We are a couple weeks into summer break – are your kids driving you crazy yet? Whether it’s the lack of the normal routine, or the rising temps, it’s highly possible they’ve touched on at least one of your nerves. Fortunately for me, my kids are off at “camp”, which is their term for spending 10 days in California with my parents and sister. It’s a win-win for all of us. They get to spend time with family doing fun things they don’t normally get to do and we get to spend time at home doing things that we don’t normally get to do (like shopping for kitchen faucets on a Wednesday night, I know you are jealous). Camp has a calendar of events with activities of what is going to be done each day. I too have a list of things to do, people to meet up with, shops to go to, movies and TV shows to watch! The possibilities are endless, whatever will I do with myself! And then that little voice creeps into my head and says, why do you wait until they are gone to do make time with friends or plan a movie date night? And shouldn’t you be feeling just a little more guilty that they are not here?
What/who is that voice in our heads and who asked it to comment on every aspect of our lives? Have you ever given this question any thought? Who IS that voice in my head? Mindfulness is a concept that has been around for thousands of years, but is now gaining in popularity among mainstream society. One of the fundamental concepts in the practice of mindfulness is to pay attention to the dialogue running through your head and then let it go. Yes, let it go. Stop thinking about it. Move on. How often do you have a thought, which leads to another thought, which then judges both of those thoughts and leaves you feeling confused or frustrated or guilty?
Thoughts have momentum. Stop to think about that. We’ve all experienced it, one thought leads to another and another and another. All of a sudden you may be feeling terrible about a situation, depressed or hopeless. You may ask yourself how did you get to this place, to this thought. Or you may just accept it as fact and continue on with your day, accepting that this view/feeling is your new reality. Mindfulness is a practice because it takes effort each and every day, sometimes every minute. Last week, I checked my work email on my phone before getting ready. I read an email that really irritated me. I held off on sending a reply but as I dried my hair I wrote my response in my head. The more I thought about the response, the more upset I became. I realized I was getting angry and knew that if I didn’t stop I might accidently snap at someone, which was certainly not how I wanted to start the day. I forced myself to stop thinking about it and told myself that I would deal with it when I got to work. Minutes later I started writing the email again in my head. Again I stopped myself, took a deep breath and continued getting ready. It’s so easy to let those thoughts gain momentum and it might take you multiple attempts to stop yourself from going down that spiral. Being aware is the first step in the practice.
In his book, Mindfulness for Beginners, author Jon Kabat-Zinn says:
“….awareness allows us to see and to realize what we are seeing, to think and to know what’s on our minds, and to experience emotion and be in relationship to it in a way that is actually wise and self-compassionate – that doesn’t saddle us with stories of how great we are or how horrible we are or how inadequate we are. Such narratives can act like cement boots that sink us in a morass more or less of our own creation – that is, if we believe them, if we think they are the truth rather than recognize them as merely thoughts coming and going.”
The next time your voice in your head starts to go on a rant, try to practice mindfulness. Don’t let those thoughts become “cement boots”, acknowledge the thought and then move on with your day.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.