Tag Archives: meditation

meditating while breastfeeding

Meditating while breastfeeding

This topic had been boiling in my head for quite a while but the timing was always wrong. Meditating while breastfeeding or breastfeeding during meditation – is a tricky, slippery subject.

Meditating while breastfeeding: it’s more than nursing

The distinct proximity, the unique bonding between the mom and her newborn is established through nursing. It’s more than a free time for the mom to check emails with one hand or see what’s new on Amazon. It’s a flow of energy that she, mom sends to her offspring. A message she conveys, a lesson she teaches, if you will. And the more clear and positive it is, the better a newborn will absorb also the vitamins and any other nutritional values.The author of this post, a breastfeeding individual, has asked herself many times: what am I thinking about while breastfeeding?

The danger of getting bored while breastfeeding

In fact, the nursing process can take up to 40 minutes and can get quite boring. All kinds of creepy thoughts might crawl into mom’s tired brain. This is dangerous for both, since mom naturally sends the negative information to the baby. When I started analyzing the thinking process that occurs in my head during breastfeeding I was surprised (not to say alarmed and ashamed) to discover how much trash sits in my head. All that trash is being transmitted to the baby via direct channel.

Distracting and amusing myself during breastfeeding

Smartphones. Phone talks. Books. Other people around. Silent eating.

There are a lot of ways a mom can amuse herself with while breastfeeding. If she feels she goes nuts from boredom and frustration of the very fact of her existence, why not. But what ways are better than others? What ways are not recommended (smartphone emitting radiation etc.) Is it OK or not entertain myself every time I breastfeed in these external ways?

The answer is yes and no. If you feel, that you are not into meditation right now, or there is something urgent you need to check on the phone. If you are starving and all you can think about is food… or every nerve is stretched and the stress is overwhelming… then yes. It’s better to peek into the smartphone, read a funny story, a joke, chat with a friend, eat. Pick  up the good vibes at any cost. But don’t make it a habit. Breastfeeding is the unique time and it will not last forever. Don’t make it the email-checking time. There can be enough patience and it’s always better to do breathing exercises and transmit clear positive messages rather than mess up with whatever you have to do. It’s all about patience and regular practice.

How can I stop the trash thoughts during breastfeeding?

The techniques are the same as in meditation. Choosing an object of concentration (it doesn’t necessarily have to be the baby. I would even say that it should not be the baby since she will sense it and might get nervous). Concentrating on the flow of your breath is the simplest. But you can also concentrate on existing mantras or your own words that run in your head and make you feel good. Plain, straight words, shoot like arrows and work only for you in this specific moment. For example: “This is my real moment of truth” or “let all the world stop right now”.

It takes time to master the skill. Just like you go to the gym and work out, here is some mental work out to do. Meditating while breastfeeding is easier, in my opinion, than  meditating alone in a sitting position, since there is more activity going on. Focusing on your own breath is one way of concentration. But you can also concentrate (and it’s quite easy) on the sensation of the flowing milk. Think about it as a one-and-only moment of contributing something fundamentally vital to the baby: nourishment combined with spiritual care.

Breastfeeding and meditation: similarities and differences

The main difference is, that meditation can be done alone, while  breastfeeding involves another creature or two. The little one is extremely sensitive to any mood swift, thought or  emotional flow. And, for an undisclosed reason, negative thoughts leak in abundance especially during breastfeeding (did I mention the word boring?) Boredom, tiredness, low energy level – all these make mom an easy target for unwanted mental guests.

Here is where similarities can help – if you are meditating on a daily basis, there should be nothing difficult in switching yourself into the right mode. The common factors of meditation and breastfeeding are the intimacy, sensitivity and concentration. It’s easy – if only you remember about meditating while breastfeeding.  All you need to do is to stay conscious and focused on the chosen object, to keep your mind fresh and light as possible. Don’t let yourself get lost in the labyrinth of thoughts, and if that happens there is always way back to the center of your concentration – the chosen object of mediation.

 

stressed for meditation

Too stressed for meditation.

As a mom, I relate to different states of mind. Though meditation has become part of my everyday being, still, there are situations when I’m too nervous, tired and overwhelmed with thoughts that won’t let go. Too stressed for meditation. Relaxed breathing just doesn’t happen that easily in these cases. What to do then?

