Mindfulness – a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
(Google definition)I recently booked a trip to London for a girly weekend (whoop whoop). But, weirdly, the thing I find myself fantasising most about isn’t swapping my changing bag for a tiny, nappy-free handbag; or doing fabulously selfish, girly things with my besties; or even the promise of a lie in – it’s the train journey. For that three hours, I’m going to be forced to do nothing but sit in one spot. I might flick through a mag, or read a book – but mostly I’m going to clear my mind and stare out the window as the countryside speeds past. Might even drift off to sleep (hopefully without my mouth hanging open). This is the closest to meditating I ever come, and it’s my idea of heaven. Time stands still.
So, something tells me that maybe I need to hit the pause button. When Jenni Gates ‘Mindfulness’ workshops popped up on Mumsnet Devon’s Facebook page, I was intrigued. Jenni’s website described her ‘Mindfulness for Mummy’ workshop as ‘Nurturing for mind-body-and soul, to accompany motherhood, and enrich the every-day experiences encountered in parenting.’ Hmmmm, sounds good.
Jenni goes on to say: ‘Quite commonly, when children come-along, Mummy puts herself right to the bottom of the list of her priorities – and may neglect self care, and the fulfilment of needs (personal, social, professional etc). This can go on for some time.’
So, that’s how I found myself contemplating a raisin one dark, rainy Thursday night. Me and three other mums rolled a raisin between our fingers, looking – really looking – at it’s colour and texture, feeling it’s ridges and then very slowly eating it, considering its flavours, how it felt on our tongues. It made a change from the way I usually shovel raisins into my mouth. This is ‘mindfulness’ – living in the moment, taking every little detail in, savouring it and appreciating it.
What followed was a lovely relaxation session, led by Jenni with her soft, soothing Scottish accent. It was wondrous to empty my mind of the endless To Do list and focus on my body and my breathing. To relax completely. I could get used to this.
What I also took away from the workshop was a new perspective. As a mum, I often find myself speeding through the day from one routine to the next – breakfast prep, feeding wee one, picking food up off the floor, playing with toys, tidying up toys, nappy changes, more meal prep, more eating, more negotiating, laundry, Facebook, naptime routine, bedtime routine…the days start to merge together. You forget to slow down and live in the moment. You forget to appreciate the way your toddler experiences new food (rather than sigh when he smears it on his clothes), enjoy his delighted giggles as he runs away when you’re trying to dress him (rather than grumble with impatience).
I can learn so much from my Curly Boy. He is mindful most of the time – he is never in a hurry, he can spend hours exploring something new, taking in every single detail. He marvels at noises like birds singing, or a plane passing, which has become background noise to me. At the moment he is obsessed with looking for the moon. ‘Moon?’ he asks, repeatedly, in awe.
So I’m going to try and see the world through the eyes of my toddler. And most importantly, I am going to savour the special moments: listening to the sound of his gentle snores when I peak into his room late at night; the smell of his soft skin when I blow raspberries into his neck; the feel of his wet smackers on my cheeks. These are the moments that being a mum is all about.
As for meditating – haven’t quite got into the habit of that yet. I blame our Breaking Bad box set for that. There’s always the train journey…
Jenni Gates runs Mindfulness workshops in Exmouth. See her website for more information: http://www.jennigatesworkshops.co.uk/workshops.html