My mind never stops. Occasionally, I will ask my husband what he is thinking when he appears to be deep in thought, and he looks at me slightly confused. He then laughs while saying he is thinking about literally nothing, just monkeys clapping symbols together in his head. I can honestly say, I have no clue what it is like to have a mind that pauses. I remember during my high school years complaining to my mom that my mind literally doesn’t stop, and her response was accurate: “Sounds exhausting.”
I have come to learn that my always-planning-analyzing-and-brainstorming mind is a gift given to me. It allows me to connect with people, explore the world and create. But like anything, without balance, strengths can become weaknesses. This week, I have become acutely aware of the paralyzing effect my over-thinking has on my soul when my mind won’t slow down or allow me to be present in the moment.
I have an excitement about life I honestly hope never goes away. I love to travel, adventure, explore and experience. With that comes an eagerness to plan and to pack my schedule full of activities. That in itself I consider a strength, but for over a decade I have noticed I struggle with being completely in the moment during all of the moments I have been anticipating. For example, I might be loving a camping trip so much that I can’t stop thinking about the NEXT time we come back. Or, while driving to go to the zoo, I will be consumed with the details of going to the aquarium the following weekend. When admitting this weakness, it seems ridiculous and incredibly counterproductive to jump ahead before something is done; however, I think people do this more than we acknowledge. Another example: I love the anticipation of the holidays, but start grieving they are over before they are even complete.
I have never loved meditation until this week’s #bebetter52 challenge because it was hard and made me feel anxious. My mind raced to all the things I should be doing, or wanted to be doing, and then I felt frustrated at my lack of focus. But my desire to still my mind and body has been enhanced recently by the sadness I feel because I have a horrible memory. Also, my anxiety has increased because I sense life is rapidly flying by right before my eyes. I have convinced myself that by moving too fast, both in mind and body, I am unable to store the memory of actual experiences. I don’t know if that is 100% accurate or scientific, but I was looking through photos from a year ago and couldn’t believe how distant the memories felt. I want to be more present in the now.
This week I have committed to intentionally slowing down through meditation. Below are the reasons that motivate me in this lifestyle change.
Reason: I believe living in the moment makes mundane moments magical.
In general, I dislike the 4:00-6:00 pm hour of parenting. The kids are tired, and so am I. I am lazier when they need or want me, and I feel guilty because I should be doing something productive, like making dinner or cleaning. But this week, I have decided to be engaged with them during this typically challenging time at home. I put all distractions away, turned on music, and we went outside and played. We made “tape shoes,” by pretty much taping up our feet.
Then they painted their bodies. Surprisingly, I paused long enough to notice the sun on my skin and how peaceful my backyard felt. I enjoyed the afternoon by slowing down, and it felt magical.
Reason: I want to feel closer to God and connected with what he wants me to do daily.
I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and as a family we attempt to go to church as much as possible. But since having children, it has felt harder and harder to still myself long enough to feel God’s presence in my daily life. I started listening to an LDS podcast called “All In” and have loved these spiritual moments of reflection. I was surprised to hear a couple of interviews that emphasized how meditation has really allowed opportunities to connect to God in this overstimulated world. Therefore, I am allowing myself a few moments, which would normally be filled with scrolling Instagram, to stop and pray.
Reasons: I want to improve my memory, not just recall it from photos.
I want to remember the moments I am living with my children and husband. This has inspired me to try guided meditation through the HeadSpace App on my phone. I have done 7 sessions so far and am surprised how the basic steps of breathing and connecting with your body has helped. This week, I feel I have stamped certain moments during the day into my memory by capturing them not only by thought, but also by touch, noise and smell. I pause long enough to feel the sun on my arm, to notice the birds chirping, or to smell the flowers Cooper brings to me (which are, by the way, Frozen characters Elsa’s and Anna’s secret magical medicine). I have come to the conclusion that even if I still have a difficult time remembering my past experiences, at least I will be living them to the fullest.
Reason: I want to be more productive.
I understand that productivity might seem opposite to living in the present moment, but the more meditative practice I have, the more I realize how my scattered mind always jumps to the next thing, making it difficult to complete a task. Every day, I have written in a little journal one to two mindful and intentional things I want to become as my mantras. Today was slow down enough to complete a task from start to finish. Often times, it literally requires my breathing in a couple of deep breaths, as the children jump around and demand my attention, to put the dishes away after I prepare a meal. Also, I am intentionally allowing empty space in my day rather than having to fill up every minute with something to do.
Reason: I want to teach my children that “quiet time” is necessary and okay.
Right now, my almost-4-year-old daughter is transitioning out of her nap. The problem is that both her brother and I need naps, and she needs to learn to have down time. It would be incredibly easy to throw on a Netflix show, but I feel it is incredibly necessary to learn the skill of relaxing without screens. This has been challenging, but she is getting better and better with practice. She will listen to audiobooks, look at books or play in her room alone for 30-45 minutes, which I consider a huge success at this point. For me, my relaxation comes from napping (completing turning off) or zoning out on social media or watching a show. So I am now practicing a little mediation before my power nap.