There are all kinds of articles about the benefits of mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness means that we are bringing attention to thoughts, feelings and sensations—often via activities such as yoga and meditation.
Studies have shown how mindfulness can improve sleep, mental health, and help to heal injuries and illnesses.
I’m a bit of a research geek and while I do find all those statistics exciting, for me the most convincing proof is that we’re all born already knowing how to do these things.
Babies breathe deeply from their bellies without ever having to focus on it. I on the other hand, have to set a recurring task in my outlook calendar at work, just to make sure I get at least three good, deep breaths in eight hours.
Kids let out long, juicy sighs all the time and not out of frustration, just because that little extra release feels so good. Meanwhile, most of the sighs I hear from grown-ups express exasperation…not contentment. Toddlers do perfect squats to play with blocks, pre-schoolers watch TV in hero pose and kids do wheel pose on the front lawn because it’s fun and it feels natural to them.
Grown-ups, on the other hand, rarely get into these positions outside of a yoga class.
I see this disconnect all the time now. But the truth is I couldn’t see it in my own life for years. I didn’t realize how far away I’d gotten from that kind of balance, confidence and well-being until I had kids of my own.
For me, the process of becoming a mum came with plenty of breakdowns and breakthroughs.
You know when you buy your favourite hand cream and get a free sample of lip balm taped to it? It was kind of like that, only a little more…existential. The free bonus gift might not have been something I wanted or would have ever chosen for myself, but now it’s here and it’s exactly what I needed.
One of my bigger breakthroughs came very early on in motherhood; I remember being struck by how complete and confident my babies were right from the start, when I had been struggling with my identity for decades.
They were these whole, little people with big personalities and preferences even when they were just days old. Not afraid to ask for what they needed, they had no problem saying no and they basically meditated and did yoga all day long (in between all the eating, sleeping and pooping, of course).
Everything was new and exciting and amazing to them. I don’t know many grown-up people who can say the same, but I’ve met a lot of them who are trying to get back to that place of mindfulness.
Raising my little people has helped me realize that somewhere along the way I had lost all of those things; that sense of wholeness, the wisdom to listen to my body, to trust my intuition and the ability to move my body in the way that feels best. It seems like over the years, life stripped those things away from me.
Or maybe I handed them over in trade for what I thought were more acceptable and mature qualities.
Either way, all the rules, the homework, the gossip, the routines, the expectations and my own beliefs about needing to be better than perfect chipped away at those parts of me, piece by piece. All those late nights with my babies, stuck in a rocking chair snuggling and nursing round the clock with nothing but my busy mind for company made me totally conscious of the nonsense of it all; I was trying to relearn how to do what I had been born knowing how to do and somehow managed unlearned.
This quote captures that lesson in such a simple, beautiful way:
“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ~ Unknown
I find it both ironic and confusing that, as a grown-up person, I now schedule in time to relax and be alone and I make lists to help me make sure I’m taking proper care of myself. I need to remind myself to be conscious and mindful and to breathe every day and I’ve paid several lovely people lots of money to teach me yoga, meditation, self-care and mindfulness. Ironic and confusing, but also wonderful and so, so important.
The truth is, I’ll likely never know exactly when or how I lost myself.
But when I realized that those pieces were missing and felt that emptiness, it became my job to work toward finding myself and becoming fully me (again). I know that mindfulness, yoga and meditation are important in my life because I feel so much better when I am practicing.
My body is fit and strong, my mind is calm and clear and my breath is deep and relaxed. I’m a calmer and more patient mummy. I see beauty everywhere and I feel the joy in everyday moments.
Maybe the how, when and why are not so important after all. Maybe this is all a lesson in itself, that I will always be learning, re-learning, unbecoming and growing and that is okay.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Image: Hartwig HKD at Flickr