Observe. I observe myself being nervous and I listen to my fast beating heart. I don’t even try to meditate or relax since it won’t work right away. Observation is the first step: it distracts me from one thing – negative thoughts and brings me to another thing – of moderate tranquility. From there, it is possible to move on to steadier breathing.

Observe also means accept. I accept my state, my craziness, my darkest thoughts and malicious fears.  After accepting, I cut them off naturally with one word. You choose your own word, I have mine.

Now, my favorite techniques on how to get going:

So, where do I start if I am too stressed for meditation?

These are not magic ways or special self-treatments. These are ordinary methods of relaxation that work only because I want them too.

Down count breaths.

As I wrote in another post, counting breaths is a simple and powerful technique. Yet, down-counting is another way to calm when ordinary breath counting does not help. The same down-counting method helps when you are working out in the gym: to do 10 push-ups is easier when you start from the 10th. The same goes for meditative breaths: I set myself a goal of, let’s say, 7 breaths, and start from the 7th to the 1st. A silly mind trick that works.

When stressed for meditation – don’t meditate. Act.

Breathing is good but sometimes it’s not enough. Physical action, dynamic meditation, movement. This movement has to be chaotic, useless, silly, purposeless. Dancing, jumping, shaking, scratching stretching and so on.

Do it alone.

It’s not always possible, but being alone works best for me. What if she cannot be alone at this moment, what if she is surrounded by children who want a happy mom?

Then, I tell them the truth, at their level of understanding. “Mommy is tired. Mommy needs a few quiet moments. Mommy will rest for just a few minutes and then will come out and play/make cookies/stay on her head.

Laugh. Or pretend to.

Remember that laugh scene from “Witches of Eastwick”? I believe, that laughter can do magic wrinkles and if not make you literally fly, then at least give that same feeling. The feeling of freedom, relaxation and transcendent joy. When too stressed for ordinary breathing meditation, mom can laugh or pretend to laugh – the extra short exhales that make the belly work hard and a faint of a smile. Slowly, mom can get used to create that pseudo-laughing image of herself on a regular basis (it is funny when you think about it). Self-irony has lots of benefits when you think about it.

 

life scenario

Breathing techniques for tired moms

The overwhelming, hectic and messy day routine brings mom to hell an unbalanced state. All she wants is to drop down somewhere (bed is the best option but other options such as carpets, armchairs and sofas fit as well). Here is where simple breathing techniques can save the mom’s world.

Imagine this: a mom is surrounded by her dearest little ones. Each kid is in a different mood producing appropriate sounds: loud, demanding, complaining, even crying. Mom’s task: to remain calm, solve the problem, remain calm. Repeat, if necessary.

I’ve learned to catch this tiny moment when “remain calm” mantra stops working and turns into “get wild”. It starts somewhere in the chest, around the 4th chakrah. The breath does not flow as easily as it should. And from here, there are only a few steps to the “wild” state.

Here are three simple breathing techniques I use to retain the balanced mood and prevent anger and frustration to take over.

breathing techniques

 

 

Breath 4-6 – when you are alone

Count till 4 while you breath in. Count till 6 while you breath out. The rule is simple: inhales are always shorter than exhales, even if you choose different numbers. The technique is good for quiet moments with yourself, but not for moments of acute stress. One important thing to remember is to stop for a second between the inhale and the exhale. This is the short moment when no breathing is taking place – this little suspension, the peak, the ultimate point between the ups and downs. As a part of the meditation, stop for a moment and recognize you are there. Relive this turning point when the inhale is already behind and the exhale has not started yet.

Do extra short exhales – for acute stress

breathing techniques

It is a yoga practice, which I like to use when I feel I’m approaching a totally wrong place. In moments of darkest despair and crazy fatigue it is the best thing after chocolate. The inhales take only fractions of seconds. The exhales are also super short and they require the belly to work hard. During this technique stomach works the most, releasing the negativity through the out-coming air.

Breath normally but consciously – for every situation

Watching the flow of air all the way up and down is a great relaxation practice before fatigue has reached its extreme point. When I am not in the mood to count 4-6, the best thing is just to allow the breath to make its natural way in and out. The most important here, is to watch this natural flow of air, keeping thoughts-of-the-day out if your mind.

