Since I entered recovery, meditation has been something that I felt was pushed on me. In order to stay clean, I had to learn to slow my mind down. In order to succeed at life, I had to learn to sit in silence. It all sounded like a huge load of crap to me until I actually GOT IT for the first time. Now meditation is something that I can’t go a single day without. I find it especially helpful when dealing with difficult emotions, difficult people (if you know me, you know I have a couple of those in my life, but more to come on that at a later date), and those difficult days of being a mom.
In the beginning, I have to say that I felt so self conscious. I was embarrassed to be seen trying to meditate, even if it was only my boyfriend and I at home. I have always been self conscious, but when I can’t see who is looking at me, my anxiety goes through the roof and that pretty much defeats the whole purpose of meditation in the first place.
So lets start small…
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a process of taking control of the mind. It isn’t about becoming a different person, or better. It is all about training the mind and becoming aware, and getting into a healthy perspective.
Mindfulness is also a commonly used term alongside with meditation. Mindfulness is the ability to be present in the current moment, and be fully engaged in what you are doing.
Meditation during motherhood can help you cope with all of the new demands you experience as a new mom. A study that was published in Women’s Mental Health states that new moms who practice meditation and mindfulness during the postpartum period were less likely to experience postpartum depression and anxiety.
How Do I Get Started With Meditation?
This is a very common question that I get asked from beginners or people that are just starting to explore meditation and what it can do for them. I have a few simple guidelines that seem to work well for me. You can easily adapt them any which way to suit your needs.
Most beginners find it easiest to meditate first thing in the morning. Whether you wake up a few extra minutes before the kids, or while they are eating breakfast, it is important (I find) to do it at the same time every day. The brain adapts best to new concepts when they are practiced at the same time every day. I find that I have the most time and least amount of shit on my mind during the morning hours, thus making it easiest for me to get in the zone.
It really doesn’t matter where you meditate each day, what matters is that you feel comfortable in the space. You could set up a corner of your room, go out on to your balcony, or even in the rocking chair that you used to rock your babies to sleep. Hell, I even sit down in the shower sometimes and just take a few moments to ground myself. When you are just starting out and learning to train your mind, I find it easiest to have a safe space that I declare as my “meditation space” and ensure that it is free of distractions. Yes, even if you have kids. Us moms learn to adapt pretty well!
Ask some of the best meditation and mindfulness gurus and they will tell you that it is always best to sit up while practicing. I disagree. I find it easiest for me to be laying down and feel my body flat on the floor. This is especially helpful when doing body scan breathing (we will get in to this). I also enjoy lying down if I am following a guided meditation on my phone. Now that I have quite a lot of practice, I can pretty much meditate in any position any which way. It is something that I can turn on and channel in to when I need a quick calm down or check in with myself. You may want to invest in a meditation pillow if you don’t feel comfortable sitting directly on the floor.
What am I Supposed to Think About?
For beginner meditators, I 100% recommend using some sort of guided meditation. You can find some great ones on YouTube, or check the App Store on your phone for some as well. I really enjoy this one.
Start small, say around 10 minutes MAX!
Focus on your breathing.
Box breathing is very popular in meditation:
Breathe in for 4 counts
Hold for 4 counts
Exhale for 4 counts
Hold for 4 counts
You will probably notice that your mind starts to wander once you get to the exhale part. Don’t give in to your thoughts, and don’t let this discourage you. Just revert your thoughts back to focusing on your breathing and as you practice more and more you will notice that you make it through a little further each time.
The key to focusing on your breathing is not to analyze it. Just be aware that your body is doing its natural thing and simply – try to think of nothing at all.
Meditation and mindfulness is a learned skill, it takes practice. Be gentle with yourself. Like anything, you improve with regular practice.
Another favourite practice of mine, especially if I need to focus on something other than a particularly stressful situation.
This is where you start at your toes and check in with each and every part of your body moving up to the top of your head. Maintaining your breathing, once you get to your head, slowly head back down to your feet. Relax each body part a little more as you get to it and really let your body sink in to the ground beneath you.
I never notice how badly my jaw is clenched until I do this exercise, and this practice helps me relax in ways that I never knew I needed to relax. I always feel such a release when I get to my face and jaw, and my headaches are usually instantly cured.
You want this to be relaxing, and if you are overthinking the whole process it won’t work. It is a simple concept, and I think that is why it is so hard for people to grasp. It is something that is totally taught within, and only YOU know if you are doing it right. I can teach you the idea and the practices, but I cannot get inside your head and do it for you. This really is the beauty of it. There is not right or wrong way to do it. Find what works for you, and go with it. Get over that self conscious feeling and your mind (and kids) really will thank you!
If you are a new mom, I highly suggest giving it a go. Especially if you are struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety.