You know what would be amazing today? An hour to meditate. All by myself. In the peace and quiet. (I’d even take 20 minutes.)
That would be positively BLISSFUL.
But as a working mom, most days I’m lucky to piece together 10 minutes for myself—and rarely would I describe those minutes as quiet. Meeting life's demands can feel a little more like running on a hamster wheel than it does balance.
There's always one more thing to do and one more way it could be done better. Paperwork, appointments, cleaning, book repairs (so many book repairs), and all the good stuff, like drawing Elmo in every color, add up to a lot of pressure that many of us meet at the expense of self-care. Some days you barely remember whether you washed your hair.
For me, business at the expense of self-care meant losing touch with my meditation practice for a few years. What started as a day or two without meditation turned into a week. Then two. Soon it was something that I used to do, and when I’d think about starting it up again, I’d remind myself that I was “too busy.”
The problem with this, of course, is that cutting out self-care doesn’t change the business. Your to-do list will expand to fill up the time you give it. In the end, you feel even more stressed and rushed.
Life might be moving along at warp speed, but it wouldn’t mind you stepping in every now and then to say slow down and pay attention. It might not always be direct about this, but it will drop hints—like sticking you in traffic or an extra-long line at the grocery store.
I’ve started taking those hints to heart by using those times to breathe. Do you know what I realized? If I have time to breathe, I have time to meditate. I don't even need to get up at 4 a.m. to do it.
It’s not that perfect blissful hour, but life’s about more than being perfect. It’s about showing up and giving it a shot.
If you’re willing to give it a shot, you can use those life’s-dropping-you-hints moments to meditate in just three simple steps. Yes, even if you are a really busy working mama. (And, dads, you can do this too!)
Step 1: Identify those built-in meditation times.
Give yourself a day or two to pay attention to the natural flow of your day. When are you active? When are you resting? Try to identify those times that meditation would be a natural fit.
Times and places you're already waiting for something are perfect for bringing meditation into your daily routine. It’s like life’s literally telling you to stand still. Next time you’re at a red light or staring down a long line at the register, put away the phone and consider yourself lucky. You were just given a moment to meditate.
Transitions in your day are also a perfect time to stop and pay attention. Check in with yourself between tasks at home or work. Use the walk from the parking lot as a walking meditation. Take an extra breath as you drive into the garage at night.
Start to reclaim your lunch break and the kids’ nap time as your time. Think of them as life’s little gifts to you. Savor them, and protect them ruthlessly.
Don’t forget about decompressing time. You don’t have unlimited brain power (it’s OK; we’re all in the same boat), so there’s a good chance that you’ll be taking a few minutes to decompress sometime today, whether you're at work or at home. Use that time to do a brief meditation before you fill up your head with more Pinterest guilt.
Step 2: BREATHE.
That’s it. Put away the phone, shut the door, close your eyes, and breathe. You can even do this with your kids. You don’t need to do anything fancy. Plain and simple breathing will do the trick.
Step 3: Ask yourself these four important questions.
This is where the real magic happens. During this time, redirect your thoughts away from all of the what-ifs and what-did-she-mean-by-that thoughts and ask yourself the questions that really help you check in and take care of yourself.
- Where am I right now?
Take a moment to look around and actually allow yourself to be there, not where you are coming from, and not where you are heading next. Be here today and let tomorrow come tomorrow. The here and now is where life is happening, anyway.
- Where is my mind?
Check in with your head. What’s going on up there? What are you thinking of? Do a quick inventory and then ask yourself if this is something that is helpful or necessary to think about right now. If you decide that your thoughts do warrant further attention, schedule it with yourself and come back to breathing.
- Where is my body?
How are you feeling at this very moment? Happy? Invigorated? Frazzled? Let your body tell you what it needs by tuning in and actually listening to what it has to say. It knows a lot more than you probably give it credit for—especially on those busy mom days, which, let's face it, are every day.
- What do I need moving forward today?
OK, this one’s kind of a trick question because you can’t really answer it without checking in with your mind and body first. Your thoughts and your body can tell you what you need moving from this point forward today. The trick is listening and actually doing something about it. Whether you need to be nicer to yourself, take a moment to retrace your steps, or simply shave your legs, do what you can to meet that need, even if it is only one small step.
Go ahead and give these three steps a try. Remember, this isn’t about being perfect. It’s all about showing up and giving it a shot. You can absolutely do this!
Before you know it, you might just find yourself saying, “I used to think I was too busy to meditate."