It’s amazing, how many things can be achieved by simple breathing exercises, if practiced regularly. In the worst moments, it’s good to remember, that breathing is the most essential part of human existence. While it is possible to survive without food or water for a while, oxygen is an invisible companion following us in every life situation, good or bad. A totally basic thought, true. For me, however, these basic things are like beams of light in a dark attic.

Who will save the mom?

I’m so tired I never want to wake up again. But I’ve figured out now that it was never them that made me feel that way. It was just me, all along.”
Maggie Stiefvater, Forever

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/tired

Mom’s routine is mostly predictable. It’s the energy resources that can unpredictably end. Then she, multi tasking super-hero mom, feels on the edge of collapsing.

The sudden wave of fatigue is so spontaneous, I cannot always see it coming.

It’s not exactly that you bite off more than you can chew.

It’s more about the fact that a mom is already in the crazy agenda, moving forward slowly like heavy artillery and every shift to the side adds an unbearable weight to her every day life.

This slight shift can be anything: an unexpected project, an evening with friends that ends late at night, an exhausting day with lots of tasks and no option for anything that resembles rest… and the list goes on.

This post was inspired by an unusual wave of fatigue. It has reached a point where daily tasks and headache coincide into one painful shiny point somewhere between the hypothalamus, the Pituitary gland and the 7th chakrah.

I have created a list of virtues and evils, that help me avoid falling into the trap of self-pitying, misery and depression.

First, comes the “bad” list which consists of one thing – a thing I would almost never do.

Complaining (even to yourself) is useless and is taking your energy away.

Ever time I stand in front of the mirror (I try not to do it in the morning, not to scare the mirror), this feeling of age, time and self-criticism is covering me like a stinky mixture of negative emotions, which I did not ask for (or did I?) So here’s the thing. Every woman – mother or not – is gifted from birth in finding leaks and disadvantages in the way she looks (contrary to men, who never find any, even under a microscope).

The unhealthy self-criticism in a form of passive complaining. Do anything to avoid it, unless you want to find yourself in a loop. As for myself, I use the mirror for practical purposes only – teeth and eyebrows. The rest can wait for better times.

Silence is a true friend who never betrays.

Confucius
https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/silence.html

Another form of complaining…

…is setting a competition with other mommies discussing whose life sucks more. (Just like some old people like to boast with their diseases). My golden rule is – if there is nothing constructive and positive I can talk about, I shut up. If another mommy wants to share her misery, well, she can do it. I will listen and nod with respect.

Complaining in any form – to yourself or to others – brings you nowhere. It drains you empty without giving anything in return. For me, the mere thought of all the things I could have done rather than complaining, gives me wings and inspiration.

Now for the good list:

Postpone all possible tasks for better times – leave only the most critical ones.

By critical I mean –

    • go and get some sleep
    • pick your kids from schools (unless no one else can do it).
    • buy some cooked food, fruits, yogurts – anything that doesn’t require watching the blue gas (or the red electric stove) burning and your hand stirring, stirring, stirring… they will survive, don’t worry about it.

By non-critical I mean –

    • helping kids with homework
    • cooking (you’ll be surprised how well they can manage)
    • cleaning and doing laundry (you’ll be surprised how fast the house will turn into a mess, but… I still think it’s not critical when it comes to “saving the mom”).
    • A lot of other things I did not bother writing, because they are too unimportant, for example reading this post, checking on People You May Know in LinkedIn or staring into your smartphone.

Breath deeply and count your breaths breathing-suslik

This is a primitive but one of the most efficient, productive and available methods invented especially for exhausted moms. It chases all the junk thoughts away filling you with oxygen instead. The more self-aware I have become through the years of pain and joy, the more precious I find this method to be. It works well no matter how stressed I am and it’s sort of pulling one up by their own hair. Amazing and simple, no negative side effects.

