After a presentation the other day, a parent approached me and
mentioned that she feels guilty about not being "fully present or
mindful" when she is with her children. Although I completely
understand her feelings, I also know that guilt is a waste of
valuable energy and it's actually a disservice to the
Being present or mindful is not a place that you can remain
continuously. It's more of a moment, a glimpse, a feeling, or
a deep awareness.
To suspend these moments or feel them more frequently takes
practice; mindfulness is a muscle that needs to be worked.
The good news is that there are many different paths to the present
moment: yoga, prayer, meditation, deep breathing, writing,
singing, dancing, playing with your children….the list goes on and
Being present means that instead of being focused on what
happened yesterday or what could happen tomorrow, you are simply
here, now. It's about getting off autopilot and becoming
aware of the automatic actions and reactions you are used to, and
finding a place of clarity and calm. The present moment
You don't have to wait to practice mindfulness, you can start
this minute. Take a deep breath and feel what is going on in
your body. Be a witness to the endless chatter in your brain
(your brain is a processing machine, it can think about things
without your consent.)
The part of you that notices this, that realizes that your brain
is talking and thinking without you, is who "you" really are.
Notice "you" more often. Practice finding "you" more
Some people think that to be mindful you need to "turn off your
thoughts" or "silence your brain", but the reality is that your
brain is always working and thinking (some refer to this
realization as "monkey brain").
Instead, think about quieting the parts of the brain that are
stuck in the past and future (regret, worry, fear) and turn up and
tune into the part that is here now (acceptance, love,
For example, if you are walking, notice that you are
walking. Notice your legs and feel the ground. Look up
and feel the sun. If you are eating, take slow mindful
bites. Really taste what you are eating. If you are
playing with your children, look them in the eyes and listen to
them. Focus on what they look like in that moment and how
they make you feel.
And if all else fails, just close your eyes and take a good,
deep breath. Breathing, something we take for granted, is
easy access to the present moment. It brings us back to our
bodies, back to our awareness.
I call these moments "taking it in". They are excellent
ways to slow down and appreciate what is.
Experiencing these moments can reduce stress, keep your body
working properly, and create more happiness. Do I need to say
But please let go of feeling bad about not being constantly
present (none of us are!). Mindfulness is simple in concept,
but it's a practice and it's not always easy.
View being present as an opportunity rather than a destination,
or think of it as a relaxing respite from the continuous processing
of your brain. And know that it's always available to you -
The only time you ever have in which to learn anything or
see anything or feel anything, or express any feeling or emotion,
or respond to an event, or grow, or heal, is this moment, because
this is the only moment any of us ever gets. You're only here now;
you're only alive in this moment. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn,
mindfulness educator and author
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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