The reality of school mornings (sigh!) and the need to breathe…

I’m wondering what mornings are like at your house? Yesterday was an absolute classic – with my twins (and me!) getting used to a new bus routine and earlier start time…for high-school.  With lots of opportunities to practice (sometimes without success!) mindful breathing!

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I began by meditating on my balcony, calming my mind and preparing myself for a peaceful Monday morning… (I can do this now my kids are older!)

I walk back into the house to find two kids still fast asleep despite the bus leaving in 40 minutes…
I wake them gently, calmly, glad I meditated..
I make 4 sandwiches virtuously – this is unusual for me as normally the kids help themselves to the lunch ingredients so less food is wasted…
So far so good,

Phil leaves early for work and all is well…
Someone yells there is no hot water – thank goodness it is a hot day and I make a mental note to get that fixed, but not to worry about it now, or even this week!

Kids groan and complain that there is no cereal despite there being 4 open boxes of different varieties on the bench – turns out that even though they went to Coles with their Dad on the weekend no one bought the cereal they like?

I breathe and begin to braid my daughters hair, a special request

Then youngest son takes too long in the shower, eldest son grumpy and yelling, youngest son calls out for a towel, no-one helps, I yell ‘you’ll have to get your own towel’ but in his wisdom he hops back into shower!

Eldest son gets louder and grumpier, and thumps on bathroom door!

I knock on door and shout loudly about 2 more people needing to still have a shower, the need to save water etc – and the door opens – he has found a towel in the bathroom (there all along!) and is now getting out…I loudly suggest please never have two showers in a row again!!!
I breathe but teeth gritted, calmness is evapourating…
I remember I’m out of my toasted muesli and unwisely I begin making this…
Then remember orthodontist appt for two children at lunch time and search frantically for paper and pen to write school notes and realise I will have to reorganise my whole entire day to fit this appt in… and cancel yoga 😦

I breathe…

Then I find youngest son, sitting in wet towel at the computer with 7 minutes to go until the bus leaves….I am no longer calm, I deliver an exploding lecture, I unplug computer in a rage…

And then I remember to breathe…

Two kids leave in good time to catch the bus, but I remember I haven’t said goodbye to one so shout out ‘fond’ farewell from front door that neighbours could hear!! And send a virtual hug!
Youngest son comes upstairs breathless, seemingly dressed, we hug, he thanks me for lunch, all is forgiven, I hug him tight and wish him well.
He races up to the bus…fingers crossed he’ll catch it.

I realise I have overcooked the muesli but it’s saved in the nick of time, thank goodness
Eldest son leaves on his bike, showered and peaceful, again thank goodness.

I breathe…
And I turn to face a tsunami of lunch / brekky stuff left out on the bench, discover the bathroom has been flooded from the earlier shenannigans and clothes are left everywhere…

and it’s only 8:08am!!!

I sigh, I breathe, I feel like going back to bed or at least meditating again to regain some of that calm but instead the day begins and I breathe and breathe and breathe as I regain some order both inside and out…

Phew!!

Anyone else have something similar happen at the start of the school or preschool year??

Simply Here or Hear…

you are here
What can we do when our minds are too frazzled to focus on our breath to even begin to be mindful?

I was so fortunate yesterday to have 50 mins in the car -a perfect time to listen to a podcast from Zencast.org. My mind was feeling really scattered and by chance I listened to a talk by Gil Fronsdal, (Zencast 427, July 2013) labelled ‘Here’ that really resonated with me.

Gil shared a simple practice he uses to calm his mind down. He gently repeats ‘here’ to himself, and each time he says this he has a moment to just notice, without judgement, what is happening right now externally and internally. On a really frazzled day this might only last a moment but then you say it again, and what I found really effective is you might say ‘Hear’ for a different focus, what can you hear right now? This is a beautiful mindfulness practice that can be done in a meditation while your mind settles but it can also be done as you drive, sweep, listen to your children, wait in a queue….I tried it this morning and loved it!

What was so powerful in this talk was that Gil insisted that if your mind isn’t calming down as you would like then this is the perfect start to beginning to understand your mind, observe without judgement, where does it wander to? Does it wander to ‘there’ and ‘then’? He really emphasised the need to sit with where you are at – as if you were holding something precious in both hands, just watching it, OR as if you were sitting with your best friend in comfortable silence, just allowing them to be whoever they are in that moment! I found both of these images very powerful in being gentle with myself and just sitting with what is rather than judging myself or chasing a ‘better’ mindful moment or a better meditation!

So I’ll leave you with 2 words to take a moment to sit and reflect on…

‘here’ & ‘hear’

What do you notice?

Social Approval…..can we be mindful of this need?

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As I have recently moved states, moved towns, changed jobs…I’ve been thinking a lot about something that Russ Harris (The Happiness Trap / Act Mindfully) talks about….

If you have studied mindfulness then you will probably be aware of the latest brain research that shows that our emotional brain (amygdala / limbic system) sends out alarm signals when we perceive a threat to our safety….and we immediately go into a healthy flight, fight or freeze response to stay safe.  Often however in our modern world that alarm can go into overdrive and be triggered by very small events (e.g. our child’s tantrums, can’t find our keys, being put on hold for 40 minutes etc) and we can be on high alert constantly, experiencing chronic stress, even though our safety is not threatened. Thankfully research now proves that the ancient art of mindfulness can help to calm down our alarm centre….by breathing immediately and over time.

What I found fascinating and have been thinking about a lot recently is Russ Harris’s comment that because we are essentially ‘herd’ animals we can also feel the same sense of alarm when it feels like our ability to belong to a group is threatened….that we biologically once had a need for social acceptance to survive and we still have this!

So this explains that a lot of the tension in my neck and shoulders and high adrenalin is not from a perceived threat to my safety but a fear about whether I will fit in or not, about what to say and how to say it, about whether I will be liked by enough people to feel accepted…..and comfortable in this new community.  Awareness of this hasn’t really helped to ease the tension, but it has helped to understand it and to know that when I’m feeling particularly nervous/worried I can breathe mindfully to calm down that alarm centre… and hopefully reduce the stress a bit?

This then gives me great insight into how it is for kids and teenagers, that it is a ‘survival drive’ to fit in at all costs….that is why they are so desperate to have the latest gadget, to be on social media….to them it feels like a need and they are so upset when us as parents don’t give them what they ‘need’.   I’m still not sure how to negotiate this one…..but if awareness is 50% of the journey then at least I’m on my way to knowing what to do!!!  Perhaps a starter point is to talk to our kids & teens as to what is really a need and what is a want in today’s world?