Keep a healthy diet

hot-chocolate

This is more of a general advice applicable at all times, however, it becomes super important in moments of emotional and physical crisis. My living cells, for example, react acutely on any wrong action I take in time of weakness. Therefore, my goal is not to trigger the stomach, pancreas, liver or any other digestive organs. The author of this post uses a golden rule – better eat less and drink more than eat “something”. When I learned to listen to my body and understand what it is trying to tell me, things became a lot easier. This brings me to another rule: healthy does not always means best for me at a given moment. If your body screams for a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of creamy nut cake – don’t torture yourself with salad. Go wild.

Set sleep as your top priority

sleeping dog

How come, that knowing all about the benefits of a good sleep we, moms, still procrastinate and hit the buttons of our smartphones instead of just diving into the world of Morpheus? How can we allow ourselves this forbidden luxury that eats us up, steals our beauty and youth and gives us absolutely nothing in return? (Why yes, it gives wrinkles if you wish). I am not talking about screaming babies, growling stomachs, husbands with a flu or other factors that cannot be ignored. This is about silly and unreasonable procrastination – an ugly habit, that takes away crucial hours of beauty sleep. The funny thing is, that children help mom avoiding this trap once she decides to fall asleep at the same time as they do. Children have this amazing gift of structuring moms’ (and dads’) time. You will not wait till midnight to put them to sleep, therefore, as a mom, you will be obliged to at least pretend you’re asleep, at around 9 p.m.. However, it only works for moms who directly participate in helping their child fall asleep (in my case, I still secretly enjoy it, as I am officially forced to relax).

Minimize communication with people who steal your energy

vampire-bat

Especially Even if they are family members. Yes.

This is a very important and largely underestimated rule. Every mom is different: some need attention, conversations and play dates with other moms and children (because it’s so boring to be with your child on the playground and watch her do things), others crave for silence. However, regardless of these differences, every mom knows exactly what type of other moms and people she should or should not interact with.

Annoying and preaching aunties family members, friends who ask for favors, other friends who constantly complain about life – all these should be kept away at a respectful distance at any cost (yes, there is price for everything, but isn’t your mental tranquility worth it?)

Managing mom’s relationships is a separate topic I will bring up later, while in this post – I only mention what’s based on my own experience: when mom needs a rest, the less people she interacts with, in general, the better.

And the last one, a friendly reminder: remember, that nothing lasts forever – neither the good, nor the bad.

This too shall pass

Persian Sufi poets

bubble

How to cut malicious thoughts during the day?

Why is it so important for mom to preserve her energy and keep her inner balance all the time?

The answer is so simple, I’m not even sure I have to write it, but, still:

  • Because children need happy mom
  • Because your partner will appreciate a happy wife/friend
  • Because you will feel very good about yourself being content

The order is purely accidental (I’m not saying that children are more important than your partner and you are the last one on the list. It just so happened, that I wrote it in this order).

So what’s the big deal about keeping our level of energy on its proper level?

The big deal is, that there are constant sources (people, events, THOUGHTS) that suck our energy. All the time. Unless you stay in focus on what’s going on, you might find yourself completely drained (sick, annoyed, depressed) by the end of the day.

I took three main sources who steal your energy (or better to say – you let them do it).

1. Energetic vampires: –

People, who are trying to get your reaction (read = energy) by provoking you, consciously or not. When these are your “friends”, it’s easier: just stop being their friends. But when these are your family members, it’s a more complicated case, since you are expected to love and care about your relatives.

There is a good old movie by Woody Allen called “Cassandra’s dream”

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0795493/plotsummary?ref_=ttmi_stry_pl

where the subject of “blood relationship” is taken to the extreme point: – an uncle offers two brothers to “get rid of” of an old connection, strengthening his case by “family ties”. The end is sad, but anyway, I like this movie, because it illustrates how far things can go if we don’t learn to stop whatever smells bad.

But there is the price for that.

The result? Some people might feel offended. Some family members might press you very hard, try to manipulate, plead into doing something that you feel that you hate. On the other hand? You retain your comfort, your energy, your good mood and your balance. You run your family the way YOU want, you raise your kids the way YOU want, in short – you are the owner of your life and no uncles, aunts, moms and dads can tell you what to do. It’s not only about learning to say “no”, but also saying “no” and feeling good about yourself.

