Mindfulness and the holidays
The summer holidays can be a long time to spend with your kids.
You love them but your whole routine can change and even though holidays are meant to be enjoyable, they can be a little bit stressful too!
(Photo courtesy of Jennifer Furtney Miller – “Here is my 5 year old son meditating in the pool. Trying to compose himself during a conflict with his 7 year old sister. We love this photo. He often joins us at 6am to meditate too. Namaste.”)
There seems to be this idea that you have to keep your kids amused for the whole summer holidays. So this means you may be tempted to neglect your personal meditation practice but if you do, it is a false economy in terms of your health and well-being .
Your regular meditation practice is going to help you cope with the change in routine that summer holidays brings (not just for your kids but for you). You’ll be more creative and less reactive if you give yourself some meditation practice time.
Or perhaps you don’t feel the need to meditate. Some of the pressures (like getting kids to school, their activities and helping them to do their homework) aren’t there during the holidays. They are more relaxed so you are more relaxed. so it’s tempting to relax your meditation too.
However meditation is a healthy habit to form and during the holidays is actually the best time as it gives you the space to do it. Rather than waiting till the pressure builds and you resort to ‘crisis meditations’ – you know the ones that help you stay sane! Regular and often is better and easier in the long run.
Or perhaps your concern is that you can’t get the kids to meditate? Whatever you do, don’t force them to meditate. Just keep up your practice and perhaps (I said perhaps) they will join in. Or maybe they won’t. But if you try to force your children to do this, you will create a powerful resistance to meditation that lasts a life time.
Holiday Mindfulness Practice
So let’s look at some mindful solutions to this change in everyone’s routine.
Turn day to day stuff into a meditation opportunity. Everything from having a shower, eating , going for a walk, swimming in the sea – the idea is to bring mindfulness to it (using the senses) to be really present with the activity and the moment.
Sure thoughts will come in – that’s normal. So just help your kids (and you) come back to the breath then tune in to a different sound, smell, touch, taste or what they see.
Remember to breathe. If you have lots going on and the change in routine feels stressful, you may hold your breath more often (or breathe faster than normal). It’s just your survival instincts being activated. So pay attention to your breath and practise doing this… often.
Don’t wait until your seated in a quiet, dark room to do this… do it while shopping, talking to people, making dinner even using the bathroom! Every opportunity to notice the breath (and particularly focus on the journey of the out breath) activates the opposite of your flight or fight system.
When we become ungrounded it is really difficult to think straight and easy to become overwhelmed.
Try being in nature – just being surrounded by trees has a therapeutic effect on our immune system. You can turbo charge this by meditating or being more mindful in a forest (have you heard of Forest Bathing ?).
Exercise – so any kind of movement can be grounding. If we bring some mindful awareness to it then it means an activity can be an active meditation. Think how active yoga is – it’s not just about the physical – it’s regarded as a moving form of meditation. So running, skipping, cartwheels, hopping… these activities are all open to mindfulness.
Imagination – if you don’t feel like you are a very creative person, let your children show you how to do it instead. They can take you on a magical journey in their imaginations (a guided meditation) and you can learn from them. Or if you feel pretty creative, then guide them to their favourite place, with their favourite person/animal and help them feel safe/happy/excited (whatever emotion they can feel).
Or create/colour in mandalas. I talk about this in my 2nd book Connected Kids as it is a lovely way to help children meditate while colouring in.
The most important thing to remember is to keep your practice going. They’ll either follow you or it will inspire them to try their own. Remember that kids will model your behaviour. At the very least it will help you feel more grounded and able to cope with the school holidays.