Why is being present the hardest thing to do?

I’ll be real honest with you, one of my biggest struggles as a parent…or as a human for that matter, is being present and remaining in this moment. Why is it so hard to be present? How can I achieve more presence with my child and my husband?

It seems obvious that in order to be present I must leave the past in the past and the future in the future. That sounds beautiful and simple enough but it’s really freakin’ hard to do! How do we let go of the past? I’ve learned through some spiritual seeking that in order to let go of the past I have to clear away the wreckage. What does that mean?


Clear the Past

Photo by Celestine Chua 

Part I

Clearing Away The Wreckage of the Past

Well, as I’ve lived my life, I’ve acquired a history that I drag around with me into the present and the sheer heaviness of it keeps pulling me back. My history may be a little different than yours but it mainly consists of the same main issues- resentments (anything I’m angry about, hurt about, still dwelling on, obsessing over, etc.)! So…now I must clear those resentments away. I started by making a list of all the people, organizations, events that upset me, caused me harm, really drove me crazy, and held up valuable real estate in my mind. This is not the time to be shy and overly forgiving or judgmental of the process…that time can come later. This is the time for ruthless and soul searching honesty. Once I had the list, I shared it with someone I trusted. I recommend a spiritual advisor or very close, trusted friend.

We went through all the things that had been done to me and all the things I had done to others. Then I looked at my part. This can be hard to do– looking only at your own side of the street and not the other person’s part, especially when you feel victimized, but it’s incredible powerful. Why? Because I can’t control what the other person does I can only control my own behaviors and my own patterns and I can never change them unless I become aware of them. I can also see, after much time, where even in the worst of situations…I continually put myself in positions of being hurt by the types of activities I chose and the people I chose to surround myself with. This was really helpful for me to see, so I can change that in the future. I can be more selective. And I can be more concerned with self preservation over people pleasing or pursuit of “fun.”

When I looked at my part I saw some pretty common themes…

Defense mechanisms/ character defects/ patterns, etc.

  • Self Centeredness & Self-seeking
    • Looking out for myself before others, selfish, fearful there wasn’t enough for me
  • Dishonesty
    • Inability to be honest, vulnerable, and true to myself or omitting information
  • Over reliance & Over dependence (This can go under selfishness too)
    • Expecting others to do for me what I should do for myself

These character defects can be found under all sorts of weird and off-putting behaviors such as:

  1. Control/Dominance
  2. Manipulation
  3. Lies/Elaborations/Omissions
  4. People pleasing
  5. Obsessive thoughts/Fears
  6. Rage/Anger/Yelling/Violent outbursts
  7. Using people/Sarcasm/Gossip

You get the picture! So now what?? How do I change these patterns? Well, to be honest…I’m still working on that part. What I do now?

  • Meditation
  • Prayer
    • I’m not religious but I’m very spiritual and I pray to turn these things over to my Higher Power because I can’t change these things on my own. I’ve tried! The more I focus on them the worse they seem to get! So I try to live better and continue to turn these patterns over to God and ask to be changed into the person I need to be.
  • Reach out/Be of service to someone else
    • I call a trusted friend and try to allow a space for them to talk
    • I try to help someone else as quickly as possible (this has proven a challenge as a mama…but I also see being a mother as an act of service to my family).
  • Journaling
    • It’s really powerful for me and helpful to write out the way I’m feeling. It helps me process the history that starts building up before it really starts a forest fire!
  • Worksheets
    • I read Loving What Is by Byron Katie and I have found her worksheets incredible helpful in unraveling all the resentments that come along. The “work” it also really amazing for looking at my own side of the street! It helps me find acceptance and nonresistance (sometimes)!

This process is not perfect but it’s helped me a lot. I hope anything I’ve mentioned might be helpful for someone else. What do you do when you feel angry, fearful, resentful, irritable?

Meditating With Toddlers

Have you ever tried to meditate with a toddler running around the room? No?

Many Americans complain that meditating feels like a toddler running around in their brain but what if you have a restless mind and an actual small human jumping on the bed?

I started meditating before my daughter was born, while I was pregnant. I guess it was easier while I was pregnant but I still had heartburn, restless legs, and all day nausea, so really, it was only marginally easier. I continued to meditate while she was a baby, which was really easy! She napped 3x a day!! I could meditate whenever, however and it didn’t bother her much. I really started struggling with my meditation routine when she became mobile and cut down on her naps. Oh and my daughter hasn’t napped since 20 months old!

I’ve recently returned to my meditation practice (with some slight variations and a big ol’ change in my expectations) about 4.5 months ago. How do I do it??

  1. I accepted my reality– I’m a stay at home mother of a walking, talking toddler.
  2. She wakes up when I wake up. So…I had to learn to alter my expectations.
  3. I learned to accept less is more when it comes to practicing regularly but for shorter periods.
  4. Sometimes Most times I get interrupted.
  5. I explain to her in simple language what mommy is doing and why it helps me.
  6. I allow her to join me (and wiggle around).
  7. I try to remain flexible about when I do my meditation.
  8. I try to remind myself that it doesn’t need to be perfect to be beneficial.

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photo by Takashi .M


 

Here’s how I explained meditation to my 2.5 year old daughter…

Mommy is meditating. I close my eyes and sit very quiet. It helps mommy feel more happy and ready to play!

I also try to plan and prepare prior to taking my quiet time. I bring her out to the family room and set her up with a cozy blanket, some books and puzzles. Most days I don’t remind her that I’m meditating because I’ve found that she tends to interrupt me more on those days. I then retreat down the hall to my office/meditation room and leave the door open. I can hear her playing faintly in the background and it usually never disturbs me. If she comes looking for me, I allow her to join me by silently opening my arms. I’ve also toddler proofed my office so that I’m comfortable with her “exploring” without my direct supervision.

I seem to be able to meditate for an average of 10-15 minutes. I find this is enough to really provide some great benefits for me.

I notice I can be agitated, sleep deprived, annoyed, restless, irritable, etc. in the morning and after my meditation (most mornings) I feel like I got a do-over. I start the rest of my morning more patient, kind, compassionate, considerate, and peaceful. **Even when I don’t have these results, I trust that it’s about the big picture and continuing a practice with results over time rather than daily results.

Suggestions-

  • Baby proof/toddler proof your meditation space.
  • Meditate in the same room if you child is under 2.
  • Always keep the door open so you can hear or use a monitor.
  • Keep the meditation shorter so you can remain consistent.
  • Expect to be interrupted and accept any emotions that accompany the interruption (annoyance, irritability, distractibility, etc.).
  • Try to fit it in first thing in the morning when your child is still waking up and easily distracted.
  • Provide activities, plan and prepare.
  • Try to be gentle with yourself and remember that results are more noticeable over long periods and not daily.
  • Start out with shorter periods of time and increase over time to see what your child can comfortably manage.