It’s hard to be mindful when work, kids, and your marriage make you feel like you’re losing your goddamn mind. But, there is a way to stop this modern Catch-22 and take steps to be more present for your family. You may recall Andy Puddicombe — he’s a former Buddhist monk and circus clown who now offers his services to millions as a meditation expert. You may have even downloaded his Headspace app (or the new version for your kid), which guides you through meditation exercises (because some parenting site claims that’s not just for hippies anymore). Puddicombe is a few years into fatherhood and has undergone the terrifying ordeal of testicular cancer, so the big question is: how does he still manage to stay in the moment?
He’s glad you asked …
Know What Mindfulness Is, And Isn’t
Most people are on autopilot more than a pilot on a long haul flight to Hong Kong. Mindfulness is the opposite of that. “Fully engaged in whatever is happening,” says Puddicombe, “Free from distractions or judgment with a soft and open mind.” So those 12,000 things piling up in the morning as you try to remember their lunches, homework, and putting on pants? Let it go, give yourself a break, and remember it’s all going to be ok. But only if you put on pants.
What To Do In The Most Hectic Moments
- Step 1: Take a deep breath.
- Step 2: Focus the mind on drawing that breath in and releasing it slowly.
- Step 3: Acknowledge your fear/anxiety/annoyance, but don’t let it overwhelm you. “We’re not trying to make the feelings go away. We’re just trying to observe them without acting on them,” says Puddicombe.
- Step 4: Be excellent to each another.
Being Mindful Isn’t A 24 Hour Activity
You don’t need to be mindful each and every moment. According to Puddicombe you just need to find snippets each day where you check in with your emotions, your body, and your breathing. “That can be enough to give some perspective to keep you in the moment on an ongoing basis.” It’s like a coffee break — but with the opposite sensation. Here’s how to incorporate it into your routine.
In The Morning: Puddicombe recommends folks get started with meditation by establishing a 10-minute morning routine. “This time is easier to defend from other demands of your schedule,” he says.
During Your Commute: Take a moment to focus on your breathing and to be aware of your physical senses (without crashing): The colors, sounds, and smells of that instant in time and place. “It’s about being in the moment, rather than being lost in thought,” he says. If you’re on the subway, feel free to block out the smells.
At Lunch: Turn that sad desk lunch frown upside down. Take a pause to eat mindfully. Observe where that overpriced salad came from, what’s in it, and let the textures and tastes that are doing their thing. “It’s not about eating especially slowly, just trying to be present for every bite,” he says. Now you realize that’s not a crouton!
Mid-Afternoon: Take a short, brisk walk. “Bring your attention back to your body and your physical surroundings. Isn’t it a bit sad to get to the end of the day, without having taken a moment to appreciate the world around you?” Puddicombe says. Yes. Yes it is.
Middle Of The Night: There are lots of reasons for insomnia: Screaming babies. Snoring spouses. Recurring nightmares about Slack notifications. When you wake up, scan your body noticing areas of tension and relaxation. Shoulders are tight — but toes are chill. Count your breaths: In, One. Out, 2. In, 3 … and so on, until you reach 10. “If your mind wanders, just bring it back to your breath,” he says (same as you did during the hectic times). “It naturally makes the breathing more rhythmic, which helps to create the best conditions for sleep,” says Puddicombe. ” If breathing isn’t entertaining, there’s probably a good episode of The Simpsons on FXX.
Make Bedtime A Zen Time
This trick even works for your toddler (and older kids), who can easily practice mindfulness at bedtime. It might even put them down without 4 stories, 3 books, a glass of water, and some weird flute music they insist on. The technique is simple: Have them say “goodnight” to each of their body parts, one by one, from their toes to their nose. By the time they get to their head they should be dozing off. And feel free to skip right from the knees to the belly button if it makes everyone more comfortable.