There’s no time you could use some extra inner peace more than after you have a baby. Suddenly your house is filled with infant paraphernalia and your mind is racing with new worries and a growing to-do list. So how can new parents, who are short on sleep and even shorter on time, actually incorporate meditation into their lives?
Independent meditation teacher Ben Turshen assures us that meditating isn’t a binding commitment to Buddhist monkhood or even going full lotus position in our living rooms. He practices Vedic meditation, which involves being seated with your eyes closed and experiencing a particular sound or mantra in your mind without speaking it out loud. “It draws your awareness away from the other thoughts you’re having,” Ben says.
Certified meditation coach and founder of meditation app, Breethe!, Lynne Goldberg agrees that this type of mental practice can help us “deal with life’s ups and downs,” which are oh-too-familiar to a new mom. Here are their tips for how to discover a little piece of peace and better manage momhood with meditation.
DISCOVER YOUR TECHNIQUE
Lynne has experimented with different techniques over the years to help her relax. But she eventually realized that mantra meditation was what worked best for her. Moms can test out guided visualizations, mindfulness, and mantra meditations with Lynne’s Breethe! app, a subscription-based service that makes meditation easy to digest without an overabundance of the spiritual connotations that can turn some people off. “If you’re having difficulty meditating, it’s not you; it’s the type of meditation,” Ben adds. “Find what works for you.” He also recommends checking out the popular Headspace app, which helps teach you how to meditate with guided instructions, videos, and articles.
MAKE THE TIME
Lynne claims there’s an old Zen saying: You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day unless you are too busy, then you should sit for an hour. “It’s funny because usually when we are feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, that’s when we could benefit from meditation the most,” she says. Those first few months (okay, years) of being a parent are probably the most hectic and time-strapped of your entire life. No new mom has a spare hour each day to meditate (it’s a miracle some days if there’s time to shower or eat!). So the goal is to find just 20 minutes a day, so you never get to the point where an hour feels necessary.
FROM ZERO TO ZEN IN 60 SECONDS
It’s fine, even preferable, to start out slowly. The Breethe! app has a one-minute meditation that you can do with eyes open or closed. Take a slow, deep breath. Then begin to follow the natural rhythm of your breathing. Tune into your environment and notice the sounds around you. Focus on your body to see what you’re experiencing in that moment. Take a couple of breaths, and really feel your entire body breathing. Stay in the present moment by paying close attention to your senses.
WORK WITH YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Pay attention without judgment, Lynne advises. That means notice the smell of a dirty diaper, hear the sound of your baby cooing or crying, feel the sensation of skin touching skin—all without passing judgment about what you “should be” doing instead. “When you notice the tendency to skip ahead to what comes next, or daydream about where you would rather be, just bring yourself back to that moment,” Lynne says. “We miss so much of our lives when we try to fast forward through the mundane chores, but in fact a full diaper can be an opportunity to connect to your infant in a very precious way that we only get to do for a very short period of time.” Focusing your energy on being on the moment—sounds, smells, and all—will make your meditative time all the more effective.
FIND THE MINDFUL IN EVERYDAY OCCURRENCES
“Each time you sit down to nurse, it’s another opportunity to practice mindfulness,” Lynne suggests. Focus on the baby’s breathing, smell the top of their head, feel the baby’s skin against yours. “You are completely present in that moment; you don’t have to actually try to DO anything. Just by showing up for that moment instead of checking your emails while you nurse, you are showing up mindfully.”
FIND YOUR RHYTHM
The goal should be to get to 20 minutes, twice a day, sort of like your daily teeth-brushing-face-washing-or-showering routine, Ben says. But it can start out as simple 5-minute blocks of time while you’re waiting for the dryer to finish or sitting in the carpool pickup line. And if you’re having trouble meditating after committing some of your time and energy on a regular basis, don’t give up. Keep at it. Because it’s better to do a less-than-perfect meditation than to not do it at all. Ben reminds us why we should keep at it, “We’re not only meditating for ourselves; we’re meditating for our children. The more well rested, calm, relaxed, and present we are, the more available and effective we can be for our children.”