I had dinner with three of my very busy girlfriends the other night — one is recently married and the other two have toddlers and babies at home — and they asked me for some practical tips to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into their daily lives.
As an entrepreneur and mom myself, I've found a few simple ways to fit meditation into an already busy schedule:
1. Make a small commitment.
I once used an app to track how much I was meditating and here is what I found: The periods of time when I tried to meditate for twenty minutes every morning, over time, averaged out to less than four minutes a day!
When we make a big commitment and think we have to meditate for twenty minutes, often we don't meditate at all. On the other hand, if you commit to just one, two, or five minutes each day, you are much more likely to stick with it. And over time, you will actually meditate more. There are plenty of free, 30-day meditation challenges available online to help you get started. Like this one.
2. Have a routine — inner and outer.
It helps to create a routine around your practice. Meditate at the same time each day if possible, and create a sacred place where you can sit in stillness.
I like to bribe myself with a nice scented candle and a cozy, soft blanket. I also find that having an inner routine helps a great deal too — I walk myself through the same initial set of relaxation instructions at the beginning of each meditation, and my mind recognizes this and immediately starts to calm down.
For some people, it helps to have a mantra. I often do a grounding exercise to root to the earth and clear my energy at the beginning of every meditation practice.
3. Practice mindful exercise.
One of my favorite things to do is find presence when I'm on a run. I consider this a form of moving meditation and it's a great way to quiet a busy mind.
When you're on a run, walk, or other form of exercise, you can start by noticing your breathing — the rise and fall of your chest. I also find it helpful to count out intervals. I inhale and exhale three-to-five times (depending on how fast I'm breathing), which marks one interval of mindfulness.
Then I shift my awareness to other senses. I feel the wind against my skin for three to five inhales and exhales, that's another rep. I notice the sound of the gravel under my feet or hear the birds calling in the sky for three-to-five breaths. Then I pay attention to light and shadow, the trees moving in the wind for three-to-five breaths.
I try to do at least ten reps of this exercise and will often spend the majority of my run becoming more present with my senses.
I also highly recommend doing a loving kindness meditation while running. Try saying the following phrases to yourself over and over again while exercising:
"May I be happy and peaceful. May I feel safe and protected. May I be held in loving kindness."
4. Meditate with your kids, your partner, or a friend.
Set the timer on your phone for anywhere from one-to-five minutes. Sit down facing your child on the ground or, if they are older, on a chair. Notice the rise and fall of your chest, and start to pay attention to your inhale and exhale for two or three breaths, while looking at your child. Then, switch your awareness to your child. Notice the rise and fall of their chest, notice what they are doing, how they are moving, and appreciate them for two or three breaths. Then, switch back to yourself. Notice the support of the floor or chair underneath your body, and become aware of all the places you are touching an external surface. Notice the rise and fall of your chest. Feel the texture of the carpet under you. Do this for two or three breaths. Then, go back to your child.
This is aptly called a loop of awareness, because you are paying attention to yourself, then your child, and repeating this pattern.
Whenever I do this with my daughter, she absolutely lights up. Her whole face smiles! It's amazing how quickly kids notice your presence and respond to it. You can do this with anyone in your life, not just a child.
My husband and I went to a couples retreat on Valentine's Day a couple of years ago and they had us do a similar version of this exercise. We sat in chairs facing each other, and one person would breathe naturally while the other would match that breathing. What happened was my chest would rise and fall in tune with my husband's for a minute. Then we would switch. We felt so close afterwards.
Try these four techniques for yourself and let me know in the comments below what you think.