2. Events.

–Sometimes we are dragged to take part in events we hate: family parties, weddings (this one is particularly annoying), a friend’s birthday party, social gatherings you feel obliged to attend and so on… Events always consider people, so it’s not the events but the certain people you don’t want to see. In cases when you cannot find the right excuse keep it as short as possible. Put a reminder, set an app with anonymous call or simply say that you must go. One hour, forty minutes -– you decide the minimal amount of time you can spend there without seeming to have escaped too soon.

The trap:

We always want to be nice and if nobody is leaving early it looks inappropriate to run away. But remember, that if you stay too long, the carriage will turn into a pumpkin. You will later regret having surrendered to the social pressure and having spent too much time in the wrong place and with the wrong people. So be nice to yourself first and stick to the minimal amount of time you have set to yourself in the first place (unless the circumstances have changed and you feel you enjoy it).

3. Self-destroying thoughts.

This one is almost impossible to control, but with the help of techniques you can tame the monsters and make them pass away slowly, like the wind blows clouds away. The conclusion that I have come to is: bad thoughts are often a result of our own bad physical condition: fatigue, sickness etc., and but not necessarily events. Why do I think so? Because, from own experience, we can take a lot of things easy when we’ve had a good night’s sleep feeling healthy and good about ourselves (how many times did you feel all these good things at the same time? Umm…)

The best way to keep malicious thoughts from sucking your energy is to catch the thought from the very beginning when it is sneaking into your mind but hasn’t done any serious harm yet. You can catch it by its tail and ask yourself: “Do I really want to think about it now? Am I the master of my thoughts or are thoughts controlling me?” If this is not a problem-solution thing but a sticky, disturbing situation, out of your control, that can stretch like a muddy shield blocking the sunshine, better cut it off right away. (Will talk about my own techniques of cutting malicious thoughts later on in this post ).

As a bottom line:

No matter what beast empties your energy, one thing is sure:– you should not allow this to happen. If there is a specific problem: go on, do some brainstorming and look for a solution once and for all. But if it’s a vague situation where you feel you are dragged into self-accusing, self-punishing thoughts  shake it off sharply, without mercy.

How to shake off thoughts that suck mom’s energy?

I use some very simple techniques. The amazing thing about these techniques is, that you can practice them without interrupting most of your daily routine.

  • Count your breath: Breathing is something we do as long as we live, and I appreciate every breath I take. Counting the in-s and out-s is a good method when combined with some automotive task (cooking, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping) or when trying to fall asleep. Make sure you reach 300 (I’ve never made it that far, by the way).
  • Speak mantras: make up your own or take ones that already exist. Any words that help you – work for good, as long as they are not intended to hurt a specific person (words have power, beware). For example: “Do I want to be calm and happy or nervous and sick? Of course I want to be calm and happy!”

These words don’t have to be wise or sound smooth and spiritual. Their purpose is to help you and no one hears and judges your eloquence.

I mentioned only these two techniques, because they are simplest to follow for a busy mom. There are other great ways to empty yourself from junk, but those require a resource most moms can’t brag about –- time.

So, while my kids are small, I choose to save my time and my energy and, simultaneously, be the boss of my own life, as much as possible. Wishing you, my readers, the same.

Meditating mom or how to forget about children for a while

Meditating woman

 

Is it really possible to put everything aside? As practice shows, after constant meditation, it is, and the key word here is constant. You don’t have to be a meditation guru, you don’t have to take trainings, hang upside down, do crazy yoga asanas or quit your unhealthy habits. All you have to do is create a routine.

For me, the best time to avoid the trap of skipping meditation is morning. Morning is your emptiest time – it all goes messier from there. The temptation to avoid meditation and jump to the kitchen was so high at the beginning, that I had to use all my power of self-persuasion to actually make myself sit down with eyes closed for 15 minutes. 15 minutes is not much but it can be hell if you back hurts, if you’re hurrying, if there are people walking around, if everything is moving and you have to sit still and observe.

But this was just in the beginning; as always, beginning is tough. Later, when I created a routine, this routine became my guidance and there were no more thoughts on “why am I doing it?”

To start a day with meditation is one of the best ways to start a day, and of course I know some other great ways to start a day. In special cases postpone it, but try not to skip.

Why is it so important to meditate for moms?

