Tag Archives: family

Taking time out

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Recently, I’ve been practising a lot of meditation.  Not so much writing as before,  but a lot of meditation.  There just don’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do all of the things that make us feel good.  But it is so important to find time to do at least some of them.  For me, yoga and meditation make me feel good, as does writing, reading, quality time with my family, listening to music, cooking (but not the washing up!) – the list goes on.  You may like to think about what would go on your list.

But all too often, our days get filled with the things we must do.  The hours whizz by in a blur of work, driving from one place to the other, cleaning, tidying, phone calls, appointments and so on,  until we finally fall into an exhausted sleep at the end of the day.  Long-term, this will not do any of us any good at all.  We all need a break now and then.  And that week or fortnight that most of us manage once a year is probably not enough if we rush around frantically for the other 50+ weeks.  We need to look at our list of what must be done, long and hard, and work out if some of it is really necessary, if we could get help with it, or if we are creating unnecessary stress by our own perfectionism, our own demands of ourselves.

We also need to look at that list of the good things, the things which make us feel alive, nurturing our inner selves.  How can we fit more of that into our lives?  If you have a regular yoga and meditation practice, congratulations – you are helping to look after both your physical and mental wellbeing.  If you used to have a regular practice, which has fallen by the wayside due to the other demands on your time – well, we’ve all been there.  If you used to listen to positive, uplifting music, walk in the countryside or by the sea, and no longer do that, think how you could fit that into your day.  Maybe the whole world won’t fall apart if you have a few minutes out of each day, or a few hours out of each week to do the things which help you to feel good.  Maybe, just maybe, you will find that all your other duties seem easier to accomplish, that you achieve more and better by taking that time out.  And maybe you will be an awful lot happier, more relaxed, more vibrant , and more able to deal with the undoubted challenges of everyday life.

Family life and spiritual development

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walk-familysunset Unless you are a nun or a monk living remotely from others, you will have the additional challenge of developing or maintaining your spiritual practice alongside many personal, social and work commitments.  Some teachers have suggested that this is so difficult to do that most serious aspirants will find themselves shedding relationships along the way. For those of us who wish to develop or maintain a spiritual practice as well as our existing commitments to our families and friends, the going might be tough, but it is possible.

In my last post, I wrote about the challenge of finding time to maintain or to begin a yoga or meditation practice within the context of family life.  Today, I want to look more deeply at how our daily lives can feed into our practice.

The mindfulness practice discussed previously is a powerful way to make every moment rich with potential for spiritual awareness. Think of the wonder a small child displays about his or her world. The freshness, the newness of their eyes.  A walk with a toddler can take so long, as they pause to examine a leaf, a twig, or a stone every few steps. Going that same route alone, we tend to be focused on our destination, barely noticing our surroundings. Yet how much richer our experience would be if we took the time to really look around us as we walk, to develop an appreciation for our neighbourhood, for the beauty of nature, and to take time to smile at those we meet along the way. The world becomes a much friendlier and lovelier place!

Jesus said that people would need to become like small children to enter the kingdom of heaven. If we pause to consider what this means, I think it touches on this innocence and sense of wonder that our children have. We need to become more open to the inherent joy and beauty of our lives.  And on the days that this joy is hard to come by, how often do you find that happiness in the company of your child?  In their unconditional love for you, their parent?  That simplicity of a child’s outlook, when a cuddle with a loved one puts so much right – we can really learn from that!

But I think another way we can learn from our children is in the way they live in the moment. Toddlers and young children are known for their tantrums and fluctuating emotions. I’m not suggesting that we start to follow their example and throw our own tantrums – although many of us do display our own adult versions at times!  Very young children may still be learning to cope with their strong feelings, but they don’t usually bottle them up and repress them in the way they might when they get older.  They really feel them!  They really show them! They’re upset – they cry.  They’re angry or frustrated – they shout or hit.  But the main difference between a young child and an older child or an adult, is that they then tend to let that emotion pass – the energy of the emotion subsides, and they will generally return to their more sunny selves.  What a lesson!  Children just are more present in the moment than us.  They may act out their feelings, but then they let them go.  If the ‘kingdom of heaven’ is taken in the sense of being in touch with our own spirit through our presence and our awareness, then children are winning hands down.

The sad thing is that as we teach our children to cope with their feelings, we could inadvertently be teaching them to store them up, to suppress them, and then their emotions may stop coming out in that same instant, cleansing way it did when they were small.  Somehow we need to find balance in the way we help our children cope with their feelings – to encourage them to show their feelings, albeit in slightly less dramatic ways than a toddler tantrum.  We need to be clear with our children that all their feelings are acceptable, even though some actions are not.  We must not make it seem as though sadness or anger, for example, are not allowed – they’re very much real emotions, even if, from our adult perspective, the feeling seems out of proportion to the cause.  We will encourage our children to share their feelings with us, if we extend ourselves, every time we can manage, with empathy and concern; if we genuinely listen to what they are saying and wonder why they are saying it. Remembering that we do not have all the answers, and just because we might not like what our child is saying, doesn’t make it wrong. Honouring our child’s individuality, and his or her right to their own feelings. Loving the fact that they are not a little extension of ourselves, but have their own unique spirit.  And helping them to maintain – and ourselves to rediscover – that presence they had when they first came into the world.

What other ways have you found yourself learning from your child?  In what ways do you think your practice actually grows with your family, despite having less time for asana or meditation practice?  Leave a reply – I’d love to hear your experience!