My simple three step plan for busy moms to find more calm in life even when you can’t meditate
Resisting your resistance to meditation
Busy moms of teens and tweens in particular, often do not have the time to do the important self care that is essential to living with balance in life. Moms often say they don’t have time to meditate even though they know they should.
Does it seem to you like everyone else is living a perfectly balanced life – managing all the busyness, raising productive kids, going on vacations, doing well at work, communicating well with their partner, and seeming like they have it all together? Everyone except you, that is?
You might be saying to yourself
…I know. I know. I know… Everyone around me says the most important thing to do, to have more control over your emotions and to have more balance in your life is to meditate… But isn’t there an easier way – a way that doesn’t take so much time? I don’t have enough time as it is…
…All those busy moms and all those busy professionals out there can’t possibly be taking 30 to 45 minutes a day to meditate… And yet most of them look like they have it all together. And they’re not freaking out or feeling stressed and overwhelmed all the time. I know I should meditate, but I just don’t do it…
Being busy is stressful
The truth is, today’s world is extremely busy and fast paced. It is really hard to find the time to do the things that would most help one to live with balance and peace of mind. It can be stressful to try to build in a stress-reduction plan into your life. And then there’s that adage that if it’s important to you, you (have to) make the time.
“You should sit in meditation 20 minutes a day. Unless you are too busy, then you should sit one hour.” – old Zen saying
But maybe you’ve already accepted that. You know that there are certain good things – healthy self care things – that you have to do for yourself – on a regular basis – or you really will lose your mind in the middle of it all.
Self-care is not optional.
You know you have to eat well and exercise as much as possible, and sleep enough, and maybe do some yoga. You have to express yourself and not wait on others to know what you need. You have to prioritize some self-care time, especially when you have a family, relationship or stressful work life to tend to.
Yes, you get all that. And generally you do a pretty good job of taking care of all of that…
But do I have to meditate too?
But this meditation thing has got you flummoxed. Not only is it nearly impossible to fit it in on a regular basis; but once you do carve out some time for it, you realize how resistant you are to doing it, and can’t seem to get over that hump and actually do it – even for five minutes a day. (…Yes, I know that IF it’s really important to me, I’ll make time or find time for it…).
I certainly understand that and have been there myself. Even as a trained therapist and someone who is educated about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, it took me several years to get to it on a regular basis. Several years. Definitely more than a couple. (The amount of time I spent haggling with myself about doing it or not could have given me over a thousand hours of meditation!)
Luckily, along the way, I discovered that it is certainly possible to begin to reap the benefits of meditating, even without a regular practice.
This is what it feels like when we resist meditation
The reluctance we feel about doing something we know to be good for us can come up in many different ways. We might be afraid we won’t really do it right, or that we’ll look foolish doing it. Or that “Yeah, it works for everyone else, but my life is different (special somehow or super complicated) so it won’t work for me.”
We continue to put off our time that we’ve already dedicated to meditation, and let ourselves get busy or distracted with anything else (planning next week’s dinner menus; answering emails; seeing where “Black Panther” or “The Shape of Water” is playing; checking Facebook to see what other amazing thing our acquaintance has posted about their life for us to compare ourselves to and to feel shame about).
We resent the shoulds in our life
We think about meditation as another should that we should do, and then we start to fight it internally. We react as if some Super Task Master/Slave Owner/Micro-manager Boss of us is telling us what we have to do, and we respond the same way we do about other things that are put upon us that we don’t choose – with resistance, refusal, procrastination, stubbornness.
We dig our heels in and we don’t get to it. We make excuses about why we can’t do it (I’ve tried it before and my mind just races too much and I can’t sit still long enough to meditate anyways. It would be wasted time on me. Or How can just a few minutes be enough to help anyone? It’s not worth it because it won’t do any good).
Critical voice in our head
Of course, this feels wretched. We start to get annoyed and frustrated with ourselves for not meditating yet again, especially after we’ve been saying “I know I really need to develop a practice for myself. For sure I’ll start tomorrow.”
Deep down we may not feel worthy of giving ourselves that (indulgent) time to be still and we don’t believe we deserve it. Or we think we should be able to do it without meditation.
But our secret shame starts to turn in on itself. We feel bad about ourselves for not doing what we should do; not doing it right; having something wrong with us anyways in the first place that makes meditation be so hard; plus we really don’t understand it or get how it’s supposed to work.
Our inner critic’s voice gets louder and meaner. We’re critical about the part of ourselves that is resisting this thing that is supposed to be good for us. We make no room for our own likes or dislikes. We shame ourselves with recriminations about why don’t we just meditate?… We feel guilty. In short, we feel like a hot mess when it comes to building a meditation practice.
