Check In… Before You Check Out
What does it mean to be present? As the mother of a busy baby, I find that presence is fully interconnected with breath. When you are present, you breathe into the moment. You can connect with your needs and the needs of your child… without letting the mind take over. The mind can bring about a myriad of thoughts that take over simple situations. The mind over-dramatizes the minute, and creates stories out of normal, healthy experiences. But only if you let it.
One of the greatest gifts that you can give yourself – and your child – is to let things happen. Embracing what is is the soul of Yoga. One of the key components of Yoga practice offers a centering of mind through the body and breath. Supporting that centering, that presence, is meditation. Presence is an inclusive term, encompassing honesty, focus, and availability. Presence promotes peace. Peace being the life-enhancing side effect of meditation.
So today, I ask you to take 10 minutes to check in… before you check out.
Pick a room in the house with the least distractions, for you and your child. The room should exude safety and calm (try to avoid the “empty” room with boxes full of unknown objects). Your baby can be lying beside you on a blanket, in an infant seat, or crawling about the room.
Ask your toddler if he or she would like to sit with mommy or daddy. Some tots will sit for a few minutes, others will contentedly explore the room. Yoga and meditation should never be forced, respect your child’s creativity. Allow them to come and go as they please. Welcome them into your practice with an open heart.
When you are ready, dim the lights and lower yourself to the floor. If time allows, search your body for areas of tension. Gently stretch and loosen these areas, starting with the neck and advancing down the spine and limbs. When you are ready, find a comfortable position – Easy posture (Sukhasana), Lotus, Thunderbolt (Virasana).* Take a moment to reconnect with your breath. Place one hand on your belly and the other over your heart. Identify what you need the most to find joy in the day. Is it to be more grounded? More present? More honest or accepting? More flexible?
With each inhale, voice (internally or externally) the word “be.” With each exhale, voice your need. My favorite mantra goes as follows: “Be present, be here, be grounded.” (I particularly find joy in sitting in Sukhasana or Lotus and resting my fingertips upon the earth, grounding my body as I recite my needs.) As your mind unravels and unwinds, absorb the positive energy that you are bringing into the room. Picture it flowing through your body – every cell of your being. Breathe naturally, not forcing your lungs or attempting to alter your breaths course. Continue to rest in your body, aware of any thoughts that might creep into your quiet, while staying uninvolved. Become a silent observer. Stay here for as long as time allows. Embrace any emotional or physical needs that you or your child might have during this experience. When you are done, remember to thank yourself for being aware and for taking the time to be.
The earlier in the day that you “plan” to practice meditation, the more likely that it will be for you to find the time. For older children, watching a parent practice meditation is one of the best ways to learn presence. Children absorb the energy we put out into the world; environment influences intent and action.
For older children (and adults), consider using meditation as a time out. When you or your child is overwhelmed, overstimulated, or just plain exhausted, often your actions aren’t connecting with your true intentions. In this situation, ask him or her to “Take Five”. Five breaths, that is. As your child gets older, you can increase the number of breaths. You can also ask them to challenge their practice, counting to two with each inhale and four with each exhale. Mantras can also be incorporated.
*Step-by-step instructions. Post-cesarean moms, and parents with a weakened core, can utilize a modified posture, aligning their body along the floor in front of a stationary chair. Bringing the knees to a ninety degree angle, rest calves on the seat of the chair, feet through an opening in the back. Use pillows if necessary under your hips or calves to bring your body into alignment, remembering to keep your neck and head at ease (a pillow can be placed behind the head and/or under the neck).