By Megan Harshbarger
As a working mother of a three-year old, I’m constantly seeking the balance between work, family and my inner life. Some days I feel like I am completely on top of things as the day flows smoothly by, but others it is the complete opposite.
As a result of these circumstances I began practicing meditation; the results truly amazed me, not only in how I felt about myself, but the world around me. I started to notice that I was so caught up in my thoughts that it resulted in me being continually pulled away from the now, especially my time my daughter.
I began looking at my daughter and wondering how I could apply this intentional way of living with her. I discovered the concept of parenting mindfully began reading about it and practicing it and I it found it very natural and practical. In it, I discovered a way to parent that saves my sanity and safeguards the emotional security of my child.
A simple description of mindful parenting might be, “when a parent focuses on being less attached to the outcomes of life and more mindful of what is unfolding in their (and their children’s) present life.” This practice allows parents to see who their child really is rather than who they want them to be. This does not mean that we as parents are never going to be judgmental, or have fear or expectations over our child’s life. All parents are human. Instead, the process is really to help us to identify when those feelings happen in order to begin a new way of dealing with them.
In my study, I learned that the first step in bringing awareness during these key moments is to ask myself, “Am I reacting here or am I responding?” Responding mindfully, for example, to a child’s temper tantrum in the middle of a grocery store is much easier when there is no initial emotional reaction. In situations such as these, I start by noticing my breath, and then I pay attention to my thinking. I begin to notice my self-talk (which I have become aware that it is constant.) By bringing awareness to my thoughts I can pinpoint the tension in my body, and consciously relax. Regarding the feelings that come along with the thoughts I ask myself, “Am I actually worried about this, or am I just starting to obsess out of habit?”
As soon as I began implementing this practice of parenting mindfully into my daily life, I noticed that my daughter’s emotional reactions lessened. Responding to my daughter in an emotionally present, balanced, and mindful way encouraged her to be grounded herself.
What I learned is that this method created more freedom and space around the source of my feelings, especially when they are very strong. That enables me to effectively deal with emotionally charged situations and to better be able to come up with more effective choices in how I respond.
Finally, I found that parenting mindfully means having a kind of deep faith that my daughter’s core being is whole and the behaviors I am reacting to are, in reality, a response to an imbalance in me. Meeting my daughter with this kind of acceptance doesn’t mean I have to let her do whatever she wants to do, nor that I have to love everything single thing that she does. In the end, it’s all about being in a healthy relationship.