There must be a reason that everyone is talking about meditation
… OK, so if we could actually take those 20 minutes a day to meditate and stay focused, everyone says we will feel better; we’ll have more balance in our lives; we’ll learn how to handle our emotions better; And be able to feel less anxiety.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to welcome meditation easily into our lives, and to feel a sense of peacefulness in our hearts? We’d love to not yell so much at our family and to feel more connected to our partner. We’d love to have better ways to handle our stress and navigate those teen and tween years more smoothly.
Apparently meditation can even be helpful to improving our expression of compassion, and reducing our acts of racism and violence. It would be great to have more confidence and sense of competence; and to just feel more present and engaged with the people around us.
We do long for that sense of calm that we see some moms exude. We’d love to handle life’s ups and down with more grace and ease, and not be such a hot mess all the time.
Maybe we don’t have to fight it
…Maybe this meditation thing is worth pursuing a little more… Maybe we can just make ourselves do it, one day at a time…
Supposedly meditation can help improve concentration and attention. We do know how hard it is to pay attention and resist distractions or interruptions from our kids, our partner, our colleagues at work – or our devices.
Maybe a dose of meditation would be better than a dose of medication, or wine, or any of the other things we typically use to self medicate away from our stress..
In fact, it is possible to build a simple meditation practice into a busy life.
Here is my simple three-step plan for busy moms of teens and tweens, to build more calm in their lives – without having to meditate…
1) First, stop fighting it.
- Try to stop fighting and resisting the idea that you should meditate. And try to stop fighting the idea that you shouldn’t be resisting meditation. The more you fight it, the more that terrible feeling persists.
- Accept your own resistance. Acknowledge it without judgment. Let yourself pay attention to parts of yourself that want things to be a certain way – often times the way that they are not. Also let yourself notice when you don’t want something. Pay attention to not wanting to do meditation; or see if it’s not wanting to be told what to do, that really is coming up for you.
- Remember, other people’s perceptions of what you should be doing is really none of your business. (Lisa Nichols says that) And don’t turn those expectations from others into your own demands or criticisms of yourself.
- Trust that when you authentically stop fighting it, there’s a better chance that you’ll just naturally pick it up at the moment that is right for you.
I “resisted” taking up meditation for the longest time. Until one day it just made perfect sense as the next right thing to do, and I fell easily into it. I realized I wasn’t resisting it any more. No fight. Now it’s become a completely natural thing for me to do, and I feel something is missing if I don’t do it.
2) Above all, be kind.
- Be kind to yourself about meditation; and especially about not doing it every day or for a pre-defined length of time. Be kind to yourself when you feel you are resisting. Let yourself be mindful of what it feels like to be resisting. Notice how that feels in your body.
- Be kind to yourself in your evaluation of whether you do it right or not. Meditation (or not doing meditation) is not really something you can’t do right. In fact, we all start with a wandering mind. When you notice your mind wanders, and then wanders again and again, that’s exactly the time to notice that you’re actually doing it right.
- Notice other mindful practices you do, outside the ‘Big Meditation’, that bring a sense of presence, attention, calm. Value those.
3) Easy does it.
- If you’re not yet ready or maybe feeling a little unwilling to actually meditate, you can still bring a sense of calm to your day by engaging in some simple mindful practices:
- Count your breaths. See if you can count 10 breaths without distraction. If you lose count, no big deal. Just gently come back and start over.
- Listen to and count the sounds that you hear. Note if they are coming from outside; in the room you are in; or maybe from within your body. Don’t go looking for the sounds; let them unfold and come to you.
- Watch a sunset or sunrise from beginning to end. And then watch a little more. Notice everything you notice. Pay attention especially to the subtleties, the small minute changes that take place in the light, color, temperature, sound, etc.
- Go for a walk mindfully. You can walk at your regular pace or intentionally walk really slowly and focus on each step you take; the movement of your legs and arms as you go from one place to another. Behold all that you experience in each of your senses. Notice how alive the world is around you.
- These experiences all ‘count’ as meditation and work in the mind and body the same way meditation does, making physical and emotional connections that increase our inner spaciousness. There isn’t just one way to meditate.
You don’t have to be an expert meditator
Remember, the goal is more to live mindfully than to become an expert at meditation. Meditation is just a tool – one of many that are available to assist you in doing this. There are many other ways to be meditative that can be fit into an already busy life.
Meditation of course is a very powerful tool, but it can’t be forced. Yes, it can help you transform your feelings of anxiety and depression to more of ease and acceptance. It can help you build your resilience and self compassion; and learn to handle stressors in a more effective way. But let it come gently.
For more support
If you’d like help to develop a meditation practice that works for you and if you’d like to feel better in your world, or if you struggle with emotional overwhelm and would like to feel more balance in your family and work life, Please call me for a therapy appointment.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.
Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
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