Unlike jobs that most of us hate children is something that sticks deep on our cellular level and never totally goes away. Thoughts about our kids, inner dialogues, ideas for education and entertainment – aren’t these the best things to be occupied with? Unlike an unpleasant conversation with a colleague that you want to forget and you will strive to get away from, all the nice and less nice things related to children is something you don’t want to get away from – why would you?

This is why mom’s brain is constantly occupied with “nice” things and she, the mom, doesn’t always realize how deeply buried she is in the good stuff, and how great would it be to feel free from everything, including the good. To get away from the good is the hardest thing. To get away from the bad, from the annoying, from the disturbing is much more natural.

Now I see big bonuses I get from the ability to sink into abstract.

  • Thoughts get clearer – I am not lost in the ocean of thoughts.
  • I can still dream and wish for things, but in a more practical sense.
  • There is more energy to do things.
  • Housework becomes much easier. I don’t get stuck on it, I flow with it.
  • Self-awareness grows, and the ability to see and criticize myself (which is never a bad thing).

There are a lot of resources out there how to meditate – some people put music, some do it in quiet, some prefer listening to special bottling up sound waves. Some sit with their legs crossed, some sit on a chair, on a cushion, on the floor… The only way to find your style is to experiment. For me, no music is best, sitting crossed legs covered with a blanket. Better if you can be completely alone but since it is not always possible, is an utopia accept the reality and take it easy. Children and husbands running around is a gift when you think about it, as their noisy presence tests your ability to stand the disturbing elements and train your power of will – sounds good, doesn’t it?

Coffee – an energy shot or meditation? Why morning coffee is bad for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I love coffee, and I used to be a coffee addict some time ago. I didn’t stop with it completely but I have substantially reduced the amount of coffee (and all the accompanied sweets) that I used to consume after understanding why it is actually bad for me.

So here are a few points that made me realize that using coffee for refreshment is one big illusion.

First, morning coffee became a routine, a habit, something I do just because I am used to it, even when I don’t really need to be refreshed (on weekends, on holidays, on days when I don’t need to get up early). There is nothing worse than doing something unhealthy just because you are used to it.

Second, coffee usually comes with friends. I don’t mean humans. Coffee’s best friends are: sugar, cookies, muffins, truffles, brownies, candies, ice-cream … you name it. I drink coffee without sugar (proud of myself) but compensate it with sweets (oh, shame on me). Eventually, by doing some easy math, I concluded that coffee makes me gain weight. Too bad.

Third, one cup of home-made cappuccino or latte doesn’t have the slightest effect on my thinking and acting abilities, therefore, I actually need two-three cups to feel something moving in my nerve system brain. Two-three cups of coffee is not that much, you say, but add the sweets, and you get a pretty little lady with some pretty extra weight.

But what really made me change my mind regarding coffee is, that I found that its effect is much more short-term compared to breathing exercises, a bit of stretching, two glasses of cool water. The more naturally you use your energy resources and take them out of your sleepy self, the better and the longer these resources serve you.

What some people say on that –

  • But I love coffee!

So? I loved coffee more than anything in the morning. And I managed to quit. Once you understand that caffeine simply borrows your energy (and whatever is borrowed you have to give back at some point) you may change your mind and replace it, at least, with tea.

  • I can’t open my eyes and start doing anything without coffee!

Sorry, I don’t buy it. Yes, your first week or two will seem empty and endless without the usual cup of brown liquid, but it’s all a matter of habit and understanding why you are doing what you are doing.

  • I just can’t live without coffee.

Ok, make a deal with yourself – one cup of coffee twice a week, in the middle of the day (use tea in the morning instead). You will gradually get used to the idea that coffee is no longer your morning partner.

As a mother, I totally relate to the morning fatigue, crazy sleeping hours, lack of relaxation and the strong desire to compensate myself with something sweet and refreshing at the same time.

But there is no magic – the energy you derive from yourself by using caffeine is taken “in advance”, it is borrowed by you from your own body. And the price I used to pay was double fatigue later on.

Now I use coffee only in extreme situations when I know I need to be super alert. Another occasion to have a small cup of coffee is when you want to meditate over it, enjoy every sip, use coffee not as a quick shot, but as a rare pleasurable delicacy.