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Calm abiding – the essence of mindfulness

By Dr Wendy Wood IN Discover

Mindfulness. It’s everywhere these days. And that’s a good thing, especially as we strive to connect this refinement of our awareness into our lives as parents, partners, and members of our community. But what exactly is mindfulness in relation to motherhood and self-care? How do we incorporate and embrace this concept into our daily lives in a way that enhances quality parenting experiences?

It’s best to start with an understanding of what mindfulness truly is.

While the concept of mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist psychology, it shares conceptual kinship with ideas and practices in a wide range of philosophical and religious thought. At its root, mindfulness is a practice that takes many forms and is a way of paying attention to one’s inner and outer world, moment to moment. This allows us to reach a clearer understanding of how thoughts and emotions can impact the ways we respond to the conditions that surround us. You can see how helpful this practice can be in parenting. Helping us to respond rather than react to the needs of our family and our self.

Neuroscience is verifying the fact that mindfulness meditation develops the social circuits of the brain that cultivate compassion for self and others.

This suggests that mindful states may play an important role, not only in coping with difficult experiences, which parenting provides plenty of, but in building the brain’s capacity for compassion and kindness. This ‘state of mind’ fosters empathy, interdependence, and calm abiding, creating a delicate balance for each of us as we become clear, aware, calm, and assured. Cultivating this skill allows us to recognise the subtleties and complexities of our interactions that are often required in critical situations and challenging environments (for which our children provide us plenty of practice)!

What may be the most beautiful piece of bringing mindfulness into our parenting is this…

Mindfulness allows us to bring our whole heart and mind – our full attention – to the situations at hand. We aren’t trying to stop our thinking. Rather, we observe our thoughts with open receptiveness and acceptance without judgment. We begin to fully recognise who we are – as parents, as partners, and friends – and as poet Mary Oliver says, we are “… announcing our place in the family of things.”

We often hear of mindfulness as ‘being in the present moment’, but what does that truly mean?

As we cultivate awareness, through the practice of sitting or walking meditation, this deepens our insight into emotional patterns that cause us to suffer. This suffering blocks our relationship to happiness, peacefulness, and developing effective and loving parenting skills.

Mindfulness creates a focus that supports being ready for anything at any given moment – a skill essential to parenting.

Mindfulness reminds us to acknowledge our thoughts, pause, breathe, and check our energy and our intentions before we act. As mindful awareness develops, these feelings are balanced by an inner realisation that our challenges can lead to experiences that are positive and create feelings of joy and satisfaction. It becomes possible to transform the often-confused energy of emotions, both ours and others, into wisdom.

Dr Wendy Wood

Wendy Wood, PhD is an author, researcher, educator, and leader in the field of mindful engagement and social change. Working internationally, Dr. Wood has spent her entire career engaging with children and families. She serves traumatised and marginalised individuals, communities, and organisations through mediation, conflict management, and trainings on compassion in action. She is the co-founder of The Karuna Center for Mindful Engagement and coauthor of the new book, Do No Harm: Mindful Engagement for a World in Crisis. She is also a mother and grandmother.

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