradually lengthens, the canvas stays blank for longer periods at a time, and it becomes easier to stay quiet, focused and alert.


How to

     And so, now that it is clear that meditation is about quiet and focus, how do you go about it? Like I mentioned before, there are myriad ways to meditate. The outline below only serves to get you started. You can experiment and adjust the procedure in any way you like. You are perfectly capable of choosing the form that is most suitable for you. For instance, some people practice 'walking meditation' which they claim is very uplifting.


Consistency

At the outset it is important  to state that one particular attitude is essential to the practice of meditation: a commitment to a constant, consistent effort. Meditation practiced sporadically is not going to do you any good. To experience its benefits you need to commit to regular practice.


Time of day

Choose a  time of day that  you think you are least likely to be disturbed or distracted.  Some recommend a time in the middle of the night, others  prefer to meditate upon rising. Clearly parents of young children do not really have any time when they will not be disturbed, or distracted, or not fall asleep!   Experiment with a few time slots: just  before bedtime, children’s nap time, upon rising, etc. Then pick one, and stick with it. From now on, every day, this particular time is set aside. This is your quiet time.



Place

Choose  a place to meditate. If you use one particular place consistently, your mind will  associate it with contemplation, and it becomes easier to focus your mind. Make sure  you are not wearing anything tight.  Wear loose, comfortable clothing.  Lie down, or sit in a comfortable position: straight back, hands in your lap. Close your eyes, or lower your eyelids halfway, whatever feels better.


Preparation

Prepare for meditation. You may want to say a prayer or do some gentle head and neck exercises. You will have to discover for yourself what it takes to prepare yourself in body and mind. 


Affirmation

Choose a meditation statement, or affirmation, that is personally inspiring. Think or say  the statement a few times, concentrating on the  value beyond the  words. Then pause, and stay quiet and attentive. Meditation is an activity of feeling, of sensing the spirit within. Concentrating on an inspiring thought will help you reach the highest possible state of awareness of which you are capable. Simply reciting and repeating statements will not take you there.
   
     Rather than focusing on an affirmation, some people like to focus on the flame of a candle, or count inwardly from one to ten and back. Every time your mind wanders off on some tangent, acknowledge the thought that surfaced and thank it for surfacing. Then gently bring your mind back to the thought, the candle or the counting. Gradually your mind will get used to the practice of meditation, and it will  become less difficult to stay in an attentive, receptive state.


Breathing

Some  writings recommend a breathing pattern, similar to the one practiced in yoga.  Experiment, and see for yourself what feels right.


Duration

The time spent in meditation varies. When you are new to meditation I suggest you spend five to ten minutes each day at your set quiet time. Gradually, you could expand it to your liking by increasing the duration or by setting aside two or more quiet times in a day. Again, there are no set rules. The essence of meditation lies in what occurs inside of  you, not in the faithful following of guidelines. Trust your inner being to direct your efforts.


     And what about the kids? Well, one of the advantages of meditation for parents is that their children will grow up with the shining example of parents who are able to step aside from hectic daily life and connect with a deeper layer of being. The depth this adds to their inner life benefits their relationships with all members of the family. 

(Check out this publication on recent research that seems to indicate that meditation has several positive effects when practiced for longer than 1 month. Click here to read about changing your mind-set through meditation - including a free audio recording of a five-minute guided meditation.)

Images courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net




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