If you are a parent, you know how it feels to lose it. The overwhelming physical, emotional, and mental experience of having enough – and finally snapping. No parent enjoys this. In fact, most of our outbursts are met with a combination of guilt and shame, with some side dishes of resentment and blame.
This is no way to live! And yet, for so many moms and dads, this pattern seems to be out of our control. We get into the routine or holding it together, until we can, and then we explode.
This cycle starts to become what is familiar. So much so, that we resign ourselves to it just being “how we are.” Followed by years of disconnection and frustration…. Ugh. Who wants to live that life? Not me. This is for sure not what I signed up for.
If you are resonating with what I wrote above, I am here today to let you know there is a way to interrupt this pattern. This is a way to take back your life, shift the climate of your home, and deepen the relationships you have with your family.
I see you rolling your eyes over there. Listen, mindfulness is a lot more that sitting cross legged on the floor trying to have an empty mind. In fact, I would join the voices that say that is actually NOT what mindfulness is.
There are so many different ways to define mindfulness. For the sake of this article, I am going to define mindfulness, in the context of parenting, as an active practice of paying attention to when we are on automatic pilot, and shifting into curiosity around what is present in the moment.
Mindfulness is the check engine light for our daily life, that supports us in recognizing when we are letting our spun out thoughts and emotions lead us down roads that we actually don’t want to be driving on.
A mindfulness practice for parents is one that strengthens the muscle that we need to interrupt the spin out pattern. Does that make sense. The check engine light comes on with the question “is this really where you want to go right now?”
Now, anyone that has lost their cool with their kids knows that often the answer to that question can be, “hell yes, I’m pissed and they need to know it.” In that moment, our automatic pilot (also known in some circles as our ego) doesn’t always have the big picture in mind, or the best interest of our family.
Typically our automatic pilot kicks into gear when there is a lot of fear present. Fear can manifest as worry, perceived loss of control, rejection. In those moments, our human nature wants to take the energy that accompanies fear and transform it into something powerful – enter anger.
Yet, what we know about anger is that it creates separation, it creates suffering, and it actually FEEDS the fear that got us into this mess in the first place.
So let’s try something new, shall we?
Bringing mindfulness into our parenting practice allows us to become more familiar with our fear. It creates an opportunity for us to be with our fear in a way that allows us a deeper understanding for where it comes from. Also, when we are looking AT our fear, rather than FROM it, we can see that a lot of the thoughts that are generated from a fearful place actually aren’t true, even though we move as though they are.
What does this look like in practice?
Let’s think about musicians. Musicians spend a lot of time practicing their craft before the big performance. Athletes, too. They practice their moves, they visualize their plays. And the more they practice, the better they perform at the big game, even when unexpected obstacles show up.
A mindfulness practice is the same.
We must make a point of practicing mindfulness when the stakes are low. We get to drop into a mindful state on a regular basis and observe ourselves in our practice. For me this is sitting in stillness, or feeling my feet on the floor, and considering how I want to feel – physically and emotionally – in the moment. And then I lead myself there.
Noticing and dropping the tension in our body, breathing in love, or peace, or patience. Bringing in a supportive mantra, “I am exactly the right parent for my child.”
When we make time every day to do this, several times a day (it can take as little as one minute), when we don’t need it, we are increasing the likelihood that we can do this when the stakes are high.
We are preparing for the big game.
Trust that you can do this. Trust that you can rewire your brain in a way that will allow you to recognize you are about to flip out before you flip out, and shift into a state that will be more supportive for you, your child, and your long term vision.
You’ve got this.
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