‘‘I used to think time was a thief. But if you give before you take, time is a gift. Every minute. Every second.’’
Alice, Through the Looking Glass
I think I’ve already heard the words ‘oh don’t they grow up so quick!’ more times than I’ve had hot dinners, and my first child is only 6 months old so far. The general sentiment is that ‘it goes so fast’. Too fast in fact, that if you ‘blink you’ll miss it’; the prognosis for parenthood from almost everyone you meet.
It’s a message that leaves you concerned at the back of your busy mind (like you need anything else to be concerned about right now) that time is running away with you and there’s nothing you can do about it. Then paradoxically, new babyhood seems to be so immersive that as new parents we sometimes wonder if there’s ever gonna be a light at the end of the tunnel of sleepless nights, teething pain and endless dirty washing.
Time is a funny thing. The idea that it goes too slowly while we’re in it though, and then seems to have gone too fast when we come out the other side, I believe, can be largely remedied through the cultivation of presence. Presence in each moment, or as many of them as we can manage, can really help us to feel that time goes neither too fast nor too slow, but that it’s going exactly as it should be. At the pace that it’s meant to.
In my own experience, my meditation practice has been the single biggest positive influence on how I experience my life so far, and since becoming a mother, I’ve found that the capacity for presence that I’ve gratefully received through my meditation practice has really enhanced the already profound experience of having a new baby. It’s the greatest gift I could ever have given myself.
I know though, that it’s not always easy. It’s been carving out time to meditate that I’ve found the most difficult. In between the nappies and the tiredness and the puke down my back… I hear you. Just where am I meant to find time for something as superfluous as sitting to meditate? I mean come on, get real. But please hear me out on this. I really believe that creating that time is more than worth the effort. I believe that on the days that I make myself carve out the time, that just a short time meditating can singlehandedly allow the space inside myself to fully transform the experience of having a baby throughout that day. And on tough days, it’s been invaluable. Of course its not as easy to incorporate it into your day as it might have been before your bundle came along, but with a little creativity, anything is possible…
Asking your partner or family member to take the baby for 10 minutes
Just 10. Everyday. This sounds obvious, but sometimes we need a nudge to actually ask for help to get a little space. So pick the right time, set a timer on your phone. Sit quietly and just observe the breath…watch the thoughts come in… and then back to the breath.
Make a habit of meditating whilst feeding
You know there’s gonna be at least a few minutes of calm once your baby is latched on to your breast or their bottle, so use that time for your meditation rather than to work out what’s for dinner. Your baby will absorb the calm vibes you put out too, so it’s great for both of you. Just focus on the feeling of the baby in your arms, feel the warmth of their little body, become aware of their breath and yours becoming in sync… and try to stay with it for the duration of the feed.
Walks out in nature are the best tonic for a frazzled mind, but even if you’re simply walking to the shops with your baby in a sling or in a push chair, you can practice walking meditation. The idea is to bring your awareness into the physical process of walking and simply be present. Feel one foot step in front of the other. Feel your breath quicken and align with your footsteps. Feel the muscles in your legs working. Be in your body, and each time you notice the thoughts creep in, simply notice them and bring your awareness back to your walking.
One in, one out.
In difficult moments, make a habit of noticing just one in breath, one out breath.
That can be all that’s needed to bring you back into the now and to notice and release the tension that’s been building in your shoulders.
On the days that I manage to incorporate a few of these, as I sink deeper into the space of fully inhabiting a particular given moment, it feels as though I’m allowing myself to fully meet my baby on her level. She is there, after all. She doesn’t worry about what happened yesterday and isn’t concerned about what she’s gonna do tomorrow at all. She is ever presently here, experiencing the now as it happens. I know, as an adult I don’t get the luxury of being able to live in that space all the time; otherwise nothing would ever get done. But I do want to be able to really spend time with my baby where she is. I want her to fully feel that I am with her on her first tentative steps through her journey of life. I find that the more present I am, the more she smiles at me, the more she gazes into my eyes and the more she seems to look at me in a way that says, ‘hi mummy. We’re here, together in this funny old world. How amazing is that?’.
Written by Gemma Fox. Gemma is a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic therapist, mature student and new mum, living in Bristol UK. You can find out more about her at www.openheartyoga.co.uk
Header image by Sarah Cates