I have to confess children and mindfulness do not tend to work in harmony together. In fact it is often a challenge just to be…well...normal.
So even though I am a yoga teacher, I still find being mindful (i.e. living in the moment and observing thoughts and feelings from a distance) somewhat challenging. I am fully aware that the opposite of being mindful is being shrouded in your own personal fiction but sometimes, I rather like living in fiction.
Besides stress is in the mind (I am told) but I am cynic and with experience to know that those bundle of joys we bring into the world, also comes with a bundle of stress. But in the name of neuroscience and stress hormones - I am willing to use myself as an experiment to see if I can be totally mindful and convince myself stress is truly in the mind...I mean how great would it be to extinguish stress from our lives or at least our thoughts?
With any challenge there is always the motivation and enthusiasm at the beginning and on day one it seemed to me I was already surpassing Super Woman having decided not to get stressed about being stuck in a traffic jam and late to an appointment. Normally I would have been swearing and huffing about this situation but I sat in the car, listened to music and adopted a "whatever" attitude. So it worked…for one day.
However, the second day my children (six and ten years old) were antagonising each other. It is at these moments as a parent, you wonder whether you should go to your bedroom or tell the kids to go to theirs. It is not an easy decision. Whilst pondering on this thought I also pondered whether the person who said stress doesn’t exist, actually had children, because they are clearly deluded. However, realising I was still an experiment (albeit a self-imposed one) I took myself to my bedroom (I flipped a coin to decide who won) and did some yogic breathing to calm down. So far, so good.
By mid-week I was dealing with epic tantrums from my children, but I had to be mindful about this and not be stressed. So I found the best way to handle this was from the other side of the room, sitting on the sofa, headphones on and with a cup of tea. So although I did not want to be ‘in the moment’, I managed to win in this situation by ‘observing’ the moment.
Later I re-lived a childhood memory with my son blowing bubbles and making a wish. My wish? Not to agree to any more challenges. But actually that moment with my son was the calmest I had felt all week.
The rest of the week was all about constantly reminding myself to be mindful (although that part felt like my Mother was in my head) while working to deadlines, teaching and running to appointments.
So the conclusion? Well I am not entirely convinced that stress doesn't exist. However, I do think that through mindfulness, stress can be managed better when we work with it, rather than against it. And also realising that even if a day seems full of negatives in amidst a stressful day, there is always a positive…if you really look.