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Playful Self-Discipline: Cultivating Mindfulness Through Meditation

It’s Thursday and time to check in on my Playful Self-Discipline project. Today I’m embarking on a new topic for the month of February: Mindfulness. I’m hoping to take the foundation of physical health that I looked at in January and start building up from there into mental health, spirituality and work. Before I get to all that, however, I want to cultivate a habit of mindfulness.

Attention, Awareness or Mindfulness?

When I sat down to write this, I knew I wanted to focus on, well, my focus. Where does my attention go? Am I even aware of what I am thinking and feeling? Am I aware of how I am spending my time, how I am interacting with my kids or husband or friends or strangers? How can I be more aware and attuned to reality, instead of drifting off in a daydream or spending all day checking facebook? I couldn’t decide what exactly I was getting at – how is attention or awareness different from mindfulness, and what am I really hoping to get out of this month’s self-discipline project? Because better focus and time management skills are awesome, but I’m looking for the seed that those fruits will sprout from.

mindfulness

Buddhism for Mothers

I chose to use mindfulness as my focus for February because it reflects the spiritual nature of what I want to get out of my work on playfulness and self-discipline. After announcing my plans for 2011 in January, I got a tweet from @MamaInspiration, who said:

“@TheParentVortex – loved your post. have you read “Buddhism for Mothers” by Sarah Napthali? it is very much in line with your 2011 goals :)”

Well, I went straight to my public library’s website and reserved the first copy of anything written by Sarah Napthali that I could get my hands on immediately, and came home a few days later with Buddhism for Mothers of Young Children. I devoured it. Napthali is inspiring and down to earth and humble and understands the challenges of being mindful and calm and having a spiritual practice while raising small children. And now my curiosity is piqued – I want to learn more about Buddhism and try out mindfulness meditation myself. So I am starting a meditation practice.

A Humble Beginning

For the past two weeks I’ve been aiming to do 10 minutes of meditation a day. I started out meditating in the evenings, after writing but before flossing. I found that I was very tired and buzzed after working on the computer at night, and while meditating was a peaceful way to transition to sleep, I felt like it wasn’t as productive as it could be in the morning. Now I sit for 10 minutes after I bring the girls downstairs in the morning. Tom watches them for a bit before getting ready to leave for work, and it works out ok. 10 minutes is a small enough chunk of time that it feels achievable, even if I haven’t woken up at the crack of dawn.

I’m keeping my ears and eyes open for resources to help me learn some more meditation techniques to use. I don’t really have any formal training or techniques, other than the basic meditation posture and practice of acknowledging thoughts and emotions as they arise and then letting them go that I learned in Satyananda yoga. This feels like it is enough to get started with, but I’m definitely open to suggestions for further reading and learning about mindfulness meditation.

Have I noticed a difference in my self-discipline since I started meditating?

It’s hard to say. I do feel more aware of my emotions and feelings as they come up, and I’m also aware of the fact that I have a choice in how I react to things. This doesn’t mean I always make the right choice, and sometimes I still feel ambushed by a rogue wave of impatience and short temper. I hope that continuing to practice meditation will make it easier for me to be self-aware and make good choices. Meditating has already made me more aware of the nature of my thoughts during those short 10 minute sessions – do I really spend that much mental energy ruminating over past conversations? Defending my choices to imaginary detractors? Solving other people’s problems as though they were my own? It appears that I do.

Do you practice mindfulness through meditation, reminding yourself to be “in the moment” during the day, or through another spiritual practice? Do you have any advice or resources to share with someone just starting out?

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Rachael February 3, 2011, 7:24 pm

    Based on the questions and concerns you’ve brought up in this post, I think you’d really like the work of Joko Beck: Everyday Zen and Nothing Special. You might also like Pema Chodron, but I’m less familiar with her work, so I can’t say which book of hers would be best to start with. Best wishes!
    Rachael´s last blog post ..Write Every Day

    • michelle February 4, 2011, 10:42 pm

      Thanks Rachel. I’ve got Everyday Zen on hold at the library for me, I’m looking forward to reading it. :)

  • Stacy (Mama-Om) February 13, 2011, 9:32 am

    Sounds great, Michelle! What a wonderful undertaking — I’m inspired by your dedication!

    I have a meditation and mindfulness practice, both formal sitting and then throughout the day. I began my practice when my firstborn was just a few months old, and things have waxed and waned and flowed over the last seven years!

    I wrote a very in-depth series a year ago, called Practicing Peace. I spent two posts talking about the mindfulness practices I do in the moment, two posts about connecting with myself on a deeper level, and two posts about sitting meditation. I’d love to share it with you, and anyone else, in case it’s helpful in some way! Here it is:

    http://mama-om.blogspot.com/2010/01/practicing-peace-introduction.html

    Like you, I found that sitting in the morning helps the most to “fill my cup,” and that I can draw from that during that day. I also do certain practices to bring me back to the moment, choosing markers, such as opening the fridge, reaching for my toothbrush, etc., where I relax and let myself physically notice whatever is happening (cool handle, prickly brush, etc). And the big one, of course, is whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed I try to remember to breathe! :)

    Also, in our house, we have a mindfulness bell (a singing bowl) that anyone can ring when they are feeling the need for a moment of calm or collection. My son often rings it to remind ME to breathe. :-) I wrote about our bell here:

    http://mama-om.blogspot.com/2008/11/existential-owls-and-clever-mice.html
    http://mama-om.blogspot.com/2009/07/playing-mindfulness-bell-game.html

    Okay, obviously I could go on and on forever, so I’ll stop here.

    Many blessings to you on this journey! Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Best,
    Stacy
    Stacy (Mama-Om)´s last blog post ..Feeling My Feelings

    • michelle February 13, 2011, 4:59 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Stacy! I’ve recently discovered your blog and your approach is very inspiring for me. I’m looking forward to reading the posts you’ve linked up here. :) I am very much interested in learning the ins and outs of practicing mindfulness, both as a sitting meditation and something to draw on in the moment, especially challenging moments!

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