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Mindfulness on a nappy!
How it all began that day...
The day started well. I woke at 6am and unusually, felt awake and comfortable...not snatching a look at the clock and then thankfully turning to sleep again, after listening to the silence. I took the opportunity to begin with a mindfulness practice and emerged from this feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
I got up quietly, appreciating the fact that I was the only one awake and walked gently down the stairs. I had a drink of water with lemon and then watched a vlog that I had been wanting to watch for a couple of weeks about "opening your feminine". I felt that I had done something for me and also re-connected with something that I knew and that was helpful to me - letting go and putting down, being competitive and achieveing and doing and knowing...and transferring into being curious and playful and gentle and alongside.
I then sat down with tea to do some billing and filing...wow, this was too good to be true. In all honesty it wasn't a perfect outcome as the site I was using to do e-billing didn't complete the invoicing...somehow that didn't ruffle me.
Then everyone started waking. I had to go to work that morning and my husband was looking after the 'smalls'. Things started to get busy and I fed the 'littlest small', enjoying every moment of stroking her soft skin and looking in her eyes. I remember thinking "this is so good, I'm not on my phone or making lists of what I need to do today, I'm just here with her, looking at her and the feeling is amazing". My husband took her from me so that I could wash and get ready to go and I let him know that she had nappy rash and that she would need to be changed pretty quickly out of her night nappy and then pretty often during the day.
I got in the shower, and got ready. All was well with the world.
When I got downstairs they were all having toast and fruit, it looked beautiful...until my eyes focused on the nappy. This was the same nappy that I had said needed to be changed about 25 minutes ago. I mentioned this and what followed was an argument. He felt chivvied and told how to do things and I felt that he wasn't prioritising her needs. I ended up taking the 'littelest small' and changing her nappy, flouncing out of the room and making some comment about "having to do it all". I then had to leave, as the time that I would have had to travel calmly and prepare for work, had been taken by the argument and the task. Into the mix the 'bigger small' had chipped in to the effect that I "wasn't being kind to Daddy" and that had both hurt and enraged me.
I held it all in, kissed everyone goodbye and jumped in the car. I put the radio on and tried to avoid the swelling feelings of anger and sadness and indignation. But it didn't work and I found myself talking to the road about how it had "all gone so well" and how I had been "robbed" of the beautiful series of moments that had begun the day.
I even felt the pricking of tears.
The practise you can do anywhere...anytime
So I turned off the radio and decided that the only thing to do was return to my breathing. I opened the window and felt the fresh air and directed all my attention to my breathing. I could feel the rise of emotion and the stinging sensation in my eyes intensify. I knew that I would have to keep at it or I'd end up in tears. I kept coming back to the breath and counting. And slowly I began to notice the sensations in my body and feel as though I could be aware of them and not become hostage to them. Then more slowly I began to notice the thoughts that I was having, and could gently be aware of them, rather than feel tossed about in an emotional sea, by them.
I began to talk them out. That I was not in control of anyone except me. That if I held on to being angry and critical of my husband, we would have a long and bad day. That being angry and critical would not change what had happened between us for the good, and more importantly: next time he made the same decision (to prioritise eating over changing a nappy) he wouldn't do it any differently. That I couldn't punish him into changing the way he makes decisions so that they are the same as the way I make them (even writing that is helpfully ridiculous). That it was ok for him to need to eat first and actually he had come home very late after a very long day at work and was probably feeling exhausted. That I could only change how I felt and thought and behaved. That I wanted to have the kind of day that made the most of the great start. That I wanted to fix that so that when I got home it didn't ignite the same argument and that I was going to commit to making that happen. I re-focused on my breath and held that committment in my thoughts. I felt so pleased that I had taken the time. I felt that it was possible to do it differently and I felt empowered to do it.
I got to work calm and resolved about our argument and ready to focus on what I was there to do.
And there are lasting results
When I got back in the car, I could feel the same feelings of anger and indignation returning as if they were somehow seeping through me from the seat. So I returned to my breath and held the same committment in my mind as I drove home. Slowly other thoughts came into my mind. About how much I sacrifce and how difficult it is for me to feel completely resolved about work. That a part of me wants to be at home all the time and be with our smalls as much as a I can. I came to thinking that my anger was mostly directed at my husband for feeding himself rather than changing the nappy and that I do this so often: abandon what I need for the smalls. This is often the "right" thing to do. And yet there are times when I could do it in a more balanced way, and not get into being so martyr-ish about it. What I would like in that moment is for someone to be there to say "I'll do that while you" pop to the loo or drink that cup of tea. And I was there and could have done it that way...Then a thought arose: maybe I need something for me, right now, that would confirm that I had done well this morning, that I could give myself something that I "want" and that I don't have to wait until it is a "need" and I feel like a martyr. As I parked the car I found something very small that I had been watching on ebay - a used charm for my bracelet. I had said to myself that I wouldn't buy it, that I would ask someone for it for Christmas! It was £4. So I bought it. It felt so good. It was a small enough departure from how I usually behave and a little something to cement my committment.
I opened the car door and envisaged walking into the house full of love, and I had done with the anger and indignation. If I had not gone through this process it would have been there for sure. It would have lasted all day and into the evening.
More about mindfulness
Have you ever used mindfulness?
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice that enables a conscious awareness without judgement. It is a way of noticing thinking and feeling without being overwhelmed by it, and with time it can allow new ways of thinking to emerge - an inner wisdom if you like.
There are many ways to access mindfulness and as a clinical psychologist, I can highly recommend it. When the pressures of life are heaping up, we can all feel hostage to strong feelings, and if you are also managing a mental health difficulty or a significant life experience, there can be a tendency to seek expert advice. Whilst this is often a good thing to do, it can also be helpful to listen to your inner wisdom, the intuition that you have about how to proceed. If you find that your habits when listening to your inner voice, are usually to criticise yourself, you might notice that this gets in the way of thinking deeply about what you actually want or need. Mindfulness can be a way to notice both what that voice is saying and how it is criticised, allowing you time and space to hold both together, without one drowning out the other.
Many great practitioners have generously put free guided mindfulness audios and videos out there. Have a look on utube and see what welcomes you into the practice. I can highly recommend anything by Jon Kabat Zinn as a great place to start, some people refer to him as the grandfather of mindfulness.
Finding a new friend...your mind.
- Befriending Your Mind, Befriending Your Life: Jon Kabat-Zinn - YouTube
Befriending Your Mind, Befriending Your Life: Mindfulness and the Endless Adventure of Growing into Yourself, Jon Kabat-Zinn This excerpt comes from Jon Kaba...
Reading to guide you
It is a practice that has been derived from the meditative aspects of the Buddhist tradition, but mindfulness is a practise that is not religious and is not rooted in a philosophical tradition.
There are also great books on mindfulness: Mindulfness by Mark Williams has an 8 week guide to developing your practice; and The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nat Hunh.
Portable and practical
You see, I believe that mindfulness can be there, wherever you are, however you need it. It is that kind of attention that helps you keep just enough distance between you and your thoughts and feelings, without being too far and unable to connect.