The simplest way to integrate mindfulness and awareness of the present moment is by taking three deep breaths. This sounds so easy and yet without reminders I often forget to do it! I remind myself by setting the alarm function on my phone to go off several times during the day. If you have a smart phone you can find the alarm function in “clock”. There are several options including stopwatch and timer but I’ve found that the alarm function is most useful. There are a variety of peaceful sounds that you can choose from in the “sounds” function to serve as your reminder. I have mine set for 3 times during the day, twice in the morning when I know from experience that I might NOT be remembering to breathe deeply, and once in the afternoon. You may want to set yours for times that you normally feel stressed or just pick a time that you would like to breathe deeply.
Once you have set up your reminder just go about your day. When you hear your alarm pause and take a moment to notice where you are and what you’re doing. Take a breath and let it go. Notice how you’re feeling. Take another deep breath and let it go. How does your body feel? Inhale and let it go.
If I’m by myself or with the students in my classroom or with my son I let the breaths go with a deep and audible sigh. The students often do this with me now so it reminds all of us to breathe and come back to the present moment. Sometimes we lift our arms up on the inhale and slowly drop them to our sides as we exhale. Ahhhhhh.
Breathing is at the foundation of so many mindful practices. Give it a try!
If you’re interested in self discovery here are some methods that may help you on your journey. All green highlighted links will take you directly to the site mentioned. Click the back arrow to come back to this post!
The first habit is regular meditation. This was something I had wanted to do for many years and I’ve dabbled in meditation since my early teens. I participated in an 8 week training on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction which reinforced the importance of regular meditation. I admit I struggled with the commitment at first and worked through several roadblocks where I stopped completely. However, I seem to have found my path again and now I meditate regularly. While working I meditate during my commute (by train) and during this extended break I’ve meditated every morning to the sound of the birds (much nicer than by train!) If you don’t have access to MBSR locally and are interested you may want to check out the work and recordings of Jon Kabat-Zinn.
You can also try Andy Puddicumb’s Headspace which is available free online.
The second habit is yoga. As with meditation this is something I’ve been interested in for many years and have practiced irregularly since I first discovered it. For the past 6 months I’ve been doing a short yoga practice every morning when I wake up. It started small (about 5 minutes) and settled at around 10 minutes when I was working. Now that I have more time I’ve been doing 15 to 45 minutes of yoga every morning. I found a great teacher in Miami who lives very close to my house and will be attending her classes when I return. If yoga calls to you it’s likely that you can find a class nearby. You can also find yoga sessions online free through YouTube or subscribe. The short practice that I started with is through Danielle Gorman of YogaKids. If yoga doesn’t call to you try exploring some other form of movement; bellydancing, running, ice skating, walking.
A third habit is writing. I received my first diary when I was 8 years old and I still have it. I started writing regularly again this year which led to this blog. Most of what I write will never be seen by anyone but me but I find it helps me to process my feelings and keep track of my dreams. If you want to write regularly be sure to set aside the time. You can even make a daily appointment with yourself. I give myself at least 15 minutes a day to write. Get a nice journal if you enjoy writing longhand or write on the computer or start your own blog! I used Courtney Carver’s Zero to 100course to get started.
The fourth habit is creating. Since childhood I’ve enjoyed doing various art, craft and other projects and it’s been so much fun to rediscover these things. Lori Pickert’s Camp Creek Blog helped me to start my daily creativity sessions. Also check out Michael Nobbs at Sustainably Creative for more suggestions on daily small doses of creativity. I have slowly accumulated charcoal, clay, watercolors, glitter gel pens, and materials for Zen Tangles. I’ve chosen anything that I can do in a relatively short period of time and with zero expectations. Sometimes I create with my son but usually on my own. If there was something artistic or creative from your childhood or early adulthood that you enjoyed try picking it up again. Knitting, crocheting and other fabric arts are something else you may want to explore.
The fifth habit (which should probably be listed as the first habit) is forming habits. In our busy lives if we don’t make something a habit, chances are it won’t happen for very long. Especially if it’s something we’re doing for ourselves and not for someone else! I found Tiny Habits to be incredibly effective and easy when it came to integrating new habits into my life. You start with very small (tiny!) habits or changes you want to make and give yourself positive reinforcement each time you do the habit. What we attend to grows and soon you have a habit that you do every day with very little effort. If there’s something that you want to include regularly in your life give it a try!
I’ll spend more time on each of these self-discovery habits in future posts. Until then I hope you enjoy rediscovering yourself as much as I’m enjoying rediscovering myself!
I’m so excited to be a graduate of the Project Based Homeschooling Master Class. This was such a wonderful experience and I really gained a lot from it. Although I’m not a homeschooler I feel that the best way to approach learning with my son and with my students is through their interests. This online class helped me to recognize the ways that my son’s passions for subjects as diverse as dinosaurs, trains, space and Wild Kratts (PBSKids) are helping him to develop the capacity to learn about any subject. This evening he developed a pretty sophisticated business plan for catching and selling fish to “make a lot of money this summer”. He’s starting at 15 cents for a bag of fish chips (buy one get one free) and by the end of the vacation the price will have risen to $5. (Reel ’em in!). He even has his hours of operation and days to go catch more fish. I love it!
