Imagine this. Your toddler is having a meltdown in the grocery store. Your own heartbeat speeds up and your breathing becomes shallow in a nanosecond. You feel your child’s distress and your own. This is where we hit the “pause” button and imagine something different (and you can try it right now). You take several slow deep breaths, notice your sensations including your feet solidly on the ground, and send kindness to yourself and your child for being in this predicament. Rather than feeling a creeping sense of panic and seeking the closest escape route, you look at your options more calmly. You may still leave the store, but your heart is no longer beating as if you are being chased by a lion. You are simply a mom with a overwhelmed toddler finding a solution to the problem. How did you do it?
The question I get asked most often is “how can I find the time to practice pausing so that I can do it in stressful times?” There are as many ways to practice as there are personalities and situations. The key is to find the practice that suits you in your life right now.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
― Victor E. Frankl
If you were to peek into a Yoga Of Parenting Workshop you would see a room filled with soft lights, yoga mats, blocks, lots of blankets, cushions and a circle of Boulder Moms. It is a cozy place where the women in the room are free to share their experiences of parenting, tell stories, laugh, and sometimes cry. Then we practice diving deep into the silence just below the chatter and the ups and downs of day to day life. We move through asana with our breath leading the way. Then we lie down, warm and cozy for a deeply relaxing guided meditation. When we are done, everyone is deeply relaxed, nurtured and nourished. We have paused together.
In previous weeks we have talked about how to bring more awareness into our days, how to transform critical self-talk into self-compassion. We have discovered meditation in movement with yoga. On this last evening of a six session workshop, women are brainstorming ideas for creating this same sense of relaxation and loving-kindness at home with much less time.
We all need to find ways to pause in our lives, even if it is only for a few moments. Here are some new and inventive personalized solutions that they created, you may find them helpful, too.
- One Mom who wanted to start her day with a big heart and broad perspective but didn’t have the time or space to practice, decided to make a gratitude list at night before going to sleep. In the morning she will read her list to remind her of all that she felt grateful for the day before. Gratitude shifts our attitude from one of expectation and disappointment to that of noticing the goodness we already have in our lives. Don’t forget to include yourself to the list. What about you are you grateful for? A loving heart, a smile, a sense of humor?
- After hearing about Sylvia Boorstien’s, coffee meditation, another Mom decided to sit by a window with her coffee in the morning and look out at the leaves on the trees, the sky and the birds. She will take time to really smell the coffee, feel the warmth in her hands and give herself care and kindness, setting the tone for the day.
- A third Mom frequently walks with her baby. With each step at the beginning of her walk, she will bring her awareness to her feet on the street, her surroundings, her feelings and thoughts. And then as she calms her nervous system she will send loving kindness to her baby, herself and others whom she cares for.
All of these practices create the pause necessary for the mind to rewire in the direction of greater equanimity so that when we encounter stress, and we will, we can remind ourselves of this possible pause and we become stronger in our ability to move from a fight or flight response to greater ease.
These are just several examples, I would love to hear how you practice “pausing” in your day.
Alison Rogers Ed.D is a therapist in Boulder, CO. She also teaches The Yoga of Parenting workshops and provides individual Yoga Of Parenting sessions for parents at all stages of of this wobbly path. Get in touch if you need a little extra compassionate care on your journey.