One of the paths to personal rediscovery that I’ve been exploring is to reconnect with nature. Growing up in the Adirondack Mountains there were always opportunities to be outside; observing animals, planting seeds and playing in the mud. In the past few weeks I’ve been going for more walks in Miami and really stopping to notice what’s around me. This morning in the Adirondacks I woke up very early and was amazed at the variety of birdsong in our meadow. If you have three minutes to stop and listen, you’ll hear the birds and brook.
Here is our little home away from home for the next 4 weeks. It’s been so wonderful to wake to the sound of the birds in the meadow and rain on the roof of the camper the past two days. We’ve also seen fireflies at night, lots of birds in the birdhouses and tiny red salamanders (actually newts) in the grass. We’ve been collecting seeds from the grasses in the field and found out the names of some of them.
This morning I was able to write, meditate, do yoga and have a cup of coffee all before leaving the Airstream. We’re still working on getting the water pump to work so we can use the water and last night the lights weren’t working because the battery died but other than that we have “all the comforts of home”.
Today is our fifth day of vacation. We’re spending five weeks in upstate NY at my parents’ home and staying in my 1974 Airstream. While it sound idyllic and in many ways it has been, yesterday I came up hard against reality. I started planning this break sometime last summer and I’ve built up a lot of expectations and dreams about what it would be like. I planned to blog every other day, write creatively for myself, sketch, paint, read, meditate daily and do yoga. In my fantasies my son was always enjoying himself, exploring nature, loving his free time, actively engaged in learning with some mentoring from me, but primarily on his own and loving the lack of a schedule.
But here is reality. For the most part I have been able to read, write, create, do yoga and meditate every day which has been wonderful. However, my son has not adjusted well to the lack of schedule. He just came out of a very demanding and highly structured school year and has talked for months about how happy he was that he didn’t have to go to camp this year. And although I KNEW that he does well with structure and routine I wanted to have a “good old fashioned summer vacation” with lots of spontaneity and free time. I didn’t include any structure in my vision of our summer. Yesterday after the third or fourth (or tenth or twelfth) argument with him, I retired to the Airstream to try to get myself together. I was angry and ashamed at being angry and I was sad. I was frustrated and not enjoying the time that I did have to myself for writing and creating because I was focused on what was happening with my son. It’s hard when I realize my dreams are not coming true. So I thought about what was going on and realized that the majority of the “problems” were mine and they were primarily related to my expectations not being met. Some of the problems were because my son’s expectations were not being met. I realized that he viewed this vacation as an opportunity for LOTS of mom time; playing Battleship, hunting for bugs together, telling me about his most recent fascination with WordGirl on PBS, going fishing, and having a readymade entertainment committee.
And here is the compromise. We made a schedule. Some of it was with his input and some of it was what I know he needs from past experience.. Like a morning snack and an afternoon snack so he doesn’t get cranky from hunger, time to zone out and be on the computer and time to run around outside with the neighbor’s dog (even though it’s raining today).
We also has scheduled daily one on one time with me, with my mom, and with my dad. This morning I apologized for my bad mood yesterday and we both agreed to try harder today. We cooked our breakfast in the Airstream and when we were done he went inside for computer time and I stayed out to meditate, do yoga and write.
Accepting reality works better than fighting against it. I can still plan around my fantasies and expectations but when they’re not being met I can accept what is.
How do you face reality when it doesn’t meet your expectations?
I read this post from the lovely Courtney Carver of Be More with Less and wanted to share it. I found it inspirational and have already implemented some of her suggestions. I have a new yellow candle burning right now and a yellow rose next to it. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so uplifting! Enjoy
I’ve been a proponent of inclusion since I learned what it meant when I was in college. Back then (many, many moons ago) it was called mainstreaming. Having my child with special needs interact with your child with or without special needs is inclusion. There are many chapters, treatises and academic studies about the benefits of inclusion. What it means for me is that today my son had a playdate with two of his friends who don’t have special needs. The playdate was at our house and as an introvert I am feeling the customary exhaustion and exhilaration that I usually feel in the wake of such an event.
My son has difficulty making friends, so when the moms of two of his classmates (one from Pre-K) asked if they could bring their daughters over today I jumped at the chance. My son is quite vocal about what he likes and doesn’t like and each occasion for interaction is filled with potential stress for me and for him. I’m quite sure in advance that he will overstep the boundaries of friendship by proclaiming what he will and won’t play. His honesty about the fact that we hid the wooden cookies because he didn’t want to play “cookie store” this time makes me cringe a little. And yet as the party moves to his bedroom with marshmallows and popcorn and me being asked to play the “big, bad wolf” I am happy. I’m happy that he has friends, that they accept him for who he is. I’m happy that I’m not the only one to play with him today. I’m happy to hear him laughing uncontrollably and to hear his friends laughing too.
As moms I think that what we most want for our children is for them to be happy. All the other stuff that we drive ourselves nuts over; the therapies, the report cards, the IEPs, the orthodontics, the worrying about the future, all of it pales in comparison with hearing our children laugh and knowing they are laughing with their friends.
If you are a mom of a child with special needs I know that you’re already doing what you can to make your child happy. Reach out to other moms and arrange a time to get together with your kids. If your child doesn’t have special needs you might want to think about how you can include another child who does. Invite them to a birthday party, or if that might be too overwhelming just have a playdate. It’s pretty likely that there are kids in your child’s class who want to be included even if they don’t reach out to you or your child. Children are more alike than different. They all get a little crazy when they’ve had too much sugar. They all enjoy the opportunity to be themselves. And they all want to be happy.